Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 8th Oct 2012 09:24 UTC
Legal The failing US patent system is getting ever more mainstream - The New York Times is running a long and details piece on the failings of the system, especially in relation to the technology industry most of us hold so dearly. Most of the stuff in there isn't new to us - but there's two things in the article I want to highlight.
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Most indy developers hate software patents because it's alot of pain with virtually no gain for most of us. We simply don't have the resources to hire legal teams to file patents and assert them, and even if we did that's not the direction we want for our businesses. Now maybe patent trolling/suing can be profitable for those who specialise in it, but I'd be ashamed of anyone whose freshman CS/SE dream job was becoming a patent troll. Maybe it's just a fact of life that we have to live with, but do we? Software development flourished prior to being patentable. All this patent overhead (20% of R&D from the article) is a significant burden on the tech sector and there's little doubt that the product of this is wasted human endeavour.

We prefer copyrights to protect our work since a copyright don't exclude multiple developers from working independently with the same ideas - that's how writing code is similar to writing literature, and that's were patents fundamentally break down. There just aren't enough good & unique solutions available to go around to all developers working on the same problems, this implies overlap. For instance, if you develop a video/voice over IP solution, you will necessarily step over the work over others before you. If you write an email client, same deal. If you write a game, there again you'll infringe someone else's algorithms. Mind you it's not that you "copied" them, no not at all. It's that the best solution you derived for yourself has already been derived by someone before you. This is my biggest gripe with software patents, they are being used as weapons against other competitors who are solving the same problems, rather than as a means of recouping development costs.

We may disagree on ideology, but I hope we can agree on one fact, a patent system that is faithfully adhered to by every software developer (corp & indy) is fundamentally unscalable. Or more succinctly, it requires ever more resources year by year to be committed to cross checking claims such that development eventually becomes economically non-viable for an increasing number of software developers due to patent system overhead.

Edited 2012-10-09 03:42 UTC

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