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Re: The patent process [Was Re: Sharing the Family PC is Patent-Pending]

From: Alun
Subject: Re: The patent process [Was Re: Sharing the Family PC is Patent-Pending]
Date: 13 May 2004 11:35:14 GMT
User-agent: Xnews/4.11.09

Stefaan A Eeckels <> wrote in">

> On 12 May 2004 16:33:10 GMT
> Alun <> wrote:
>> I think that tends to happen here in Usenet. The only real answer is to 
>> learn how to read claims. 
> Which is exactly why they're useless for what should be
> the pay-off society gets for granting the monopoly: 
> disclosure. I once had a long discussion with my uncle
> (who is a contract lawyer) on how to (as a language-savvy,
> well-read, college-educated MSc in Geology) learn to 
> understand contracts (which are at first sight far more
> readable than a patent). In his opinion, laypeople shouldn't
> try to interpret contracts, or for that matter any legal
> document, at least if they did so to ateempt to ensure 
> freedom from legal wranglings. 
> His arguments boiled down to (as far as I remember, all
> errors and omissions are mine):
> 1. Suing someone is a fundamental right, and unless the
>    opposing lawyer is grossly incompetent, it is unlikely
>    that a suit will be dismissed out of hand.
> 1. Even a lawyer cannot ever categorically state that
>    a particular clause is legal (ie conform to the current
>    law). He can only give his considered opinion (which
>    carries more weight than that of a layperson), but
>    this would not stop the other party or the legal 
>    authorities from suing. A trial is the only test that
>    matters.
> 2. Interpreting certain wordings or formulations requires
>    access to a legal library. 
> 3. The act of consulting a lawyer carries weight. 
> 4. Interested parties cannot dispassionately examine a
>    legal document.

I would say that this may be going a little too far. Whilst you never know 
if some apparently inocuous clause may be a problem, not all contracts have 
to be complex. It pays to learn some contract law at least. I think it 
would help you understand contracts. But I'm a patent agent, and not 
considered to be a lawyer, which is synonymous with attorney in the US.
> His summary was that whenever one did something that might
> result in the other party suing, one should avail oneself
> of the services of a competent lawyer (ie one with experience
> in the field), one can never avoid being sued, and one can
> never be sure one is going to prevail.

Whilst technically true, I don't think it's worth most people losing any 
sleep over. It should be possible to at least avoid doing anything that a 
reasonable person would sue you for. The unreasonable ones are another 
> If this is correct, a software author should have every
> program examined by a patent attorney, have a stash of
> cash in order to be able to defend a lawsuit, and prepare
> to spend time in court if ever one of her programs is seen
> as a threat by one of the big boys, in which case it is
> better to sell them the program before she's bankrupted.

I wouldn't say every programme. If you are doing something that you think 
may be patented then it may be a good idea to get advice, but the vast 
majority of software doesn't rise to that level.  

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