Submissions:2014/An update on U.S. software patents.

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Title of the submission
An update on U.S. software patents
Themes (Proposal Themes - Community, Tech, Outreach, GLAM, Education)
Type of submission (Presentation Types - Panel, Workshop, Presentation, etc)
Author of the submission
Peter B. Meyer (contact author), Yi-Fun Hsueh, Ben Klemens
E-mail address
US state or country of origin
Washington, DC
Affiliation, if any (organization, company etc.)
Wikimedia DC
Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (at least 300 words to describe your proposal)

In this talk we will describe (1) some of the perspectives on whether software should be patentable, and (2) a major case on software patents being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court, and (3) some trends and reforms that will affect software patenting in the United States. Reforms are likely since it is widely recognized that there are too many software patents being granted and/or that their "quality," in some sense, is too low, and this leads to a lot of unproductive litigation, and can interfere with new software development. However there is not a consensus on the shape of future reforms.

(1) Economists and attorneys express a variety of points of view on the appropriate government policy toward the patenting of software and business methods innovations:

  • That software technology innovations are inventions and should be eligible to be patented, like other inventions
  • That software inventions should be patented but in practice the US systems are not working and are letting too many "low quality" patents through. (Aharonian and many other patent attorneys we've met; Noveck)
  • That software inventions are too much like mathematical methods, discoveries, or natural laws to be patentable (Klemens 2006, Bessen and Meurer)
  • That patents overall don't make sense economically and should be rolled back. (Boldrin and Levine 2007)

(2) The US Supreme Court is considering a software patents case called Alice Corp. vs. CLS Bank. Wikimedia-DC members attended and heard part of the case arguments at the Supreme Court. The case is expected to be decided in July, 2014. In this presentation will summarize the two sides of the case and any judicial outcomes.

(3) Several trends and reform efforts will affect this category of patents in the future. We'll summarize them:

  • (a) One reform-related issue is that patent-applicants are incented not to do extensive searches for prior art, so the patent office ends up doing it and does not have access or resources to do it infinitely well. Furthermore the patent agents encourage the authors to make many, expansive, and vague claims which adds to the overall uncertainty in the system.
  • (b) Most "prior art" in the software field is not available to be inspected; it is "dark", hidden both from the inventor and from the patent office.
  • (c) Various forms of early inspection of patents have been attempted, to improve the quality of patents, including a sort of wiki approach described in the book Wiki Government by Noveck.
  • (d) There has been huge growth in patents on software, litigation about them, and costs of that litigation. We'll show estimates and graphs.
  • (e) Younger people have a different view on intellectual property from older people, partly because they have grown up in age where software technologies are common. (Younger persons have grown up with Napster, google books, Pirate parties, open source, and free repositories.) We expect pressure to protect the interests of for-profit creators less, and users more.
Length of presentation/talk (see Presentation Types for lengths of different presentation types)
15 Minutes
Will you attend WikiConference USA if your submission is not accepted?
Slides or further information (optional)
Will have slides
Special request as to time of presentations

Interested attendees

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  1. Fhocutt (talk) 01:57, 4 April 2014 (EDT)
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Invitation for joint research

This presentation was not included at this conference, but we are doing ongoing research on this and would like to be in contact with others who have an interest in it ; please let me a message on talk pages somewhere or email me with my username @ gmail. -- Econterms (talk) 10:14, 30 May 2014 (EDT)