David A. Wheeler's Blog

Tue, 23 Nov 2004

Software patents — keep protesting

Linus Torvalds (lead developer of the Linux kernel), Michael Widenius (lead for MySQL) and Rasmus Lerdorf (lead for PHP) have written an appeal to the EU Council against software patents in Europe. This letter is useful as yet another ray of sunlight into a sea of deceptive practices. Here’s what the letter reveals: “The draft directive in question is deceptive because it leads laymen, and even those legal professionals who are not familiar with the intricacies of patent law, to falsely believe that it would exclude software from patentability. However, it is actually a compilation of the entirety of the excuses with which the patent system has, for many years, been circumventing article 52 of the European Patent Convention in order to grant patents on software ideas.”

I think that the patented webshop in particular shows why patents have always been excluded from patenting in Europe (and were originally excluded everywhere, until big money bought the laws of some countries). You should also see this link to relevant excerpts from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission Report. For example:

Many panelists and participants expressed the view that software and Internet patents are impeding innovation. They stated that such patents are impairing follow-on incentives, increasing entry barriers, creating uncertainty that harms incentives to invest in innovation, and producing patent thickets. Panelists discussed how defensive patenting increases the complexity of patent thickets and forces companies to divert resources from R&D into obtaining patents. Commentators noted that patent thickets make it more difficult to commercialize new products and raise uncertainty and investment risks. Some panelists also noted that hold-up has become a problem that can result in higher prices being passed along to consumers.
Note that after discussing the various ways that patents are intended to spur innovation, “Commentators were generally skeptical about the benefits of the patent system in these [software and Internet] industries.”

You can see my patent blackout page, so you can get its information even when it’s not the front page of my site.

For more information on the problem, and how you can help stop this absurd notion, see NoSoftwarePatents.com and the FFII.

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