Property rights versus... property rights ?!?

Posted by davidmcnab 5 years, 7 months ago to Business
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It may soon be the case that when you buy a car, you won't actually own the car. Auto makers are wanting to extend the concept of intellectual property rights to prevent car owners from modifying or even repairing their own cars.

I grew up in a time where if I bought something, the property rights conferred by the sale allowed me to do whatever I damn well wanted to it - use it, break it, burn it, change it - as long as I didn't do it to commit a crime.

Nowadays, property rights in relation to physical goods appear to be getting weakened dramatically, so when you "buy" something, all you're actually getting is possession and exclusive use, possibly for a limited time.

Whatever happened to *actual* ownership?

SOURCE URL: http://tech.slashdot.org/story/15/04/20/201233/automakers-to-gearheads-stop-repairing-cars?sbsrc=md


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  • Posted by dbhalling 5 years, 7 months ago
    There is a concept in patent law called the first sale doctrine. It states that if you buy a patented item then you have a right to use, repair, modify, combine the purchased item in any way you want. The only limitation is “completely” rebuilding the invention. I believe there is a somewhat similar concept in copyrights, but it is more limited.

    This problem stems from regressives screwing up contract law (bear with me it’s a long story). Some law professors though contract law needed to be updated and so they created the UCC which applies to certain types of contractual transactions. One of the requirements is an implied warranty of merchantability (meaning the warrant was required regardless of what the contract said). Unfortunately, in the early days of standalone s/w the products could not meet this warranty. As a result, they decide to license the s/w rather than sell it. This took them outside of the UCC and the implied warrant. Because the s/w is licensed not sold then it avoids the first sale doctrine. Also because the ability to enforce and obtain patents directed to software inventions was limited, s/w companies relied on their copyrights (which were weak), and their licensing agreements. As a result, their licensing agreements stated you would not reverse engineer, modify, or even look at the source code (of course they never provided it). However, I do not believe the auto companies sell you the car and license you the software. So I don’t think they have a leg to stand on under standard copyright law. But the DMCA may apply if the s/w is encrypted.

    The UCC and weak or non-existent patent protection for s/w in the early years caused a number of other problems. Including that when you got the s/w you could not modify or integrate it into other s/w. This would be like buying a car and not being able to put different tires or a different muffler on it. This clearly frustrated many who were sophisticated in s/w which started another bad solution – radical open source (non-radical open source makes sense for many things – think of standardized interfaces). This would not have happened if there had been strong patent protection for s/w implemented inventions and the UCC did not have the implied warrant of merchantability.
    So once again we see one idiotic do good thing by regressives over 50 years ago and one anti-property move by regressives over 40 years ago compounded into numerous problems – AND the solution is more patches rather than solving the underlying problems.
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    • Posted by $ WilliamShipley 5 years, 7 months ago
      As you will note, I've previously argued with you against software patents. Since our last discussion I've talked to a number of developers and no one can recall any educational classes or books on software development that even suggested checking to see if your code infringed on any patents as you were writing it. None of us have a clue on how you would do that with any signficant size software.

      I think it's more like writing a novel than building a device. Would you patent "boy meets girl" as a theme, or would it be patented if the boy was from a poor family and the girl wealthy? Stories, like software are built of a collection of common themes that are used to geneate a whole.
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      • Posted by dbhalling 5 years, 7 months ago
        Interesting question. I admit that my answer is a bit of the practical. First search for inventions directed to similar problems and for competitors patents. This is not only fairly simple, but it is a good business (marketing) practice that several academic papers have confirmed. (Practical advice coming) These people are the ones most likely to sue you because they are most likely to be concerned about your presences in the market. Second search for patents of standardized interfaces you use (probably news sources would be the best). There was a patent for Integrated circuit (IC) to IC communications that everyone build to, but it actually was not a standard. It was very easy to design around, but it had become a defacto standard. You might not be able to avoid this, but you can mitigate it by knowing about it before hand. Doing these two steps will not guarantee that you never step on another patent, but it will significantly reduce it. Obtaining some patents of your own will often give you some negotiating power also. Obviously how much time and money you spend on these steps depends on your present financial situation. But the first step should cost less than $3000.00 for most startups. If you do a modest patent landscape search, it might drive this to $5-7K unless you use a very large firm. The second step can be done internally. Also remember that in the case of interface patents or technology patents that cover a broad section of technologies, the patent holder is usually interested in a license. They are not interested in putting you out of business, they want you to succeed wildly (that said of course people can be unreasonable, I have certainly dealt with a number of them- call their bluff). Also remember that there has never been a patent in the history of the world that eventually people could not design around, although some have not been designed around in their lifetime. Finally, there are an infinite number of things to invent - don't pigeonhole yourself.
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        • Posted by $ WilliamShipley 5 years, 7 months ago
          I have a hard time thinking of software as an invention. To me it is much more like writing a story than inventing a machine. Of course writing a story can be 'inventive' as well, but we don't think of that as patentable.

          As to finding out the relevant patents, the problem is that, to a degree, all software deals with much the same problems: storing data, organizing data, selecting data, managing memory, communicating with the user via various interface techniques. It is theoretically possible for any routine you write to duplicate an algorithm that someone uses for something completely different. Actually it probably duplicates someone's approach. Do they have it patented? Do they have something else patented that the description could be interpreted to cover your algorithm?

          It may be that our biggest risk is from a competitor, but it might also be from a patent troll who owns a patent for converting an ascii character to numeric by subtracting asciii zero from it. (God help us if someone's patented that!) The patent can be flawed but mounting a defense would be ruinous.

          The software industry survives, for the most part, because most companies don't release their source code so you really can't tell what patents they are infringing. The big players do as you recommend and get a patent or two -- not to protect their IP but as a defensive strategy in case they get sued.

          If software patents were completely overturned -- and that may, in fact happen, I don't think that anyone would decide not to invest in software. If anything progress would accelerate.

          Copyright, on the other hand, we all count on.
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          • Posted by dbhalling 5 years, 7 months ago
            Right and your evidence for that is what? No you have no evidence, because the evidence is overwhelming that the s/w industry did not take off until patents were accepted for s/w. You have no evidence for that because s/w is really just a way of wiring an electronic circuit and then you would have to get rid of patents on all electronics.

            The overwhelming evidence is that those countries and technologies with the strongest patent protections create almost all the new technologies and have the greatest technological dispersion.

            TRY USING FACTS - just once
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            • Posted by $ WilliamShipley 5 years, 7 months ago
              I've spent the last 45 years in the software industry and I can tell you that, for the most part, it totally ignores patents. It has taken off because of the low cost of entry to development and the innovation of individuals who can create software in their garage.

              When patents ARE used on the software industry, they are used to discourage innovation, to allow companies with the the resources to use litigation rather than creating new products to maintain market share.
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          • Posted by $ WilliamShipley 5 years, 7 months ago
            Whew, for a second I thought they had! US20090198752 A1: "These methods include identifying the beginning, ending, and sign of the integer ASCII string followed by taking each of the seven bit components of the integer one at a time, usually starting with the least significant digit and subtracting the binary number forty eight to get the decimal numbers that make up the integer. Then each of the decimal components of the integer are multiplied by a power of ten, starting with ten to the zero power, or 1, for the least significant digit, ten to the first power, or 10, for the digit to the left of the least significant digit, if applicable, ten to the second power, or 100, for the digit to the left of the previous digit, if applicable, etc. This is repeated for as many digits comprising the integer, up to and including the most significant digit. Each of these products is then aggregated and the sign added, resulting in the converted number."

            Binary number 48 is ascii 0. I thought I was joking, I've written that routine dozens of time. Fortunately, the patent seems to be only for a vector processor so all existing software doesn't infringe on it. But it does show that for pretty much any routine you can come up with there is arguably a patent that might address it. As a patent expert you can tell the difference, but I can't submit every sub routine for a patent search.
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            • Posted by khalling 5 years, 7 months ago
              Hire an attorney. You hire one to do your contracts. You get title searches to buy houses. You have an acct. You are whining
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              • Posted by 5 years, 7 months ago
                That's a troublesome and inaccurate comparison.

                Let's look at a typical piece of software - for example, a website for e-commerce and social media. In that software, there would be probably around 40,000 lines of code, costing around 3 person-years of effort, worth maybe $500,000. Within that code, there would easily be 1,000 separate programming techniques, for data input, validation, storage, search, retrieval, presentation; also, payment gateway interface, integration with other servers, authentication, numerous social media algorithms and so the list goes on.

                A comfortable residential house costs $500k and takes only one property title search, costing a few hundred dollars tops. This hypothetical piece of software costs $500k but requires 1,000 patent searches. An exhaustive patent search for each programming technique would easily cost over $1,000, due to the way so many software patents are written up. So our $500k program is costing over a million dollars just to vet it for patents.

                And even this doesn't guarantee some patent troll won't turn up and demand a few hundred thousand extra for license fees, just a bit less than what it would cost to have the patent overturned in court.

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            • Posted by dbhalling 5 years, 7 months ago
              I see because you have never written an original line of code in your life, you are sure no one else has, You are not a patent attorney and you two-bit spamming of other people's work makes you an Elsworthy Toohey style second hander. Why don't you pander your garbage on a second hander site like Von Mises or the Huffington Post
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              • Posted by $ WilliamShipley 5 years, 7 months ago
                We can toss insults around if you wish. While you are an expert in patents I suspect you really never have written an original line of code in your life.

                I've written will over 1,000,000 lines of code. My current product contains 700,000+ lines of code. I write original lines of code every day, if you define original as ones that were created by my personal creativity rather than copied from somewhere else.

                If you mean original because no one in the world has ever written a line of code like it -- who knows, I certainly don't.
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                • Posted by dbhalling 5 years, 7 months ago
                  And you know nothing about economics, facts, or patents.
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                  • Posted by $ WilliamShipley 5 years, 7 months ago
                    You know, this is quite entertaining. I've been searching google patents and found this one:

                    US 20080281766 A1 "Time Machine Software"
                    A method and system for creating human robots with psychic abilities, as well as enabling a human robot to access information in a time machine to predict the future accurately and realistically. The present invention provides a robot with the ability to accomplish tasks quickly and accurately without using any time. This permits a robot to cure cancer, fight a war, write software, read a book, learn to drive a car, draw a picture or solve a complex math problem in less than one second.
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                    • Posted by dbhalling 5 years, 7 months ago
                      Right, what you do not understand because of your IGNORANCE is that is a patent application, not an issued patent.

                      Congratulations for proving that you are an ignorant, anti-property rights second hander.
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                      • Posted by $ WilliamShipley 5 years, 7 months ago
                        Does not the existence of an application generate the presumption of prior art? I would assume that in your search for patents applicable to my software you also have to look at ones that have been applied for and not granted yet.

                        If you told your client there were no patents infringing on his invention because it hadn't been issued yet, and then it was, he'd be in trouble.

                        I'm very much in favor property rights. I just think that copyright law is more appropriate than patent law for protecting software creativity.
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                        • Posted by dbhalling 5 years, 7 months ago
                          Don't change the subject - you were trying to prove that patents were absurd. You failed.
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                          • Posted by $ WilliamShipley 5 years, 7 months ago
                            I was mostly amused and trying to lighten the mood since you seem to be moving beyond discussion and into name calling.

                            But there is a point. There is a lot of junk out there and it's hard for a layman to actually sort it out.

                            So your answer, which you must admit is a bit self serving, is "hire me to do it."

                            But Davidmcnab has generated a good example of just how impractical this can be in the real world of software designs. In small controller applications maybe, but when putting together applications involving tens or hundreds of thousands of lines there are many algorithms in place. Legal vetting of every one of them would cost vastly more than the development.
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                            • Posted by khalling 5 years, 7 months ago
                              we deal with software designers all the time. They make up the bulk of Dale's practice. Not only is he a patent attorney, he is an expert in the field regarding examining court cases, and patent ability issues. He does get very frustrated when he sees mis-information accepted and propagated because there is a concerted effort out there to get rid of software patents altogether-which will harm the US 's ability to make disruptive technology in that area. It is exhausting as law professor, Adam Mossoff, points out to chase down every piece of bad info or patent applications vs patents thrown at you and answer questions logically and factually. Especially when arguments mostly come from emotion instead of a basis in fact. In fact, it takes hours of examination for Dale to examine applications like you cited in your comments above. He actually does that from time to time but-here's the deal. You throw it out there, probably do not realize the time and analysis refuting your argument will take to be consistent, accurate and get everyone on the same page. Frankly, after he would do all of that, you will not likely agree anyway. You have made up your mind. So, yes, it's frustrating. He would never presume to look at your industry or specialization and tell you what is or what does not make the most rational sense, how you best see moving your technology forward. But-were you his client? He works tirelessly everyday for the small inventor. He wants you to invent, invent invent. If you choose to share your code or hide it as a secret or copyright it, history has shown that invention slows and stifles. Please consider reading his non-fiction book, The Source of Economic Growth when it comes out.
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                              • Posted by $ WilliamShipley 5 years, 7 months ago
                                I am one of the people wanting to do away with software patents. I feel that they do exactly the opposite of what your goal: to create disruptive technology.

                                Most of the innovation in our industry is being created by small groups of start-ups. We innovate not because we can get a patent and make other people license the idea we had this morning but because we can create products that will win in the marketplace -- not the courtroom.

                                Much like authors, copyright protection is far more appropriate. Everything you write is automatically copyrighted, you don't have to send your days code off to the lawyer to have the various routines searched for.

                                When Jan and I started Schuyler House our paychecks were sometimes just enough for groceries. At that time we were heavily developing lots of different routines to do different things. There was no way we could try to patent all of them.

                                If we use the patent model to protect our software IP then small companies like us never get started.
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                                • Posted by khalling 5 years, 7 months ago
                                  well, william, in fact, the first thing a VC asks is -have you protected your ideas?
                                  one of the first things a buyer asks when you decide to sell your company is, do you have a patent portfolio?
                                  Shouldn't we be encouraged to develop new things instead of replicating others ideas? A patent does not keep someone from their industry. It does not even give the owner the right to practice the invention. IF you know what's out there, shouldn't companies find ways to either license what they need and do not want to develop or develop around existing inventions? In the 1800s, the same thing happened with sewing machines. They were were in a disruptive inventive state, and people were against those patents just like people are against software patents today. People will always be against patents. Their reasons are not based on reason. Look at your first sentence to me-"I believe.."
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                                  • WilliamShipley replied 5 years, 7 months ago
    • Posted by 5 years, 7 months ago
      Hi dbhalling, thanks for your detailed and thoughtful reply. It is the prohibitions on tinkering, modifying, extending and improving which originally drove me into a strong open source position.

      Another driver for me in this was the vibrancy of the open source community. The open source movement has dramatically lowered the entry cost for new players, which has stimulated huge creative effort. Bill Gates became the richest man in the world largely from his astute decision to add open source networking software (the BSD Unix TCP/IP stack) to Microsoft's Windows operating system. Today, more than half the world's websites rely on open source software (Apache server). More and more cellphones rely on open source software (Android phones, using the Linux operating system kernel).

      And there's another aspect of open source which would delight the Gulchers - the ability to audit the code and discover if some looters have planted surveillance backdoors in there!

      Anyway, here's one of my biggest frustrations as a developer: software that does not allow itself to be interfaced with other software. I find your suggestion interesting - that stronger patent protections might have had a more liberating effect on software, by removing the need for software publishers to cripple modification and interoperability.

      This still leaves the problem of patent discovery, however. There is a mass of software patents written up into vague, confusing, needlessly abstract terminology, which makes it difficult, time-consuming and expensive for a developer to find out if the code they're writing actually infringes on someone's patent.

      I wonder - could there be a regime which maintains the inter-operability, transparency and low entry barriers of open source, while maintaining intellectual property rights which are cheap and easy to stake out, defend and (in case of others' IP) discover and uphold?
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      • Posted by dbhalling 5 years, 7 months ago
        I think if this had not happened we would have had plug and play s/w and this would have standardized not only the s/w but the terminology. The closer to the hardware (this is really an arbitrary difference) that I get with s/w implemented inventions, the more standardized the language. The closer I get to high level applications, the less standardized the language. Also the anti-software patent attitude meant that much of the prior art we would have had was never developed in the patent office. This is a real problem, but the excuses by many in the s/w industry are really anti-property rights arguments.
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  • Posted by khalling 5 years, 7 months ago in reply to this comment.
    nope. there are many on this site who are not Objectivist. but there needs to be time and your opinion across many subjects. I talk to everybody on here. we agree that AR had original ideas and was influenced by philosophers before her. yet-you have spent little time exploring that. ok. if you want to be taken seriously-philosophically-do the research. If you don't-ok. you will not find satisfaction here. jus sayin
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  • Posted by $ WilliamShipley 5 years, 7 months ago in reply to this comment.
    From my perspective as a software designer, the distinction between copyright and patent is that I have to knowingly violate a copyright, I can easily unknowingly violate a patent.

    If I come up with an idea on how to handle the problem I'm working on, and actually I have to come up with quite a few ideas for each problem, I have no way of knowing if someone else has patented something that is enough like the idea I came up with on my own that I could be infringing it.

    In an earlier part of this discussion, you mentioned that Dale would take hours of examination to examine applications like I cited -- and he's the expert. Where does that put me as a layman? How can I possibly write code when several times a day I run the risk of infringing?

    The routine I'm working on today (or should be working on instead of typing) will query an internet database for some patient information. I am considering caching it in my database to save future queries. Lots of software does this kind of thing, all the browsers do. Is there a patent? Should I not write the routine? How much do I invest in searching out this issue (I am not asking for free help here). This is just a minor part of a minor feature. This happens all the time.

    If the patent office actually limited software patents to things that had the 'spark of inspiration' as opposed to the "Well duh" factor, it might be different. You aren't supposed to be able to patent things that are routine development. You aren't supposed to patent things that are prior art. But as a small company one can be damaged by a patent that would never survive a challenge.
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    • Posted by 5 years, 7 months ago
      And herein, William, lies the heart of the debate. There are those who believe that *every* form of activity, even the most obvious, should be patentable. This goes to an underlying philosophy which holds that the public domain should be essentially nonexistent. So for software engineering, there would even be a patent on touch-typing. Pay your license fees every month. Right clicks with the mouse to pop up a context menu? Pay your fees. Pressing F5 to refresh a web application that's lost the plot? More fees.

      But this 'anti-public-domain' philosophy is by no means constrained to just software. The ultimate aim of this philosophy is that there should NOT exist ANY form of activity, which can be used towards generating income, which isn't patented, or in the process of being patented.

      Parallel to this is the tendency of Congress to pass copyright-extension bills every time the copyright on Mickey Mouse is about to expire. Astonishingly, SCOTUS believes that an endless series of extensions does not breach the "limited times" clause in the Constitution.

