Subject: Re: Charging the Charger
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Mon, 16 May 2005 13:46:35 +0900

>>>>> "Laurent" == Laurent GUERBY <> writes:

    Dr. Holmes> As shown by Section III and by this Section, it is
    Dr. Holmes> important that the normal, proper standards of
    Dr. Holmes> patentability are applied to computer program related
    Dr. Holmes> inventions.

Which is a reasonable position to take.  He doesn't say the "best
thing since sliced bread", just that there are benefits and that they
significantly outweigh the costs.

Furthermore, he writes:

    Dr. Holmes> But, in summary, Section III shows that the
    Dr. Holmes> theoretical and other economic literature does not
    Dr. Holmes> demonstrate, indeed casts doubt, on whether economic
    Dr. Holmes> efficiency, i.e. increased overall welfare, is
    Dr. Holmes> achieved by having or making computer program related
    Dr. Holmes> inventions patentable.

What more could you ask from an expert witness *for the other side*?
He's conceded your whole point!!  He even refers to the impact on OSS
(elsewhere in the report).

But he nonetheless concludes that it is in the interest of European
SMEs (small/medium size enterprises) to have software and business
method patents available.

I conclude that you should be rooting for Marshall to come up with a
way to generate bigger profits with more openness than the current
system.  You just aren't going to beat this Holmes et cie. on general
principles---you have to get into the nitty gritty of empirical SME
economics, and that is going to be expensive and time-consuming.  This
guy Holmes has done his homework, and done it well.  The fast track
for OSS is going to be to show that the benefits to SMEs can be
achieved _without_ patents---which is exactly what Marshall's research
is about, AFAICT.

    >> Eliminating software patents and reforming the patent system in
    >> general look like good ideas to me at the moment, and I know a
    >> lot of economists who feel the same way or more so.  But in
    >> general I think most customers can do substantially better by
    >> having a range of licenses available in the market,

    Laurent> Again I've never said OSS should be the *only* legal way
    Laurent> to write software.

But full OSS systems are infeasible if software patents exist.  So you
would rule out patents, simply to ensure a safe haven for OSS.

Even if it is not your argument, it certainly sounds that way.  And
the FSF certainly _does_ say that OSS should be the *only* legal way
to write software.  The FSF does work within the democratic system,
but the goal is clear: 100% free software.

I'm sorry, but the political economic reality is that OSS advocacy in
those terms is going to sound extremist and very special-interest-
oriented to the legislators when compared to Holmes's report.  We need
to do better than that.

School of Systems and Information Engineering
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
               Ask not how you can "do" free software business;
              ask what your business can "do for" free software.