The disclosure is useless
(new page, work in progress - possibly too similar in scope to Software patents are unreadable)
Disclosure happens without patents, and better
- "[i]t is estimated that 85-90% of the world's technology is disclosed only in patent documents." (Newman, J., concurring)
Of course, using this quote when discussing software is disingenuous given the massive, complete, and freely reusable information disclosed by free software such as GNU/Linux, and given that many authorities have said of software patents that the disclosure is useless.
Software patents are unreadable
Example #1: Australian government survey
There was an Australian government study of the patent system in the 1980's. It concluded that aside from international pressure, there was no reason to have a patent system -- it did no good for the public -- and recommended abolishing it if not for international pressure. One of the things they cited was that engineers don't try reading patents to learn anything, as it is too hard to understand them. They quoted one engineer saying "I can't recognise my own inventions in patentese".
Example #2: A programmer talking about his patent US7650296:
Brunner says software patents on his own work don't even make sense to him. "I can't tell you for the hell of it what they're actually supposed to do. The company said we have to do a patent on this. ... Personally, when I look at them, I'm not proud at all. It's just like mungo mumbo jumbo that nobody understands and makes no sense from an engineering standpoint whatsoever."
Example #3: A venture capitalist talking about all existing patents
There is no way for a software engineer or system architect to have any idea what exists out there to either copy or avoid (whatever the motivation).
Microsoft tells employees not to read patents
When using existing libraries, services, tools, and methods from outside Microsoft, we must be respectful of licenses, copyrights, and patents. Generally, you want to carefully research licenses and copyrights (your contact in Legal and Corporate Affairs can help), and never search, view, or speculate about patents. I was confused by this guidance till I wrote and reviewed one of my own patents. The legal claims section -- the only section that counts -- was indecipherable by anyone but a patent attorney. Ignorance is bliss and strongly recommended when it comes to patents.
Related pages on ESP Wiki
- Incompatible delays and durations
- Silly patents
- Why software is different
- How to read patents
- Software patents produce legal uncertainty
- Software is too abstract, software patent quality is terrible
- The disclosure is useless
- Infringement is unavoidable
- Microsoft Employee Admits That Patent Disclosure Is A Myth, 12 Nov 2008, techdirt
- Can We Get Rid Of The Disclosure Myth For Patents?, 30 Mar 2007, techdirt
- NIHilism and other innovation poison, 1 Nov 2008, blogs.msdn (quoted above)
- Recent Scholarship: Do Patents Disclose Useful Information?, 19 Aug 2011, Patently-O (Jason Rantanen)