Tech Insider					     Technology and Trends


			      USENET Archives

Path: gmdzi!unido!fauern!ira.uka.de!sol.ctr.columbia.edu!spool.mu.edu!
uunet!algor2.algorists.com!jeffrey
From: jeff...@algor2.algorists.com (Jeffrey Kegler)
Newsgroups: gnu.misc.discuss
Subject: AT&T Threat against X Windows freedom
Summary: To the barricades!
Message-ID: <1991Feb25.043755.17220@algor2.algorists.com>
Date: 25 Feb 91 04:37:55 GMT
Reply-To: jeff...@algor2.algorists.com.ALGORISTS.COM (Jeffrey Kegler)
Organization: Algorists, Inc.
Lines: 27

I read with no little horror the letter from AT&T's lawyer which would
require those getting X source to pay AT&T a royalty.  I have been one
of those sincerely intending to join LPF real soon now.  This jolted
me into action.  Gentlemen, your check is in an envelope and will be
in tomorrow's mail.

The courts are bound to realize, eventually, how this new industry of
filing patents on obvious and generally known techniques and then
launching well-financed suits that paralyze innovation is legal
nonsense.  It could take them a decade, however.  In the meantime, the
US software industry could be in turmoil.  And the chances that our
foreign competition will be this stupid, vile and self-destructive are
terribly close to zero.

Is there any consideration of a boycott against AT&T?  I would hate
the idea of going back to their long distance competition, but poor
long distance service is a small price to pay to preserve a rational
software industry.

Jeffrey Kegler, Independent UNIX Consultant, Algorists, Inc.
jeff...@algor2.ALGORISTS.COM or uunet!algor2!jeffrey
137 E Fremont AVE #122, Sunnyvale CA 94087
-- 

Jeffrey Kegler, Independent UNIX Consultant, Algorists, Inc.
jeff...@algor2.ALGORISTS.COM or uunet!algor2!jeffrey
137 E Fremont AVE #122, Sunnyvale CA 94087

Path: gmdzi!unido!fauern!ira.uka.de!sol.ctr.columbia.edu!samsung!usc!
cs.utexas.edu!oakhill!nddsun1!waters
From: wat...@nddsun1.sps.mot.com (Mike Waters)
Newsgroups: gnu.misc.discuss
Subject: Re: AT&T Threat against X Windows freedom
Message-ID: <861@nddsun1.sps.mot.com>
Date: 25 Feb 91 20:55:53 GMT
References: <1991Feb25.043755.17220@algor2.algorists.com>
Organization: Hacker's haven
Lines: 30

In article <1991Feb25.043755.17...@algor2.algorists.com> 
jeff...@algor2.algorists.com.ALGORISTS.COM (Jeffrey Kegler) writes:
>
>The courts are bound to realize, eventually, how this new industry of
>filing patents on obvious and generally known techniques and then
>launching well-financed suits that paralyze innovation is legal
>nonsense.  It could take them a decade, however.  In the meantime, the
>US software industry could be in turmoil.  And the chances that our
>foreign competition will be this stupid, vile and self-destructive are
>terribly close to zero.

Sorry to inject some facts into a good tirade, but in other countries -
most notably Japan - software has been patentable for some time. There
is no sign whatsoever that the trend is changing.

While picking on the big guys, how about going after Technowledge Inc.
for pat no. 4,648,044 on basic AI techniques, IBM for pat. no 4,646,250
on the "Data Entry Screen", and of course Rene'K. Pardo and Remy Landau
for U.S. pat no. 4,398,249 which covers all of the spreadsheet programs
(and was issued Aug. 9, 1983)?

Frankly I fail to see why getting paid for original work is so upsetting
to some people.

I am not a lawyer so this is not legal advice!

-- 
           *Mike Waters    AA4MW/7  wat...@nddsun1.sps.mot.com *
Crash programs fail because they are based on the theory that, with
nine women pregnant, you can get a baby a month.
		-- Wernher von Braun

Path: gmdzi!unido!fauern!ira.uka.de!sol.ctr.columbia.edu!samsung!usc!
snorkelwacker.mit.edu!mit-eddie!bbn.com!nic!kira!kira!tree
From: t...@sadye.uvm.edu (Tom Emerson)
Newsgroups: gnu.misc.discuss
Subject: Re: AT&T Threat against X Windows freedom
Message-ID: <TREE.91Feb27122612@sadye.uvm.edu>
Date: 27 Feb 91 17:26:12 GMT
References: <1991Feb25.043755.17220@algor2.algorists.com>
	<861@nddsun1.sps.mot.com>
Sender: n...@uvm.edu
Organization: Division of EMBA, University of Vermont
Lines: 44
In-Reply-To: waters@nddsun1.sps.mot.com's message of 25 Feb 91 20:55:53 GMT
Raymond-Protection: enabled

>>>>> On 25 Feb 91 20:55:53 GMT, wat...@nddsun1.sps.mot.com (Mike
>>>>> Waters) said:
[ some stuff deleted... ]
Mike> While picking on the big guys, how about going after Technowledge Inc.
Mike> for pat no. 4,648,044 on basic AI techniques, IBM for pat. no 4,646,250
Mike> on the "Data Entry Screen", and of course Rene'K. Pardo and Remy Landau
Mike> for U.S. pat no. 4,398,249 which covers all of the spreadsheet programs
Mike> (and was issued Aug. 9, 1983)?

