Advocacy groups wants to end software patents, infringement litigation

Marilyn Tennissen Mar. 10, 2008, 7:52am

End Software Patents Executive Director Ben Klemens

A non-profit advocacy group wants to see patents on software -- and the infringement lawsuits that often follow -- eliminated, claiming the current patent system hurts business and stifles innovation.

End Software Patents was launched Feb. 28 in Boston. According to its press release, the ESP project will focus on assisting corporations that choose to challenge software patents in the courts and at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on the basis that patents for software and designs with no physically innovative step have no legal validity.

It will also promote public education aimed at passing laws to protect software from patent law.

"Software patents endanger both software developers and businesses, ironically stifling the very innovation that the U.S. patent system was intended to foster," said Ben Klemens, executive director of End Software Patents. "With statements from the Supreme Court and the USPTO supporting our position, we can use our court system to restore our patent system to its original state without delay."

The Eastern District of Texas has become a haven for patent infringement suits, especially in the Marshall Division, where U.S. District Judge T. John Ward handles thousands of patent cases involving software and intellectual property infringements.

According to an ESP report also released Feb. 28, software patent litigation costs U.S. business more than $11 billion each year.

"Software patents are a burden on U.S. businesses and innovation, and the debate on the patentability of software will have a profound impact on the software industry over the next 20 years," said Brad Feld, Managing Director at Foundry Group. Feld added, "I am pleased to see that the End Software Patents project has formed to directly address the problem. These are smart people who know a lot about patents, and I have every expectation that they will help achieve change."

The End Software Patents project believes the current problems with the U.S. patent system are caused by the elimination of restrictions on what is patentable, rather than the details of processing and examination.

"There is one law for all patents, and it is being weakened to mitigate the mess with business methods and software, which means that designers of drugs, machines, and bona fide electronics are having the rug pulled from under them," stated Klemens.

He added, "Rather than neuter the entire patent system, we are proposing to return the scope of what is patentable to what it was before we started seeing all the headlines about how the patent system is broken."

Klemens holds an MS and a PhD in Social Science from the California Institute of Technology and a BA in Economics from the University of Chicago. ESP is working in conjunction with a network of lawyers, business executives and academics.

The project received backing from the Free Software Foundation, the Public Patent Foundation and the Software Freedom Law Center.

For more information, visit its Web site at

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