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Re: [Australia-public-discuss] Write a letter to ACIP?

From: anthony
Subject: Re: [Australia-public-discuss] Write a letter to ACIP?
Date: Sun, 16 May 2010 10:00:00 +1000

Yes, good start.  

Petitions are hard to organize, so maybe just add the note about the need to 
talk to the software industry rather than the patent industry, and then just 
submit it.  You can always make it into a petition later.

Lots of submissions are good, even a one liner  "As a software engineer I find 
that patents stifle innovation." is enough.

(I put a fairly lengthy one in some time ago, but many short ones are better.  
I have included my original below if people are looking for ideas.  But I like 
your short, succinct version.)



I believe that software should NOT be patentable because software patents 
stifle innovation.

Software is about building systems, not individual pieces.  There are vast 
numbers of pieces in a software system, and there is a large amount of 
re-invention.  Most ideas are relatively simple, and can be reinvented with a 
relatively small amount of effort.

For this reason, patents tend to protect questions rather than answers.  
Patenters think about what problems we might need to solve in ten years time.  
Then, ten years later, other people solve these problems easily independently.  
Only to find that someone else had a patent on it.  This in no way improves 

The patenting process is also severely broken.  Most patents are for trivial 
inventions.  They are described in obscure and arcane language that takes 
considerable effort to decipher.  It is impractical  for engineers to read the 
millions of software patents to look for possible infringements.  And any such 
search would result in numerous possible conflicts, and possible triple damages 
(in the USA, but that affects patent searches here).  Littigation over any 
aspect of patents is also very expensive and unpredictable.   There is no 
obvious way to address these issue .  And patent terms are far too long in the 
dynamic software industry.

In practice large companies mainly build a software patent portfolio so that 
they can sign non-aggression pacts with other large companies.  This is very 
wasteful.  On the other hand, the patent software trolls  do not develop 
software but simply wait for larger companies to reinvent their patented ideas.

Fortunately, most patents are never enforced.  But no one would ever write a 
line of code if they knew all the patents that could potentially attack them.  
I have personally worked on innovative projects that have been cancelled due to 
fear of unknown patents.  On the other hand I worked for an Australian company 
that flourished because a US patent was not applicable here (the infamous RSA 

Good techniques are often avoided due to patent issues.  For example, the 
weaker RSA cryptographic algorithm is used instead of the more secure Eliptic 
Curve public keys because of patents.  Awkward key agreement algorithms such as 
JPAKE are developed solely to avoid patents on PAKE.  Likewise for the Vorbis 
video Codec.  Engineers do not like dealing with patents, and will go a long 
way to avoid them.  Licensing numerous patents is just too hard, and they 
resent paying the tax.  

There can be little doubt that the algorithms would have been independently 
invented when needed.  Some like PAKE are obvious extensions to previous 
schemes.   The patent holders simply got to the question first, and then 
blocked others from developing the obvious answer.

Further, much software today is open source, i.e. given away without any 
revenue.  This means that it cannot license patents.  That highlights the 
difference between software and other endeavors.   Software is intangible.  
Further, patent revenue is a very small contributor to software academic 

Software patentability (in the USA) is relatively recent.  The software 
industry was very innovative before their introduction.  There is no tangible 
economic evidence that software patents improve innovation.

There may well be other areas that should also not be patented, but I am only 
an expert in software.  Any Patents are bureaucratic burden.  The onus needs to 
be on the patent/legal industry to show that patents really encourage 
innovation, and not on software engineers to show why they are harmful.

I would refer you to the USA Trade commission report on software patents, 
summarized here:  It takes an 
economic rather than a legal perspective.

As an engineer, I am focused software, not legal issues.  People that do focus 
on software legal issues tend to be part of the patent industry, and so will 
naturally be very keen to increase its scope and potential for litigation.  
Likewise, if you write to large companies about patents you will get replies 
from their patent departments.  I would therefor suggest that your sample may 
be very biased.  

For these reasons this review has just been noticed by the anti software patent 
community.  I would therefor ask for an extension of time for submission.

"If people had understood how (software) patents would be granted when most of 
today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at 
a complete standstill today."   Bill Gates, Microsoft.  Many other quotes can 
be found at

Yours Sincerely,

Dr Anthony Berglas
Southern Cross Software Queensland.

At 04:02 PM 15/05/2010, Jacob Stanley wrote:
>That definitely looks like a good start, we should amend it to include
>the points that Ciaran brought up about the software community being
>unaware of the review, and also address it to ACIP. We may still have
>an opportunity to affect their decision as the final report to the
>government is not due until July*.
>On Sat, May 15, 2010 at 11:12 AM, Ben Sturmfels <address@hidden> wrote:
>> On Sat, 2010-05-15 at 12:55 +1000, Alex Fraser wrote:
>>> I agree, the letter would be better if signed by more people. I would
>>> sign it, and I can ask my boss if he would sign on behalf of the
>>> company.
>> Perhaps we could write a letter explaining the situation as Ciaran
>> mentioned and accompany it with a petition signed be as many Australian
>> software people as we can muster.
>> I drafted the following petition a couple of weeks ago and am happy to
>> make arrangements to arrange a website to accept responses.
>> See what you think:
>> ====
>> Dear Minister,
>> I understand that patent law is intended to benefit society by
>> encouraging innovation. I believe though, that allowing software patents
>> is in fact harmful to society:
>> 1. The software industry has a long history of innovating without
>> software patents. This shows that the expense of implementing the
>> software patent system is unnecessary.
>> 2. Small developers are discouraged from innovating because it is not
>> viable to search software patents nor defend themselves against patent
>> lawsuits.
>> 3. Due to rapid evolution of the software industry, the 20 year lifetime
>> of a software patent renders a technique essentially useless to society.
>> 4. The primary benefactors of software patents are the legal industry
>> and companies who's sole business model is to amass software patents and
>> sue others (known as "software trolls"). These costs are borne by
>> software developers and society.
>> I therefore urge the Australian Government to abolish software patents.
>> Sincerely,
>> Name:
>> Email:
>> Occupation:
>> ====
>Australia-public-discuss mailing list

Dr Anthony Berglas, address@hidden       Mobile: +61 4 4838 8874
Just because it is possible to push twigs along the ground with ones nose
does not necessarily mean that is the best way to collect firewood.

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