That anti-patent pamphlet I mentioned

Xavi Drudis Ferran xdrudis at
Wed Dec 11 23:42:25 UTC 2002

El Wed, Dec 11, 2002 at 01:06:56PM +0100, Arnoud Galactus Engelfriet deia:

> Yes. But I think it is important to make a distinction between the
> information and machines built according to the information.

Yes it is important. But you can't make that distiction with 
software. As long as all your novel and inventive stuff is 
software, the information and the machine are the same. 
That's why you can't patent software, because you can 
publicize information and monopolize it at the same time, 
and with software, machine = software = information. 

If you have novel and inventive features in the use of 
forces of nature, not logical but physical, then you 
can patent that and I don't care if you use software or not
because you won't patent software but some technical invention 
and the software will still be usable elsewhere, and I don't 
care whether you describe your technical invention with 
prose, verse, equations, drawings, software or a combination. 

> > Therefore, patents on software prevent the dissemination of 
> > the standard.
> You can still distribute the textual description of the standard.
> This does lead to absurd situations, I'll give you that. Just like
> with the U.S. crypto laws, where you can safely export a printed
> version of a computer program but not the same program on a record
> carrier.

Absurd indeed. 
> > > I don't understand this. Are you saying that patents on hardware
> > > implementations of MPEG should also not be permitted?
> > 
> > Exactly, since hardware implementations of MPEG don't disclose new
> > insights into the uses of forces of nature... 
> I don't know that. Manipulating EM signals seems like using forces
> of nature in a controllable manner. 

It depends. If the manipulation is ADC + multiplying by two in an FPU + DAC, 
I say it isn't, we already know how to build circuits for that, 
and we know what happens to a signal multiplied by two. 

If you discover a new quartz crystal that will changed phase of
signal by 10% then it's probably patentable. 
> > see Dispositionsprogramm.
> You're citing overturned law. This view on patentability has been
> abandoned by the German Supreme Court.

That's the German Supreme Court. I cite a case that is pure common sense 
an a coherent interpretation of the law. I don't want to repeat my rant
on lawyers vs citizes and wrong courts having to be corrected. 

> > > The counter argument would be that without the prospect of using
> > > patents to get revenue from MPEG 4 implementers, the MPEG 4 drafters
> > > would not have made the investments to develop the standard in the
> > > first place. My company certainly wouldn't have.
> > 
> > Some other would. All economic studies show the incentives are there. 
> Not if there isn't a way to recover the investments. You can
> do that with NDAs too, but that doesn't help public standards.

The way to recover investment in software in being first to market, 
and being knowledgeable in your field. In software there are only 
two ways to compete: 
- having a monopoly
- innovating
In manufacturing you can compete by costs of raw materials, distribution 
channels, production capacity, etc. 

In software the marginal costs are the same for everybody, you won't 
be successful with your program if it doesn't something new or does 
it better. 

So don't tell me there's no incentive to innovate, because innovate 
is what programmers do for a living. Setting up patents to incentivate
innovation in knowledge economy is like granting monopoly for tightening
bolts in industrial economy. 

If you just take a hardware business model and apply to software, 
little wonder it can fail, but then don't go saying you need patents 
to solve your mess (specially when patents can also bite your company). 
> > The strong incentive of a patent can only be justified for very 
> > expensive research invoving experiments with expensive equipment 
> > in laboratories, clinical trials, etc. 
> This is exactly what's involved when doing signal processing. You
> need testing, measuring, prototype chip development, more testing,
> experiments with human listeners/viewers and so on.

I grant you that lossy compression is a little a borderline case,
since you need insight in human perception, and may need
experimentation for that. I'm no expert but I'm told that this
insights in human perception are old, and the innovation lies in
logical deduction from that knowledge (if so it shouldn't be
patentable). Possibly I'd have to look at a specific patent to build an
opinion on its patentability. But if a state of the art computer with 
state of the art input/output devices, can perform the function 
you claim, with jsut a new program on it, it cannot be the kind of 
expensive research in laboratories I was refering to. 

On the other hand, you also need testing, measuring, prototype chip development
 for non-inventive circuit design, although much less than for inventing 
a new transitor. So this alone is no warranty of having a technical 
contribution = an invention.  

Software testing or usability tests do not count as the
experimentation I was refering to in order to justify a patent (but
please note I don't mean the experimentation is the criteria. The
experimentation is the justification for having a criteria that is the
new teaching on use of forces of nature). All software is usually
tested, just as you check mathematical calculations (after dividing
you multiply the divisor by the result and add the remainder to
check), or profread texts after writing them, and that does not render
software, math or literature patentable

Xavi Drudis Ferran
xdrudis at

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