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A simple proposal to rule out obvious software patents

I just read the EFF’s new website (https://defendinnovation.org/) about how to change the patent system to prevent the patent trolls from stifling innovation.  I like some of the ideas, but question how realistic others are (i.e. #3? – C’mon; How many implementations in how many languages will you need to write to cover all your bases?)

I realize this is an extremely naive statement to make, but I’m going to make it anyway; solving the ‘non-obvious’ aspect of a software patent is simple.

… and it doesn’t involve judges learning to code.

Here’s my proposal:  Software patent proposals should include a unit test suite and a single solution implementation.  The test suite would be made public immediately, without the implemented solution.  The public would take a crack at making the test suite pass.

If there are no successful passes, then it could be deemed as a difficult problem with a non-obvious solution.

If the patent office is bombarded with working solutions, then it unquestionably fails the ‘non-obvious’ test.

It’s debatable what to do if a relative few brilliant developers solve it, while most fail.  But this would definitely eliminate laughable patents like Amazon’s 1-Click which would have bombarded the patent office in less than an hour.

2 Responses to “A simple proposal to rule out obvious software patents”

  1. My thought here is that people are lazy and thus won’t challenge until it suits them – which invariably will be too late, the patent will already have been passed because no solutions proved it to be ‘obvious’.

    Then someone else will come along and do something that unknowingly infringes upon it and gets sued for infringement.

    Of course, it’s easy for me to point fault on the sideline – I’d come up with a solution, but I’m too lazy to do so :P

    • John MacIntyre says:

      I considered that, but ruled it out as being a problem since there are so many people who are so upset about software patents. I suspect you’ll have 2 types of people solving these problems; 1) Activists who hate the whole idea of commercialized software. And 2) Programmers who solve them for the challenge, as if it were a game. (think TopCoder.com)

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