Friday, August 25, 2006

Software patent on the BBC

I have been enjoying watching the Dragon's Den on BBC2. This is a TV program where inventors pitch their ideas to a group of potential investors. The combination of wacky inventions, nervous pitches, colourful personalities and some memorable put-downs make this a quite enjoyable program. Last night's winner was one Mr. Ian Chamings, a former DJ and now a patent attorney. His pitch was for a website called MixAlbum.com (the site seems to be under construction at the moment). The site is an iTunes for dance music, with the supposed novelty that it can automatically mix two songs and sell the result. Mr Chamings obtained £150,000 GBP from two Dragons for 40% of his company. One of the elements that swayed the investors was the fact that Mr Chamings has a patent on his work.

Needless to say, as soon as I heard the word "patent" my interest was piqued. Doing some research, I have found that this software is indeed patented as a "computer aided music mixing system" under UK patent GB2370405. I'm really surprised that this product was able to get a patent in the UK! The abstract and the patent clearly are describing an algorithm for software. This is not a computer implemented invention in the sense of the defunct European Directive, and most certainly it is not under any conceivable manner a computer application that has a technical effect, as required by European and UK patent practice and case law.

Furthermore, mixing software is not a novel idea, and the prior art is extensive, as there has been mixing software in the market for years and years, (MixMeister and MixVibes just to mention two of them). The patent application discusses some of the prior art, but claims novelty on the grounds of being an automated system, and because it performs the mixing more efficiently than its predecessors, which in itself should not warrant a patent.

This is further evidence of the insidious creep of software patents in the UK and Europe, as if further evidence was required, considering the wealth of examples of already patented software.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

The "winner" of that episode of Dragon's Den was a chartered Patent Attorney. Knowing the system helps, I guess.

Andres Guadamuz said...

He also stated "I had a little help from my friends" *wink*wink*

I wonder what he meant by that.

rocan said...

Yes I did not understand how he could legitimately patent software under UK law and was in fact shouting "you cannot patent software!" at the TV.

This patent would clearly fail if he tried to enforce it against someone apparently copying his system.

Ian said...

Hi All
Someone forwarded this blog to me and just to clarify the points raised:

re: the main blog: A perfect example of not reading things through - I have no patent on any SOFTWARE at all! I have a patent on HOW the mixing is done, and it is clearly very different to Mixmeister etc etc etc which I think I even mentioned in the patent.

re: Andraos: i meant i was working in a good patent firm with people who had more experience than me so we could get a cast iron patent.

re: rocan: completely agree - you can't hold up a 'software' patent. as above, mine is a method of mixing - one way of acheiving this is by software. subtle differences but it makes all the difference in court.

look forward to your responses!
ian

Michael said...

Ian.. What is it exactly that you have patented?

If I were to make a program from scratch that could mix music tracks online at the choice of the consumer you could stop me doing that?

Surely since my way of mixing the music would be different to yours (since we cannot find out how yours is mixed) you wouldnt have a leg to stand on?

Michael

Michael said...

*updated.

After just reading the patent and the system used to beatmatch the audio files I find it absolutely rediculous that you were given a patent for this.

You said that the way "how" the mixing is done is very different to Mixmeister etc - this is absolute twaddle.

1. You detect the first beat in the file
2. You beatmatch the audio files (find bpm and adjust speed of one to match the other)
3. Start the second track playing near the end of the first track.
4. Introduce the next track at low velocity.
5. swap them over.

you think this is original!?!?!

You have somehow managed to patent the fundementals of beatmatching, then have the cheek to call it original... EVERY piece of music software beatmatches like this... what a joke.

Anonymous said...

This is funny, you seem to be getting very cross and at the same time missing the most essential points! Firstly I would like to absolutely slate your points in turn, and in so doing hopefully clarifying where the Genius comes in!

re your numbering:
1: wrong
2: yes, as every mix needs, nothing inventive here
3: how succinct! this is where you're missing the point Micheal - you tell me where to bring in the tracks exactly. And, (inventive step moment being eluded to here Micheal take note) you tell me where to bring track 2 in after track 1, and take it out, and seperately where to bring track 3 in after track 1, and take it out. Mixmeister doesnt do this..
4. Either you can beat match the tracks as in 2 or you can bring them in at some arbitrary "low velocity", be consistent you can't have both.
5. well done.

Forgive the patronising tone which I couldn't resist following such unprofessional terms as "twaddle", "cheek" etc delivered with such pomposity, but it is delightful to read your comments which to anyone who understands mixing to a depth beyond that of a 12 year old are genuinely laughable! In fact could i ask what your background is, I don't think your understanding of the principles of 'software patents' is actually up to much either to be honest?

I gleefully await your response!

Ian

omnicity said...

Ian: I have just seen the re-run of Dragon's Den, and came to this article after reading through your ridiculous patent.

I cannot see how you can possibly justify this - the patent describes itself as 'computer-aided' which is absolute rubbish. This entire process is entirely dependant on one or more computers. What is more, if you suggest that this process can be extended to include human-controlled devices, then the prior art becomes over-whelming.

How much longer have you got before the Dragon's money runs out?