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Tech-Talk Troubles

One problem with software patents, compared with those in other areas, is the language used. Patents granted for pharmaceuticals, for instance, use a chemistry lexicon to describe the specifics of what the invention accomplishes: compounds, bonds, and reactions. Sidebar to: The U.S. Patent System In Crisis
One problem with software patents, compared with those in other areas, is the language used. Patents granted for pharmaceuticals, for instance, use a chemistry lexicon to describe the specifics of what the invention accomplishes: compounds, bonds, and reactions. "The language of chemistry is hundreds of years old, and it's really clear," says Dave Kappos, senior intellectual property counsel at IBM.

Juxtapose that with software, which has no such lexicon. "Software-related inventions typically are described processes, with very general functional language involving taking a first data entry and transporting it to a data location and taking it to a second data entry," Kappos says. "It's really difficult to understand what those mean. A lot of the problem boils down to the lexicon. That's not the fault of [the] Patent Office. It's not really the fault of anybody. It's just a problem that we have to live with."

Changes have been proposed to the patent examination process that would let third parties and rivals submit documentation about software during the application process and in reviews after patents are granted. These adjustments could help define the exact purpose of an invention, Kappos says. Beyond that, technospeak will continue to be a challenge.

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The U.S. Patent System In Crisis

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