      As Gulchers, we need to rethink the costs, benefits and philosophies of the whole intellectual property framework. At what point do IP protections cease to inspire creation and invention and start obstructing it?
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      • Posted by dbhalling 5 years, 7 months ago
        No, you have not defined what an invention is?
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        • Posted by 5 years, 7 months ago
          Very astute to ask that. This question lies at the very heart of the debate. I think we're all in agreement that invention needs to be incentivised and rewarded, and that a temporary legal monopoly constitutes an honourable and effective form of reward.

          A classic case here is the pharmaceuticals, who have to spend upwards of $1billion to get original new drugs through all the blinded testing protocols on a large enough scale to prove safety and efficacy to the satisfaction of the medical profession. No patent? No drug. People get/stay sick and even die.

          For drugs, defining an 'invention' is easy - a drug invention is simply a chemical formula for a therapeutic compound which has not previously passed testing protocols. This also covers the cases of drug companies studying naturally-occurring substances, isolating their active ingredients and validating their safety and therapeutic effect.

          Note here that drug companies take out the patent on the complete molecular structure. They don't patent functional groups, such as a reactive site on a benzene ring. Also, they don't patent general classes of drugs, such as alkaloids.

          For software, it's a different ball game. In software, all the tiny constituent parts of a software application can be separately patented.

          As for precise definition of 'invention' that would stand up to legal scrutiny - I'll have to ponder on that for a while. The broad-brush answer would be William's earlier response about 'spark of inspiration' versus 'well, duh' types of creation. Nailing this down into watertight wording is the trick.
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          • Posted by dbhalling 5 years, 7 months ago
            It is not a monopoly it is a property right. It is not an incentive it is the law protecting the right of a person to those things they create. All property rights are based on creation and all property rights are limited in time, since dead people cannot own things. It is clear that you have a utilitarian (looter) mentality to the whole issue.
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            • Posted by $ jlc 5 years, 7 months ago
              dbhalling -

              I think that it would have been inappropriate for me to weigh in on your comments on Wm, since we are colleagues. But I have no hesitation to ask you to stop calling davidmcnab (whom I do not know) a looter because his well-reasoned arguments disagree with yours.

              Some of your points (ie definition of 'invention') are perceptive and make me reflect on them, but then you try to end the discussion by calling davidmcnab a looter. That is irrational: It is obvious that davidmcnab is quite concerned with both the ability to own and the ability to invent. That is not a looter, it is a producer.

              Jan
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              • Posted by dbhalling 5 years, 7 months ago
                Jan,

                When someone advocates that it is okay to take the work of other people, they are looters. His arguments are not well formulated. What he does is constantly change the subject. A common technique of the anti-patent and regressive crowd.

                Did he provide any evidence for his point of view - no. When I pointed to the overwhelming evidence showing that patent and software development have gone hand and hand (Countries with the strongest patent laws have the strongest patent systems and vice versa) he changed the subject. At that point he is not only a looter, but the worst sort of Ellsworth Toohey second hander, which I will continue to point out.
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                • Posted by $ WilliamShipley 5 years, 7 months ago
                  I have been following the software industry for 45 years. The Software industry went from the handmaiden to the mainframe industry into a dominant force with the introduction of the personal computer, particularly the IBM PC which made personal computing acceptable to business.

                  From the 1981 introduction until the early 1990's there were virtually no software patents (I am aware that there were some). The industry flourished, many billionairs were made. For the most part our software was protected by copyright and restricted distribution. It worked well.

                  In the early 1990's the looters realized that there wasn't a lot of lobbying money flowing into Washington from the industry and the various investigations and anti-trust cases began. As a result they learned their lesson and are handing significant amounts of cash to the looters to be left alone. This is when software patents went from dozens to thousands.

                  I firmly resent your declaration that I, sitting in front of a computer writing code that I conceive of from my own brain without reference to anyone else's work am a looter. I make what I sell.

                  Somewhere there may be someone else who came up with a similar idea and patented it in a format that I am not qualified to read and certainly wouldn't help me design and test the code. I did not steal their work.

