Electronic Design

Ma+h You Can't Use: Patents, Copyrights, and Software

By Ben KlemensISBN: 9780815749424

Be afraid. Be very afraid. You will be after reading this book. It addresses patent and copyright issues from a software programming standpoint. The opening chapters do an excellent job of laying out the framework for the discussion. This is a complex topic because it does deal with the law, but Ben makes it understandable even for those who don't make patent work their life's pursuit.

One of the obvious aspects of the book is that Ben does see the current process as broken. In fact, it has the potential to cause some rather undesirable effects that could result in inaction in the future. For example, did you know that there are at least ten patents that address Fast Fourier Transforms (FFT)? Try doing signal processing without FFTs. Other tidbits include details such as the fact that 58% of all software patents list NO prior art. Rather surprising since software patents are a relatively new turn of events. Little things like microprogramming and virtual memory must be invented again, and again, and...

The book brings up issues regarding the Court of Appeals Federal Circuit (CAFC) that has changed the landscape when it comes to patents. Likewise, Ben contrasts the more conventional centralized approach to patents on physical devices versus the decentralized environment of software. He effectively brings out why the latter is difficult and why open-source work causes this to be even harder to deal with.

Regardless of where you stand on the software and process patent issue, this book is worth a read and should be on every software developer’s and manager's bookshelf. These issues are going to affect the future of software development and a balanced presentation such as this can only help the discussion.


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