Mike> Frankly I fail to see why getting paid for original work is so upsetting
Mike> to some people.

There is nothing wrong with paying people for original work.  However,
these patents are utterly rediculous.  I have heard that one company
(perhaps it is Technowledge) has a patent on the backward chaining
expert system.  Give me a break.  This is a standard technique that
has been used for years and is taught in virtually every AI text.
Heck, I've written backward chaining expert systems --- should I start
worrying that some lawyer is going to contact me?

A patent on the data entry screen?  Well, of course, no one except IBM
could ever think of something so complex and so obviously a black art.
God.

Software patents could, IMHO, serve a usefull purpose.  However, they
should be given out judiciously.  How many programmers would grant a
patent on XOR or a "data entry screen"?  C'mon.

And since I personally can't afford the $10k it would cost to get a
single patent search, I'm not really likely to go hunting next time I
write an expert system that uses X as its interface and happens to use
a data entry screen to get information from the user.

Just my $0.02 worth.

Tom

--
                                      Tom Emerson
________________   Student Systems Programmer - EMBA Computer Facility
 /  /_) /_  /_                    University of Vermont
/  / \ /__ /__                     t...@newton.uvm.edu 
            What can you say about a society that says God is
                         dead and Elvis is alive?

Path: gmdzi!unido!mcsun!inesc!minerva!fmhv
From: f...@minerva.inesc.pt (Fernando Manuel Vasconcelos)
Newsgroups: gnu.misc.discuss
Subject: Re: AT&T Threat against X Windows freedom
Message-ID: <1991Feb28.111753.2@minerva.inesc.pt>
Date: 28 Feb 91 11:20:18 GMT
References: <1991Feb25.043755.17220@algor2.algorists.com> 
<861@nddsun1.sps.mot.com> <TREE.91Feb27122612@sadye.uvm.edu>
Sender: n...@inesc.UUCP
Organization: INESC, Lisboa, Portugal
Lines: 50
Nntp-Posting-Host: minerva.inesc.pt

>Software patents could, IMHO, serve a usefull purpose.  However, they
>should be given out judiciously.  How many programmers would grant a
>patent on XOR or a "data entry screen"?  C'mon.
>
>And since I personally can't afford the $10k it would cost to get a
>single patent search, I'm not really likely to go hunting next time I
>write an expert system that uses X as its interface and happens to use
>a data entry screen to get information from the user.
>
>                                      Tom Emerson
> /  /_) /_  /_                    University of Vermont
>/  / \ /__ /__                     t...@newton.uvm.edu 

I fully agree with you.

I think that are two main points of view to this problem

The first one adresses those who would have to grant the patents:

For those the problem would be: What criteria will we use to grant
a patent ? This is a difficult problem to solve. There are of course obvious
cases but no doubt more arguable problems will appear. And then who are you 
going to trust the decision ?  
I'm not sure that there is an affordable way of solving this problem ...
We must consider that the humam rersources needed to enforce a system
with a minimum of credebility would be enourmous. Don't forget that for
the system to work you would have to pay good software engineers. Don't forget
also that the decision would have to be quickly made .

This brings us to the second side of the question:

Even if a reasonable system is built, who is going to pay for it ?

Obviously the persons who would use the service. That means you. And as you say
and because the custs involved would be high the service would be expensive.

This price would put off every small software company ...

So in short I would say:

It's very difficult ( if not impossible ) to grant software patents judiciously.
Even if we could manage that the prices involved would be enourmous
This proces would put off every small and medium software company.
Thus making more damage then good ....

Standart Disclaimer here.
--
Fernando Manuel Hourtiguet de Vasconcelos  INESC - Instituto de Engenharia de
f...@inesc.inesc.pt                                Sistemas e Computadores
mcsun!inesc!f...@uunet.uu.net          Rua Alves Redol No 9, sala 208
Tel: +351(1)545150   Ext. 216          Apartado 10105

Path: gmdzi!unido!mcsun!uunet!cs.utexas.edu!oakhill!nddsun1!waters
From: wat...@nddsun1.sps.mot.com (Mike Waters)
Newsgroups: gnu.misc.discuss
Subject: Re: AT&T Threat against X Windows freedom
Message-ID: <870@nddsun1.sps.mot.com>
Date: 28 Feb 91 19:57:49 GMT
References: <861@nddsun1.sps.mot.com> <TREE.91Feb27122612@sadye.uvm.edu> 
<1991Feb28.111753.2@minerva.inesc.pt>
Organization: Hacker's haven
Lines: 42

In article <1991Feb28.11175...@minerva.inesc.pt> f...@minerva.inesc.pt 
(Fernando Manuel Vasconcelos) writes:
A previous poster writes:
>>And since I personally can't afford the $10k it would cost to get a
>>single patent search, 

A patent search can be done (yourself) at your local University library
for very little cost or free. Copies of the patents are available for
the cost of copying from several sources. It DOES take time though.

>>I'm not really likely to go hunting next time I
>>write an expert system that uses X as its interface and happens to use
>>a data entry screen to get information from the user.

If you sell the code then you take your chances just like any other
business. If you give it away without charge there is no profit in
suing you is there?

>The first one adresses those who would have to grant the patents:
>For those the problem would be: What criteria will we use to grant
>a patent ? This is a difficult problem to solve. 

A problem which has been hashed out in every country of the world, with
remarkable similarity in the results - the present patent system!

>This price would put off every small software company ...

Why? Why hasn't this happened in fields like instant cameras (Land vs
Kodak), electronics etc.?

>It's very difficult ( if not impossible ) to grant software patents judiciously.
>Even if we could manage that the prices involved would be enourmous
>This proces would put off every small and medium software company.
>Thus making more damage then good ....

Please explain just what makes software so uniquely vulnerable? More so
than say circuit design which has always had patents, innovation and
small companies.

-- 
           *Mike Waters    AA4MW/7  wat...@nddsun1.sps.mot.com *
Certainly there are things in life that money can't buy, but it's very funny--
	Did you ever try buying then without money?
		-- Ogden Nash

Path: gmdzi!unido!fauern!ira.uka.de!sol.ctr.columbia.edu!samsung!spool.mu.edu!
snorkelwacker.mit.edu!ai-lab!life!burley
From: bur...@albert.ai.mit.edu (Craig Burley)
Newsgroups: gnu.misc.discuss
Subject: Re: AT&T Threat against X Windows freedom
Message-ID: <BURLEY.91Mar1110527@albert.ai.mit.edu>
Date: 1 Mar 91 16:05:27 GMT
References: <861@nddsun1.sps.mot.com> <TREE.91Feb27122612@sadye.uvm.edu>
	<1991Feb28.111753.2@minerva.inesc.pt> <870@nddsun1.sps.mot.com>
Sender: n...@ai.mit.edu
Organization: Free Software Foundation 545 Tech Square Cambridge, MA 02139
	(617) 253-8568
Lines: 210
In-reply-to: waters@nddsun1.sps.mot.com's message of 28 Feb 91 19:57:49 GMT

In article <8...@nddsun1.sps.mot.com> wat...@nddsun1.sps.mot.com (Mike Waters) writes:

   In article <1991Feb28.11175...@minerva.inesc.pt> f...@minerva.inesc.pt 
(Fernando Manuel Vasconcelos) writes:
   A previous poster writes:
   >>And since I personally can't afford the $10k it would cost to get a
   >>single patent search, 

   A patent search can be done (yourself) at your local University library
   for very little cost or free. Copies of the patents are available for
   the cost of copying from several sources. It DOES take time though.

A patent search will be of little use with software if you are trying to
ensure your code doesn't violate any patents, because a) it won't reveal
pending patents, or patents not yet applied for; b) it won't reveal things
you aren't aware you've "created" in your code that somebody else doesn't
think is "obvious", especially if you "created" such things by simply running
an optimizing (or especially a globally optimizing) compiler to build your
application (theoretically, such a program could create the concept of
backing store and the XOR cursor solution entirely on its own).

   >>I'm not really likely to go hunting next time I
   >>write an expert system that uses X as its interface and happens to use
   >>a data entry screen to get information from the user.

   If you sell the code then you take your chances just like any other
   business. If you give it away without charge there is no profit in
   suing you is there?

There is if you've got money.  I don't think the courts will care much what
you charged for the product -- the issue is not how much did you get for
the product, but how much should you have paid in licensing fees, and whether
treble damages should be awarded.

   >The first one adresses those who would have to grant the patents:
   >For those the problem would be: What criteria will we use to grant
   >a patent ? This is a difficult problem to solve. 

   A problem which has been hashed out in every country of the world, with
   remarkable similarity in the results - the present patent system!

