You’ve spent thousands of hours developing a new software program. Now how do you ensure that your competitors don’t copy your program and steal your market? The sad truth is you can’t, as Apple discovered when Microsoft “borrowed” its graphical user interface to build Windows and corner the PC operating system market. But there are steps you can take to give you an edge over your competition and make it more difficult for others to copy or steal your work. You can protect your software with patents, copyrights and trademarks. Continue reading »
Several patent reform organizations have joined forces to abolish software patents. The End Software Patents (ESP) coalition aims to eliminate patents that do not specify a physically innovative step, which would likely include many of the software patents granted today. The coalition was founded by the Free Software Foundation, Public Patent Foundation, and Software Freedom Law Center.
The ESP coalition will fight software patents on two fronts:
- Assist companies that challenge software patents in the courts and at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
- Educate the public about the severe problems with software patents, with the ultimate goal of eliminating many software patents
How much time and money should a software company invest to ensure that its products do not infringe on registered software patents?
The question comes to mind after Microsoft accused the open-source industry of violating 235 Microsoft patents. Microsoft released the total but did not specify the infringed-upon patents. Some accuse Microsoft of using this strong-arm tactic to force open source companies to negotiate an intellectual property agreement similar to the Microsoft/Novell Linux agreement in 2006.
Federal law states that a patent cannot be granted for an invention that a person of “ordinary skill” in the same field could have created. But since many things become obvious in hindsight, in 1982 the Federal Court of Appeals added a legal test stating that “teaching, suggestion or motivation” must also exist that could lead an ordinary person to develop the invention. This requires prior written documentation that is often difficult or impossible to find, and as a result, no obviousness case has ever been brought before the Supreme Court.