Software patent opponents tried to pull the direct democracy lever at the White House but struck out earlier this week. Now they are reassembling for another push.
Software patents rankle many in the development community who believe they enrich lawyers at the expense of innovation. In September, the critics decided to test-drive the Obama administration’s new “We the People” initiative which provides an official response to petitions that garner enough signatures.
On Monday, the White House gave a thumbs down to a petition demanding that the patent office stop issuing software patent. The response touted the virtues of the new America Invents Act but largely skated over the specific issue of software patents (Ars Technica provides an excellent account of the reasons for the rejection).
The software patent opponents appear to be a resilient lot and, as reported by patent guru Dennis Crouch, have already launched a new petition that blasts the initial response and calls on the government to try again:
The Obama Administration’s response to a previous petition shamefully attempted to absolve the President of responsibility and placate us with the toothless America Invents Act .. The President must use his full power and influence to fight harmful forces from entrenched incumbents and non-producing entities…
The petitioners may have their work cut out for them the second around. Due to the popularity of the petition program, the White House in October raised the number of signatures required for a response from 5,000 to 25,000. So far the software opponents have about 700 signatures with 27 days left to obtain the rest.
The petition is just one arena where the ever-contentious patent debate is taking place. Another one to watch is the Supreme Court which in December will again consider the scope of patentable subject matter in a medical case called Prometheus Laboratories. The Court ruled on the same issue in 2010 in a case called Bilski but its decision has been widely panned for failing to clarify what can and can’t be patented.