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Martin Willcox, an IT Manager from Manchester, United Kingdom cut to chase:
"The McAfee case clearly demonstrates just how absurd and anti-competitive notion of patenting software really is. Very little software is genuinely new or novel - in reality, most of us in development community spend our lives either refining and extending ideas that go back years or porting those ideas to new technologies."
Martin Willcox's assessment of situation is right on mark. Companies are now using Patent system to try and bury their competition.
Think about Amazon for a moment. Two months after Amazon received their Patent, they filed suit against BarnesandNoble.com --- their number one competitor. If BarnesandNoble had not been as strong as they were financially when this suit began, legal fees could have buried them! "This nonsense raises cost of doing business, since it takes years and costs $1 million or so to break these junk patents."
( Quoted from: http://www.trudelgroup.com/pwars.htm )
What if BarnesandNoble had been a young upstart? Could they have survived if they had little cash and a million dollar legal bill? How many small companies could have afforded this attack? How many small companies could have survived litigation process even when they were in right?
To obtain a patent under our system, an inventor must file an application describing and claiming invention (which must be -- in broadest sense of word -- new, non-obvious, and useful) with U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). The PTO assigns application to an examiner who conducts a search of existing inventions (known as "prior art") and then issues a patent if nothing fishy turns up.
Under this system, which was last modified in 1999, only real method for weeding out bad patent is through costly litigation.
There are indications that there are actually several factors at play in problems that exist within our Patent system:
* The PTO examiners are not given kinds of tools they need to complete their jobs as they would wish, as indicated by this story:
A September, 1999 letter from Patent Examiner's Union Chief to Patent Advisory Committee stated in part, "What examiners are asked to do, and what impact those directed activities will have on quality of patents, are clearly matters of great concern...." PTO examiners are being pressured to solely use a system called WEST for their patent searches, an "information retrieval system with debilitating flaws; not only is system frequently incapable of performing even simple word searches, results are often woefully incomplete and even inaccurate," and that "searches using new system take longer to perform, produce fewer results than systems that they replaced, and thus prevent us from doing our jobs."
(Source: Washington Post, November 19, 1999).
* The staff at Patent and Trademark Office is understaffed and under prepared to meet challenges of system in today's rapidly expanding technology sector and technological knowledge base.
Consider this. If a net-savvy programmer worked for PTO, then none of these patents would have occurred, as he would have knowledge available to him to make sound judgements.
* Unscrupulous companies are taking advantage of inadequacies of our Patent system to position themselves in such a way that they can legally extort their competitors through use of U.S. Patent and legal systems.
* The only recourse available, to those who feel that a bad Patent has been imposed, is expensive litigation or submission to legal Patent holder.
By signing our petition today, you can contribute to our project to bring U.S. Congress to consider possibility of repealing application of Patents to software industry, or to investigate processes and procedures of U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to discover and solve inherent problems that are allowing for system to be abused.
Bill Platt is the founder of http://www.PatentTrail.Org , a non-profit website dedicated to bringing the U.S. Congress to take action to remedy the situation that has developed at the U.S. Patents Office concerning Software Patents.