back to article Government calls for intellectual property evidence

The Intellectual Property Office is asking for evidence which might influence future policy. The IPO said it wanted to answer some basic questions like how much British businesses spend on protecting their intellectual property, how much patents help push research spending, which firms make money out of intellectual property …


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  1. NB
    Thumb Down


    MS and various other big players in the software industry lobbying hard to get software patents in the UK so they can stifle innovation and keep small players out of the market.

  2. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Well I read the brief

    but nowhere does it say exactly how it will conduct it's research, nor who will be invited/entitled to submit 'evidence'

  3. someone up north

    creat jobs for lawyer

    if you want to create jobs for lawyer ,then DO carry on with patenting laws like US!

  4. g e

    Probably more like...

    Britain must have an Intellectual Property system that the ones with the most to gain, and the Americans, approve of.

    In the outcome.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The question on everyone's lips should be:

    "So what is the policy they're preparing to push through with the evidence they're about to gather?"

    The simplest, and so eloquently advocated by the mere existence of patent trolls, is to just ditch patents entirely. If that is somehow not acceptable, give me a patent office that will do actual research, at the very least in its own vast database of prior art, to see if the patent presents something that is actual technology that wasn't there before. Not business models, not mere innovations, not various tweaks and twists that were defensively patented to fill up some large corporation's war chest. Just Plain Old Patents describing something in the original sense of "Invention".

    Yes, that'll cost. Make it a low base fee plus some small percentage of annual turn-over of the applying organisation, subsidising the small entrant. Perhaps grant a very small royalty to the patent office. And perhaps restrict the sale of patents sensibly, though I wouldn't know how at this point. Maybe someone else does, or has better ideas.

  6. Lou Gosselin

    No software patents, please.

    Software patents are harmful because:

    1. Patent holders intimidate competition with FUD.

    2. There are too many software developers to maintain an accurate record of who invented what, resulting in many patents being granted to a wrongful owner.

    3. Software developers are willing and able to innovate without patent protection.

    4. Software patents are very expensive, resulting in tremendous overhead for small developers.

    5. Software developers who would not develop without software patents are often trolls and are not the type to produce innovation.

    6. The greater the number of software developers there are, the greater the harm caused by software algorithm monopolies.

    7. To a software developer algorithms are a form of thought and expression, which is better protected by copyrights than outright patent monopolies.

    8. It does not make sense to issue monopolies on derivable mathematics.

    9. Software patents are written in obfuscated legalize to the point of uselessness for those in the trade.

    10. Software developers writing original code who factually didn't benefit from the patents are still liable for damages.

  7. JohnG Silver badge

    Fixed it for the IPO

    The IPO said it wanted to answer some basic questions like how much British businesses spend on lawyers protecting their intellectual property, how much patents help lawyers make money, which firms make money out of intellectual property without using lawyers (so the IPO can stop them).

    In short, a bunch of lawyers at the IPO wants to make sure their colleagues can milk any remaining UK innovation out of existence.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Smoke and mirrors.

    Sounds very much like window dressing to me. They want answers but no matter what those answers are, they do whatever they want, anyway: No responsibility.

    Like JohnG said: "a bunch of lawyers at the IPO wants to make sure their colleagues can milk any remaining UK innovation out of existence".

    That concentrates everything IPO is doing in one sentence.

  9. Pete 8

    So the Trolls

    are asking the little billy goats gruff how they would like to be eaten?

    Any recipe ideas hmmm hmmmmm k?

    The original ending is really quite violent for the Troll,

    Fortunately there is a better way, but for now the troll-on-troll action is definately a good education and awakening.

  10. Sirius Lee

    Patents no always a bad thing

    Patents are about more than software. The idea of patenting business methods (there's no such thing as a software patent even in the US) is relatively new change. Since business method patents are not granted in the EU, any money currently spent here will be on patents relating to some kind of hardware. It seems to follow then that the IPO focus is on the cost and effectiveness of current patent activity. Seem reasonable.

    @Lou Gosselin: There seems little doubt that the way the US has approached patenting business methods is flawed. But to ditch the whole idea of patent protection is, I think, wrong.

    There's a reason all the big software companies are US based: because that's where investment is available. It's more readily available for US software companies because investors have some hope of protecting their investment. In the EU it's really tough to get investment for new software companies unless its clear there's some way to erect a barrier to entry around the software (for example it may be because of who the founders know or some specialist knowledge they and few others have).

