The Orange View (on hiatus) Because Apple is great but it isn't perfect


The futility of arguing for software patents by anecdote

Tech exec Michael Mace wants to make the case for software patents but he's not very convincing. First, Mace wants to "fix" a few of the obviously destructive economic effects of software patents by rewriting the entire U.S. patent system. Unlikely. Second, he bases his argument in favor of software patents on the single example of a 1960s era company that fought off IBM in part by relying on a patent. It's a single, very dated anecdote.

Software developer Lukas Mathis, by contrast,  is right on target in his powerful post summarizing the case against software patents as they exist and are widely abused in the current real world. It is not 1960 anymore and literally hundreds of thousands of poorly worded, overly broad, contradictory software patents have been granted. As Mathis aptly begins:

It is simply not possible to create any non-trivial piece of software that doesn’t violate hundreds of patents. As a result, you can’t release software without putting yourself into a position where you might suddenly lose all of your money. Essentially, thanks to the patent system, you can be put out of business at any time, for no good reason.

-Ignore the Code, August 8, 2011

He follows up with links to studies on innovation and the impact of software patents. Bottom line? Software patents are a huge drag on the economy and a disincentive to innovation.

Posted by Aaron Pressman

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