11/21/2000; 4:13:58 PM
Europe is starting to debate in earnest about the patentability of software, according to this Wired article. The Software Patent Working Group of the FFII has prepared a list of silly European patents. Some highlights:
- select cooking recipes to generate a list of items to buy: Calculate lists of things to buy with buying instructions, based on cooking recipes specified by a user. The "technical contribution" lies in the fact that a printer and a monitor are used.
- Global user interface: A help system in which commands are context specific. This patent consists of only one claim, short and broad. The description behind it refers to a command environment for the Unix system which the company allegedly created and which is similar to Niklas Wirth's Oberon.
- Method and apparatus for path name format conversion: Separation of pathnames into their components. Some subclaims refer to the normal procedure necessary for converting Windows95 filenames to WindowsNT filenames.
As any computer person could tell you, these patents are either vital to the functioning of any computer (global UI) or trivial (the other two) and do not deserve patents, either because they are trivial or because if actually enforced would completely prevent competition.