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Google Reaffirms Stance Against Software Patents 197

An anonymous reader writes "Google has again publicly affirmed its stance against software patents during an announcement over a potential defensive acquisition. These days, when Microsoft, Apple, and others are abusing software patents, it's nice to see one large company calling them junk."
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Google Reaffirms Stance Against Software Patents

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 04, 2011 @12:07PM (#35709020)

    pontificating about the evils of software patents. Then he turned around and sued his biggest competitor, Barnes and Noble for infringing his one-click patent. Because when push comes to shove, those who have the weapons will use them.

    The proper reaction to Google's statement is a collective eye roll.

    • by EdIII ( 1114411 )

      No Kidding.

      Talk is cheap. If they really feel that way they will offer a FRAND license on their software patents....... anytime now..... right??

    • by Draek ( 916851 )

      So what do you propose? not having patents, then be sued the everlasting shit of by any lawsuit-happy competitor with an axe to grind? *cough*Apple*cough*.

      It's one thing to be against software patents, and another one to be suicidal.

  • In fairness... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jadavis ( 473492 )

    Google keeps all of it's software entirely secret, so they don't really have any use for software patents. It's all upside for them.

    Not saying I like software patents, though.

    • Re:In fairness... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by poetmatt ( 793785 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @12:17PM (#35709154) Journal

      entirely secret?

      Have you ever even heard of open source?

      Granted, there are things they don't open source, but they do release a lot.

      • What parts of the google empire are open source? Parts which are "castle", or parts which are "moat"?

        Hint: an open-source browser counts as "moat" when your castle is "search"

      • by mldi ( 1598123 )
        No kidding. And I wouldn't expect them to release the secrets of their search engine either.

        Hey Little Debbies! You guys are total bastards because you refuse to give me your exact recipes! ARRGGGHHH!
    • by alen ( 225700 )

      i bet if someone stole the algorithms they keep secret they would be suing under trade secret laws and taking out mafia hits to keep the information secret

      • by MarkvW ( 1037596 )

        Who cares about protecting jerks who steal and copy? That's not what the hate about software patents is all about.

        Software patents are hated because they limit the personal freedom of any person to independently write his or her own code.

    • by p4ul13 ( 560810 )
      Droid is open sourced, so they aren't entirely secretive either.
    • Google keeps all of it's software entirely secret, so they don't really have any use for software patents. It's all upside for them.

      You're subject to patent law even if you only use your creations internally. Obligatory car analogy: if a computer patented a type of diagnostic equipment, Ford can't use it in their factory without clearing it with the patent holder - even if Ford never distributes their infringing, internally-built equipment.

    • >> Google keeps all of it's software entirely secret

      Of course. All 442 articles listed on this blog are nothing but utter bullshit - []

      Now if you are done with your ignorant google-whining, can you please fuck off?

  • by BurfCurse ( 937117 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @12:08PM (#35709028)
    Nowhere in the article does it say that Google is against software patents. I only see them pushing for patent reform.
  • by FlorianMueller ( 801981 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @12:11PM (#35709074) Homepage

    There are some things to like about Google's statement, but let's be realistic: this isn't a clear statement against all software patents including their own PageRank and Google Doodle patents. They complain about "low-quality software patents". That's absolutely not the same as being against all software patents. It means that they just believe many of those patents aren't good enough. However, the answer that politicians give then is to provide more funding to the patent offices of the world, not to abolish software patents.

    I've done a lot of work on patent policy (with my NoSoftwarePatents campaign in 2004/05 and otherwise) and I know that the difference between saying "some [or even 'many'] software patents are bad" and saying that "all software patents must be abolished" is like a difference between night and day. Actually, lobbying entities working for Microsoft also call for more patent quality all the time. That's definitely not a sufficient statement to be interpreted as a call for the abolition of all software patents no matter how "good" they may be relative to other software patents.

    It's like saying "we are against unjust wars" as opposed to saying "we should never go to war."

    I also analyzed Google's amicus curiae brief in the Bilski case [] and found that it advocated higher patent quality and raised issues but didn't go far enough to really demand the abolition of software patents.

