We the People: Petitioning President Obama to End Software Patents

The White House's “we the people project” implements a system for petitioning the Administration.  Any petition that receives 25,000 or more signatures within 30–days of being posted will be reviewed and given an “official response.” (Prior to October, the threshold was 5,000 signatures).

One recent petition asks the Administration to “direct the Patent Office to cease issuing software patents.” 

Under the patent office's current activity, patents have been come a way to stifle innovation and prevent competition rather than supporting innovation and competitive markets. They've become a tool of antitrust employed by large companies against small ones.

To return sanity to the software industry – one of the few industries still going strong in America – direct the patent office to cease issuing software patents and to void all previously issued software patents.

The petition has received over 14,000 signatures and Quentin Palfrey, from the White House office of the CTO provided an official response that that primarily focuses on the benefits of the newly enacted America Invents Act and the leadership of Director Kappos. Palfrey did, however, take one sentence to specifically address software patents:

We understand that the concern about software patents stems, in part, from concerns that overly broad patents on software-based inventions may stifle the very innovative and creative open source software development community. As an Administration, we recognize the tremendous value of open source innovation and rely on it to accomplish key missions. For example, the U.S. Open Government National Action Plan recently announced that the source code for We the People and Data.gov would be open sourced for the entire world. Federal agencies are likewise spurring innovation through open source energy. For example, the Department of Defense issued clarifying guidance on the use of open software at the Department. And, the Department of Health and Human Services has become a leader in standards-based, open sourced policy to power innovations in health care quality and enable research into efficient care delivery. The tremendous growth of the open source and open data communities over the years, for delivery of both commercial and non-commercial services, shows that innovation can flourish in both the proprietary and open source software environments.

Folks opposed to software patents saw this response as inadequate and have now created a new petition asking the administration to “pursue software patent abolition.”  The petition states:

The Obama Administration's response to a previous petition shamefully attempted to absolve the President of responsibility and placate us with the toothless America Invents Act. We summarily reject his response and demand immediate action.

Rapid growth in the software industry during economic malaise demonstrates the importance and power of this market. The President must use his full power and influence to fight harmful forces from entrenched incumbents and non-producing entities.

There are no possible reforms to be made to the USPTO that will enable it to keep pace with innovation in the software industry. Those who truly understand software are creating it.

This new petition was created on November 1 and on that same day had already collected 400 signatures. Another new petition is the “petition to take petitions seriously.”

63 thoughts on “We the People: Petitioning President Obama to End Software Patents

  1. I’m not sure where you’re getting your info, but good topic. I needs to spend some time learning more or understand more. Thanks for fantastic info I was looking for this info for my mission. very broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

  2. While falling foul of Godwin’s law tends to cause the individual making the comparison to lose their argument and/or credibility, Godwin’s law itself can be abused as a distraction, diversion or even as censorship, where, as here, fallaciously miscasting an opponent’s argument as hyperbole when the comparisons made by the argument are actually appropriate.

  3. That’s great. I love slippery slope arguments, and the invocation of Godwin’s Law is relatively subtle.

    But really, you could have done so much better. How about starting with “first they came for the old patents, then they came for the obvious patents…”?

    Then you have a pretty convincing argument against 102 and 103, I should think. Why limit yourself to 101? Think big. This will make patents much stronger and much less uncertain.

  4. First they came for the Business Method Patents and I did not speak out because I did not write Business Method Patents.

    Then they came for the Medical Method Patents and I did not speak out because I did not write Medical Method Patents.

    Then they came for the software patents and I did not speak out because I did not write software patents.

    Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

    Those who do not remember the past are bound to repeat it.

  5. “You cannot ban software patents without banning ee patents as well.”

    We can see about that down the road bro. For now just get to signing ok?

  6. It’s always a hoot when our society’s genuine “welfare queens” come here to whine and cry.

    Is it any less a hoot when the blog’s biggest whiner and crier points to anyone else and says “Look at the whiner and crier”?

  7. “http://news.yahoo.com/dad-caught-video-beating-daughter-needs-help-070228201.html”

    They should use this as propaganda for the E-PARASITE Act. Apparently some people really do take online “theft” seriously. Seriously enough to beat they kids. That’s a great lawl guys.

