Amazing List of Upcoming Patent Conferences

  • Software Patents:
    • MIT & Boston University are hosting a conference on Software Patents, subtitled “a time for change?” Boston, November 16 (reception only) and 17 (Registration only $35).
    • I will be moderating the conference introductory panel that includes Robert Barr (former CISCO chief patent counsel), Rochelle Dreyfuss (the Pauline Newman Professor of Law at  NYU), Brian Kahin (Fellow at CCIA), and James Heald (FFII – “Maybe there are a few companies which could profit from software patents, but nobody can seriously argue that software patents are useful for the whole industry.”).
  • Biotech Patents:
    • I am moderating a panel on Supreme Court issues at the Biotech Patents conference here in Boston on November 29–30 hosted by American Conference Institute. More Info. Get $200 off by using this code: Keycode 618L07.S.
  • Patentable Subject Matter:
  • Patent Litigation Strategies:
  • Markman
    • Suffolk is hosting their one-day conference on patent claim interpretation on October 20 in Boston. More Info.
  • Supreme Court and Patent Reform Issues:
  • A Conversation with IP Judges:
    • In Chicago, De Paul is hosting a one-day event with Judges Kozinski, Posner, and Wood, moderated by Professor Sag and Greg Vogler. November 2.

A better calendar — If you are interested in Academic Intellectual Property Conferences, Mike Madison hosts the master calendar here:


23 thoughts on “Amazing List of Upcoming Patent Conferences

  1. 23

    Small inventor, I do indeed have a problem with reading comprehension. Thanks for reitering the point about Prof. Rivest. I thought I recalled seeing that, but I looked back through the comments and couldn’t find it amid all of the other stuff. Thanks for reminding me.

    On your latest comment, although it is difficult to define a line between hardware and software, lawmakers are forced to draw lines all of the time. If one feels that Everquest should fall one one side of the line, and a copy machine should fall on the other, there may be difficulties in execution, and even some amount of unfairness, but that’s never completely stopped Congress from passing a law.

    I don’t know enough about software to comment in detail about how the incentives operate in the software field, but it’s a baseline assumption of IP law that the government offers people property rights as an incentive for them to invent useful things and give the public the benefit of their inventions, and the idea is that the scope of the property right should be at some optimal level where the public gets a lot of new inventions without having to pay too much for them. “Make a novel, useful, and nonobvious widget, and you can have the exclusive right to make/use/sell it for 20 years.” 20 years may be just the right amount of exclusivity to ensure that the pharmaceutical companies work hard at inventing new useful drugs, but that the public not suffer too much by having to wait too long for generics–if you offer a shorter patent term, we’d have generics sooner but the pharmaceutical companies would invest fewer resources, and vice versa, at least in theory. It’s analogous to the basic operation of supply and demand.

    Those who think about the advisability of software patents question whether 20 years of exclusivity is the optimal kind and the optimal quantity of incentive to offer to software inventors to ensure that the public has the best software possible and doesn’t have to pay too much for it.

    I don’t know what the answer is, but as technology develops and new fields emerge that the drafters of the Patent Act didn’t contemplate, it seems to me that the question is always worth asking.

    And, to restate an earlier point, it is my impression that the speakers at the conference with whose work I am familiar seek to answer it honestly.

    This is my last word on the subject. Back to work for me.

  2. 22


    incentives work the same way for all new creations: you either have an incentive (via patent) or you don’t.
    And there is no boundary between software and harware -trying to artificially define one will inevitably open a whole can of worms, in legal sense that is…
    I can program my patented algorithm in any general purpose programming language (Java for example) and run it on any PC, or I can (if I secure suffucient funding) start manufacturing specialized hardware chips.
    Do those “intelligent” anti-softwarewarepatent people also want to abolish all patents on electronic circutry as well ?

  3. 21

    Tom, I don’t quite know how you can come to the conclusion that the conference is not intellectually open or honest. There are people like John Duffy and Solveig Singleton who are decidedly not anti-software-patent. I’m not anti-software-patent.

    Software is, however, a special beast. The IP incentives work in a very different way for software than they do for, say, pharmaceuticals. Most people are thinking at a deeper level of how those differences should be considered.

  4. 20


    How hard is it to understand that a great number of the speakers chosen for this panel have pre-existing, well known views against software patents, many of them based on corporate or institutional affiliations or employ?