  • They can afford it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CruelKnave ( 1324841 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @12:18PM (#35709182)
    It's easy for Google to call software patents junk when their primary source of income is advertising. They can afford to give all their software away (or provide access to it online, whatever) for free. Microsoft, on the other hand, relies on its software to make money.
    • by MrMista_B ( 891430 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @12:35PM (#35709374)

      Lack of patents does not mean you're unable to charge money for software.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Red Hat relies on software for their money as well. And they give it away.

    • by JustinOpinion ( 1246824 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @01:32PM (#35710126)
      Yes, Google can comfortably decry software patents because their business model is not dependent on them. But that's the point, isn't it?

      Google's point of view deserves to be heard because it informs the debate. They are an example of a big software company innovating and making money without relying on software patents. This weakens the argument for software patents being absolutely necessary for economic progress in this sector. Moreover Google can make a compelling case for how they could innovate/produce more if software patents were not standing in their way.

      Of course just because Google has a business model that doesn't rely on software patents doesn't mean that all software companies will be in the same position. (Certainly not all software companies can become advertising companies!) But that's fine, too: we hear the opinions of those companies who "rely" on software patents to remain viable. But Google's opinion is not invalidated just because they don't need patents; that is the very crux of why their opinion is relevant!

      Besides, let us not forget that the primary question in this debate shouldn't be "what makes companies the most money?" We should be asking about what kind of wealth we want to generate in our society (money? innovation? health? happiness?), and then optimizing laws to achieve said goals. No matter what laws we enact, there will be some losers and some winners. The idea is to find the balance where the overall social gains are maximized. If we got rid of software patents, there would be losers (e.g. Microsoft), but possibly more winners (Google, all the small-time businesses, open source, etc.). Even within a "loser" things might not be so bad: some parts of Microsoft's business would suffer, but others might flourish (e.g. there is certainly a cost for Microsoft to have to defend itself against other's patents).
    • I think you're mixing up patent infringement with copyright infringement.

      Not that, as a sibling has stated, any of these "intellectual" property rights or the lack thereof preclude them from charging for their software, or making a business out of it. Sure, they might not necessarily make as much money, but boo fucking hoo.

    • > Microsoft, on the other hand, relies on its software to make money.

      MS doesn't often engage in legal patent action. For a giant company its pretty rare. They're much more likely to be the victims of submarine patents by firms that do nothing but buy out patents.

      MS has spoken against the patent status quo a lot, especially when it is sued monthly for some obvious patent and often loses because a jury in the most conservative part of the country doesn't give two shits about technology nor will they ever u

    • It's easy for Google to call software patents junk when their primary source of income is advertising. They can afford to give all their software away (or provide access to it online, whatever) for free. Microsoft, on the other hand, relies on its software to make money.

      You have conflated Software Patents and Copyright.


  • The only way to avoid being assimilated by the Borg is to become Borg ourselves.

    After spending miilons in "defense", how much willing you will be in trying that it bercomes obsolete?

  • No Patents (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    this is a quote from a soon to be released book by Paul Allen, "Idea Man". looks to be very interesting reading. "In building our homegrown basic, we borrowed bits and pieces of our design from previous versions, a long-standing software tradition. Languages evolve; ideas blend together; in computer technology, we all stand on others’ shoulders." the full excerpt from the book can be found at [] I wonder what would h
    • If someone comes up with an identically coded solution then it seems obvious to me that the idea was not a very original piece of work.

      You had me with most of your post, except that.

      In programming--as in life--hindsight is 20/20. There are many times where a problem can be solved in many ways, but often times the best way presents itself after someone else solves it. Look at the implementation of many duplicate UNIX/Linux services to see this.

      Even so, "exact" matches would still represent some sort of breac

  • Not so fast... (Score:5, Informative)

    by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @12:36PM (#35709398)

    These days, when Microsoft, Apple, and others are abusing software patents, it's nice to see one large company calling them junk.

    Before you call them 'junk' in the courts of law, where it matters, things might not be in agreement with your line of view.

    I will quote Gosling...

    "In Sun's early history, we didn't think much of patents. While there's a kernel of good sense in the reasoning for patents, the system itself has gotten goofy. Sun didn't file many patents initially. But then we got sued by IBM for violating the "RISC patent" - a patent that essentially said "if you make something simpler, it'll go faster". Seemed like a blindingly obvious notion that shouldn't have been patentable, but we got sued, and lost. The penalty was huge. Nearly put us out of business. We survived, but to help protect us from future suits we went on a patenting binge."

