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Slow process creates uncertainty

In most countries, a granted patent is considered valid starting from the application date. This means Person A can apply for a patent, and Person B can develop a product. If Person B looks at all published patents, they will not see Person A's patent application which is still being processed. If Person A's application is approved, they can immediately accuse Person B of infringing the patent - despite Person B never having had any possibility to know that this idea was patented.

The unfair situation can happen in any field of development, but it's aggravated in the case of software because the development cycle of software is often very fast.

Post-grant changes

In the USA, patent applicants can continue to enlarge the patent within the first two years after it's granted.[1] So if Amazon searched all existing patents in 1999, and if they found that their 1-click shopping idea wasn't patented, they could still find themselves sued in 2000 or 2001 by someone who later expanded a patent granted after Amazon did its search.

Related pages on ESP Wiki

Why abolish software patents
Why abolish software patents Why focus only on software · Why software is different · Software patent quality worse than all other fields · Harm caused by all types of patents
Legal arguments Software is math · Software is too abstract · Software does not make a computer a new machine · Harming freedom of expression · Blocking useful freedoms
High costs Costly legal costs · Cost of the patent system to governments · Cost barrier to market entry · Cost of defending yourself against patent litigation
Impact on society Restricting freedom Harm without litigation or direct threats · Free software projects harmed by software patents · More than patent trolls · More than innovation · Slow process creates uncertainty
Preventing progress Software relies on incremental development · Software progress happens without patents · Reducing innovation and research · Software development is low risk · Reducing job security · Harming education · Harming standards and compatibility
Disrupting the economy Used for sabotage · Controlling entire markets · Breaking common software distribution models · Blocking competing software · Harming smaller businesses · Harming all types of businesses · A bubble waiting to burst
Problems of the legal system Problems in law Clogging up the legal system · Disclosure is useless · Software patents are unreadable · Publishing information is made dangerous · Twenty year protection is too long
Problems in litigation Patent trolls · Patent ambush · Invalid patents remain unchallenged · Infringement is unavoidable · Inequality between small and large patent holders