[Edu-sig] Re: politics,again

Mats Wichmann mats at laplaza.org
Sun Oct 5 13:38:55 EDT 2003

At 05:03 PM 10/5/2003 +0000, Lee Harr wrote:
 >>Me - I'm confused.
 >Me too.  I have been thinking about this quite a bit lately.  I think the
 >biggest problem I have is that most of the software patents I have
 >read are descriptions of problems, rather than descriptions of the
 >solutions to problems.  In other words, these software patents are
 >allowing people (corporations, really) to stake out entire problem
 >spaces, and thereby prevent any innovation in solving the problems.

Someone made an excellent statement, which I think bears

Patents are not a "natural right", they are an instrument
of economic policy. And that policy can, and should, be
written in a way such that it actually fosters economic growth.

I'm not at all convinced (but then I'm not the decision
maker here) that eliminating all software patents would
in any way decrease innovation and growth in the software
business, probably the opposite.

The recent trend has been for larger companies to build
huge patent portfolios.  I know my current employer keeps
encouraging all engineers to file patent applications on,
well, everything.  But mostly, these portfolios don't
generate revenue, they become defensive.  If someone
threatens a patent claim, a trade (formal or informal)
is brokered.  This has made a particularly repugnant
entity very powerful at least in the US: companies holding
one or more patents, but with no products at all.  Since
they produce nothing, there's nothing they can infringe,
and thus they're immune to the usual trading scheme.
Somehow I can't imagine encouraging leeches like this
is the situation the patent policy was intended to foster.

But I guess we're wondering (way) off the charter of the list...

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