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Apple faces more patent 'troll' suits than any other tech company

post #1 of 34
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Over the last five years, no technology company has been sued by more non-practicing entities over alleged patent infringement than Apple.

The tally of tech companies being "pursued" by non-practicing entities has been tracked by the group PatentFreedom. By their tally, Apple and Hewlett-Packard are tied with 131 lawsuits filed against them since 2007.

In more recent years, as Apple has grown to become by far the largest technology company in the world and most valuable corporation in America, no one has been sued as many times as Apple. In the three-year span from 2009 to the end of 2011, Apple faced a dozen more lawsuits from "NPE" groups than PC maker HP, making it currently the most-sued in the industry.

"Patent trolls," as they're commonly known on the Internet, are referred to by PatentFreedom as "NPEs." The group feels the term "patent troll" is "unhelpful," as it is frequently used to refer to individuals or corporate entities who wish to enforce their patent rights.

PatentFreedom, however, draws a distinction by defining certain groups as "non-practicing entities." To them, an NPE is "any entity that earns or plans to earn the majority of its revenue from the licensing or enforcement of its intellectual property."




That means companies like Samsung, Motorola and HTC, which have lodged their own patent infringement complaints against Apple, do not qualify as NPEs. Instead, companies like Lodsys Group LLC and Graphics Property Holdings Inc., which derive most revenue from licensing or enforcing patented technologies, would fall under that umbrella.

The data also shows that the number of lawsuits filed by NPEs against the top the top technology companies has been growing. While Apple saw just 12 lawsuits from NPEs in 2007, another 42 were filed in 2011 alone. HP also saw NPE lawsuits against it double from 15 in 2007 to 30 in 2011.

The PatentFreedom numbers show that Apple and HP have been the most-sued technology companies by NPEs since 2007, while Samsung came in third with 105 complaints lodged against it. In fourth is AT&T with 102 lawsuits, while Sony took fifth with 100 over the last five years.

[ View article on AppleInsider ]
post #2 of 34
Hardly surprising news but at least Apple has a few dollars banked to squash these leeches.
post #3 of 34
Apple is, and always has been treated unfairly. It makes the blood boil to keep track of all the outrages.
post #4 of 34
At first glance I thought the title read "patent 'troll' sluts."
post #5 of 34
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Originally Posted by joeblowjapan View Post

At first glance I thought the title read "patent 'troll' sluts."

lol, that would have just been redundant!
post #6 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by I am a Zither Zather Zuzz View Post

Apple is, and always has been treated unfairly. It makes the blood boil to keep track of all the outrages.

Karma?
post #7 of 34
Also, water is wet.
post #8 of 34
Not a big surprise

Would be a lot more interesting to know how the outcome of the cases.
post #9 of 34
Now, how about an article on the outcome of those lawsuits, that is for those that are over?
post #10 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by appleinsider View Post

apple faces more patent 'troll' suits than any other any tech company



Quote:
Originally Posted by appleinsider View Post

by their tally, apple and hewlett-packard are tied with 131 lawsuits filed against them since 2007.




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post #11 of 34
The reason this work is companies like Apple have not other way to come to an agreement with these company other than to win or just pay since most practing company will settle since they do not want to counter suited for using another companies IP, Usually in the end both company agree to cross license and not pay each other anything.


Some smart Lawyer will figure out a way to beat these no value companies at their game. Since most all of these NPE are actually owned by lawyers.
post #12 of 34
Great news for lawyers everywhere. Hey, they have families to feed too.

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post #13 of 34
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Originally Posted by Galbi View Post

Great news for lawyers everywhere. Hey, they have families to feed too.

I expect the lawyers already have all the live rodents they can eat.
post #14 of 34
Sorry if I'm obtuse, but isn't the entire point of the patent system to protect the "small guys" who may be clever enough to invent something but doesn't have the finances to make a product, from the large guys who could just take the innovation and put it into production? (Thus encouraging them to make the innovation available to the public instead of having it collect dust in a safe.)

Seems kind of petty calling them 'trolls'.

Personally, I think the entire patent system is invalid, but some of you seem to cheer when Apple sues someone and boo when Apple gets sued.
post #15 of 34
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Originally Posted by Zandros View Post

Sorry if I'm obtuse, but isn't the entire point of the patent system to protect the "small guys" who may be clever enough to invent something but doesn't have the finances to make a product, from the large guys who could just take the innovation and put it into production? Seems kind of petty calling them 'trolls'.

Patent trolls are people/institutions that patent something, never ever actually make a product using the patent, and then just before it expires (or after someone has made something similar), they sue to get damages.

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Personally, I think the entire patent system is invalid

Yes, there's certainly no sense in being guaranteed protection for your intellectual property.

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post #16 of 34
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Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Patent trolls are people/institutions that patent something, never ever actually make a product using the patent, and then just before it expires (or after someone has made something similar), they sue to get damages.

The terminology is ridiculous.

A patent owner is free to sell their patent to anyone they wish. The new patent owner is free to do whatever he wants under the law. There's no 'troll' about it.

If you want the laws changed, contact your legislator. Meanwhile, let's drop the 'patent troll' crap.

It's like this. Let's say that I own a factory but I'm not interested in manufacturing anything, so I sell the factory to someone else. They are also not interested in manufacturing anything. They decide not to do anything with the property for a while. Does that give a local manufacturer the right to move into the factory and start using it just because the owner isn't using it? Of course not. So why would intellectual property be any different (other than trademarks where the law specifically states that you must use the mark to retain it)?
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post #17 of 34
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Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

The terminology is ridiculous.

A patent owner is free to sell their patent to anyone they wish. The new patent owner is free to do whatever he wants under the law. There's no 'troll' about it.

If you want the laws changed, contact your legislator. Meanwhile, let's drop the 'patent troll' crap.

It's like this. Let's say that I own a factory but I'm not interested in manufacturing anything, so I sell the factory to someone else. They are also not interested in manufacturing anything. They decide not to do anything with the property for a while. Does that give a local manufacturer the right to move into the factory and start using it just because the owner isn't using it? Of course not. So why would intellectual property be any different (other than trademarks where the law specifically states that you must use the mark to retain it)?

I supposed in this case, the owner of the factory at least had a factory that actually made something at one time.

I think it's more akin to someone getting a patent right now for something that will happen for certain a few years from now (like emailing photos), sit on it, and then sue anyone that actually did all the work to actually get it working not knowing some tool actually patented it.

This is the patent system protecting the "little guy", this is the little guy trying to game the system.
post #18 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Patent trolls are people/institutions that patent something, never ever actually make a product using the patent, and then just before it expires (or after someone has made something similar), they sue to get damages.



Yes, there's certainly no sense in being guaranteed protection for your intellectual property.

Yes they should protect their property but things that get patents is just ridiculous. If you invent a new heart valve patent approved a generic description of whay your tablet should look like, no. Swooping hand gestures not so much.
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post #19 of 34
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Originally Posted by sflocal View Post

I supposed in this case, the owner of the factory at least had a factory that actually made something at one time.

It doesn't change anything. But if you wish:

I own a factory which used to make widgets. I decided to stop making widgets so sold my factory to someone else. They have not rented it yet. Does that give someone else the right to move in and start making widgets without permission?

Quote:
Originally Posted by sflocal View Post

I think it's more akin to someone getting a patent right now for something that will happen for certain a few years from now (like emailing photos), sit on it, and then sue anyone that actually did all the work to actually get it working not knowing some tool actually patented it.

This is the patent system protecting the "little guy", this is the little guy trying to game the system.

You need to learn how patents work. If you know for certain that something will happen in a few years, then it's obvious and not patentable.
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post #20 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by sflocal View Post

I supposed in this case, the owner of the factory at least had a factory that actually made something at one time.

I think it's more akin to someone getting a patent right now for something that will happen for certain a few years from now (like emailing photos), sit on it, and then sue anyone that actually did all the work to actually get it working not knowing some tool actually patented it.

This is the patent system protecting the "little guy", this is the little guy trying to game the system.

When I was a kid I read the novels of Jules Verne. Thank heaven he was not a lawyer, not to mention Leonardo da Vinci!

In my opinion the system should be based on someone actually copying something, not just the something becoming technologically feasible and then "invented" as a natural improvement because it was obvious.
post #21 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by RPT View Post

When I was a kid I read the novels of Jules Verne. Thank heaven he was not a lawyer, not to mention Leonardo da Vinci!

In my opinion the system should be based on someone actually copying something, not just the something becoming technologically feasible and then "invented" as a natural improvement because it was obvious.

That's the way the system works. If something is obvious, it's not patentable.

Granted, patent examiners sometimes (perhaps even often) make mistakes, but the alleged infringer has the opportunity to prove that the improvement was obvious - and therefore have the patent invalidated.
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post #22 of 34
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Originally Posted by RPT View Post

When I was a kid I read the novels of Jules Verne. Thank heaven he was not a lawyer, not to mention Leonardo da Vinci!

In my opinion the system should be based on someone actually copying something, not just the something becoming technologically feasible and then "invented" as a natural improvement because it was obvious.

Actually Leanardo da Vinci was a lawyer, his father was a lawyer and he was also taught to be a lawyer. He was also a weapons designer but that is a different story.

Jules Verne's father was a lawyer and he sent his son to law school but Jules started writing more the studying law and his father withdrew his tuition support however he still managed to get his law degree.

You should really read more about your heroes.
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post #23 of 34
post #24 of 34
i view a patent troll as someone who sues in the famous east texas region for patent infringement (and did not invent the method of patent but just bought it to make money...)

so to all those budding patent trolls out there... do not go to texas for a patent lawsuit unless you are making a product there...

while i love to bash blackberry over the Playbook... i was apocalyptic over the fact that RIM got taken for about 670 million dollars the patent troll "NTP" for the email/messaging/BBM thing.
post #25 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by haar View Post

i view a patent troll as someone who sues in the famous east texas region for patent infringement (and did not invent the method of patent but just bought it to make money...)

This view always amazes me.

If I buy a factory but don't use it to make widgets, does that give you the right to move in and start making widgets?

A patent is legal ownership of a specific product or process. There is absolutely nothing in the patent laws that says you have to use it yourself to be able to enforce a patent.

What happens when an individual invents an improvement for a car - or a petroleum refinery or a nuclear plant or semiconductor processing. Few individuals have a couple of billion dollars sitting around to build an auto factory or nuclear plant or a semiconductor plant. So by your logic, they should lose their patent and not be able to ever benefit from it.

Way to screw the small inventor.
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post #26 of 34
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Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

This view always amazes me.

If I buy a factory but don't use it to make widgets, does that give you the right to move in and start making widgets?

A patent is legal ownership of a specific product or process. There is absolutely nothing in the patent laws that says you have to use it yourself to be able to enforce a patent.

But this view doesn't allow for the general definition of "patent troll", which is someone who buys a patent with no intention of ever implementing it, entirely as a matter of seeking out alleged infringers and suing them.

The factory analogy doesn't work, in that case, since you would have to have a scenario where someone buys a widget factory that they have no intention of running as a factory, but in the hopes that someone will wander in and try to use is so they can sue them for trespassing.

Quote:
What happens when an individual invents an improvement for a car - or a petroleum refinery or a nuclear plant or semiconductor processing. Few individuals have a couple of billion dollars sitting around to build an auto factory or nuclear plant or a semiconductor plant. So by your logic, they should lose their patent and not be able to ever benefit from it.

Way to screw the small inventor.

But "patent troll", as I see the term typically used, doesn't have anything to do with what you're describing. They typically aren't "inventors" that are having their IP ripped off; they're holding companies that collect patents in order to sue. How does that help the small inventor?

And even if it's the small inventor that's suing, your'e claiming that if I come up with an idea and patent it, it's an entirely legitimate use of that patent to just sit back and see if anyone else does something similar, at which point I can make some money by suing them. This despite the fact that their "infringement" is almost certainly going to be inadvertent, since my idea has never seen the light of day via implementation. So you're in effect arguing that unrealized ideas should trump and in fact drive out actual real world applications. How is that good or useful?

Patent trolls don't further the interests of inventors or innovation, they take implementations off the market and make of them entirely instruments of litigation. While legal, it doesn't strike me as particularly defensible, particularly not on terms you're citing.
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post #27 of 34
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Originally Posted by Zandros View Post

Sorry if I'm obtuse, but isn't the entire point of the patent system to protect the "small guys" who may be clever enough to invent something but doesn't have the finances to make a product, from the large guys who could just take the innovation and put it into production? (Thus encouraging them to make the innovation available to the public instead of having it collect dust in a safe.)

Seems kind of petty calling them 'trolls'.

Personally, I think the entire patent system is invalid, but some of you seem to cheer when Apple sues someone and boo when Apple gets sued.

First of all, in the eyes of the law, there are no "small guys" and "big guys." At least ideally. Patents are designed to protect the fruits of one's investment of resources, be it a large or a small corporation.

A patent troll is used to describe an entity that acts basically as a patent holding company. It buys up patents from other companies with no intention whatsoever of actually using those patents to make a product. The patent troll buys up patents with intent to sue others using them.

You might ask why a company would even sell its patents in the first place. There are two major reasons I can see. First of all, companies that are in need of capital may sell patents as a way to raise capital. Another reason is that companies apply for dozens of patents as a result of its R&D activities but they may determine later on that there isn't much of hope of those patents making it into a product so the company may deem the patent nonessential and sell it off.
post #28 of 34
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Originally Posted by addabox View Post

But this view doesn't allow for the general definition of "patent troll", which is someone who buys a patent with no intention of ever implementing it, entirely as a matter of seeking out alleged infringers and suing them.

The factory analogy doesn't work, in that case, since you would have to have a scenario where someone buys a widget factory that they have no intention of running as a factory, but in the hopes that someone will wander in and try to use is so they can sue them for trespassing.

Actually, the factory analogy works just fine. The analogy to what you're calling a 'patent troll' is someone who buys a factory with the intent to rent it out. They may have no intention of ever operating the factory themselves, but want to make money from renting it to someone who WILL produce widgets.

Perfectly legal in the case of both factories and patents.

Quote:
Originally Posted by addabox View Post

But "patent troll", as I see the term typically used, doesn't have anything to do with what you're describing. They typically aren't "inventors" that are having their IP ripped off; they're holding companies that collect patents in order to sue. How does that help the small inventor?

It helps the small inventor by creating a market for their invention. The 'patent troll' presumably paid the small inventor for the technology via some mutually acceptable mechanism (or the 'patent troll' acquired it in a bankruptcy case which amounts to the same thing).

Without your patent trolls, the small inventor would be largely helpless. Let's say I invent an improvement for semiconductor manufacturing. I would not have the resources to take Intel on in a patent battle. And I may not feel that I have the negotiating skills to get a fair return from Intel.

A 'patent troll' buys the technology from me and then they take on the responsibility of obtaining licenses. Since it's a mutual agreement between the inventor and the 'patent troll', what gives you or anyone else the right to say that it's not legitimate and that someone should be able to freely infringe the patent?

Quote:
Originally Posted by addabox View Post

And even if it's the small inventor that's suing, your'e claiming that if I come up with an idea and patent it, it's an entirely legitimate use of that patent to just sit back and see if anyone else does something similar, at which point I can make some money by suing them. This despite the fact that their "infringement" is almost certainly going to be inadvertent, since my idea has never seen the light of day via implementation. So you're in effect arguing that unrealized ideas should trump and in fact drive out actual real world applications. How is that good or useful?

It's useful for a small inventor to have a market for his invention and the opportunity to make money from his invention. Just as a builder may not want to be a landlord and therefore sells his building to a real estate investment firm, an inventor may not want to mess with the complexity of licensing or negotiating with big companies so they sell the patent to a technology investment company.

Again, there is absolutely nothing in the patent laws which requires an inventor to practice an invention for themselves, nor should there be for the reasons given above.

Quote:
Originally Posted by addabox View Post

Patent trolls don't further the interests of inventors or innovation, they take implementations off the market and make of them entirely instruments of litigation. While legal, it doesn't strike me as particularly defensible, particularly not on terms you're citing.

You're completely confused. What you're calling a 'patent troll' is a middle man who creates a market for inventions. The inventor gives up some of his potential revenue in exchange for someone else taking on the risk that the invention will turn out to be worthless (most are) and the negotiations, legal battles, etc. For a small inventor, a modest amount of money may well be preferable to a potential larger amount of money later which requires a lot of effort. In any event, it is the owner of the invention's right to choose whether to practice it, license it themselves, or sell it.

By your logic, real estate investment firms should not be allowed to exist, either. After all, they don't build anything - they simply buy buildings that someone else has built. Only the builder should have the right to rent his buildings out. When you look at real estate, it's obvious how ridiculous your position is, but there's no logical difference when you apply it to intellectual property.
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post #29 of 34
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Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

Actually, the factory analogy works just fine. The analogy to what you're calling a 'patent troll' is someone who buys a factory with the intent to rent it out. They may have no intention of ever operating the factory themselves, but want to make money from renting it to someone who WILL produce widgets.

Perfectly legal in the case of both factories and patents.



It helps the small inventor by creating a market for their invention. The 'patent troll' presumably paid the small inventor for the technology via some mutually acceptable mechanism (or the 'patent troll' acquired it in a bankruptcy case which amounts to the same thing).

Without your patent trolls, the small inventor would be largely helpless. Let's say I invent an improvement for semiconductor manufacturing. I would not have the resources to take Intel on in a patent battle. And I may not feel that I have the negotiating skills to get a fair return from Intel.

A 'patent troll' buys the technology from me and then they take on the responsibility of obtaining licenses. Since it's a mutual agreement between the inventor and the 'patent troll', what gives you or anyone else the right to say that it's not legitimate and that someone should be able to freely infringe the patent?



It's useful for a small inventor to have a market for his invention and the opportunity to make money from his invention. Just as a builder may not want to be a landlord and therefore sells his building to a real estate investment firm, an inventor may not want to mess with the complexity of licensing or negotiating with big companies so they sell the patent to a technology investment company.

Again, there is absolutely nothing in the patent laws which requires an inventor to practice an invention for themselves, nor should there be for the reasons given above.



You're completely confused. What you're calling a 'patent troll' is a middle man who creates a market for inventions. The inventor gives up some of his potential revenue in exchange for someone else taking on the risk that the invention will turn out to be worthless (most are) and the negotiations, legal battles, etc. For a small inventor, a modest amount of money may well be preferable to a potential larger amount of money later which requires a lot of effort. In any event, it is the owner of the invention's right to choose whether to practice it, license it themselves, or sell it.

By your logic, real estate investment firms should not be allowed to exist, either. After all, they don't build anything - they simply buy buildings that someone else has built. Only the builder should have the right to rent his buildings out. When you look at real estate, it's obvious how ridiculous your position is, but there's no logical difference when you apply it to intellectual property.

A very well-reasoned response. While I personally believe (as do a lot of others) that the idea of software patents as opposed to copyright creates it's own unique industry problems, I'd still largely agree with your post. Well written sir.
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post #30 of 34
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Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

A very well-reasoned response. While I personally believe (as do a lot of others) that the idea of software patents as opposed to copyright creates it's own unique industry problems, I'd still largely agree with your post. Well written sir.