                  You and others in the patent industry, neither write code nor create applications for users. Instead, you want to build an infrastructure that requires us to pay you for permission to create. That is, as near as I can tell, the exact definition of a looter.
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                  • -2
                    Posted by dbhalling 5 years, 7 months ago
                    Try using FACTS. Actually there were plenty of patents on software implemented invention, they were just written as hardware. Software is just a way of wiring an electronic circuit and if you are against patent on s/w implemented invention, then logically you have to be against patents for all electronics. That makes you a LUDDITE
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                    • Posted by $ WilliamShipley 5 years, 7 months ago
                      Try using FACTS (does saying that really help with discussion?) Calling Software just a way of wiring an electronic circuit completely ignores the reality of how software is written and developed.

                      The underlying electronics that a piece of software can run on is far from unique and in fact can be any variety of things the emulate the required instructions including simulations.

                      I'm not against patents for electronics. That's a different world with far more discrete applications.

                      I'm not opposed to progress, I like it a lot -- we just have a idea as to how to achieve it.

                      (I don't know who decremented your count -- I have never decremented one of yours.)
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                      • Posted by dbhalling 5 years, 7 months ago
                        As I suspected you have no idea what software does. You should look at a little history. If you knew anything about s/w you would know that anything done is software can be done in an electronic circuit - because it is in fact executed in an electronic circuit. Software by itself is just bad writing.
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                        • Posted by $ WilliamShipley 5 years, 7 months ago
                          While, in theory you could get anything that is done in software to be done by an electric circuit, you could also design an electric circuit to produce the CBS evening news program for tonight on a screen. In theory. After all, everything that appears on the screen is generated by electronics.

                          In practice that would be far to complex of a circuit for anyone to actually build.

                          The same is true of a modern software program. You couldn't build a real electronic circuit that would do that. It is too complex.

                          It is that complexity that caused Texas Instruments to make the first microprocessor chip because hand held calculators were becoming too complex to design using electronic circuitry.
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                        • Posted by $ WilliamShipley 5 years, 7 months ago
                          All algorithms can be executed on a Turing machine but that isn't a particularly useful approach to describing how software design works.

                          I do remember the era when software was actually wired into the machine. I didn't do it myself but watched someone working on one as we were getting the new system working.

                          It differs from wiring circuits primarily in the flexibility and vast complexity.
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                          • Posted by 5 years, 7 months ago
                            Also, hardware circuits are patented as a working whole, not for tiny functional parts. I would be willing to put money on saying there's no patent for using a potentiometer as an voltage divider, for example. But there are patents on certain designs of complete analog audio amplifiers which include potentiometers.
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                          • -2
                            Posted by dbhalling 5 years, 7 months ago
                            You ignorance of s/w is stunning
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                            • Posted by $ WilliamShipley 5 years, 7 months ago
                              You realize you're arguing with two software engineers (I'm assuming davidmcnab is one from what he says) about how software works when you don't write software? Don't you think it's a bit presumptuous?

                              Especially when you tell us we don't know how software works. Now if you tell us we don't know how the law works you would be on firmer ground. I suspect my knowledge of software law is on a par with your knowledge of software development. We are both looking at the process as outsiders.
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                              • Posted by 5 years, 7 months ago
                                Yes, I've been a software engineer since 1985. I readily admit I don't know or understand the technical legal underpinnings of software patents, but I do understand the feeling of working in an industry where patenting of trivial and obvious techniques has become commonplace. It's similar to how it would feel to be driving a truck through the city to deliver some goods, and knowing that no matter which route you take. at any time, someone could threaten to sue you for having simply just driven past their property without their permission, and demand license fees. Worse, it would be a city where the streets are constantly changing.
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                              • Posted by khalling 5 years, 7 months ago
                                you realize there are two schools of software engineers. those who think property rights should be protected and those who do not. We represent inventors. We want them to thrive. we want them to build businesses that go to the moon. we do not know you. so far, you have demonstrated subjectivism and cynicism and moral relativism. I have great respect for jan. she understands Objectivism. you are a newbie and have alot to learn if you want to continue to enjoy this site. start with the recent David Kelley audios. then come back and we'll happily debate. but so far, your comments tend toward the opposite of Objectivism. I'm listening carefully.
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                                • Posted by $ WilliamShipley 5 years, 7 months ago
                                  I think that property rights should be protected. I make my living depending upon the protection of those rights. My difference is that I think that the property rights of software designers should be protected in the same manner as those of writers, such as Ayn Rand.

