Subject: Re: patents and web services
From: simo <s@ssimo.org>
Date: Sat, 03 Jun 2006 16:08:40 -0400

On Sat, 2006-06-03 at 09:42 -0700, Thomas Lord wrote:
> We're entering a period of big "black box" web services:  patents
> *might* be very helpful here.

Let's see if, in the software field, this holds true.

You claim that re-use is important, and that patents may help.

Now that would be true if patent holders were forced to make their
patented methods available to third parties. This is not the case, a
patent holder is not compelled to let other use the patent until it
expires (20 years later at best).

I assume you are not interested in re-use after 20 years, but in
immediate re-use,

To make the patent system something viable for re-use purposes you
should probably force patent holders to give out licenses to anybody
interested in re-using such code, and to everybody at the same price to
avoid the formation of cartels.
Otherwise the only thing you end up with is just a way to prevent
anybody to use the patent, the opposite of the re-use objective.

I assume that the correct way to do this is to fix a price, or the
patent holder will simply put an incredibly high price so that
effectively nobody will ever be able use the patented technique because
it is not economically viable.

Aside the problem of evaluating such price you should think if
corporations like Google would still be attracted by patents if they
were forced to let competitors use their patented methods. Their
business would probably be best served by keeping the method secret
anyway if it is so difficult to find it out.*

So what do we end up with?
We end up with no real important secrets revealed, and also a place were
re-use is indeed possible but at a higher price than in a market where
patents are not granted and everybody is able to just share the ideas
and let other pay the hard work, the implementation, in form of
libraries, something protected under the copyright regime.

Simo.



* If you don't believe this think of a simpler case. Do you think that
the CocaCola Company would ever release their secret recipe if it were
patentable? Of course not, by keeping it secret they have enjoyed high
profits for decades, once patented their monopoly would end just after
20 years, then competition would substantially drive their profits down.