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LWN.net Weekly Edition for June 20, 2013
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Dividing the Linux desktop
LWN.net Weekly Edition for June 13, 2013
A report from pgCon 2013
So when a congressperson wonders about IP law, they call an IP lawyer to discuss. Who inevitably will explain how IP law is great, apart for being too lax, and should be extended to cover even more.
Posted Oct 9, 2012 9:31 UTC (Tue) by man_ls (subscriber, #15091)
Posted Oct 9, 2012 9:40 UTC (Tue) by kugel (subscriber, #70540)
Posted Oct 9, 2012 12:32 UTC (Tue) by KSteffensen (subscriber, #68295)
Who you know makes a difference.
Posted Oct 9, 2012 17:45 UTC (Tue) by dmarti (subscriber, #11625)
One has to imagine that if people close to [Judge] Michel—say, a son who was trying to start a software company—were regularly getting hit by frivolous patent lawsuits, he would suddenly take the issue more seriously. But successful software entrepreneurs are a small fraction of the population, and most likely no judges of the Federal Circuit have close relationships with one. In contrast, every judge on the Federal Circuit knows numerous patent attorneys, so they’re well-attuned to the concerns and strongly pro-patent worldview of the patent bar.
Posted Oct 9, 2012 13:11 UTC (Tue) by man_ls (subscriber, #15091)
In practice, there is no need to ask inventors because of my original argument: the law works well enough for many people, and they are powerful.
Posted Oct 9, 2012 15:28 UTC (Tue) by nybble41 (subscriber, #55106)
While this is a common misconception, inventors are not the intended beneficiaries of patent law. Patent law is supposed to benefit the public, by incentivising invention and encouraging inventors to publicize the workings of their inventions. Benefiting inventors is only a side-effect, not the goal.
(How well it accomplishes that goal, and whether the cost in liberty was justifiable in the first place, are debatable; however, that is an argument for another time.)
While inventors may have some input to offer on the effectiveness of any given incentive structure, it is the public which pays the cost of these patent monopolies, ostensibly implemented for their benefit, and which should have the ultimate say regarding both their existence and their form.
Posted Oct 9, 2012 18:36 UTC (Tue) by rgmoore (subscriber, #75)
The problem is that almost any group that knows enough to have a well thought-out opinion will be deeply enough involved to be biased. Disinterested experts do sometimes exist, but they're rare on any topic, not just patents. People tend not to form deep, well informed ideas about any topic until they have a strong reason to have them, and the reason is almost always the kind of direct interest in the topic that also introduces bias.
The problem that's more specific to patents is that the groups with the loudest voices- the patent office, patent lawyers, and inventors- are almost all on the same side of the issue. Even the big targets of patent trolls, like Google, have something to gain from software patents, because they can be used to shut down potential competitors while they're still small. The people who have the most to lose from software patents are those small players- open source projects, startups, and the like- who don't have their own portfolio that can be used defensively and can be shut out of the market by larger players. Those small players have a hard time making themselves heard, almost by definition.
Posted Oct 9, 2012 20:53 UTC (Tue) by paulj (subscriber, #341)
Posted Oct 10, 2012 5:44 UTC (Wed) by khim (subscriber, #9252)
Indeed, the latter might not need a study - competitors from the weak patent regimes might grow to destroy those in the strong patent regimes…
By which time it's too late to fix patents. You can read about chemical industry's involvement with patents in the Against Intellectual Monopoly book. The example is in chapter 9 and the story goes like this:
1862 - Britan & France have over 90% of market combined
1873 - Britan & France have 30-35% of market combined
1914 - US imports dues from Germany by submarines
Only Treaty of Versailles broke the hold Germany had over "civilized world" in chemistry market.
Britan and France never regained the serious chemical industry: once expertise is lost it's very hard to regain it.
Posted Oct 9, 2012 20:58 UTC (Tue) by gdt (subscriber, #6284)
That is like asking a fireman about wildfires.
What are you implying here? That firefighters promote wildfires -- which destroy property and often lives -- to retain their jobs? Because although I have re-read your words a number of times I can't see that they can be read any other way.
Wrong and offensive conspiracy theory lunacy. LWN used to be better than this.
Posted Oct 9, 2012 22:21 UTC (Tue) by price (subscriber, #59790)
Perhaps the commenter was thinking of the debate and in-recent-decades shift in practices (in the US and possibly other places) from routinely suppressing all fires in large parks to letting small wildfires burn. Or perhaps something else.
Posted Oct 10, 2012 5:28 UTC (Wed) by man_ls (subscriber, #15091)
But there is a better fire-related analogy in History: Crassus (of the first triumvirate with Cesar and Pompey). Whenever there was a fire in Rome he went with his firemen and offered to buy the burning property for a small amount; then they quickly put out the fire. As the fire progressed he lowered the price and he even let the fire consume the building if there was no agreement. That (and the condemnation of at least one innocent man) was the source of his vast fortune.
Asking Crassus about firefighting laws would not have been a very good idea.
Posted Oct 10, 2012 5:48 UTC (Wed) by price (subscriber, #59790)
Indeed not. And, as with patents today, one suspects that anyone considering a change in firefighting laws would have heard from him very loudly and clearly.
Posted Oct 11, 2012 10:01 UTC (Thu) by nix (subscriber, #2304)
most of the elected members of government have no clue on law
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