Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Looking out for Bilski: software patents v. FOSS

Filed under
OSS

Users of free and open source software (“FOSS”) have little to gain and much to fear from the patent system. The patent system poses two major threats to users: First, the software itself can be burdened or extinguished altogether by “software patents', that is, claims over basic techniques used in computer programs or common features of programs. Second, the use of computers to perform basic business functions traditionally performed in other ways, can be monopolized as a result of patents on computer enabled “business methods”.

Before 1990, neither the features of software nor the use of computers in “business methods” could be patented anywhere in the world. But the creation of a specialized patent law court in the United States, all of whose judges were patent lawyers, changed the landscape of U.S patent law. The tremors were felt in the rest of the world. The U.S Supreme Court, in a famous 1981 case, held that a computer program used to control the industrial process of rubber vulcanization could not be patented standing alone, because facts of nature, mathematical formulas and algorithms are outside the realm of patent protection. However, after 1982, the Supreme Court largely left patent law to the newly created Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (“CAFC”), and soon the CAFC had changed the rules completely while pretending that nothing had changed at all.

The CAFC's decision in 1998, in the case of State Street Bank v. Signature Financial Group, expanded patent's scope to include any ”practical application” of an algorithm, formula, or calculation that produces ”a useful, concrete and tangible result.” Thus injecting patents into areas where they were neither needed nor desired. These included, for example, financial strategies, auction techniques, accounting, and management, training and instruction.

rest here




More in Tux Machines

V is for Vivid

Release week! Already! I wouldn’t call Trusty ‘vintage’ just yet, but Utopic is poised to leap into the torrent stream. We’ve all managed to land our final touches to *buntu and are excited to bring the next wave of newness to users around the world. Glad to see the unicorn theme went down well, judging from the various desktops I see on G+. And so it’s time to open the vatic floodgates and invite your thoughts and contributions to our soon-to-be-opened iteration next. Our ventrous quest to put GNU as you love it on phones is bearing fruit, with final touches to the first image in a new era of convergence in computing. From tiny devices to personal computers of all shapes and sizes to the ventose vistas of cloud computing, our goal is to make a platform that is useful, versal and widely used. Read more

Elive Is an Interesting Debian-Based Distro with a Beautiful Enlightenment Desktop

Elive, a Linux distribution based on Debian which uses the Enlightenment desktop environment to provide a unique user experience, has just reached version 2.3.9 Beta and it's ready for testing. Read more

NVIDIA's NVPTX Support For GCC Is Close To Being Merged

The NVPTX back-end code for GCC that's going to allow OpenACC 2.0 offloading support for NVIDIA GPUs with GCC is close to materializing within the mainline code-base. For the past year Mentor Graphics / Code Sourcery has been working on OpenACC 2.0 with GPU offloading as a big addition to the GNU Compiler Collection through their work with NVIDIA Corp. The offloading infrastructure has been worked on for a while and the code that soon looks like it will land is the NVPTX support. Read more

The Future of the Internet - 20 Years Ago

Netscape Navigator was released 20 years ago today. Thank you to everyone who supported us at Netscape & built the Web with us then and now! That was posted by a certain Marc Andreessen. You probably know him as a successful venture capitalist, but before that, he was one of the people who helped popularise the Web. He did that by creating the Mosaic browser back in 1993 - first for Unix, and later for the Apple Macintosh and Windows (version 3.1). Mosaic was written at the University of Illinois, and was freely available for non-commercial use. But once the appeal of a graphical Web browser became evident, it was natural for people to start to think about turning it into a business. Read more