Back in the mid-90s as an engineer at a major global automotive supplier, I spent way too many hours analyzing and drafting software patents for slip control systems (anti-lock brakes, traction control and vehicle stability control).
At the time a factor of 10x for the time spent on the patent vs actual development was probably on the high side, we certainly wasted a lot of time on patents.
I watch today's battles between Apple and the rest of the mobile industry with a mix of bemusement and anger. When I first went to work after getting my mechanical engineering degree, we didn't even really think about patents for the control software, just the hardware we were using.
Once we started making some market inroads with a new system we developed, we learned that our major competitor had a ton of software patents that they were threatening to use against us (sound familiar?). A significant chunk of the engineering effort over the next 12 months was spent going back and tweaking our control algorithms just enough to get around the patents without significantly impacting performance.
Unlike the Apple vs et al situation today, we were fortunate enough to learn about the potential problems early enough that we could avoid any litigation. We ended up filing a ton of software patents of our own so we ended up in a mutually assured destruction scenario with the competition. Needless to say, none of this actually made the product better, it just made work for IP lawyers and increased the engineering cost of the system.
Thus I've been a staunch opponent of software patents (and increasingly all patents) ever since.
Reshared post from +Electronic Frontier Foundation
From Defend Innovation: "I'm a co-inventor on 7 patents, and know a bit about how silly software patents are. Most of them do not protect innovation. When it takes 10x longer to do the patent paperwork than to come up with the invention in the first place, how innovative is the thing you are patenting anyway?" Join the movement to get software patents out of the way of innovation: https://defendinnovation.org
The patent system is in crisis, and it endangers the future of software development in the United States. Let's create a system that defends innovation, instead of hindering it.
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