Difficult for a farm boy like me
Posted May 5, 2005 10:14 UTC (Thu) by NRArnot
In reply to: Difficult for a farm boy like me
Parent article: Software, reverse engineering and the law
Yes, you're pretty much right that a patent is a legal right to obtain money or a monopoly using threats (of legal enforcement). Extortion is much the same except the right claimed is not legally granted and the threat is prohibited rather than legally sanctioned.
Our legislatures seem to have forgotten why patents were first introduced: to preserve knowledge and to allow progress extending beyond one person's lifetime. Originally a master craftsman kept his best tricks secret, so as to prevent every other lesser craftsman from undercutting him. If the world was lucky he trained an apprentice or two, or pooled his knowledge within a guild of master craftsmen. But all too often, knowledge died with its posessors.
A patent was a legal monopoly to exploit an idea and to prevent others from doing so, granted in exchange for full disclosure. After the patent expired, anyone could use the idea. There was no longer any risk of it dying with its inventor. Progress once made was progress forever.
It's time that full disclosure is again insisted on as part of a patent. There should be a hard line between a patent and a trade secret: if the patent makes insufficient disclosure for it to be easily copied after the patent expires, it should automatically be invalid.
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