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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It would be wise to revist history...
by Saem on Tue 19th Apr 2005 22:57 UTC

I'm a little fuzzy on this, going off the top of my head. But basically patents were setup just like copyright in the 1700s. Basically, after 15 years, the monopoly ended. This was done to reward innovation and force others to find alternatives, ie. more innovation.

That's a good idea for the most part. Except, things we out grew it. Our communication and exchange systems evolved, dramatically. Money, goods and services could be exchanged much faster as time went on. The problem is we're at a point where things can be exchanged very fast, within less than a day, and I'm talking large items. The market sizes are not only huge in terms of capital, but geographic scope. This means an innovation, that is patented, can be used to make money faster than it could have been done even 5 to 10 years ago. Think about how far E-bay has come along during that time, it's huge, even in 5 years. Now, this has not only increased the rate of change of capital systems (economies) but it has done the same thing for intellectual systems, consider how much smarter you are just because of Google, Wikipedia or a specialty site like this one. You can learn at a much faster pace. Not only that due to modern day tools you can make things faster and cheaper as well.

This means innovations come faster and make more money. The problem is during all this while the monopolies given to the innovators have increased in time. It makes far more sense to reduce the amount of time a monopoly is given over an innovation.

But it doesn't stop there, our rate of information generation has left us in the mud when it comes to searching it exhaustively. We can't effectively find prior art. We can't validate patents. So searching for prior art is brutally difficult and expensive. The system is no longer able to work for us, it is not scalable. We need a replacement.

Not only that, talk to many venture capitalists. They won't invest in ideas easily. They want to invest in concrete things, if the inventor (think a garage inventor) doesn't actually implement things and try and get to a state where they can take it to market or be very close to taking it to market, they won't find any investment. So on an individual level it's very difficult to make money of such innovations. Not to mention barriers of entries of a lot of fields are rather high. Large companies are the primary benefactors of patents and copyright.

Now in particular, when it comes to software, it gets worse. There are generalities, like mathematics. You can solve entire abstract class of problems (data structures, algorithms, patterns) in software let alone specifics such as double clicking. It's basically impossible to differentiate, it all depends on the abstraction level you're using to describe it. Things change dramatically. Like mathematics software shouldn't be patented.