Subject: Re: GIF/LZW patent
From: "Chris DiBona" <>
Date: Wed, 27 Sep 2006 09:59:28 -0700

> First, I was postulating a hypothetical legal scenario. Of course the world
> would be a worse place if the number of low-quality and improvidently-issued
> patents increased. That is why all the major software companies (and our
> little International Characters venture) are joining in Community Patent
> Review. We want only our valid patent claims to issue; we're not just
> interested in having patent plaques to post on our walls. Please give this
> process--and other attempts to fix the system by OSDL, OIN, the PTO itself,
> and many others--a chance to work.

You postulated a world with just patents to 'protect' rights holders.
How is that helpign the process work? I'm actually trying to fix the
patent issue to as well, through OSDL and two of my employees who are
working in those meetings with the USPTO. I disagreed with your
assertion that patents were an ideal when in fact they are not.

> (1) Pharma patents have their own problems. One of the reasons that the
> software patent mess isn't being addressed is because politically it is
> being conflated with pharma patents. A.... Perhaps compulsory licensing at reasonable
rates, or
> perhaps shorter terms, or perhaps different ways of funding expensive and
> time-consuming drug testing????

Maybe? I don't really think that mixing the general open source
software treatment of patents and pharma will reveal anything. I also
think that there really isn't anything more futile than tryign to come
up with a unified statement on, well, anything from the open source
world. WRT Pharma: A better choice would be to wait for Gumby, who is
running a biotech startup to chime in.

> (2) Cross-licensing in the auto industry (or perhaps, as you describe it
> instead, an informal agreement not to assert their patents against each
> other) is a good thing, not a bad thing. Particularly in industries where
> there is a large cost barrier to entry and enormous manufacturing expenses
> (unlike software!), an agreement not to impose large patent costs against
> each other is an effective business strategy. As long as such informal or
> formal arrangements don't adversely affect innovation and competition in
> automobiles, I'm all for them.

Make no mistake, car companies -wish- they could enforce their patents
against Cherry, or Daewoo, or Kia. They can't. With each other they
maintain enough distance and time from each others patents that
they're not worth re-negotiating cross licensing deals for.

> (3) I don't understand much about the chemical industry, but it seems to me
> that it is not burdened by the enormous creativity spurt that characterizes
> the software industry today. Perhaps when invention in software stabilizes
> after a time (hah!) we'll reach a steady-state patent market similar to the
> one you describe for chemistry.

I find chemistry/materials engineering exciting, and in some ways mroe
so that software. Higher cost of implementation, but so much fun.

> Finally, you describe these problems generally as making it "very difficult"
> for small companies to become peers in the market. According to the PTO, the
> independent inventor share of all patents issued to U.S.-resident inventors
> was 15.5 percent in 2005 and 16.1 percent in 2004. That's a significant
> percentage ... They're more scared of the little guys than the little guys
> are scared of them.

I disagree, a few of the 'little' guys have the resources to play and
be a threat, but you know exactly how intimidated people are 99% of
the independent investor patents. That is....not at all. Small guys
can pay into the patent game, but not to any real result.