    Look, I see among the panelists people from Red Hat, Cisco, Ebay — all companies with a significant stake in undercutting patents — and a variety of organizations whose entire purpose is to undermine software patents, if not patents more generally.

    How objective do you imagine the views they might express could possibly be?

    And where are the representatives from organizations that might balance out the account — for example, organizations representing small software companies or small inventors? As best I can make out, they have been simply cut out.

    Tell me, please, how this does not represent a blatant bias, and how it does not reduce the overall impact of the conference to something more akin to partisan hackery than to authentic, free and open intellectual debate?

    And I did not present an actual argument in favor of software patents — which, absurdly, you seem to imagine is not really possible — because the point I was making had only to do with the absence of open debate in the conference.

    But here’s one argument to think about. A recent post on Patently-O linked to a very interesting paper by Sag and Rohde (neither of whom of course are presenting at the conference) that presented some pretty convincing empirical evidence that, in fact, software patents have enabled small companies to achieve success in the marketplace — or at least that the size and quality of their patent portfolios are correlated with success. Now I personally find that completely unsurprising. And, no doubt, the methodology and conclusions can certainly be disputed in one way or another. Doing so would indeed constitute GENUINE intellectual debate.

    Now I ask, if there is actual empirical evidence that software patents are useful and positive, how can one act, as you have acted, and as “law student” above acts, as if it’s just a closed question that software patents are bad, and only fools and charlatans pretend otherwise?

    I think any intellectually honest person must recognize that the arguments either in favor of, or against, software patents are a little short of apodictic. I think any intellectually honest person would acknowledge that the forces at play are sufficiently complex that prediction based on theory is going to be very far from perfect, and that in the end we must look to empirical data, as ambiguous as that may be, for a clearer understanding of the potential impact of software patents.

    Yet where is any of that ambiguity and uncertainty and openness even hinted at in the composition of this conference?

    That, you see, is why I regard this conference as little more than a deliberate partisan hatchet job on software patents.

    Truly, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an academically sponsored conference less intellectually open or more intellectually dishonest.

  5. 19

    Hey, anonimous,

    you obviously have a problem with reading comprehension.
    I plainly suggested that they probably should invite Ron Rivest, if you happen to know who he is (which I strongly doubt)
    For other clueless people like you I suggest to check out some discussions taking place almost 15 years ago, for example, this thread on comp.patents usenet:

    link to

  6. 18

    If there are any good arguments in favor of software patents (as a matter of policy, not as a matter of statutory interpretation of 35 USC 101), I’m really curious as to what they might be.

    Also, conferences with a certain bent happen all of the time. A conference on “patent reform” by its nature suggests that the system needs reforming. Those in favor of the status quo tend to be poorly represented. Anyone who argues for change must necessarily conted with the status quo, and standing up against software patents by its nature begs the question “what’s wrong with what we’ve got now?” I would think that this inertia would be sufficient to force the pro-software patent arguments to come up in the discussion. A conference questioning the propriety of the status quo is not “ideological,” as that term is often used these days.

    I suppose my main objection to the comments from Tom and small inventor is not that I disagree with the notion that conferences shoud be balanced, but rather I object to (1) the insinuations that the speakers or the organizers are unintelligent, dishonest, or hacks taking money from Microsoft, (2) the lack of any suggestions as to who should have been invited, and (3) the lack of any coherent argument put forward in favor of software patents. Make an argument, point me to an article or something.

    I suppose my comment regarding intelligence responds to this comment from Tom: “Everything about this smacks of a group trying to push an ideological agenda, rather than promoting honest intellectual discussion of an issue.” From what I know of a handful of the presenters, they’re certainly capable of honest intellectual discussion of the software patent issue, and I would be surprised by anything less from them.

  7. 17

    The problem with the notion that “there’s 2 sides to every issue” is that it tends to lead to the erroneous conclusion that each side is equally valid. The more subjective and self-serving an opinion is, the less valid it is. It’s been my experience that the more partisan attacks usually come from the “software patents are good” camp, and that these opinions are put forth by those with an obvious vested interest. Just my 2 cents…

  8. 16


    Are you TRYING not to understand my point?

    Look, the issue is not whether the speakers in this conference happen to be “intelligent”. As I said, the underlying question they are addressing, namely, are software patents a good thing, is highly complex. Why shouldn’t there be intelligent people on both sides of the debate?

