Groklaw reports on an invitation from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for software developers to join two roundtable discussions aimed at "enhancing" the quality of software patents. Both events are in February: one in New York City and one in Silicon Valley. As Groklaw points out, the events are space-limited and proprietary software vendors are sure to attend. "Large companies with patent portfolios they treasure and don't want to lose can't represent the interests of individual developers or the FOSS community, those most seriously damaged by toxic software patents.
And from GroklawThe USPTO Would Like to Partner with the Software Community ... Wait. What? Really? 4 Jan 2013
There is a notice in the Federal Register that the USPTO would like to form a partership with the software community to figure out how to "enhance" the quality of software patents. To that end, they are looking for comments and there will be two roundtable events sponsored by the USPTO, one in Silicon Valley and one in New York, both in February: Each roundtable event will provide a forum for an informal and interactive discussion of topics relating to patents that are particularly relevant to the software community. While public attendees will have the opportunity to provide their individual input, group consensus advice will not be sought....
The first topic relates to how to improve clarity of claim boundaries that define the scope of patent protection for claims that use functional language.
I know the USPTO doesn't want to hear that software and patents totally need to get a divorce, but since most software developers believe that, maybe somebody should at least mention it to them, if only as a future topic for discussion. Most developers I know believe software is unpatentable subject matter.
It's obvious the USPTO realizes there is serious unhappiness among software developers, and they'd like to improve things. Software developers are the folks most immediately and directly affected by the software patents the USPTO issues, and it's getting to the point that no one can code anything without potentially getting sued. I don't wish to be cynical, though, as that's a useless thing. So maybe we should look at it as an opportunity to at least be heard. It's progress that they even thought about having a dialogue with developers, if you look at it that way.
I'm sure companies with lots of patents will be participating. So some of you should probably try to attend too, don't you think? At least send in thoughtful, respectful but clear and specific comments. Large companies with patent portfolios they treasure and don't want to lose can't represent the interests of individual developers or the FOSS community, those most seriously damaged by toxic software patents. And now that patent trolls are targeting individual apps developers and small businesses that simply use technology like scanners and email, somebody needs to listen to what those of us who are not IBM or Microsoft or Google are enduring. And heaven only knows they are going through plenty too. But my point is there are more of you than there are of them.
If you do want to attend, you have to register by February 4th, free, but seating is limited, and it's first-come, first-serve: To register, please send an email message to SoftwareRoundtable2013@uspto.gov and provide the following information: (1) Your name, title, and if applicable, company or organization, address, phone number, and email address; (2) which roundtable event you wish to attend (Silicon Valley or New York City); and (3) if you wish to make an oral presentation at the event, the specific topic or issue to be addressed and the approximate desired length of your presentation.
For sure many of you have ideas to express on the first topic. The deadline to send in written comments for consideration is March 15, and you can do it by email (SoftwareRoundtable2013@uspto.gov
) or by snail mail, but they express a strong preference for email. That is for all three topics, not just the first one: