Subject: Re: Chapter on Open Source in Friedman's _The World is Flat_
From: Alexandre Oliva <>
Date: 28 Jun 2005 19:39:36 -0300

On Jun 21, 2005, Brian Behlendorf <> wrote:

> Is it just that historically the physical-bits innovators have come
> to terms with the balance of interests, whereas computer science had
> a good thirty years of relatively patent-free innovation to get
> (too?) used to the idea?

What about the many centuries of patent-free innovation in the
physical-bits world?

I actually think one of the main problems of software patents is
precisely that computer science is way too young, and technology
develops at such a fast pace nowadays.

Way back then, should patents exist and the inventor of the wheel file
a patent on it, that might not have set back further technology
developments by a significant amount.  Such a patent would have had to
last for hundreds of years to have a similar impact to that of a
software patent nowadays.

When patents were introduced, most really basic ideas, such as the
wheel, were already `prior art', so everyone could build upon them.
Not so for software: people are filing for, and being granted, patents
on really simple, even obvious techniques.

Sure enough, there are other young fields that are just as subject to
the problem of patents on trivial matters as software.  Heck, some
such young fields may have been created by a patented invention.

Perhaps the solution for the patent problems is to prevent patents
that builds upon patented prior art whose patents haven't expired yet,
or something along these lines.  This would help make sure that new
fields get some time of patent-free trivial innovation before further
patents are granted in it.

Alexandre Oliva
Red Hat Compiler Engineer   aoliva@{,}
Free Software Evangelist  oliva@{,}