Not the PRESENT patent system, but the one before around 1982 -- the one
where obvious things and "nature" could not be patented.  In that system,
backing store and XOR cursors and the like could never have been patented,
nor could most of today's software patents.

   >This price would put off every small software company ...

   Why? Why hasn't this happened in fields like instant cameras (Land vs
   Kodak), electronics etc.?

There are several reasons I can think of.  First, software is much more fluid
and new inventions instantly realized -- compare the amount of time it takes
to implement a new idea, say like a new paper clip, where you've got to
prototype it, find just the right materials, come up with (and patent) a
production process, and so on, where "matter" is involved, to a new idea
in software -- where once you have it, you can simply "type it in", see if
it works, and then ride the coattails of all the abstraction software gives
you (i.e. no need to work out the issue of materials or production, since
computer hardware already abstracts that away).

Further, we are as yet nowhere near the point in time where one can build a
machine that, given requirements like "we need a new substance which is
stronger than steel, pliable like wood, cheaper to manufacture than
fiberglass,..." and it automatically figures out what kinds of new (or old)
materials fit the description by analyzing the knowledge base of quantum
mechanics.  So processes and products that are matter-based, the key phrase
being "involving the transformation of matter" in one class of patentable
processes, are quite challenging to invent -- you not only have to conceive
of a new idea for what a useful substance or process might be, but use both
insight and perspiration (plus a lot of expertise, of course) to figure out
what it actually IS and how to build it.  For example, everyone knows that
a process to convert iron to gold might be very useful, especially if it isn't
too expensive to run -- but that idea is no good without the insight and
effort to divine such a process.  On the other hand, if someone invents it,
then our patent system will do a very good job of protecting their effort
for 17 years, and legally prevent anyone else from using the same process
on their own (or of course selling a machine that implements it).

Compare this to software, where for the most part once you think up a neat
new way to do something, it is fairly trivial to implement.  Hence the fact
that most clever programmers create "50 new inventions by breakfast" --
they're not smarter than their physical-scientist counterparts, just working
in a field where realization stands an extremely short distance away from
inspiration.

For example, I understand Apple's Hypercard doesn't have multiple scrolling
text fields in a single card (window), because somebody else has a patent on
that IDEA, which of course Apple probably isn't too happy about.  Think
about it: this means YOU cannot make a product that puts more than one
scrolling text field into a window, no matter what windowing product you
use, or whether you sell the product or just make use of it on your own.
Yet a) it's obviously a useful idea, when you come up with a need for it,
only a constrained windowing system might prevent you from thinking it up
on your own, and b) once you have the idea, it is fairly easy to implement,
and voila, you have a patent??  Sheesh!

As optimizers get smarter and smarter and descriptions (programs) get higher-
level, the "inspiration" won't exist any more in many cases -- the optimizers
might well be "inspired" to create a new invention based on the programs
they've been given along with the requirements and restrictions they have.
If this isn't already happening now, a) it can be shown to be possible for
most software patents in existence today, and b) it will start happening
within 10 years.

In other words, we're far closer to someone typing in high-level requirements
for a general-purpose window-system interface, giving them to an optimizer,
and having that optimizer "come up" with the idea of backing store without
any prompting from the programmer (and little or no awareness on the part of
the programming that such a thing was invented), than we are to giving the
requirements to transform iron into gold cheaply and without annihilating
earth to a machine that either says "here's how" or "can't be done in this
universe".

By implication, this means that when we do get such a machine, I'd suggest
(and this should be agreeable to most everyone) that many patents regarding
the transformation of matter would become invalid.

Once we get sufficiently robust global optimizers, it'll be a bummer if we
all have to incur the expense of doing patent searches on every "interesting"
thing we find in the machine code they produce to make sure nothing too
radical has come about that might be patentable OR already patented (or
might be in the process of being patented), because that'll cause the
industry to fall apart (due to high costs) in no time -- small businesses
first, of course.  In fact, if you're writing programs in C++ using someone
else's class library, I'd suggest you already are at risk of violating
patents, especially if the library provides inline implementation of various
algorithms.

The patent process is one that protects not the idea, but the sweat and toil
and inspiration that goes into making the idea PRACTICAL.  At least, until
around 1982, when the patent office decided to "give businesses a break"
and allow more leniency in patenting things it never used to allow, like
laws of nature -- which is what backing store and XOR cursors are, in
essence.  With software, making the idea practical is not what gets
patented, because it is nearly a "nil" effort -- certainly dressing up an
algorithm in a main(argc,argv) function wouldn't be patentable, would it?

