Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Oh Joy: High Court rewrites UK software patent rules

From Computing:

High Court rewrites UK software patent rules:

"The High Court has passed a ruling that for the first time allows computer programs to be patented in the UK.

"The decision came about as the court upheld an appeal from Symbian following the rejection of an application the software firm made to the Intellectual Patent Office (IPO).

"Symbian filed for a patent relating to the way computers use a library of functions that can be accessed by programs."

I'm hoping this is a storm in a teacup. IMHO, software patents are a fundamentally flawed concept which I'd hate to be subject to. Patents were designed to protect inventors of physical products, for whom the 'invention' bit was just the start of an enormously expensive journey to success, which could be upset at any time by a competitor with better tooling or more staff. As I understand it, you wouldn't normally go and get a patent until you've created your first production prototype.

This simply doesn't apply in the software world - by the time you've implemented your production prototype, you're 60-80% of the way there: Functional, non-functional and user acceptance testing are the remaining barriers to distribution. You don't need to tool up a multi million pound factory, you don't need to employ 20 staff to work the machines. In the general case, there are no boxes to pack, no labels to print, no lorries or fuel to buy, no returns to process, no replacement goods to ship. What's more, someone with more developers or a more established shop often isn't better placed to produce your product than you, the inventor.

This is what is so beautiful about software. Some of the best software in the world was written by small teams of very smart people, who had a good idea and ran with it before anyone else got a look in. I'm sorry, but if the big boys can't keep up with two guys, one girl and a dog working in their shed, then maybe it's time to consider a divestment.

And Breathe. . .


Rut the Nut said...

Regarding non-software patents, it is normal enough to apply even before creating a prototype. Most important is to make the patent application whilst your idea/invention is still secret, or else you won't get the patent. Odd maybe, but the whole patent system is pretty much screwed nowadays. IMHO

Anonymous said...

If you want to know more about the messing around in the patent world, especially in the USPTO, google for Greg Aharonian and the Internet Patent News Service. The emails from Greg make for some interesting reading.

Anonymous said...

Further information on this in Computing magazine this week.
web article here

Taryn said...

Well written article.