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Software Patents. History of Patents In 1421, Filippo Brunelleschi, the architect made famous for his dome on the Cathedral of Santa Maria dei Fiori in.

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Presentation on theme: "Software Patents. History of Patents In 1421, Filippo Brunelleschi, the architect made famous for his dome on the Cathedral of Santa Maria dei Fiori in."— Presentation transcript:

1 Software Patents

2 History of Patents In 1421, Filippo Brunelleschi, the architect made famous for his dome on the Cathedral of Santa Maria dei Fiori in Florence, received the world's first patent from the fathers of Florence for a “tecnology for hauling marble more cheaply. The patent gave Brunelleschi the right to burn any ship borrowing his design for three years.

3 Brunelleschi Patent According to his patent, Brunelleschi believed he could build "some machine or kind of ship…for less money than usual." Patents had previously not existed, and ciphers such as Leonardo's mirror-image script had been widely employed by scientists and inventors. In the request the patent, "he refuses to make such machine available to the public, in order that the fruit of his genius and skill may not be reaped by another without his will and consent."

4 Patents Software patents are sometimes confused with software copyright. Under international agreements, such as the WTO's TRIPs Agreement, any software written is automatically covered by copyright. This regulates the direct copying of the program code.WTOTRIPs Agreement A patent gives stronger restrictive power. It covers the programming method itself, independently of any implementation in code. Usually, reimplementing a program will avoid copyright infringement, but not patent infringement. Like all patents, software patents are enforceable regardless of whether the competitors were aware of the patent (patents are kept secret for at least 18 months) and the software was completely independently developed. A patent holder may prevent others from using their invention absolutely, or license it at terms they dictate. There are strong sanctions for patent infringement, including triple damages in the USA if the infringement is considered deliberate, which means knowing of the patent but not licensing it (even under the assumption it was invalid).

5 Morse Patent The Morse patent of 1840 was for device to send and receive messages (the hardware) encoding scheme (Morse code) whereby messages would be encoded, transmitted, and decoded (the software)

6 Some Software Patents GIF Unisys acquired a patent (1983) on LZW compression, a fundamental part of the widely-used GIF graphics format. Unisys published the compression algorithm, but did not make it clear that it was applying for a patent. CompuServe then developed the GIF format, and, having no reason to choose otherwise, chose the LZW method of compression. Unisys waited until the GIF algorithm was widely used, and then demanded royalties from developers

7 Some Software Patents More on GIF In the original announcement (Jan 4, 1995), Unisys indicated that it controls the rights to the LZW compression technology. CompuServe entered into an agreement with Unisys in which they agree to encourage any GIF developers who use CompuServe as a distributor to pay a royalty fee to Unisys. For each registered copy of a program that uses the LZW compression technology, the developer is to pay 1.5% of the sale price of the program to CompuServe, or $0.15, whichever is greater. Developers were given until the end of January 1995 to sign up.

8 Critics of the GIF Patent Critics suggested that “Unisys knows there is nothing unique about the LZW algorithm, and its incorporation in the GIF file format is nothing more than a historical accident. Unisys has played no part in the creation of the Web, yet they seek to tax people who wish to access it. The value of the GIF file format is the result of network externalities, not in any way the result of the intrinsic value of the LZW algorithm. “ [League for Programming Freedom,

9 Hyperlinks British Telecom sued Prodigy over U.S. Patent 4,873,662 claiming that Prodigy infringed its patent on web hyperlinks.4,873,662 “an information handling system in which information is derived from a computer at a remote point and transmitted via the public telephone network to terminal apparatus." "What we expect is that ISPs will do the decent thing and take licenses for our intellectual property that they're using," said Simon Craven, a spokesman for British Telecom. "We're looking for reasonable royalties on revenues that they're enjoying from our technology.“ However, after costly litigation, a court found for Prodigy, ruling that British Telecom's patent did not actually cover web hyperlinks. Hyperlinks were first described in 1945 in the landmark paper As We May Think (Vannevar Bush), as well as in the widely-known project Xanadu (Ted Nelson) starting in the 1960s.As We May Think

10 Multimedia Compton's NewMedia was awarded a patent in 1993, which had been filed five years before, for "A search system [that] uses a multimedia database consisting of text, picture, audio, and animated data." Compton's announced their patent at the height of the excitement over CD- ROM software and claimed this patent covered all multimedia software, and announced a royalty payment schedule. An outcry ensued that this was an attempt to patent something that had been in active use for many years, and the furor was so great that the Patent Office commissioner quickly started an "office action" to re- investigate the claim. It seemed that the PTO had only reviewed existing patents for prior art, and not the wide body of prior art in the field that had not been patented. The patent was voided in 1994. See Garfinkel’s Patently Absurd article in WiredPatently Absurd

11 Unusual Patents Ridiculous Patents Crazy Patents Swinging New Scientist Article Microsoft

12 DRM (Digital Rights Management) Digital Property Rights Language (DPRL) was invented in 1997/97 by Dr. Mark Stefik of Xerox PARC. Xerox patented a large number of “technologies” based on this invention. The first patent, United States Patent 5,629,980, states that it is a5,629,980 “System for controlling the distribution and use of digital works. …Each right has associated with it certain optional specifications which outline the conditions and fees upon which the right may be exercised.” Based on its works on DPRL, Xerox launched an independent company, ContentGuard, in April, 2000. Content Guard is now owned byContentGuard Time Warner, Inc Microsoft Corporation Thomson A recent Content Guard Patent (US Patent 6,959,290) is described as “Method and apparatus for tracking states of digital works“ (chained books ?)US Patent 6,959,290

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