                                  Clearly not every aspect of her philosophy was completely original. Should she have been prevented from writing it because some aspects had been thought of by other people?

                                  I don't think that we are arguing about major philosophical differences. As near as I can tell, we have one key difference in opinion, that is whether an algorithm, independent of actual implementation, is protectable intellectual property. If we agreed on that, we would probably agree on most things.

                                  If you don't wish to talk to me unless I am explicitly an Objectivist, that is your right. I won't, however abstain from commenting on things of interest to me.
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                                  • khalling replied 5 years, 7 months ago
                • Posted by $ jlc 5 years, 7 months ago
                  I had this discussion with khalling some months ago. Wm and I know the software industry (he, much longer than I). davidmcnab sounds like he also has a lot of inside experience with this industry as well.

                  We generate original software; we do not steal code from our competitors. The common screen and database functions needed to generated a product are in a common pool of tools - the slider at the right side of the box I am typing in is a good example. Any patents on these items are spurious and made by trolls, not by innovators.

                  We know what we are doing and we know that we produce original and innovative work. If you disagree with what we are doing, that is fine: I am long past the point where I expect the universe to agree with me. But labeling someone "looter" is counterproductive and insulates both parties from change.

                  You have some interesting points, and Wm and I have been discussing them at work. Hot and flaming labels get in the way of productive action.

                  Jan
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                  • Posted by 5 years, 7 months ago
                    Jan, I'm with you in all this. This discussion shows me that there's a segment of society who believe that everything, even the most trivial coding technique or business method, should be patentable, and who even oppose the "limited times" phrase in the Constitution which implies that patents should expire. In other words, they hold patents up to the level of real estate - something that should exist forever.
                    Where I find this worrying is that each piece of real estate can only have 1 instance. 214 Jones Lane, Smithville can only be possessed by you, or me, or someone else. But concepts can exist in limitless instances. Anyone in our industry with half a brain or, anyone with understanding of invention-based businesses, would know that this would slow down the US innovation economy and give other countries a massive advantage. The US software industry would turn into a bunch of MBAs registering overseas companies and outsourcing their development to the BRICS economies, even further afield into eastern Europe and Africa. The USA is cash squeezed enough as it is without trillions more flowing overseas to pay for foreign cloud computing services.
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              • Posted by khalling 5 years, 7 months ago
                jan,
                this line of reasoning is not objectivist. You will necessarily experience dissonance on this subject whomever you are because the fundamentals in objectivism beg to be paid attention to. as well, go back and read this post. these posters are trashing our profession and calling db a fraud. yet, he is to be civil, tolerant, patient. he provided much evidence to no evidence in return. what if he came in and called all software programmers frauds? please understand context. I do not trash your profession not your competence nor your integrity. knock knock. who's there? PROPERTY RIGHTS
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            • Posted by 5 years, 7 months ago
              What is your interpretation of the 'for limited times' wording in the US Constitution?
              What is your preference for timespan of patents? If your answer is "lifetime of creator", then what if the patent is sold?
              Ditto for copyrights?
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              • Posted by dbhalling 5 years, 7 months ago
                Your complete ignorance of property rights is not an argument. Formulate a well reasoned argument - deal with the facts.

                You clearly do not want to, because you are not interested in the truth you are a troll
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