The problem with using copyright instead of software patents is that it's easy to change the algorithm into a different language or rearrange it so that the new implementation looks different enough to avoid copyright infringement, even if it's really a direct copy of the original.

To take the simplest example. Let's say I was the first person to come up with a way to display text on the screen and I wrote a 'Hello World' program in Basic.

If I patented it, it could cover ANY equivalent implementation of putting text on the screen - that is, anything that fell under my claims would be covered. With a copyright, only an essentially identical copy would be covered. That is, if you wrote essentially the same program it in Fortran or C, it would not be a copyright infringement.

Even if you ignore the languages issue, let's say that I come up with an algorithm to do something. Any decent programmer can implement that algorithm in multiple ways and it would be easy to copy someone's algorithm without violating their copyright.

Now, many software patents are being issued that should never have been issued. I don't know if it's because the examiners are not familiar with prior art or the applicants are leaving out relevant prior art or both, but it's quite clear that software patents are too easy to get and too expensive to enforce, so there needs to be a change in the system. But throwing it out entirely (and relying solely on copyrights) creates its own problems - and basically makes it impossible to protect software IP.
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post #31 of 34
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Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

The problem with using copyright instead of software patents is that it's easy to change the algorithm into a different language or rearrange it so that the new implementation looks different enough to avoid copyright infringement, even if it's really a direct copy of the original.

To take the simplest example. Let's say I was the first person to come up with a way to display text on the screen and I wrote a 'Hello World' program in Basic.

If I patented it, it could cover ANY equivalent implementation of putting text on the screen - that is, anything that fell under my claims would be covered. With a copyright, only an essentially identical copy would be covered. That is, if you wrote essentially the same program it in Fortran or C, it would not be a copyright infringement.

Even if you ignore the languages issue, let's say that I come up with an algorithm to do something. Any decent programmer can implement that algorithm in multiple ways and it would be easy to copy someone's algorithm without violating their copyright.

Now, many software patents are being issued that should never have been issued. I don't know if it's because the examiners are not familiar with prior art or the applicants are leaving out relevant prior art or both, but it's quite clear that software patents are too easy to get and too expensive to enforce, so there needs to be a change in the system. But throwing it out entirely (and relying solely on copyrights) creates its own problems - and basically makes it impossible to protect software IP.

And what would be the difference in the creations made by a software developer and those of a songwriter, or a philosopher, or a poet?
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post #32 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

And what would be the difference in the creations made by a software developer and those of a songwriter, or a philosopher, or a poet?

I would guess that the creation of a software developer is generally a means to an end, and so the detail doesn't matter in a broad sense, whereas the creation of an artist is the end in itself. Two pieces of code that look quite different may achieve the same result; two songs that sound different are different songs.
post #33 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

And what would be the difference in the creations made by a software developer and those of a songwriter, or a philosopher, or a poet?

There's a fundamental difference.

Copyright is intended to protect the exact form. Patents are to protect the function.

If someone writes a love song, that is protected by copyright - because their version of a love song is different from the ones that came before. It is certainly not intended to prevent anyone else from writing a different love song - or even expressing some of the same viewpoints in different form. If I want to write a song about teenage love, I can do so - even though it's been done a thousand times before. The reason is that each version is completely different in execution.

Software is different. The importance of software is in what it actually does, not the form. If I invent something new, patents allow me to protect that invention and keep others from doing the same thing (as long as their implementation falls under the specific claims I made). The intent of a patent is that if I patent a new device, the device itself is protected, regardless of how it is derived. If I make a new chemical compound and patent it, someone else can't make it for commercial use even if they make it differently.

So ultimately, it comes down to whether a new algorithm is a new product or a implementation like a song.

A truly new algorithm which does something that has not been accomplished before should presumably be treated like a patent. If it's simply your own unique spin on something already well known, then it might be more appropriate to cover it by copyright.
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post #34 of 34
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