On the other hand, if somebody gains some incredible insight and/or puts in
tons of human-mind (i.e. not machine-reproducible) work to discover something
like, say, that most American English text has certain frequently repeating
patterns that nobody else has noticed before, allowing incredible degrees of
compression, then I'd say that such a discovery should be patentable even
though it is, in essence, a "software patent" -- because is isn't a law of
nature, nor is it obvious.  Things like statistically based compression and
such, however, are ridiculous to patent, because although some new ideas are
involved, they appear (to a nonexpert like me) to be largely a stab at trying
a new statistical technique, seeing how well it works on a large body of
sample text, and picking the best "stab".  This is too easy, especially
compared to things like inventing a new drug, to allow a patent for it.
Spend 5 years analyzing English and implementing various AI algorithms to
help you analyze it, and show how the knowledge you've gained can improve
compression of text by an order of magnitude or so, and you probably should
deserve a patent for it; spend 5 days plugging in various fairly well known
statistical methods to a compression program skeleton and trying them out
on sample text to pick the best, and you deserve only a copyright on a
program you write to implement it, but no patent.

   >It's very difficult ( if not impossible ) to grant software patents judiciously.
   >Even if we could manage that the prices involved would be enourmous
   >This proces would put off every small and medium software company.
   >Thus making more damage then good ....

   Please explain just what makes software so uniquely vulnerable? More so
   than say circuit design which has always had patents, innovation and
   small companies.

Software is uniquely vulnerable because the patent office refuses to use
computer science people to assess the patentability of software patents,
whereas they use chem people to assess chem patents and so on.  Nobody in
the patent office who figures out whether a new software patent is obvious
or based on prior art has any idea what IS obvious or prior art in the
software field.  Certainly they have no idea what can be derived by machine
simply by entering various general descriptions of a problem, as proved by
backing store and XORing cursors and such becoming patents.  MOST software
patents, I'm told, boil down (and the boiling process is itself tedious,
because patent lawyers ensure patents aren't readable) to laws of nature,
obvious things, or prior art.

The other problem is that it is so trivial in software to combine several
general, obvious/law-of-nature/prior-art features in a new way.  Backing
store is simply combining the general knowledge that "if a given function
is hard to compute, and if you've computed it before on a given set of
inputs, then save its output because then you can use that output directly
if an attempt is made to reevaluate the function on the same input" --
though only when the time vs. space tradeoff is worthwhile -- with the
domain of a windowing environment where the function is the set of drawing
primitives applied to text/data, its output pixels on a bit-mapped display,
and evaluation the act of exposing or reexposing a window or a portion of
a window.  There isn't anything concrete I can think of that separates
this patent from a potential patent on almost any caching or optimizing
function, including things today's optimizing compilers do, except that it's
been narrowed to the field of windowing systems!  Yet that kind of
specific narrowing is an anathema to software growth, since what makes
our industry grow by leaps and bounds is largely the ease with which we can
apply working algorithms and ideas in one domain to another entirely different
domain (which is what the process of porting applications to another machine
is, in essence, for example).  Note that in the backing store case, the
tradeoff was usually in favor of time vs. space, except for certain cases
like MIT's Lisp Machine (for which I'm told backing store was "invented")
where lots of memory was available -- once memory became cheap, it was
basically trivial to start trading off space to gain time, and this is all
that the backing store patent really does -- it says "as of this date, AT&T
decided to trade space for time in windowing systems, because memory became
cheap enough to do so" and, in esence, nothing else, except "and we reserve
the right to apply this tradeoff to windowing systems and the redraw
function for 17 years, and license use of this tradeoff to anyone who pays
us enough money".  Make sense to you?

--

James Craig Burley, Software Craftsperson    bur...@ai.mit.edu

Path: gmdzi!unido!fauern!ira.uka.de!sol.ctr.columbia.edu!spool.mu.edu!
sdd.hp.com!zaphod.mps.ohio-state.edu!rpi!clarkson!grape.ecs.clarkson.edu!nelson
From: nel...@sun.soe.clarkson.edu (Russ Nelson)
Newsgroups: gnu.misc.discuss
Subject: Re: AT&T Threat against X Windows freedom
Message-ID: <NELSON.91Mar1224409@sun.clarkson.edu>
Date: 2 Mar 91 04:44:09 GMT
References: <861@nddsun1.sps.mot.com> <TREE.91Feb27122612@sadye.uvm.edu>
	<1991Feb28.111753.2@minerva.inesc.pt> <870@nddsun1.sps.mot.com>
	<BURLEY.91Mar1110527@albert.ai.mit.edu>
Sender: @grape.ecs.clarkson.edu
Reply-To: nel...@clutx.clarkson.edu (aka NEL...@CLUTX.BITNET)
Organization: Clarkson University, Potsdam NY
Lines: 17
In-Reply-To: burley@albert.ai.mit.edu's message of 1 Mar 91 16:05:27 GMT

In article <BURLEY.91Mar1110...@albert.ai.mit.edu> bur...@albert.ai.mit.edu 
(Craig Burley) writes:

   MOST software patents, I'm told, boil down (and the boiling process
   is itself tedious, because patent lawyers ensure patents aren't
   readable) to laws of nature, obvious things, or prior art.

