Q: What do these companies have in common?
The Green Bay Packers, Boca Raton Resort & Club, Burlington Coat Factory, Caterpillar, Continental Airlines, Ford Motor, J Crew, Kraft Foods, OfficeMax, Sears, Tire Kingdom, Walgreen, Wal-mart.
A: All of them have been sued for infringing a software patent.
We are all members of the software industry, because we all use software every day. More than 200,000 software patents have been issued by the US Patent Office and they have a backlog of 1 million applications uninspected, many of them software patents.
"If you're selling online, at the most recent count there are 4,319 patents you could be violating," said David E. Martin, chief executive of M-Cam Inc., an Arlington, Va.-based risk-management firm specializing in patents.
"If you also planned to advertise, receive payments for or plan shipments of your goods, you would need to be concerned [with] about approximately 11,000." — LA Times, 8 Feb 2003.
en.swpat.org is a publicly editable wiki about software patents. Here are some starting points:-
Here you'll find information about this film as well as links to the pages which further discuss the topics covered and the people that featured in it.
Bilski is the most important patent ruling since 1981. Many have predicted the ruling would come in April, and surely by June. The ruling won't be a black-and-white statement about software patents, so the background is worth reading.
There's no single big problem caused by software patents. There's a nest of big problems!
Patentability in the USA is defined by case law.
Software is sometimes developed and distributed by well-funded companies with legal departments. In these cases, the problems are the same as those raised for the car and pharmaceutical industry. But software is different in that there are also many small businesses, software projects without a direct commercial motivation, and even individual hobbyists.
Besides the USA, there have been software patent court cases in Germany, the UK, France, Israel, Australia, Canada...