Subject: Re: Why software patents are bad
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Wed, 22 Sep 1999 17:31:55 +0900 (JST)

Addressees trimmed.

>>>>> "Bernard" == Bernard Lang <> writes:

    Bernard> I have been talking to an IP lawyer who told me that for
    Bernard> patenting, what you accomplish is what matters more than
    Bernard> how you do it. The example he gave me is that if your
    Bernard> system filters e-mail for some purpose, the patent will
    Bernard> cover the idea of mail-filtering regardless of how it is
    Bernard> achieved.

I respectfully submit that you did not fully understand what he was
talking about.  (Or - horrors - he didn't.)

It is _exactly_ how it is accomplished that matters.  I really can't
imagine that French law differs that much from U.S. law in this
respect.  You can't patent an idea until you can demonstrate how to
implement it; it is that demonstration that justifies the award of a
patent, and only for the implementation, not for the specification.

This is why Xerox holds several patents on each critical part of the
paper flow mechanism through a copier machine; they can't patent "paper 
flow," only mechanisms for doing it.  So once they have a good
mechanism, they keep researching so they can defensively patent other
ways of moving plain paper through the copy machine.

Now, of course once Xerox patents a particular device for moving paper 
through a plain paper copier, manufacturers of treated-paper copiers,
faxes, laser printers, and newpaper publishing equipment must all get
licenses if their machines use that device (unless Xerox was stupid
enough to mention "plain paper copier" in their patent application).
This might be what your IP lawyer was talking about, although it
doesn't really fit the mail-filtering analogy as you stated it.

University of Tsukuba                Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
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