What if all software patent applications had to include all of the relevant source code?
Patents only cover a process rather than an implementation. Registering for a U.S. Copyright would require all or some of the code though (depending on how much code you have), but of course that doesn't protect anyone from patent infringement, so one is stuck registering for both if they want complete protection.
My understanding of Patents was that they were initially meant to protect an inventor from somebody from blatantly reverse engineering their process through describing that process with a fair amount of detail; and that they were never meant to protect from somebody implementing their own process with the same or similar end results. I suspect that American corporatism is what has warped the concept.
I believe the intent of software patents was to expand the legal industry. Overall, every other interested party loses, but the lawyers win on both sides of any dispute. Also, the attorneys running the USPTO win as well as they become bigger bureaucrats.
So how did software patents come about? USPTO had some prior examples (in violation of patent law, but I'm not an attorney) and then held two public hearings (first on east coast, final on west coast (San Jose)). The voting broke down basically as follows: attorneys argued for, and software engineers argued against. A few patent holders software business owners argued for as well.
How was the decision made? Well, I'll give you a hint. The esteemed USPTO (well, let's put a name to the organization: Bruce Lehman) committee was all lawyers. Do I need to tell you how the (conflict of interest) decision turned out? The rest is current history.
and that they were never meant to protect from somebody implementing their own process with the same or similar end results
I'm completely against software patents, but your logic is beyond flawed. The purpose of a patent is to protect the end-result "intellectual property" of a process or product. The details of achieving this are not at issue.
Re: old patents...
Look at an old book of patented devices. Or go to an antique store or agriculture museum. There you will find all sorts of variations of patented devices that are functionally equivalent, but differ in sometimes trivial ways as to be "different".
John Deere patented his plow, and everyone else copied it "differently"...
Guest, I think you've misunderstand my point. What I consider to be the end result would be solving the problem that a particular solution means to solve and not the details thereof.
For example... I want the mice in my house dead, which am I to choose? Poison, Trap, Sonic Annoyance, or Small Rodent Beheading Device? Obviously, all of these are separately patentable solutions to a single problem.
Similarly, in answering the question "I want my email to find it's way to my Mobile Phone" there are multiple technical solutions (MAPI events, push, pull, yadda yadda) each of which are patentable, but one can't patent the end result.
Anyway, late in the game for this response, but I thought I'd throw it out there.