On Tuesday Feb 12th, the US Patent Office is holding a roundtable in Silicon Valley to discuss issues surrounding the patenting of software, and I have an opportunity to get a seat at the table.
I'll attend if I get some opinions from other entrepreneurs on the topic.
Do you have an stance on patenting software that you want to be heard? If so, leave it in the comments below and I'll represent the opinions I get below in person.
I'll also video capture the session (if I can) and post it here afterwards.
UPDATE: Looks like I'll be attending, so please join the conversation if you have any opinions to share.
EVENT UPDATE: Unfortunately the event wasn't a "roundtable" as I expected, but rather more of a "USPTO sitting up on stage listening to a few hand-picked presenters," which meant I didn't have an opportunity to present the thoughts I aggregated here. A bit disappointing, as I was also going to share Groklaw's response to the USPTO, which I've embedded below.
What I took away from the "roundtable" was that:
- There's no standardized way today to file software patents, so some file using actual source code, some use "psuedo code" and some don't include any code. In fact, today, it's hard to even search for relevant patents -- even by the patent examiners themselves. So, there's no standardized nomenclature today, which is the problem that has to be solved before the actual software patent problem can be addressed.
- I heard many of the presenters talk about "1.12(f)" in the law which I don't know anything about specifically, but almost everyone focused on around "notice" and "scope" problems of patents today.
- Most of the presenters who were software-savvy recommended that a) all software patents include actual code to be valid, or at least psuedo-code, vs. just saying "I have an idea for something" and trying to patent it w/o having actual code that could accomplish the idea.
- The first presenter (in the 2nd video above) described a suggestion in a way that made sense for me by drawing an analogy to biology: Let software patents cover the specific way they've solved a problem, i.e., the "species" -- or even the "genus" of similar algorithms (read: code), but not cover all possible solutions (i.e., "life" itself).
I did capture some good video content at the event. I'm putting the third video first because it was the best and most relevant to software developers, and specifically mobile app developers. Presenting to the USPTO in this video were Jeremy Russell, talking about a way to standardize patents in a talk titled "Software patents, pseudo code, and UML" and Julie Samuels, staff attorney for the EFF (she also holds the "Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents").
Here's Julie & other software-savvy presenters:
Here is Groklaw's response to the USPTO:
And here are the first two videos (not as relevant for software developers but patent geeks will enjoy them):