    So it's not over yet...not even close.

  • by Twinbee ( 767046 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @12:38PM (#35709430) Homepage

    Okay, going against the flow a bit, I think that those people who take the time, effort, money and energy to create complicated software algorithms should be rewarded. Surely, the potential compensation is partially what motivated them to create it in the first place (as would be the case with in-house company research anyway).

    Granted, really stupid, short patents should be given a miss entirely, though thankfully, often there's prior art to the rescue to invalidate those.

    And it should also be a lot easier to use another company's patent easily and cheaply when appropriate. But they still deserve something, no matter how small.

    • by ejtttje ( 673126 )

      often there's prior art to the rescue to invalidate those

      Which might mean something, if the patent office actually cared about prior art. They don't, so you'll still spend a fortune paying ransom money either to lawyers or patent trolls instead of doing something useful.

      The "something" people deserve for coming up with an idea is "first mover advantage". That is what keeps people doing further innovation. If an idea is simple enough to be easily copied, it's also obvious enough it shouldn't qualify for patent protection in the first place. A discriminating pa

      • Which might mean something, if the patent office actually cared about prior art. They don't

        Actually, we care a lot more about prior art than most Slashdotters do, because we actually have to read the stuff, at which point we find out that the prior art (at least, the prior art we have access to) doesn't have sufficient detail to reject the claims we're examining.

        On Slashdot, you can just read the abstract and say, "WTF! That's obvious!" but in the real world, we have to follow the law.

        • by ejtttje ( 673126 )

          For a well-known example, the age-old bar tab should have invalidated Amazon's "One-Click". That was well publicized and still got approved. You can claim to be following some set of guidelines, but that just shifts the blame to whoever is making the idiotic guidelines that adding 'on the internet' or recently 'on a mobile device' is somehow a non-obvious extension of prior art. This is an ongoing problem of having the bar set way too low. I don't care whose fault it is, I just want it fixed.

          But to coun

    • Ok, here is a challenge for you then: can you name one single software patent that rises to the level of patentability?

      I can't (there may be some in cryptography, optimization or image identification types of areas, but not in run of the mill applications that we all use).

      And don't take this as egotistical, but myself and other skilled developers churn out these solutions in our sleep and we don't think anything of it because to a skilled developer it's almost all "average", it's just what we do.
    • I think that those people who take the time, effort, money and energy to create complicated software algorithms should be rewarded.

      Nobody is against that. It's called salary.

      Or wait a don't really think that the people that made all the fancy patented algorithms get rewarded for the patent or that they even hold the patent for their work themselves, do you? Because that is definitely very rarely the case.

    • I think that those people who take the time, effort, money and energy to create complicated software algorithms should be rewarded.

      Why do you hate mathematics? Specifically, why do you wish Newton (or Leibniz) had exclusive rights to their algorithms so that no one could build upon them? Why do you wish that Einstein was able to patent his theory of relativity so that physics could be put on hold for 30-years-or-however-long? What do you hate so much about cosmology that you wish Hawking was the only one legally allowed to do it?

      I will never understand the level of hatred and contempt for science you'd have to have to truly believe tha

  • Come on Google. Create a site for the little guy to flood the world with frivolous software patents. (They also need your expertise and money to file them too, hint, hint.).
  • by DavidinAla ( 639952 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @12:39PM (#35709440)
    When the anonymous submitter of this item refers to companies "abusing" software patents, what he really means is companies that use software patents in accordance with current law. If the idiot who wrote that submission would like to change the law, that's fine. He ought to work to get the law changed. But companies reasonably work within the framework of the law as its written. Google can make all the noises it wants to in order to try to make the open source fanboys happy, but Google has to work within the SAME framework. It's idiocy to pretend that companies don't have the right (and the responsibility to their shareholders) to protect their intellectual property in ways that are specified in the law.
    • by ejtttje ( 673126 )

      Most laws have a underlying intention, that's where the whole concept of "letter of the law" vs. "spirit of the law" comes from. When someone/corporation is technically following the law but undermining the intention of the lawmakers, I think it's perfectly fair to call that an "abuse". GE paying $0 in taxes through creative bookkeeping may be legal, but it's also an abuse. Companies spamming the patent office with crap IP just to bolster their legal threats is also an abuse.

