Monday, April 30, 2007

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction

Over the last year, I've seen some interesting news about software patents and copyrights.

In the UK we had the response to the epetition on software patents, which stated

"The Government remains committed to its policy that no patents should exist for inventions which make advances lying solely in the field of software."

In the US, just recently the supreme court has limited a decade old test centered around the requirement that an invention be "non-obvious". You can get more details at GrokLaw.

Two wonderful quotes included :-

"Granting patent protection to advances that would occur in the ordinary course without real innovation retards progress and may, in the case of patents combining previously known elements, deprive prior inventions of their value or utility"

Wow, that's an amazing statement. I particular like the the part about patents which combine previously known elements, which could extend to all sorts of places.

But wait, there was more :-

"One of the ways in which a patent's subject matter can be proved obvious is by noting that there existed at the time of invention a known problem for which there was an obvious solution encompassed by the patent's claim"

So, if it is a known or existing problem, which can be solved without real innovation, then bye bye.

But wait, hold on, PatentlyO says there is more. In the Microsoft vs AT&T case, the Supreme court said "Patent Act does not extend to cover foreign duplication of software".

Excellent, so how are we doing in Europe? Well, when it comes to copyright we seem to be heading towards a dismal future thanks to the IPRED2.

This makes the "aiding, abetting, or inciting" of copyright infringement on a "commercial scale" a crime. Doesn't seem such a bad an idea, but what by the way is a "commercial scale"?

Well that's the problem, it's very fuzzy and it seems to include "open source coders, media-sharing sites like YouTube, and ISPs that refuse to block P2P services."

Er.... hang on, if the US are finally trying not to be at a competitive disadvantage why are we in Europe trying to bash up the open source movement?

Every time something smart happens, there is always that opposing reaction to be found.