Software patents put on hold in India

In a welcome move, the Indian patent office has temporarily stopped issuing software patents.

"In view of several representations received regarding interpretation and scope of section 3(k) of the Patents Act 1970 (as amended), the Guidelines for Examination of Computer Related Inventions... are kept in abeyance till discussions with stakeholders are completed and contentious issues are resolved," the Controller General of Patents said in a notification issued last week.

Again, this is a temporary measure and given the intensive lobbying that happens behind doors, it could still be revised. But thanks to Ispirt, The Software Freedom Law Center, this is being considered seriously by the office.

As the article points out, software patents are ravaging the US software industry. For the big guys, they are used akin to the Mutually Assured Destruction mentality of the cold war, with every company keeping a vast portfolio of patents to fight back with if they are attacked for the same. But there is a big impact on smaller companies too. Bloomberg reports that:

Big companies are not the only ones being clobbered. According to a 2012 study by Boston University Law School professors Michael J. Meurer and James Bessen, some 90 percent of all patent-troll lawsuits are aimed at small and midsize companies. And these companies, when faced with unfathomable potential legal costs, often pay off the trolls just to make them go away.

Overall, Meurer and Bessen found, this abusive system is draining billions of dollars annually from the economy, transferring an estimated $29 billion in 2011 alone from the bank accounts of companies that produce things to patent trolls. Of this, small and midsize businesses, the types that are often at the cutting edge of innovation, paid about 37 percent of the total–money that could have been put to much better use.

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