Posted Nov 4, 2003 11:20 UTC (Tue) by sanjoy
In reply to: patent commons?
Parent article: IP lawyer turns patent foe, gets grant funding
Patent commons could have benefits like the GPL ("tough love" rather the "free love" of BSD licenses).
Companies or members of the public could license patents from the commons as long as derivative patents go into the pool, on the same terms. The commons would grow, as has the pool of GPL software, increasing the benefit to agree to its terms.
Companies already make such arrangements privately. AT&T and IBM would license their patent portfolios to each other. Each had large enough portfolios that it was worth it to the other. The deal also meant that outsiders had to compete against the combined patent pool, so had no chance (as an example of how patents "promote" innovation, long ago AT&T used the patents system to delay the development of radio). A useful and legal anti-competition tactic.
During World War 2, Standard Oil of New Jersey (now Exxon) and I.G. Farben of Nazi fame used patent pools to divide up world markets in synthetic rubber and high-octane aviation gasoline, to the detriment of the US war effort. The US government could do little about it since it needed Standard's gasoline and oil for the war (Standard had the government over a barrel).
Probably the public would be better off with no patents at all, as it would be with no copyright at all (except perhaps the requirement to give credit). However, as long as copyright exists, the GPL is useful; and as long as patents exist, patent commons will be useful.
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