Perhaps, perhaps not (I'm not sure).  Atkinson's regions patent boils down
to "Represent a region by a list of points.  Each point flips the inclusion
of every point below and to the right of it."  Given that description
(which may not be a law of nature, obvious, or prior art), I believe
that any competent programmer would reinvent Atkinson's methods for
manipulating regions.

--
--russ <nel...@clutx.clarkson.edu> I'm proud to be a humble Quaker.
It's better to get mugged than to live a life of fear -- Freeman Dyson
I joined the League for Programming Freedom, and I hope you'll join too.

Path: gmdzi!unido!mcsun!uunet!cs.utexas.edu!oakhill!nddsun1!waters
From: wat...@nddsun1.sps.mot.com (Mike Waters)
Newsgroups: gnu.misc.discuss
Subject: Re: AT&T Threat against X Windows freedom (LONG!)
Message-ID: <873@nddsun1.sps.mot.com>
Date: 2 Mar 91 06:36:14 GMT
References: <1991Feb28.111753.2@minerva.inesc.pt> <870@nddsun1.sps.mot.com> 
<BURLEY.91Mar1110527@albert.ai.mit.edu>
Organization: Hacker's haven
Lines: 216

This whole issue is starting to take on too much of the aspect of
religion to suit me. I don't intend to argue the "patents are evil
things from the devil" theme!

Glossary: USPTO - United States Patent and Trademark Office, the
government agency that examines and issues patents in the U.S.

In article <BURLEY.91Mar1110...@albert.ai.mit.edu> bur...@albert.ai.mit.edu 
(Craig Burley) writes:
>In article <8...@nddsun1.sps.mot.com> wat...@nddsun1.sps.mot.com (Mike Waters) 
>writes:
>   In article <1991Feb28.11175...@minerva.inesc.pt> f...@minerva.inesc.pt 
>(Fernando Manuel Vasconcelos) writes:
>   A previous poster writes:
{and if YOU can keep the attribution straight ... }
>A patent search will be of little use with software if you are trying to
>ensure your code doesn't violate any patents, because a) it won't reveal
>pending patents, or patents not yet applied for; 

I assume that you concede that the COST isn't the factor then? 

Naturally it only reveals the ISSUED patents as of today, did you expect
anything else? Provided the time between filing and issue is brought
into line that should not be a problem. Right?

Even the courts are agreeing that 10-20 years from filing to issue is
absurd. Nothing to do with software, thats a general observation.

If no-one has filed a patent then publication (i.e. in the program
documentation, specification oreven the code itsefl!) prevents anyone from
patenting it. What is the problem?

> b) it won't reveal things
>you aren't aware you've "created" in your code that somebody else doesn't
>think is "obvious", especially if you "created" such things by simply running
>an optimizing (or especially a globally optimizing) compiler to build your
>application (theoretically, such a program could create the concept of
>backing store and the XOR cursor solution entirely on its own).

I am not aware of ANY compiler smart enough to "invent" what wasn't
already there.

>There is if you've got money.  I don't think the courts will care much what
>you charged for the product -- the issue is not how much did you get for
>the product, but how much should you have paid in licensing fees, and whether
>treble damages should be awarded.

Any specific citations? I am not aware of this being a software problem
particularly. Ham radio gets along fine with circuit patents.

>   A problem which has been hashed out in every country of the world, with
>   remarkable similarity in the results - the present patent system!
>
>Not the PRESENT patent system, but the one before around 1982 -- the one
>where obvious things and "nature" could not be patented.  

I wasn't aware of the deletion of "obviousness". Just because its
software certainly doesn't make it obvious.

>In that system,
>backing store and XOR cursors and the like could never have been patented,
>nor could most of today's software patents.

I have a file of about a hundred software patents, every one of which
was quite innovative AT THE TIME FILED!

>   >This price would put off every small software company ...

>   Why? Why hasn't this happened in fields like instant cameras (Land vs
>   Kodak), electronics etc.?

>There are several reasons I can think of.  First, software is much more fluid
>and new inventions instantly realized -- compare the amount of time it takes
>to implement a new idea, say like a new paper clip, where you've got to
>prototype it, find just the right materials, come up with (and patent) a
>production process, and so on, where "matter" is involved, to a new idea
>in software -- where once you have it, you can simply "type it in", see if
>it works, and then ride the coattails of all the abstraction software gives
>you (i.e. no need to work out the issue of materials or production, since
>computer hardware already abstracts that away).

