News

Public Patent Foundation and Software Freedom Law Center to Co-Sponsor Conference on Software Patents

Representatives from Academia, Industry, and the Nonprofit Sector will Meet in Boston to Discuss Patent Policy

October 17, 2006

The Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) and the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) today announced that they are co-sponsoring a conference to discuss the impact of software patents on software development, innovation and competition. The conference, entitled Software Patents: A Time for Change?, will be hosted at Boston University on November 17.

In addition to PUBPAT and SFLC, the conference is being co-organized by the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology, Boston University Law School, the Computer & Communications Industry Association, the MIT Sloan School of Management, and Research on Innovation.

Speakers at the conference will include representatives from each of the organizers in addition to eBay, Red Hat, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the World Wide Web Consortium.

Current State of Patent Law

In the past few decades, the specialized patent court of appeals in the United States has removed virtually all limits to patentable subject matter and, as a result, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office has awarded hundreds of thousands of software patents. Initially, there was little empirical evidence to gauge what the effect of allowing patents to cover software would be. Since then, many have analyzed the effect of patents on the development of software. The conference being co-sponsored by PUBPAT and SFLC will provide an opportunity to consider this growing body of research and its implications for software patent policy.

Over time, it has become increasingly clear that software patents actually hinder -- rather than promote -- innovation, said Dan Ravicher, Executive Director of PUBPAT. A reevaluation of the consequences of software patents here in America is long overdue, continued Mr. Ravicher, who will give opening remarks at the conference.

Software patents have a chilling effect on the collaborative development model of free and open source software, said Richard Fontana, SFLC Counsel, who will participate on a roundtable at the conference to consider options for patent reform. Ironically, the social benefits that patents supposedly provide -- enriching public knowledge through disclosure, discouraging duplicative research, and facilitating new technological solutions -- are intrinsic to FOSS but are endangered by software patents.

Mr. Ravicher and Mr. Fontana are both registered patent attorneys.

For more information on the conference, which will be open to the public, see http://www.researchoninnovation.org/swconf/home.htm

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