No doubt this might be true, but I wouldn't expect a patent officer to approve of something just because of fancy words. Some truly new concept must be clearly accounted for. The patent is given more to the working implementation of a new concept.
> For patents of physical objects and processes, the reviewer's task
> is often easier. The terminology for describing an object is less
> significant than the drawings, and there is standard terminology
> for the chemical elements and compounds.
> But you can change the names of all the variables and rewrite all
> the comments in a program, and every variation will compute exactly
> the same results. If somebody is granted a software patent, they
> can threaten to sue anybody who uses an algorithm that is provably
This is not correct, at least in Japan where I have successfully applied for and received two patents (except possibly the last line). The patent must explain a new concept. In the case of software, it basically translates to a new algorithm (not results!). No case can be brought against software that produces equivalent results using a different algorithm. Actually, this is the same for any patent application. For example, Xerox could not sue Canon for producing a machine that produces copies of text documents. Canon used a different approach, even if the results were the same. Also, I would doubt that any patent officer would even bother to read the actual code of a software application, let alone the comments. They read and evaluate the description of the algorithm.
> Prior publication is sufficient protection. If you publish something
> prior to the date of a patent application, anything that is described
> in the publication is protected. But it's important to describe your
> software with the same terminology used in the publications. That
> makes it easier to defend against some patent that uses weird words.
This also seems incorrect, in Japan at least. If you publish something
(in a journal for example), it automatically becomes public domain.
>From that point on, you cannot apply for any patent based on the
content. The content is protected in the sense that nobody else can patent your idea, but you cannot sue anybody for using your idea either. By definition, it's public domain.
In the world of corpus linguistics, we are mostly using ideas described in research papers dating back to the 1960s. In view of this, most software that we use or develop is based on public-domain ideas and so cannot be patented. If someone does manage to get a patent on their software, we still have nothing to worry about because we are using and developing software based on much earlier public-domain ideas.
> That may be true, but researchers need funding for frivolous things
> like food, shelter, and clothing. Sources that provide funding
> might be less willing to support projects that use technology
> that is threatened by patents.
This is an interesting point. What may happen from now is that funding agencies might expect us to patent our project ideas. And, if we don't propose a "new idea" in the funding application, the funding agency may be less willing to support us. Perhaps a "patent or perish" philosophy will grow, especially considering how many publishing outlets there are now.