THat would seem to me to make patents much MORE useful since you can
experiment and find truly original ways to do things without spending
huge amounts of money in prototypes.

>Compare this to software, where for the most part once you think up a neat
>new way to do something, it is fairly trivial to implement.  Hence the fact
>that most clever programmers create "50 new inventions by breakfast" --
>they're not smarter than their physical-scientist counterparts, just working
>in a field where realization stands an extremely short distance away from
>inspiration.

Depends what you call "invention" I guess. I don't call re-inventing the
wheel particularly inventive nor particularly useful. Much better to pay
to find out how someone has already done it and work on something which
has never been done before.

When I look at the progress made in hardware from the 1960's to the
present, then compare the progress in software I really have to wonder
at statements like this. Even the US government couldn't afford a 4Mbyte
machine in 1960, today a home type PC runs that much.

But we still have almost identical operating systems, substituting such
radical innovations as CRTs (hardware) for cards (hardware) and actually
trying to do some graphics (hardware). Having spent 20 years as a CAD
software developer it seems tome that the only REAL innovation has been
to adapt old ideas to new and better hardware. No wonder there is so
much fuss when you have to pay for re-inventing someone elses' wheel!

[deleting a lot of interesting speculation about AI futures and
"inventing machines"]

>The patent process is one that protects not the idea, but the sweat and toil
>and inspiration that goes into making the idea PRACTICAL.  At least, until
>around 1982, when the patent office decided to "give businesses a break"
>and allow more leniency in patenting things it never used to allow, like
>laws of nature -- which is what backing store and XOR cursors are, in
>essence. 

In the account I read from the USPTO, it was the courts who forced this,
the USPTO would just as soon avoid the whole mess like the good
bureaucrats they are!

I remain to be convinced on the backing store and XOR patents. Certainly
the concepts wern't well known in 1970 even though there was a lot of
experimentation with graphics then.

>On the other hand, if somebody gains some incredible insight and/or puts in
>tons of human-mind (i.e. not machine-reproducible) work to discover something
...
>This is too easy, especially
>compared to things like inventing a new drug, to allow a patent for it.
>Spend 5 years analyzing English and implementing various AI algorithms to
...
[and you]
>deserve a patent for it; spend 5 days plugging in various fairly well known
[things ... and you don't]

I don't know why the amount of effort it took you is relevant to whether
or not the thing is a "law of nature". The test is "obviousness" which
seems perfectly reasonable to me. If I add to "the store of human
knowledge" then I deserve some reward for it. If the "invention" is
something "useful" and you want to use it then you should expect to pay
me to teach you.

>   >It's very difficult ( if not impossible ) to grant software patents 
>   >judiciously.
>   >This proces would put off every small and medium software company.
>   >Thus making more damage then good ....
>
>   Please explain just what makes software so uniquely vulnerable? More so
>   than say circuit design which has always had patents, innovation and
>   small companies.
>
>Software is uniquely vulnerable because the patent office refuses to use
>computer science people to assess the patentability of software patents,
>whereas they use chem people to assess chem patents and so on.  Nobody in
>the patent office who figures out whether a new software patent is obvious
>or based on prior art has any idea what IS obvious or prior art in the
>software field.  

I assume that you have personal knowledge of this? 

Sounds like the problem is easily fixable though, hire some CS types.

>Certainly they have no idea what can be derived by machine
>simply by entering various general descriptions of a problem, as proved by
>backing store and XORing cursors and such becoming patents.  

I don't think that shows anything of the sort. It shows that the patents
took a long time to issue and the ideas became widespread during that
time. In hardware areas it is quite common to publish an article on a
new idea at the same time as a patent is being filed.

>MOST software
>patents, I'm told, boil down (and the boiling process is itself tedious,
>because patent lawyers ensure patents aren't readable) to laws of nature,
>obvious things, or prior art.

Well, I'm an EE (not a lawyer) and I write patents for a living! 
The requirement BTW is to pass a USPTO examination and become a
"registered patent agent" with the USPTO. A law degree is NOT required
unless you want to sue for infringment or something of the sort.

In fact one of the
requirements is that the patent be understandable to "one of ordinary
skill in the art". That test is actually used sometimes, we get an
Engineer to read the patent and explain it. If they can't then it gets
rewritten until they do! 

Usually at the insistance of the USPTO.

>The other problem is that it is so trivial in software to combine several
>general, obvious/law-of-nature/prior-art features in a new way.  
[long statement about how obvious the "backing store" patent must be
- I defer comment since I have never read the patent]

>been narrowed to the field of windowing systems!  Yet that kind of
>specific narrowing is an anathema to software growth, since what makes
>our industry grow by leaps and bounds is largely the ease with which we can
>apply working algorithms and ideas in one domain to another entirely different
>domain (which is what the process of porting applications to another machine
>is, in essence, for example).  

A new application ofan old idea is patentable, but just reinventing the
wheel on my new XYZ machine is not. I maintain that "porting" is nothing
more than wasted effort which one is forced to do in order to make up
for poor software and compilers.

What has made the industry grow BTW is the drop in hardware prices,
software has done nothing whatever to cause this. That is why the
percentage of total system cost due to software has gone from insignificant 
in 1950 to the dominant cost today.


-- 
           *Mike Waters    AA4MW/7  wat...@nddsun1.sps.mot.com *
A psychiatrist is a person who will give you expensive answers that
your wife will give you for free.

Path: gmdzi!unido!mcsun!uunet!zaphod.mps.ohio-state.edu!think.com!barmar
From: bar...@think.com (Barry Margolin)
Newsgroups: gnu.misc.discuss
Subject: Re: AT&T Threat against X Windows freedom (LONG!)
Message-ID: <1991Mar2.092942.6054@Think.COM>
Date: 2 Mar 91 09:29:42 GMT
References: <870@nddsun1.sps.mot.com> <BURLEY.91Mar1110527@albert.ai.mit.edu> 
<873@nddsun1.sps.mot.com>
Sender: n...@Think.COM
Organization: Thinking Machines Corporation, Cambridge MA, USA
Lines: 52

In article <8...@nddsun1.sps.mot.com> wat...@nddsun1.sps.mot.com (Mike Waters) writes:
>I remain to be convinced on the backing store and XOR patents. Certainly
>the concepts wern't well known in 1970 even though there was a lot of
>experimentation with graphics then.

The backing-store patent was applied for in 1982, according to some other
postings.  By then there were a number of fully-working window systems,
some using backing store.

>I don't know why the amount of effort it took you is relevant to whether
>or not the thing is a "law of nature". The test is "obviousness" which
>seems perfectly reasonable to me. If I add to "the store of human
>knowledge" then I deserve some reward for it. If the "invention" is
>something "useful" and you want to use it then you should expect to pay
>me to teach you.

The effort has nothing to do with whether it is a law of nature.  It has to
do with the underlying goal of the patent system.  Patents exist to
encourage invention and disclosure by giving the inventor exclusive rights
to the invention.  Underlying this is the belief that manufacturing the
device is expensive, so the inventor isn't likely to undertake this expense
without some hope of payback.  Software devices, on the other hand, are
relatively easy to build; you don't need lots of expensive factory
equipment, just a personal computer and a compiler.

>>Software is uniquely vulnerable because the patent office refuses to use
>>computer science people to assess the patentability of software patents,
>I assume that you have personal knowledge of this? 
>Sounds like the problem is easily fixable though, hire some CS types.

He didn't say that they don't have CS types, he said that they *refuse* to
hire CS types.  I don't have personal knowledge of it, but several articles
I've read on the subject of software patents have made this claim.
Apparently the USPTO doesn't consider this a problem.

>>Certainly they have no idea what can be derived by machine
>>simply by entering various general descriptions of a problem, as proved by
>>backing store and XORing cursors and such becoming patents.  
>
>I don't think that shows anything of the sort. It shows that the patents
>took a long time to issue and the ideas became widespread during that
>time. In hardware areas it is quite common to publish an article on a
>new idea at the same time as a patent is being filed.

This may be true for the XOR patent, but the backing store patent was
applied for in 1982, several years after the development of the MIT Lisp
Machine, which implements backing store in its window system.
--
Barry Margolin, Thinking Machines Corp.

bar...@think.com
{uunet,harvard}!think!barmar

			        About USENET

USENET (Users’ Network) was a bulletin board shared among many computer
systems around the world. USENET was a logical network, sitting on top
of several physical networks, among them UUCP, BLICN, BERKNET, X.25, and
the ARPANET. Sites on USENET included many universities, private companies
and research organizations. See USENET Archives.

		       SCO Files Lawsuit Against IBM

March 7, 2003 - The SCO Group filed legal action against IBM in the State 
Court of Utah for trade secrets misappropriation, tortious interference, 
unfair competition and breach of contract. The complaint alleges that IBM 
made concentrated efforts to improperly destroy the economic value of 
UNIX, particularly UNIX on Intel, to benefit IBM's Linux services 
business. See SCO v IBM.

The materials and information included in this website may only be used
for purposes such as criticism, review, private study, scholarship, or
research.

Electronic mail:			       WorldWideWeb:
   tech-insider@outlook.com			  http://tech-insider.org/