    My point is rather that the conference could hardly be more biased in its composition. Everything about this smacks of a group trying to push an ideological agenda, rather than promoting honest intellectual discussion of an issue. Certainly the names of MIT and BU will, in the media reports of this conference, be used to suggest that the answer to the question is a foregone conclusion.

    As for the suggestion that the speakers might be willing to take “tough questions” from the audience — well, how very wonderful of them! You mean they might actually deign to entertain objections from the peanut gallery?

    Look, who put speakers only from one side of the debate up on these panels, with the air of authority that naturally confers? How could someone in the audience possibly present a detailed, organized presentation for an opposing point of view, when that is the precise role served only by a speaker?

    Again, I can’t imagine why MIT and BU can allow their names to brought into what bears all the earmarks of an exercise in partisan ideological hackery.

  9. 15

    Well, Tom, you’re certainly entitled to your opinion. It looks like there are some rather intelligent people speaking at the conference, and probably some very intelligent people in the audience as well. If the panel looks one-sided, hopefully they’ll either surprise you or they’ll take some tough questions from the audience.

    I recognize a few names on the list of speakers that I’d be very hesitant to trash in the way that some of the commentators have thus far. I’d go myself if I wasn’t so far from Boston and didn’t have schedule conflicts.

    Dennis, have fun at the conferences and thanks for posting this stuff.

  10. 14

    “Dissenting ideas are certainly welcome. I’m sure that there will be an opportunity for your voice to be heard at the conference.”

    The point is not that one can show up and express a dissenting point of view. The point is that the people with standing in the conference, namely the speakers, almost ALL were selected from one side of the issue.

    How is this not a travesty of the ideal of “free and open” academic discourse?

    How can MIT and BU allow their good name to be attached to such a conference, when it’s so heavily stacked in favor of people whose institutional and professional affiliations almost uniformly represent one side of an issue? How can MIT and BU not imagine that this conference will be quoted throughout the media as supporting only one side (and who is going to credit naysayers from the audience?).

    Whatever one may believe about the issue of software patents, I think that any fairminded person must acknowledge that there are good arguments on both sides of the issue, and that it’s far from obvious which is the more compelling point of view. How could such a complex question as whether software patents engender a net positive possibly be said to have an easily determinable answer?

    Where is the uncertainty of this issue in any way reflected in the composition of this conference?

    Really, I have to say, this conference strikes me as a mockery of academic discourse straight out of the gate.

  11. 13

    The point of the patent system is to promote innovation- that’s all. If innovation happens in software without patent protection (as opposed to copyright protection) and innovation is impeded because of patent protection, then patent protection is a detriment to progress in software.

    There are severe problems, beginning with the defintion of what is obvious (to whom was it obvious) and the reliance of obvious upon the mythical “one of ordinary skill in the field”.

    Europe has no enforces software patents, yet their software industry is not stagnating. Meanwhile, Microsoft is patenting the addition and removal of whitespace and IBM has a patent on how to make a line thicker on the screen (you drag a side in a direction and the line gets thicker..). If your brain is telling you that this state of affairs will help innovation then I have to conclude that you either are a patent attorney or you have been issued a software patent. Someone’s ox is going to get gored and that’s a pity, but laws are about what is best for all of us living together and not enforcing made-up rights and creating artifical limitations on freedom on philisophical grounds.

    People act like whether software should be patentable is something other than an empirical question, a question of utility. It’s not. It’s not for nothing that very very smart people of the sort you find at MIT don’t think software patents are a good idea. Maybe they have a point.

  12. 12


    z4 ? Independent invention ? That’s just BS
    Same with NTP I guess…
    Don’t know about Katz,
    MercExchange is a business method patent..

    “Software patents rarely include code anyway — thus limiting their disclosure value.”
    year, all those junky MS and IBM patents never include anything useful at all, including source code…
    My patent however does include 10 pages of well-tested demo Matlab code…
    Did I make a fool out of myself by providing a critical piece of software code for everybody to view at ?
    I guess I did.. If only I could read this blog before I made that mistake, I would never do this kind of thing…

  13. 11

    Very good points, we do want disclosure as well. However . . .

    1) Software patents are rarely used by competitors for their disclosure — it simply does not happen. This was the case with z4, NTP, Lemelson, Katz, and MercExchange. In these cases, none of the infringers ever saw the patents before they started infringing. These were all cases of independent invention.

    2) Software patents rarely include code anyway — thus limiting their disclosure value.

