Subject: US Software Patents Hit Record High (fwd)
From: <stephen@xemacs.org>
Date: Sat, 23 Sep 2006 16:27:02 +0900

Brian Behlendorf writes:

 > And the $64,000 question: if software could not be patented, how much of 
 > the work done that resulted in the patents would not have been
 > done?

 > My guess: it would have made no difference.

My first guess is that a lot of the work would not have been done.
Specifically, a lot of documentation would not have been written.
Much of that documentation isn't useful for real work, of course, but
I bet the authors could turn out real documentation pretty quickly if
license revenues were on the line.

My second guess is that a lot of work would have been redirected from
products where software ends up in the hands of users doing data
processing to products where data ends up in the hands of ASPs.  Not a
pleasant bias.

My third guess is that a lot of the work that was inhibited by fear of
submarine patents would have been justified in that fear by the
existence of prior work---and therefore (in a frictionless world)
shouldn't have been done anyway.

My fourth guess is that "friction" is substantial enough that any
reasonable attempt to measure these effects will show that by far the
most important effect is that many products that could have been
brought to market never get there, while very few additional products
(including "patent licenses") are generated by the patent system, and
the effects of redirection of work are relatively minor, too.

Anybody interested in getting those measurements done?  (They probably
do need to be done, but it might just be a matter of knowing where to
look.)

Steve