  8. Welfare queen? To be a welfare queen I would need to cry that I want something without working for it. To clarify, if I wanted you to give me something for free, then -> welfare queen. When I want to maintain the status quo and keep work (the important word being work) for myself at the expense of benefit to society -> not a welfare queen, probably more akin to a parasite.

  9. You cannot ban software patents without banning ee patents as well. And, then one wonders why would people on this board want such things: ahhh!!! Because they are pharama people and want the PTO to themselves.

    Such broad community minded people. Burn down my neighbors house so I can get more sun.

    From what I’ve seen the business model of open source is copy what someone else did and sell services to maintain the copied code.

  10. I’m going to start a petition to end all patents for smelly chemicals. I’ll give the simian MM $10 to sign it.

  11. open source either creates low pay jobs or dont create any job.

    What do you mean by “low pay”? Helicopter Ben told us earlier today that we can expect at least 8% unemployment for the next two years. What’s “low pay”?

    How much jobs are “don’t created” when we stop granting pxtxnts on methods of swooshing our fingies around on touchscreens?

    STATE OF THE ART LEGAL RESPONSE: “B-b-b-ut our screen is t-t-t-tiny!!!”.

  12. lawyers have jobs because of uncertainty. Let’s stop trying to simply ourselves out of jobs.

    “Soldiers have jobs because of pointlessly escalated conflicts. Let’s stop trying to negotiate ourselves out of jobs.”

    It’s always a hoot when our society’s genuine “welfare queens” come here to whine and cry.

  13. This is why I think the Kennedy majority simply wanted to ban BMPs

    There is no hint of this thought at all in the Kennedy majority.

  14. Let’s stop trying to simplify ourselves out of jobs.

    Accomplished – See the America Invents Act.

  15. Honestly, I could care less about benefit to the USPTO, the computer industry, etc. I care about one guy… me. We, as a profession have already chained ourselves to billable hours, created an atmosphere where you have to be willing to chain yourself to a desk to out-do the other firm, take less money to churn out more stuff faster. Simply put, lawyers have jobs because of uncertainty. Let’s stop trying to simply ourselves out of jobs.

    You don’t see accountants begging for a simpler tax code do you? You don’t see doctors saying, “Gee, you know what, I really don’t need to do that [insert menial task], so don’t worry about me billing you for my time, you can just pay for the nurse, assistant, etc.”

  16. Scotus does not understand the difference between novelty, obviousness and patentable subject matter classification.

    Its clear to me from the oral argument that they wanted to reject because they felt the claimed subject matter was known or obvious. They didn’t seem to understand they could say the claims were patentable subject matter without saying they were patentable under 102 and 103.

  17. You see, Les, I agree with you in large measure.  The Bilski method did have a practical application and it was claimed.  The claimed method involved a series of steps that were not strictly mental.  The claim as a whole did have utility, just that the utility was reduction of business risk.   So what was unpatentalbe about this claim if it was not that the utility was not within the Useful Arts?

    This is why I think the Kennedy majority simply wanted to ban BMPs, but could not agree on a definition and therefor could not agree with the Stevens minority. 

    But they could not, as well, tell us the real reason why they decided the Bilski claims were unpatentable.  So they simply announced
    it.

     

  18. I think the Bilski claims are patent eligible. I see nothing abstract about the recited steps. They may not be novel or non-obvious. But they recite methods and methods are patentable.

    The classification of those claims as abstract by SCOTUS was just an expedient lie.

  19. Absolutely.

    And this illustrates the problem about wanting to ban business method patents. Without a good definition that would carefully parse the unpatentable abstract idea from the very patentable practical application, we cannot even begin to reasonably discuss baning “business method patents.”

  20. Ghosts, why don’t you give it a rest. You have to know by now that the source of our disagreements relating to BMPs was primarily related to different understand of what the term meant. For example, when you said that BMPs were patent eligible, I am sure you did not consider the claims Bilski claims were BMPs, otherwise your statement was nonsense on its face.

  21. while some software, or method claims may be poorly drafted and appear to claim abstract ideas, I do not accept the assertion that all software (or method claims) are therefore abstract.

