Software Patent Debate

[Recorded: August 24, 2011]
Proponents of software patents argue that software deserves the protection of patents just as any other invention does. Software is simply a description of computer instructions that allow a processor to perform complex tasks. Particularly in today’s knowledge economy, the value of software is growing and patents protect the investment of time, effort, and money made by companies and individual programmers.

Critics of software patents argue that they stifle innovation rather than promote it by cutting off the free flow of ideas needed to advance technology. Software consists of mathematical equations, which cannot and should not be patentable. Most software patents describe algorithms that are simple or obvious to a programmer of ordinary skill and thus do not deserve patent protection.

Bob Zeidman is the president and founder of Zeidman Consulting, a premiere contract research and development firm in Silicon Valley that focuses on engineering consulting to law firms about intellectual property disputes. Clients have included Apple Computer, Cisco Systems, Cadence Design Systems, Facebook, Intel, Symantec, Texas Instruments, and Zynga. Bob is also the president and founder of Software Analysis and Forensic Engineering Corporation, the leading provider of software intellectual property analysis tools. Bob has worked on and testified in nearly 100 cases involving billions of dollars in disputed intellectual property.

Bob is a prolific writer and instructor, giving seminars at conferences around the world. Among his publications are numerous articles on engineering and business as well as four textbooks, two novels, and three screenplays. Bob holds numerous patents and earned two bachelor’s degrees, in physics and electrical engineering, from Cornell University and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University.

Edward A. Lee has been on the faculty in the Electrical Engineering
and Computer Sciences (EECS) department at U.C. Berkeley for more than 25 years. He has served as chair of the department and currently holds the Robert S. Pepper Distinguished Professorship. He has been a proponent of open source software and has headed the design and development of an open source design environment known as Ptolemy. He is a co-founder of BDTI, Inc., a technical analysis and advising company, where he is currently a Senior Technical Ad visor, has consulted for a number of other companies, and has served as an expert witness and/or advisor in software patent litigation cases. His research interests center on design, modeling, and analysis of embedded, real-time computational systems. He is a director of Chess, the Berkeley Center for Hybrid and Embedded Software Systems. He has published extensively, including six books and hundreds of research papers. Prior to Berkeley, Prof. Lee was a member of technical staff at Bell Telephone Laboratories in Holmdel, New Jersey, in the Advanced Data Communications Laboratory. His Bachelors degree (B.S.) is from Yale University (1979), his masters (S.M.) from MIT (1981), and his Ph.D. from U. C. Berkeley (1986). He is a Fellow of the IEEE, was an NSF Presidential Young Investigator, and won the 1997 Frederick Emmons Terman Award for Engineering Education.

John C. Hollar, President and Chief Executive Officer, Computer History Museum. He has served as CEO since 2008, and holds bachelor’s degrees in political science and journalism (BFA), and in law (JD) from Harvard Law School.


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