    3) In most cases, it is difficult to publicly sell or license a bit of software without giving away some sense of how it works. Thus the “keep it as a trade secret” point of view is actually quite limited. All that you can really hold back is the actual code — something that is rarely found in patent disclosures anyway.

  14. 10

    “There have bene numerous studies that show that the vast majority of software products and processes would have been created even without the availability of patent rights.”

    Those studies are irrelevant for the purposes of distinguishing “software” patents from other patents, in that you can argue that the vast majority of physical products and processes would have been created without the availability of patent rights.

    The acknowledged purpose of the patent system is to promote the progress of science and the useful arts through public disclosure of technology. It is ironic that the opposition to software patents is approaching a marketing crescendo at the same time that signed binaries, hardware encryption/decryption, and the DMCA are making it increasingly difficult to reverse engineer a software product, thereby making it more, not less, important to encourage the public disclosure of software methods through patents. Software is writing in the same sense that Da Vinci’s public and encoded notebooks are writing — it’s very nice if the author publishes the unobsfucated source, and very ugly if the author does wish other people to read it.

  15. 9

    Anon, you obviously don’t understand the purpose of the patent system.
    The patent system was established to encourage public DISCLOSURE of new and useful inventions in exchange for limited-time monopoly rights.
    People (at least some people) would invent even without patent system, but NOBODY would openly publish their ideas and results.
    Trade secrets would be the norm, just like in the Middle Ages..
    Trade secrets == no long-term progress in science and technology, including software…
    If this is what you want then petition your congressmen and senators to change US constitution (yes, that would require a constitutional change, no more and no less..)

  16. 8

    Small Inventor, I think that their answer will be a bit more sophisticated than that.

    The basis of the patent system is to promote innovation and technological progress. There have bene numerous studies that show that the vast majority of software products and processes would have been created even without the availability of patent rights. If patent rights are not necessary to promote innovation, then why should we have them?

  17. 7

    Yeah, please, ask them why, for examp,e, they are against “process” or “method” patents when the very first US patent issued more than 200 years ago was on the process…
    And nowdays pretty much all processes are computer software-controlled, from chemical
    reactions to antoi-lock brakes to cell-phone communications to heart-implants etc. etc.

    But they will not answer… All they can say is “software is math and math is not patentable” Period.
    Another favorite line is: software is just writing, so there is no difference between writing software code and writing a poem.

    But ask anyway…

  18. 5

    You meant “reasonable ideas”

    I certainly have a few, about patent system in general and “software patents” (if there is such thing…) in particular…
    But I am not looking forward to flying from Philly to Boston to attend such a biased event…
    I like Boston, though, so maybe on some other more deserving occasion…

  19. 3

    Ha-Ha-Ha… Good comment, Tom…

    Just look at their names:
    link to
    Dan Ravicher – a pathetic and mostly clueless lawyer who finally found his niche..

    Mark Webbink – corporate hypocrite who made quite a fortune on the back of all those clueless FOSS developers working for free, so that Red Hat can have a big IPO…

    Jason Schultz – one of those craze guys at EFF

    Dan Bricklin – an unfortunate inventor of Visicalc who didn’t get paid for the invention…

    Ben Klemens – of of those useless academic types (read “nothing”)

    Why didn’t they invite Ron Rivest, for example, one of the former principals of RSA Data Security and the inventor of RSA algorithm (along with Adleman and Shamir) ?
    RSA algorithm is one of the shining examples of worthy software patents and it WAS invented at MIT…

  20. 2

    “Maybe there are a few companies which could profit from software patents, but nobody can seriously argue that software patents are useful for the whole industry.”

    I think those few companies are what are called pioneering companies.

    God only knows why they might be useful to the software industry. I mean, why would we want to encourage a company with an important new idea to get basic protections for that idea? How crazy would that be?

  21. 1

    Just taking a quick look at the speakers and sponsors of the Software Patent forum at MIT, it’s hard to imagine a slate more heavily stacked against the idea that software patents might be a net positive. Practically everyone that I can see looks to have clear connections to the anti-software patent movement.

    If this were an openly political conference (as opposed to a covertly political one, which it clearly is), it would be laughed to scorn as partisan in the extreme.

    Is this what passes for “free and open” discourse in academe nowadays? Are these people so desperate in advocating their point of view that they virtually need to shout down the opposition?

    Truly pathetic.

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