Saturday, March 10, 2007

What is "software"?

The word "software" appears in the phrase "software patents".

Unless you've been living under a large boulder, you probably know that things known as "software patents" are a source of great contention.

Some people hate "software patents" with a passion while others come to the defense of these hypothetical monsters with equal vigor.

Before tackling the topic of "software patents" per se, one must first come to grips with the definition of "software" itself.
What is software?

Like the proverbial blind men circling the elephant, everyone seems to have a personal encounter with "software" and an explanation that satisfies, well at least their own personal curiosity.

A lay person may explain it this way:
"Well I went into the store and asked the fella where they keep their wordprocessing software. He pointed me to the aisle and I bought the box. Then I stuck this disc thing into my computer, and to my great satisfaction, my home computer became a sophisticated typing machine. That's software for you. It comes in a box. You buy it. You put it in your computer. It makes you happy.
From the Supreme minds of the Supreme Court of the land of the USA come these observations on "software":
JUSTICE GINSBURG: ... as I understand it, that what you call the object code appears in the -- in the computer that it's -- that is what is sent, along with the master disk, and the object code is the critical component, according to AT&T. In fact, wasn't that the first question that you raised, whether digital software code, an intangible sequence of 1's and 0's may be considered a component of a patent, patented invention? ... JUSTICE STEVENS: Well, I'm a little confused, ... I thought it was the software which was arguably the component, not any physical manifestation. ... MR. OLSON: ... Three decades of patent jurisprudence have authoritatively recognized software to be a physical and structural component of patented machines. ... MR. OLSON: ... people use the word "software" in two different ways. One of which, they use it as the intangible series of 1's and 0's. We submit that the correct way to understand the word "software" is the physical manifestation of that what is called source code, which is made into object code, which is made into machine readable code. ... JUSTICE SOUTER: In other words, the disk plus the -- plus the coded instructions. ... JUSTICE STEVENS: Your time is up, but I want to ask you one yes or no question. In your view is software patentable? MR. JOSEFFER: Standing alone in and of itself, no. JUSTICE STEVENS: Thank you.
There is more in the comments as well in the next post above.

1 comment:

Step Back said...

1. The Peter principle re patterns and purpose (what is software?) may be found here.

2. The deep think from Oxford may be found here (software is everything other than hardware).

3. Maybe the "answers" are here?

4. Software is like a kick in the you know where.

5. Software is a street where the weeds can grow (and that's why software patents are "bad").