Kill software patents
Posted Dec 4, 2008 17:31 UTC (Thu) by lysse
In reply to: Kill software patents
Parent article: KSM runs into patent trouble
Whilst obviousness is an additional problem, it's not the whole problem. Software patents do whole swathes of damage because software is the transliteration of mathematical algorithms. It's the difference between patenting a particular machine that multiplies by the operation of a series of switches and patenting the concept of multiplication itself.
Consider the motivation for introducing patents. The argument usually put is that patents protect the inventor of a machine, who might have invested considerable sums in the development of that machine, from being unable to recoup his costs because someone else has duplicated that machine exactly and can now sell it for only the costs of manufacture, without the need to recoup development costs. Well - the costs of manufacture in the case of software are precisely zero, but so are the costs of development; someone else who develops a broadly functionally similar program is still likely to end up spending just as much (or as little) writing it as the original developer, even if they end up slavishly duplicating every single technique and algorithm of the original. (Moreover, that duplication becomes necessary in cases like file format compatibility, as we've seen... extensively.) In any case, the duplication of software is already adequately protected by copyright law - which, of course, does not extend to mechanisms, which is why patents were seen as required in the first place; copyright law only covers form, not function - but software is form; the function is provided by the machine on which the software runs.
to post comments)