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Here's some libellous drivel for you (no holds barred)

From: <Kade.Hansson@dpiwe.tas.gov.au>
Date: Mon, 8 Sep 2003 11:28:15 +1000
To: public-web-plugins@w3.org
Message-ID: <OF5BFB5431.F1C88910-ONCA256D9B.00018105@dpiwe.tas.gov.au>

DG wrote:

>I am suprised at the amount of speculation on this
>list; apparently few have taken the time to read the
>patent in detail or the IEEE Visualization paper.

I think you'll find most have read at least the patent. But few of us (the 
current posters seem to be software developers in the main) are lawyers... 
and neither are lawyers software developers. Which is what I see as the 
problem. All lawyers, judges and juries can do is apply patent case law as 
it existed before software patents to software patent cases. But 
inventions are not comparable to software, at least if by "software" we 
mean "a hazy concept of what something could do." Inventions are clearly a 
specific formulation of an idea, not the idea itself- that Mr Doyle used 
the word "idea" in his testimony in Eolas vs Microsoft when describing 
what he was attempting to patent should have rung alarm bells (and should 
not been glossed over by that judge.)

Let's not even begin to discuss that Doyle's idea appears at least, on my 
reading of the evidence, to not be original or novel anyway. Indeed, I am 
increasingly convinced by the "obviousness" argument. When you are writing 
a piece of software, there is an enormous amount of creativity involved. 
And yet even someone like me, who prides himself on thinking "outside the 
box" and pioneering new frontiers, is slightly worried that the US is 
granting patents on *ideas*, vague ideas so broad they may encompass my 
creativity. By the way, I am not claiming to be alone, or even in the 
minority here. The world of software demands that we create new and 
interesting things on an almost daily basis. That someone who stops to 
take the time to smell the coffee and think up some wishy-washy words 
could net himself a decision like Eolas vs Microsoft scares the hell out 
of me. Why should the legal beagle triumph over the guys working hard in 
the trenches? What kind of justice is that?

Someone was bound to come up with plug-ins. Indeed, it seems to me that 
many people came up with the idea in a very short period of time. It's 
like a soap bubble- it's the most energy-efficient configuration for a 
dynamic web browser that needs to deliver a vast array of content types to 
the user. That one person should be labelled the inventor (not even the 
first, it would seem,) and the rest have to suffer for not thinking fast 
enough and running down to the patent office... That's just plain 
disgusting. If the court had a gram of technical inclination they would 
have realised *on the evidence* that the plug-in was an idea ripe for the 
picking at the time of the '906 filing. The ingredients were put in place 
by greater men who did not (could not) patent their true formulations (not 
merely ideas) a la HTTP, Mosaic etc.

>From my reading of those documents, I think the claim
>language is straight-forward and clearly
>differentiates this invention from the earlier work
>that has been discussed.

Well, I'm not sure how clear that is. But I don't expect the "prior art" 
to be targeted by the patent, not only because it is not clear it could be 
applied, but because there would be no return on persuing it. Patents 
aren't based on the principle of "use it or lose it" like, say, 

>I do not believe patents, software or not, are
>inherently bad.  In fact, I believe they are the best
>defense the technical community has to ensure that
>innovation continues against the hegemony of the
>WINTEL duopoloy.

In their current form, software patents are, I think, inherently bad. So 
thankyou for giving me cause to characterize them as such. Unless software 
patents are as specific as, say, photographic emulsion patents, where you 
have to describe every ingredient and the manufacturing process in great 
detail, their only outcome will be to stifle innovation. As evidence, I 
cite all the cumbersome workarounds people on this list have been 
scrambling about to provide. The energy of the software developers should 
be at innovating in new fields, not treading over old ground to keep a 
bunch of lawyers happy.

And this brings me to my last point (cue sighs of relief.) Some have said 
that politics should not play a part in this discussion. However, I have a 
feeling that the reason that the plaintiff was successful was because he 
played on the "guy stepped on by corporate giant" angle. There was a jury, 
for [insert possessive form for preferred deity or philosopher here] sake! 
How can these people keep their judgement impartial in the face of all the 
antitrust hoo-ha that went down in the last few years. Being 
non-technical- and even the judge seems to be suffering here- what hope 
did they have to see that the case was actually about stalling or setting 
back web development for the next couple of years, not about pricking MS 
in the foot with a safety pin.

Anyway, sorry about that. But with such a vacuum of actual facts, what 
else can you really expect from this list.


Received on Sunday, 7 September 2003 21:28:48 UTC

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