    Why not? This is precisely what Ned’s logic holds for some business methods claims which may be poorly drafted and appear to claim abstract ideas.

    It works for business method claims, why not for software method claims?

    for medical method claims?

    for…

  22. Absolutely.  

    And this illustrates the problem about wanting to ban software patents.  Without a good definition that would carefully parse the unpatentable abstract idea from the very patentable practical application, we cannot even begin to reasonably discuss baning "software patents."

  23. I don’t really care about BMPs and have not spent much time reading the AIA, but wouldn’t “covered business methods” mean only certain methods of business have been covered? Thereby implying that other business methods exist, and thus the entire spectrum of business methods have not been declared patent ineligible. IDK, just seems the logical way to think about it.

  24. I appreciate your effort a peace making Ned. But Timrue said software is a natural law. There is no definition of “software patent” under which I would concede that point. Likewise the assertion that software is a physical phenomenon of the type that is not patentable.

    Additionally, while some software, or method claims may be poorly drafted and appear to claim abstract ideas, I do not accept the assertion that all software (or method claims) are therefore abstract.

  25. Les, how do you know that you an Timrue are talking about the same thing? I suggest to you that Timrue is really talking about abstract ideas and not some practical implementation of software. When you talk about providing this web page, I think you are talking about a practical application.

    This is why I raised the issue of what a software patent is. We need to agree on this before we can even begin to have a discussion.

  26. Thank you, Ned.

    Any one who asserts that there is such a thing as a “software patent” wouldn’t know Section 101 from the 101 freeway, and that includes, from above: MM, K, fish sticks, Timrue, and Obama’s Palfrey.

    There are methods patents that are implemented by computers. There are apparatus patents that include computer-readable media that have instructions written thereon. These are not “software patents.” They are methods patents or apparatus patents, respectively.

    The fact that S/w is involved, or even required, does not, without out more, render any subject matter patentable or non-patentable. Being computer-implemented is a mere limitation to one or more of the steps. A computer-readable medium is just another element, combined with the rest.

    If patent-heads would quit referring to “software patents” when there is no such thing, the entire analysis of this problem would be much easier.

    The Babble has spoken.

  27. “NO ONE ever agreed with you on your insane definition of Business method patent.”

    Yes, Congress. See AIA, Section 18, definition of “covered business methods.”

    But my major point remains. We are not talking about the same thing, as there is no clear, generally accepted, definition of BMPs. The Kennedy majority expressly recognized this in Bilksi. This, in my view, prevented them from joining with Stevens in banning BMPs even if they or at least some of the majority (read Scalia) were so inclined.

    We have the same problem with “software patents.” We have no clear definition of a what a software patent is vs. a patent on technology, do we?

    Regarding your pathetic attempts to divert attention down a different rabbit hole than the topic at hand, I will not follow that white rabbit.

  28. Which is software?

    a natural law? no. How is, for example, the software providing this web page a natural law?

    a physical phenomenon? no

    an abstract idea? not if its embodied and doing something on a computational platform….it is quite real, it is producing this web page isn’t it.
    Q.E.D

    Your proof isn’t worth the memory space it exists in.

  29. A different script, MM. It’s called potential violation of export controls under EAR and ITAR (yes, I know enough about these export regulations to be dangerous or at least understand the serious danger in violating them). The USPTO (during Dudas’ administration) even warned about the potential export control issue in offshoring patent searches/applications, but from what I can tell, no follow up enforcement has occurred.

  30. Assume much there Ned?

    NO ONE ever agreed with you on your insane definition of Business method patent.

    W

    T

    F

    So, let’s take your vacuous post, restate it for interest:

    What is a Medical method patent?

    When we discuss issues such as this one, people seem to have different definitions of what they are talking about in mind. I discovered that myself in recent discussions here on Patently-O regarding Business method patents. The argument was really about what a Business method patent was. We NEVER agreed on what a Business method patents was, our differences largely NEVER vanished.

    Regarding “Medical method,” I think we might be talking past one another in the same way we did with Business method patents.

    So what is a Medical method patent?

  31. What is a software patent?

    When we discuss issues such as this one, people seem to have different definitions of what they are talking about in mind. I discovered that myself in recent discussions here on Patently-O regarding BMPs. The argument was really about what a BMP was. For once we agreed on what a BMP was, our differences largely vanished.

