Overview of Software Patent Issue

Seth Johnson seth.johnson at realmeasures.dyndns.org
Sun Mar 23 00:46:09 UTC 2003

A very good slide show providing an overview of the software patent issue as
it is being played out in Europe:

> http://gibuskro.lautre.net/patents/

W3C PPWG members may find the XML-related software patents at
http://gibuskro.lautre.net/patents/slide25-0.html of particular interest.  I
have pasted the contents of that slide at the bottom of this message.

Below is the table of contents, as well as the contents of several slides
describing the juridical transition in Europe toward allowing patents on
"mental methods."

>From a message to the patents at aful.org list.

Seth Johnson


> http://gibuskro.lautre.net/patents/

The non-patent side of software patents
by Gérald Sédrati-Dinet (mailto:sedrati at bigfoot.com)

Interest of software patents for a small software publisher

Detailed Table of Contents

First patent (obvious) justification : Defensive 
   Defensive - Other means of "protection" 
   Defensive - "Protection" from what ? 
   Defensive - Cost of law suit 
   Defensive - Cross-licensing 

Second patent (obvious) justification : Offensive 
   Offensive - Incentive to R & D 
   Offensive - Software intrinsic properties 
   Offensive - SMEs 
   Offensive - Economic model 
   Offensive - Economic model and natural experiment 

Last patent (obvious) justification : Advertise 
   Advertise - Dubious patent quality 
   Advertise - Inside a vitiated system 
   Advertise - Other means 

Beyond the software patent system : Social impact 
   Social impact - Software "as such" 
   Social impact - Road taken by EPO leading to privatization of ideas 
   Social impact - Examples of mental methods (1/2) 
   Social impact - Examples of mental methods (2/2) 
   Social impact - Software's specific nature 

   Conclusion - Profit vs Loss 
   Conclusion - Non-patent side 
   Conclusion - Example of potential infringement 

The End  


> http://gibuskro.lautre.net/patents/slide18-0.html

Social impact - Road taken by EPO leading to privatization of ideas


Computer programs are not patentable 
Europe Patent Convention, Munich, 5 October 1973

Inventions containing a computer program are patentable 
Case of Schlumberger, Court of Appeal of Paris 15 June 1981: Whereas the
process claimed comprises six successive stages, some of which indisputably
involve the application of computer programmes, but the whole description of
the patent is not reduced to information processing by computers.

Machines containing an innovating computer program are patentable 
Generic robot containing a computer program that control the robot: stress
on hardware part

Algorithmic process processing information with a technical effect are
Case of Vicom T 208/84 Technical Board of Appeal 15 July 1986: Even if the
idea underlying an invention may be considered to reside in a mathematical
method a claim directed to a technical process in which the method is used
does not seek protection for the mathematical method as such.

The virtual machine theory 
Koch & Sterzel case T 0026/86 Technical Board of Appeal 21 May 1987:If the
program controls the operation of a conventional general-purpose computer so
as technically to alter its functioning, the unit consisting of program and
computer combined may be a patentable invention.

Computer programs that are not "as such" are patentable 
Case of International Business Machines Corporation T 0935/97 Technical
Board of Appeal 4 february 1986:Programs for computer must be considerated
as patentable invention when they have a technical character.

Process of management by a computer 
EP756731: Interactive Information Selection Apparatus (for selecting the
items for a meal)

Mental methods ? 


> http://gibuskro.lautre.net/patents/slide19-0.html

Social impact - Examples of mental methods (1/2)


Educative methods

US5443036 1993: Method of exercing a cat 
US6015947 1999: Method of teaching music 
US6024577 Fujitsu 1997 : Network-based education system with capability to
provide review material according to individual students' understanding

Management methods

EP209907 1989: General-purpose management system, method for operating said
system and transfer slip 
US6070142 Andersen Consulting 1998: Virtual customer sales and service
center and method 

Electronic trading methods

US5724424 Open Market 1995: Digital active advertising 
US6029141 Amazon.com 1997: Internet-based customer referral system 


> http://gibuskro.lautre.net/patents/slide20-0.html

Social impact - Examples of mental methods (2/2)


Consulting methods

US5734890 Gartner Group 1995: System and method for analyzing procurement
decisions and customer satisfaction 

Financial methods

US4752877 & EP0278132 College Savings Bank 1986: Method and apparatus for
funding a future liability of uncertain cost 

Social methods

US6092051 & EP1017025 NEC 1995, 2000: Receipt-free electronic voting method
and system


> http://gibuskro.lautre.net/patents/slide25-0.html

Conclusion - Example of potential infringement


SME that publishes a software on an XML repository and that is applying
software patents for a dynamic page ranking strategy for a crawler and for
sorting responses to queries

Results of Search for "xml repository": 2 patents. 
Results of Search for "xml database": 6 patents. 
Results of Search for "xml query": 2 patents. 
Results of Search for "page rank": 8 patents. 
Results of Search for "sort query": 18 patents. 

US6263332 Vignette Corp 17 January 2001: System and method for query
processing of structured documents
A computer-implemented method of retrieving information in a first markup
language through a query engine and presenting the information in any
required markup language. A user inputs a query and may invoke a number of
transformative sequences. These sequences contain a markup language pattern
and an action, which may include transforming the tags in the first markup
language to tags in a different markup language. The appropriate
transformative sequence is selected and the pattern from the transformative
sequence is compiled. The compiled pattern is used to perform rapid and
efficient searches of documents in the database. A predicate check using the
binary coding of the node as well as ancestor information confirms the node.
The leaf information associated with a confirmed node is then stored. If
necessary, the action from the transformative sequence is applied to change
the markup language of the leaf information to that of the user 



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