Linked by Christian Schaller on Tue 19th Apr 2005 18:26 UTC
Legal We today face the risk of software patents being approved in the EU because not enough parliamentary members will be showing up to vote. Due to this it is important for those of us who oppose software patents to make sure EU parliament members see the damage software patents cause, so they realize it is important to be there to vote providing the needed absolute majority. But sending out a clear message is also important for the process of patent reform in the US and other places who have fallen into the trap of introducing them.
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by Uno Engborg on Tue 19th Apr 2005 19:51 UTC

As an American reader, I'm slightly confused. Why, exactly, are software patents bad? Don't patents protect intellectual property and make it so that companies (Microsoft, Adobe, whoever) can not worry about whether their prodecuts are going to be reverse engineered? I really don't see what is bad about this. If someone could clear this up for me that would be great.

The problem is that its almost impossible to determine if there is prior art. Most of the things that is patented in software today is obvious or close to obvious to a person with a degree in CS. This means that employees of Microsoft easily without knowing it could violate patents without knowing it. In a product like windows, MS-word or some major Adobe product I would guess that there are hundreds or more problems/product.

Patents is not really a problem as long as these patents are owned by other sofware makers, then they could probably make some cross licence agreement as any software maker that make a medium size or bigger product will have similar problems.

Now, what if the patent is owned by a law firm not interested in making sofware but just cash in on the marketing efforts made by Microsoft or whoever violates the patent. In fact the only kind of business that have a chance on make any money on software patents is the ones that do not produce anything but ideas.

This means that sofware patens just becomes a financial risk even to large companies like Microsoft and IBM. To smaller companies that risk may mean that its harder to get financial backing to some new project and that means that innovation suffers.

Speaking of law firms, the job of a lawyer is actually quite similar to that of a software developer. He works with a strict set of rules and combines them in new ways to create a product that serves his customer. Why shouldn't he be able to patent that? Lawyers frequently look up case history, before a trial so they wouldn't have the problem of finding prior art that the software developer has. That way a law firm could get good at something and get money from all other lawyers that utilizes the same loopholes in the law to give their customers some smart advice.

Similar things could be applied to litterature. I imagine that there are far more pennyless novelists than there are programmers why shouldn't they have the same protection for their experessions of their thaughts. After all they have a much richer language to express ideas than "if" "then" "else" "while" that the programmer is confined to. So they would have a far better chance of making something unique worht protection.

If you write a criminal novel and come up with a great new concept that you think nobody ever have used why shouldn't you be able to protect that idea. E.g. if you your character commits murder by using a gun, shouldn't you be able to patent that. Perhaps you add some love to your story, but unfortunately that may allready be patented so you have to do without, or pay licence fees.