    Regarding “software,” I think we might be talking past one another in the same way we did with BMPs.

    So what is a software patent?

  32. We wonder why our profession is going down the tubes? We’re the only profession dumb enough to try to eliminate our own source of revenues.

    Maybe the Union of Software Patent Prosecutors needs better leadership. LOL.

    Seriously, though, software patents have done far more damage to the credibility of “our profession” than all the cat toy patents combined. Eliminating them would certainly have a modest short-term negative impact on the total income of patent prosecutors combined. But I’m sure that all of the good ones currently practicing will be able to find work. The USPTO would benefit immediately, of course, and so would the computer industry. A huge amount of uncertainty that exists presently would instantly vanish.

  33. We’re the only profession dumb enough to try to eliminate our own source of revenues.

    Wouldn’t you feel better about your doctor if he thought that way? Or your local police or fire department?

  34. We wonder why our profession is going down the tubes? We’re the only profession dumb enough to try to eliminate our own source of revenues.

  35. “If you are truly honest, you will realize that the only people who complain about software patents stifling innovation are from people who do not or cannot innovate themselves and prefer to copy the work of creative people.

    All 14k of those people are only people who do not or cannot innovate themselves and prefer to copy the work of creative people?

    Or, are most of them other creative people who don’t want the government, con men, lawltards and so on up ins their grill about their written works?

    Idk brosensky. I think they’re probably the later.

  36. Not a smart move if you care about American jobs.

    Remember when all those brilliant law firms were off-shoring work to Indian companies simply because it was cheaper than paying Americans to do the same job?

    How does that fit into your script, EG?

  37. If you are truly honest, you will realize that the only people who complain about software patents stifling innovation are from people who do not or cannot innovate themselves and prefer to copy the work of creative people.

  38. Software is not of patent-able subject matter.
    You cannot patent natural law, physical phenomenon, abstract ideas and a sub set of this is mathematical algorithms, which also falls into what is universally accepted as not patent-able.

    Software fits all of these. And there is proof. link to abstractionphysics.net

    The software patent idea and application of it is a fraud.
    Funny how neither side of the software development world wants to accept the facts.

    Its like arguing only fools would think nothing can have value, in protecting the egos and social position of Roman Numeral accountants from the more powerful and easier to use Hindu-Arabic Decimal System with its nothing place holder the zero. It took 300 years to overcome that limited mentality.

  39. So in other words, no infringement because I think it’s evident that the petitions do not “substantially influence government policy.” All of the responses to the petitions have been something akin to justifying the status quo.

  40. I think there is a late 90s or early 2000 patent on collecting petition signatures and storing said petition signatures on a computer-readable medium, transferring said signed signatures to an entity of the federal government via a communication network to substantially influence government policy.

  41. “All this will do is give carte blanche to the folks in India, China, etc., to copy at will our software innovations, import/sell them here with impunity, and drive more jobs offshore. ”

    OH NOES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Wouldn’t want people in Chinaland to copy our software “innovations” and then sell them with IMPUNITY. All while, IDK, allowing people here in the US to “copy” software “innovations” patented by indians and chinese at the USPTO and then sell them with IMPUNITY. Because we all know that indians and chinese make the best, most usable, user friendly to Americans softwarez on the market! We simply have to stop them! Americans could never make better software that would sell much much better! We need the government to rescue us! PLEASE RESCUE US GOVERNMENT!

  42. What a nonsensical petition, on par with the similar efforts to ban, for example, the patenting nucleotides and similar subject matter. All this will do is give carte blanche to the folks in India, China, etc., to copy at will our software innovations, import/sell them here with impunity, and drive more jobs offshore. Not a smart move if you care about American jobs.

  43. How about that? A petition on a computer-readable medium wherein a determined signature level greater than a predetermined threshold level indicates a need to give an official response.

    Is anybody surprised that this system is wholly inoperative? Is anybody surprised that the claim directed to giving an official response is worthless and corresponds to no observable real world transformation?

  44. Oh look at that, the petition to take petitions seriously is up 7k in one night. Lulz.

    And the second anti-software patent one is up by 120 just this morning.

Comments are closed.