    Yes, software developers will continue to innovate in the EU but they will not rcecieve the credit they deserve. Without any form of protection their unique and otherwise patentable ideas will be co-opted at no cost. Sure, a Microsoft might employ the innovator but that's not the same as being able to make a market return on the innovation.

    Likewise there's little incentive for commenters on articles like this to want patent protection. If you are not an innovator (are you a software innovator?) then protection (in whatever form) for the innovator will push up the price to others of using that innovation. Like Turkeys voting for Christmas.

    I don't have an answer but just condeming patent protection for ideological reasons is as flawed as the approach taken in the US. Without some form of protection the EU is condeming itself to software being, at best, a self funded cottage industry competing against vastly well funded operations elsewhere.

    Clearly just recognizing and enforcing current patents is not an option in Europe because that really hands control across the Altantic.

    So, some innovation needed on a business method to offer some protection to innovators. Better go to the US then.

    1. Lou Gosselin

      @Sirius Lee

      "there's no such thing as a software patent even in the US"

      You should read the news.

      Software has been patentable for years in the US, the supreme court merely confirmed that fact.

      You seem to think all developers based in the US, such as myself, have more opportunities because of software patents, but you've completely ignored the negative side of software patents which I've listed, not to mention the cost and uncertainty of endless litigation. Every stupid little algorithm in a program is at risk of infringement. Even one algorithm may have different patent statuses in various contexts (such as desktop versus phone).

      It is unrealistic for all developers (particularly small ones) to cross reference their own software with all the issued software patents. Not only would this reduce development to a screeching halt, but more resources are needed to re-implement and remove features to eliminate the infringement.

      Thankfully in the US we can get by ignoring software patents until our profits go above radar. But it is fundamentally stupid to support any law on account that it's poor enforcement in practice helps minimizes it's harms.

      Furthermore, software patents place knowledgeable developers (with regards to the law) in a situation where they simply do not know whether they're infringing or not. This type of uncertainty should not be codified into law.

  11. Arthur Dent

    Software patents in the UK

    Why does anyone pretend that the UK (or the EEC) doesn't permit software patents? We've had them for years. I used to work for a large UK company where software developers were encouraged to patent their ideas for out employer's benefit (with the help of some people very competent at formulating claims) by a bonus for every patent application that passed the company's internal checks. We were even forbidden to publish in technical journals until we could put a "patent applied for" footnote on the abstract. My unit produced a lot of patent applications, almost all resultingg in granted patents. These were for real innovation, the result of intensive research, with no prior art discovered in a serious search before the applications were filed - but although they didn't display all the faults of the US system they were still, for all practical purposes, software patents. I would be very surprised if the experience of anyone who has done serious computing research in the UK (whether in industry or in a university) is any different.

    Frankly, I wish we didn't have software patents (despite having collected some bonuses for applying for them) because I know that bureaucracies will generally not be able to distinguish a new invention in software from a trivial application of well-known principles, and neither will the courts. Unfortunately internatiopnal treaties require us to enforce utter nonsense patents approved in the US. Maybe what we should be doing is requiring non-European patents to pass a review considering prior art and inventive step and non-obviousness before they can be enforced in Europe - I suspect most of the bad US software patents would become unenforceable here, although some would inevitably slip through the checks.

  12. Jezthangingabout
    Big Brother

    Software Patents in the UK

    @Lou Gosselin

    Couldn't agree more with you.

    This just seems to be another step by the UKPO and EPO towards extending their brief, and range of patentable subjects, fully into Business Methods and pure software patenting. It also appears to be a case of when the previous "discussion" groups and sessions didn't produce the results they hoped for (allowing full patentability of all software), abandon that series, regroup and ask the same questions again, possibly with a different wording or assumed base (the base here being that software is patentable, how do we want the patenting sytem improved upon?), until getting the answers desired.

    I would love to find that the costings examination produces the finding that (as I suspect) patents are actually of negative overall financial benefit to the IT sector - but, I guess that they'll just go change the questions again (or only ask the main proponents of the desired legislative changes!).


    The UKPO & EPO are definitely of the "Big Brother's watching you" fraternity.

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