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Stop talking about "Software Patents" as being special

Stop talking about "Software Patents" as being special

Posted Nov 7, 2012 15:57 UTC (Wed) by pboddie (guest, #50784)
In reply to: Stop talking about "Software Patents" as being special by k3ninho
Parent article: Let’s Limit the Effect of Software Patents, Since We Can’t Eliminate Them (Wired)

My preferred hack would be to acknowledge the rate of change in the computing and create a Monopoly Patent for Computer-Implemented Invention which has a short time-span: 3 extensible to 5 years.

I think that people have to step back and ask why we're giving people monopolies on anything at all. Normally, monopolies are highly undesirable things: imagine how popular you'd be if you stipulated that only Dell could sell computers in your country, only Ford could sell cars, only AT&T could provide mobile services, and so on. The question that comes to mind is "What benefit does society get from granting this favour?" and the answer often appears to have something to do with someone benefiting, but not society.

At the risk of dredging up another political discussion, having a patent bureaucracy tracking every man and dog's monopoly entitlement claim, along with the disputes resulting from such claims, is a huge waste of resources not dissimilar to having a huge tax bureaucracy because people can't work up the courage to reform the tax system properly, and so instead of simplifying the system and risking an unforeseen loss of revenue, more loopholes and concessions are tacked on to ease the tax burden and make the system seem kinder. Naturally, this only helps those who have the time to waste or the money to spend on accountants, and so we all know who benefits from such meddling.

Ultimately, such bureaucracy and the associated baggage starts to drag everyone and everything else down with it. Even countries with money to waste on such work-creation schemes would be better off putting those employed in such schemes into more productive employment.

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Stop talking about "Software Patents" as being special

Posted Nov 7, 2012 21:15 UTC (Wed) by dlang (subscriber, #313) [Link]

> I think that people have to step back and ask why we're giving people monopolies on anything at all.

This is a very good thing to keep in mind.

In the case of patents, the reason for giving people 'short' monopolies on something is that without doing so, the people would instead use the invention as a "Trade Secret". A Trade Secret, if maintained is worse than a monopoly. Not only does only one company ever use it, but that one company is the only one to EVER use it. A Trade Secret never expires, and if the company folds (or the inventor dies), that invention may be lost and need to be reinvented independently.

If an invention is simple enough that waiting for it to be invented independently is not a big deal, then it should fail the tests for being "novel" and "not obvious to someone normally skilled in the field". As noted above, one problem with the patent system today is that these criteria are not being enforced, so low-quality patents are being granted.

Stop talking about "Software Patents" as being special

Posted Nov 8, 2012 13:11 UTC (Thu) by pboddie (guest, #50784) [Link]

The lost knowledge argument is a potent one, and one we really have to address in any effort to advocate the elimination of patents in some fields or in general. There are alternatives to patents as rewards, of course, such as prizes where the government (or society, if you hate the g-word!) effectively pays for the knowledge to be freely available to all, which I seem to recall being the case for things like photography and other work done in the nineteenth century and earlier.

One interesting recent case of the use of trade secrets instead of patents was brought up by Elon Musk in an interview about SpaceX:

In effect, SpaceX sees no merit in patents because they would supposedly allow competitors in places where patents are unenforceable to "use them as a recipe book" and thus undermine SpaceX's cost advantage. Advocates of widespread patenting and universally enforced patents might argue that this could give SpaceX an effective monopoly, too, if the company became a dominant actor in commercial spaceflight.

But even a patent system that is "ideal" according to the expectations of patent advocates might not persuade SpaceX to participate or produce the kind of licensing that would be most beneficial to society - a phenomenon we are all now familiar with in our own field, of course. And as soon as one gets into compulsory licensing, one might as well start considering doing away with patents altogether and implementing some of the alternatives.

Stop talking about "Software Patents" as being special

Posted Nov 8, 2012 19:39 UTC (Thu) by dlang (subscriber, #313) [Link]

There are always going to be some companies that choose secrecy over patents. Coca-Cola has built quite a company around a trade secret formula.

The existance of a few such companies is not a problem, but you are right, where a large percentage of companies cling to secrecy, there is a problem.

A good example of this is the current GPU market, just about everyone is keeping the details of what they are doing secret, in spite of a large number of patents being filed.

Stop talking about "Software Patents" as being special

Posted Nov 8, 2012 21:19 UTC (Thu) by Cyberax (✭ supporter ✭, #52523) [Link]

Coca-Cola is a bad example. A good lab can easily reverse-engineer Coca-Cola's formula, with moderate expenses.

It just makes no sense to do this. Nobody would buy your drink if you market it as: "Tastes exactly like Coca-Cola!"

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