I came across this blog post which supports software patents. I wanted to add a comment, but comments are restricted to 1000 characters on that blog and so it’ll have to be a trackback.
Patents – as envisioned by our founding fathers – was and is about rewarding and fostering innovation.
Absolutely. Whether software patents should be allowed or not depends entirely on this test.
First, why should software be different from other subject matter that is patentable? For example, pharmaceuticals and tangible items such as computers, appliances, etc? Is software, by its nature, not entitled to the same benefits of patent law?
You ask this as a rhetorical question, anticipating the answer No, but this is in fact the core of the anti-software-patent case. There are two things which make software different from tangible items.
The first is that if I give you a copy of my software, I still have it for myself. This is not true of anything tangible, and this fact alone makes the economics of software vastly different from the economics of cars or pharmaceutical pills. Therefore, I don’t think it’s valid to say “we have patents for appliances, so we must have them for software”. Fresh analysis, and going back to the reasons for the existence of patents, is necessary.
The second is that software is vastly more complex than almost anything else man makes. A car may have 10,000 parts. A software project may have 10,000,000 lines of code. This means that it contains vastly more ideas and components, and is therefore far more likely to hit patents. It’s therefore much easier for one company with a patent on a core software idea to put an innovation toll-booth up.
With software patents in place, over the past decade, I have seen great advances made in technology.
It may interest you to know that Bill Gates, owner of the company which makes the “example of innovation” that you cite, has a different view. In an internal memo, he said:
If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today. … The solution is patenting as much as we can. A future startup with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose. That price might be high. Established companies have an interest in excluding future competitors.
Lastly, not everything is a liberal/conservative issue, as you imply with your dig at “liberal Europe”. I am politically conservative (with a small c, for UK readers), but I believe that patents on software damage, rather than promote innovation and so, by the test that you yourself give, should not be permitted.