As today I'm trying to make heads and tails of a few Microsoft patents which are said that some Linux distributions might infringe, I wanted to share a few links on how to read patents (especially for non-lawyers). There is some dark art behind it, but for basic use it can managable if you know how to.
If you just need to quickly go through the patent (which is more often then not the case), Dan Shapiro has a nice blog post on How to Read a Patent in 60 Seconds. These are the very basics.
For a bit more advanced questions and a better, yet still practical, analysis check out Andrew Tridgell's (of Samba and Rsync fame) presentation titled Patent Defence for Free Software. In about 45 minutes he describes how patent applications look like, how to read them, how to fill a claim chart to show to your lawyer and how the Free Software community should best tackle patents. If after Saphiro's method you aren't sure that you're not infringing or have other reasons to read the patent, do watch or read Tridge's presentation.
Some more legalese, yet short and to the point drections are also published by Brown & Michaels, PC.
Another thing I learnt today is that software patents are a bloody pain to read. You have to know both the legal and technical bits and then there's the wording with (intentional) ambiguity and vagueness. BTW, the myths about half-page long sentances in patent claims are true! …I'll need some more practice with these buggers, but this could be fun ;)
hook out → bed, most definetly, bed; more patent madness tomorrow
P.S. Moreover I think (software) patents should be abolished. (cf. Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam)