October 26, 2006

Patent Lawsuits. Oy.

Eric Chabrow of InformationWeek emailed and asked my opinion about the IBM patent lawsuit against Amazon.

The patents IBM is suing over are:

1. US 5,796,967 -- Presenting Applications in an Interactive Service.

2. US 5,442,771 -- Storing Data in an Interactive Network.

3. US 7,072,849 -- Presenting Advertising in an Interactive Service.

4. US 5,446,891 -- Adjusting Hypertext Links with Weighted User Goals and Activities.

5. US 5,319,542 -- Ordering Items Using an Electronic Catalogue.

Here's what I said:

I think the larger issue with this case is that software patents are bad for everyone in the industry.

For little and big guys, patents are a distraction from innovation, yet funders and legal departments force them to engage in patents because they can. And because lots of people get them, everyone else feels they have to also. The system is very, very broken.

When patents are leveraged, especially in this way, they hurt our ability to be more innovative and interoperable, which is very important for users. These particular patents in the IBM suit are no different. It hurts our whole software industry when these things happen, and the suit is indicative of the kinds of mistakes the PTO makes overall because they don't understand that they are often allowing a patent for the software equivalent of sending someone entering through a side door instead of a front door. Most of the patents they grant are really for simple and basic concepts and ideas, not complex and innovative processes which is what the PTO is supposed to be allowing.

We would all be better off if companies concentrated on making better software for users instead of engaging in this kind of thing.


UPDATE 10/30/06: The article is posted here.

Posted by Mary Hodder at October 26, 2006 08:58 AM | TrackBack