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[FSF] Encourage the USPTO to stop issuing software patents: deadline Sep

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Subject: [FSF] Encourage the USPTO to stop issuing software patents: deadline September 27
From: Brett Smith <brett@fsf.org>
Date: Thu, 23 Sep 2010 18:13:24 -0400
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Following the Supreme Court's decision in *Bilski v. Kappos*, the
United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) plans to release new
guidance as to which patent applications will be accepted, and which
will not.  As part of this process, they are seeking input from the
public about how that guidance should be structured.

Normally when the USPTO solicits feedback like this, they hear almost
exclusively from patent attorneys who have a vested interest in making
sure that patents are granted as broadly as possible.  And this
process will be overseen by David Kappos, the current director of the
USPTO and formerly an attorney at IBM in charge of their heavy-handed
patent strategy.  The company obtained large numbers of software
patents with his oversight (and has continued to do so after his departure).

It's not hard to guess what this guidance will look like if we leave
this process in their hands.  But there's no rule that says only
patent attorneys can offer feedback.  Patent examiners are civil
servants and accountable to the public at large.  The USPTO should
hear from software users and developers, who acutely feel the effects
of software patents that limit what they can do with their computers
and free software.

If you're a U.S. citizen, please write to the USPTO at
<Bilski_Guidance@uspto.gov> and tell them that their new guidance
should include a strong stand against software patents.  Submissions
are **due by Monday, September 27**.  Please share a copy of your
letter with us, by CCing <licensing@fsf.org>.  That way the USPTO will
know that someone else is keeping track of the number of letters sent.

Your letter should explain how you're affected by software patents,
how software patents take freedom away from all computer users, and
that a strong stance against software patents in USPTO's guidance
would be consistent with the *Bilski* decision.  If you like, you can
use some of the text below to help you get started on your letter:

> Software patents hurt individuals by taking away our ability to
> control the devices that now exert such strong influence on our
> personal freedoms, including how we interact with each other.  Now
> that computers are near-ubiquitous, it's easier than ever for an
> individual to create or modify software to perform the specific
> tasks they want done -- and more important than ever that they be
> able to do so.  But a single software patent can put up an
> insurmountable, and unjustifiable, legal hurdle for many would-be
> developers.

> The Supreme Court of the United States has never ruled in favor of
> the patentability of software.  Their decision in *Bilski v. Kappos*
> further demonstrates that they expect the boundaries of patent
> eligibility to be drawn more narrowly than they commonly were at the
> case's outset.  The primary point of the decision is that the
> machine-or-transformation test should not be the sole test for
> drawing those boundaries.  The USPTO can, and should, exclude
> software from patent eligibility on other legal grounds: because
> software consists only of mathematics, which is not patentable, and
> the combination of such software with a general-purpose computer is
> obvious.

More resources to help you write your letter are available on the End
Software Patents wiki, at
<http://en.swpat.org/wiki/USPTO_2010_consultation_-_deadline_27_sept>.
We'll also follow up there with information about the guidelines once
they're published.

-- 
Brett Smith
License Compliance Engineer, Free Software Foundation

Support the FSF by becoming an Associate Member: http://fsf.org/jf




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