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Old 05-22-2007, 07:45 PM   #7
Brainiac 5
Brainiac 5 began at the beginning.
Posts: 21
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Join Date: May 2007
Device: Sony Portable Reader
Originally Posted by Mike M.
The examples given (online shopping carts, credit card processing, etc) may seem silly now, but imagine the first one.
Imagining the first one does not make them less silly. They are all straightforward applications of preexisting technology.

Today, if you launch a good idea, it would not last a month before another group of developers had taken your idea and created an "inproved" version. The only retribution would be that their version would also not last a month. This is the reason for patents. Maybe there are some aribitrary grants out there, but it is the idea that must protected, not just the specific code.
This is not the reason for patents. You cannot patent an idea - that is a fundamental (but common) misunderstanding of patents. You can patent, for instance, a new type of engine you've developed, but you cannot patent the idea of a device that provides power to move a vehicle.

It is too easy to write different code that steals another person's idea.
The patent is for how to write code to implement the idea. If it is easy, then a patent should not be granted for it.

If we think competition is ugly now, just imagine a world without patents. Huge software companies can rest on them now and try to gain the advantage through the protection of the patent. Without that protection, the methods for obtaining a strong foothold on the market with any "new" ideas could only get worse.
Patents serve a useful purpose, and I don't think we want to do away with them. However, most software patents are for things that would not have been considered patentable in the past. When it comes to judging whether an "invention" is obvious and therefore not patentable, the patent office seems to have thrown the book out the window.

The purpose of the patent system is exactly what is stated in the article - to encourage inventors to disclose how their invention works. In exchange, they get exclusive rights to the invention for a limited time. If disclosing the invention doesn't tell anyone anything that they didn't already know, then there is no value to society in granting the patent. To take an example you mentioned, online shopping carts: you can't patent the idea of online shopping carts, you can only patent how to make them. But how to make them was obvious - that's why its a silly patent.
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