Subject: Re: Examples needed against Soft Patents
From: Taran Rampersad <>
Date: Tue, 28 Dec 2004 11:50:22 -0500

Russell McOrmond wrote:

>On Tue, 28 Dec 2004, Taran Rampersad wrote:
>>All of this aside, if there are software patents, wouldn't they be
>>derivative of hardware patents?
>  This is no more true than saying that political science is a "derivative
>of" biology given that without sentient living beings you can't have any
>social sciences.
Perhaps the analogy would be true if political science were patented.

If I have a patent for a computer, and your software runs on my
computer, then that's fine. But if you patent software that is based on
my computer, you should pay me. That's the sensible way for it to work,
since the software cannot exist without the hardware.

In the case of political science being derivative of biology, I offer that:

(1) political science may be able to exist without biology. I can't
prove it, but you can't prove the opposite.
(2) political science also requires other inputs, such as a group of 2
or more creatures (even monkeys practice politics, thus the term
(3) Political science and biology are abstracts, and are both ill
defined since they are measures of what we know by experiment, not what
we have created - and even if we did create it, we got there by
experiment - which implies discovery - which implies something else
created it - which implies that it is a pre-existing work - which
implies that it is not patentable - which tosses out the analogy.

*grins back*

>P.S.  Those who want to continue this thought experiment may want to
>contemplate the concept introduced to me by law professor Lawrence Lessig
>who suggest that software code is a type of law.  If this is the case, then
>computer science is a social science, not a natural science, and "software
>engineering" is an oxymoron given engineering is the application of a
>natural science.
>Short version:
>Longer version:
>  We don't patent other information processes such as laws (government
>bills, precedent, acts of parliament, etc) and most people would consider
>this nonsense, so why do we offer patents on software.
>  "To Err is human, to really fowl things up requires a computer..."
>  (or at least laypersons trying to understand what a computer is ;-)
Frankly, this is all a stab at trying to make sense of new things based
on our experience of old things. These new things transcend the old
things. We need to define them differently. This is where Stallman's
original stance based on Ethics and Principle is of interest, since
these constants are, in a world of milk and honey, supposed to guide the
way we deal with the world. Odd, this, coming from an atheist, but there
it is.

What I'm seeing... and maybe others are seeing it... is a whole bunch of
stuff that will not fit in the boxes of the past, and a whole bunch of
people telling us how important the old boxes are - and others arguing
that the old boxes suck. That's not getting anywhere.

Lessig, and others, are working on helping define the bigger box. And in
a few years, that box won't be big enough either - and the true test of
mettle of the Lessigs and Stallmans will not be how good the boxes they
create are perceived to be now and in the next few years - instead, the
test of mettle will be what these people will do when it's their status
quo that newer minds think is outdated.

That there is resistance to change is no surprise.

Taran Rampersad

"The wave of the future is not the conquest of the world by a single dogmatic creed
but the liberation of the diverse energies of free nations and free men."  John F.