Software patents and Eskimo Pies

In case you don’t know what they are, Eskimo Pies are ice cream that’s been coated with chocolate. Invented by an ice cream store owner named Christian Kent Nelson they were patented by him in 1922. And that’s were the parallels with modern software patents come in. Instead of covering the formulation of the chocolate coating that took Nelson a long time to develop, it essentially only covers coating something frozen with some kind of chocolate.

This is the basic model of many of the overly-broad software patents that have been issued, many of which are nothing more than “input data, process data, output data”. Although some of these software patents do get invalidated (at no small cost to all involved) we really need reform of the patent process to eliminate them before they they end up in the system.

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