      And yes, I can call it an abu

      • Very astute observation on "spirit" vs "letter" of the law. Plus one (+1) insightful virtual mod points for you.

  • pardon my rant (Score:4, Informative)

    by swell ( 195815 ) <jabberwock@po[ ] ['eti' in gap]> on Monday April 04, 2011 @12:41PM (#35709470)

    Software patents?

    Patent/copyright abuse goes way beyond that including the genes in your own body which may be the property of some corporation. And how can a corporation copyright a 400 year old music score and extort money from those who simply want a look? And when taxpayers fund a discovery made by university employees and students, why does a corporation get to take the patent and all the profit?

    Patents and copyrights are critical to drive research and new ideas but there has to be a sensible limit. With software patents in particular and the outrageous lawsuits, patents are serving to stifle innovation. Only a very well funded corporation can afford to cope with the problems, and the small inventor/programmer is at the mercy of attorneys.

    I defer to Don Lancaster, an early protester of patents who offers thought provoking ideas on the subject: []
    Thanks for your patience with this rant

  • Buy the portfolio and make all patents public domain.
    Add a clause that makes them unavailable to companies that sue over software patents.

    Unless they're made freely available and public, they're not helping the situation.

    • Your first two sentences are contradictory. It looks like you're trying to create an "unpatent" that is to patents as "copyleft" is to copyright. I like the idea. However, I don't think you understand what you're talking about in implementation. Public domain means you *can't* put any restrictions on it. You can only restrict something if you have any control (for property, typically ownership is required) over it. Public domain means relinquishing all control. The only restriction on public domain is that

  • Summary is exaggerating. Google are not calling software patents 'junk'. They want "patent reform", as the current system is broken, but that's not quite the same thing is it.

    This below paragraph quoted from their previous entry summarizes their position much better and is also interesting in and of itself, because it seems like a big factor of exactly HOW the software patent system is so brain-deadingly broken:

    The most pressing of those is ensuring fair damage awards. The current system too easily allows damages to be assessed based on the value of the whole product often containing many features — not just the value of the innovation of the allegedly infringed patent — which means the threat of potentially massive awards forces defendants to settle. Balance should be restored by requiring damages to be based on the value of the innovation's contribution to the product.

  • Every single smart phone violates patents for which the manufacturer and network has failed to license. This situation will never change either, if you look at the patent thicket involved, and all the lawsuits currently in play.

    You want patent reform, then pass a law that no lawmaker can use a product that the lawmaker knows infringes on a patent. This would either result in patent reform, or the removal of all smart phones, tablet computers, laptops, and desktops from Washington D.C. No matter how unli

  • Microsoft reaffirms stance against web ads: "The web should be clean and free of these obtrusive, virus laden, obnoxious commercials"
    All I'm trying to say is that's easy to attack something that is not part of your own business model. Google doesn't sell software for a living. Of course they don't care about software patents. Even more so, they profit the most if everything is "free". Well not really free, but paid through ads.
  • []

    Relevant quote:

    “One of a company’s best defenses against this kind of litigation is (ironically) to have a formidable patent portfolio, as this helps maintain your freedom to develop new products and services,” Google General Counsel Kent Walker said in a blog post today.

  • "we give up and will participate in doing evil", then yes.
  • My take on the whole software patent debate is that the law allows such actions to take place, and that is the problem. If you can create something and make money off it, why would you not? Unless you are a good Samaritan type person. There have been a myriad of articles detailing all types of ridiculous patents that have been granted. Next up- "A process to determine the amount of licks needed to get to the middle of a Tootsie roll." It's a broken system, but since it makes money for the gov, no one i

  • ...collect all the money so the rich capitalist bastards won't get their hands on them.


  • Google is as much into patenting stuff as anybody else. They aproached me a few years ago to join. When I told them I would only do so if I had a term in my contract saying I had no obligation to assist in obtaining any software patents, they said they could not do that because they have a policy of protecting their developments with patents. I wasn't prepared to compromise my ethcs that much, so now I'm a lawyer. The pay's lower, but at least I have my self-respect.

Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work. -- John G. Pollard