Software patents are abstract and ambiguous
Being so abstract, descriptions of software ideas are difficult to examine for patent offices, and difficult to write clear rules and procedures for the examination. This is probably the main cause for software patent quality being so low.
The ideas are too abstract
In chemistry, ideas are described concretely, such as Trans-6-[2-(3- or 4-carboxamido- substituted pyrrol-1-yl)alkyl]-4-hydroxypyran-2-ones.
In software, ideas are described as "point of sale location", "material object", or "information manufacturing machine".
From NPR's article When Patents Attack:
David Martin, who runs a company called M-Cam. It's hired by governments, banks and business to assess patent quality, which the company does with a fancy piece of software. We asked Martin to assess Chris Crawford's patent [US5771354].
At the same time Crawford's patent was being prosecuted, more than 5,000 other patents were issued for "the same thing," Martin says.
Crawford's patent was for "an online backup system." Another patent [US6003044] from the same time was for "efficiently backing up files using multiple computer systems." Yet another [US6587935] was for "mirroring data in a remote data storage system."
And then there were three different patents [US6049874, US6038665, and US6014676] with three different patent numbers but that all had the same title: "System and method for backing up computer files over a wide area computer network." [...]
We also asked Rick Mc Leod, a patent lawyer and former software engineer, to evaluate Chris Crawford's patent. "None of this was actually new," he told us.
Related pages on ESP Wiki
- Silly patents
- Why software is different
- Software patents produce legal uncertainty
- The disclosure is useless
- Raising examination standards wouldn't fix much
- Judge Plager (US CAFC): Construe Ambiguous Terms Against the Drafter, 6 Aug 2013, Patently-O - a useful idea indeed