Subject: Re: GIF/LZW patent
From: "Ben Tilly" <btilly@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, 27 Sep 2006 16:45:38 -0700

On 9/27/06, DV Henkel-Wallace <gumby@henkel-wallace.org> wrote:
> On Sep 27, 2006, at 11:03 , Forrest J. Cavalier III wrote:
[...]
> PS: Is there a study of patent practice from 100 years ago in then-
> less-mature fields?  It would be interesting to compare the relevance
> and breadth of mechanical engineering patents than vs now: if there's
> a lot of contemporaneous overlap it would suggest poor theoretical
> understanding combined with  widespread experimentation; if not it's
> merely someone discovering something important and new.  I think the
> latter applied to the aircraft patents (which I do think held back
> development of the field).

I don't know of any studies, but there is an interesting anecdote at
http://www.idlewords.com/2003/12/100_years_of_turbulence.htm.  While
aviation provides a striking example, it is not isolated.  It seems
that in several areas of technology progress was impeded by patents
until companies formally or informally called a patent truce.

Many commentators have noted that software is (notable exceptions
notwithstanding) mostly in a truce of this form.  Googling about this
topic I ran across references to people in biotech wishing that they
had a patent pool because they are hitting this issue.

Cheers,
Ben