Thursday, November 18, 2010

Six Degrees of Software & Software Patents

The Six Degrees of Software is the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon for nerds. It works like this - pick something that you do and see how far you can go before you run into something that uses software. The answer is, NOT FAR. And software is getting closer all the time.

Consider the toaster...heating element with a timer. Pretty simple. What about a heating element with a timer and an LED display connected to the wall outlet connected to the digital electric meter connected to your house connected to the grid which is connected to the electric company....

Consider the car wash...

The barber seems to be low tech until you make your appointment on line.

So, software patents are always an interesting and often heated topic of conversation. Pick your topic and then consider who owns the patents:

  • Convergence of the open source software world and patents
  • What's controlling your surgery - the surgeorn or the Da Vinci Robot or the software?
  • Business Methods patents - software as the brick and mortar of the new millenium or Still Life with Flow Chart?
  • How will anyone ever figure out what the essential patents are so the Smart Grid can be built?
  • Who owns the patents for electronic health records?
If you want to have some fun, Google (now a verb) Microsoft Burning the Ships. Burning the Ships is the story of Microsoft's efforts to play nice where its patents and the open source world collide. It's interesting that the patent attorney blogs find it a compelling tome while the software guys are incredulous about the new and friendly Microsoft.

In our quest to advance the discourse on software patents, business methods (software patents by another name), and open source we call your attention to an interesting blog written by Florian Mueller that focuses on Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) and patents. Mr. Mueller's blog is not for the faint of heart - it's packed with information but if you want some interesting insight into the complexity of the issues. Check it out and then go back and consider the six degrees of software in your professional and personal life.

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