Subject: Re: US Software Patents Hit Record High (fwd)
From: simo <s@ssimo.org>
Date: Thu, 28 Sep 2006 00:43:05 -0400

On Thu, 2006-09-28 at 04:40 +0100, Jamie Lokier wrote:
> simo wrote:
> > Free Software requires a bigger bet.  With Free Software you bet
> > that being first and cheap the adoption rate will be so high that,
> > being you the developer, you will get a substantial amount of
> > support/customization/certification requests than any other
> > player. This means playing around a brand, a thing we are often not
> > very good at.
> 
> But that rather validates my point: your free software development
> ("first and cheap") is used to leverage another business, namely
> support/customization/certification.  You don't get anything for the
> software development by itself.
> 
> So you have to have the resources to develop _and_ do the other
> income-raising stuff.  That raises the necessary size and complexity
> of your business to be profitable, and it may be that you're not well
> suited to the support/customization/certification, or your software
> isn't in need of that, or that others can do it just as well.
> 
> If you successfully pull off a licensing scheme (whether patent or
> copyright or voluntary tipping jar), you can concentrate a greater
> fraction of your engineering resource on just the developing.  And
> that may serve a smaller business better; it may better suit what some
> people want to do for work, or alternatively let you focus on a bigger
> development project.

We agree completely, let's not deviate from the point. The point is:
copyrights or patents? I say copyrights as it works better for many
reasons, the fact that Free Software in some cases is more difficult I
think is clear to all by years now. And yet some Free Software projects
are extremely successful and incompatible with patents as their success
depend from being easily exploitable by anyone.

The problem of _who_ is reward is a different one. From the point of
view of the public interest, it doesn't really matter who profits, what
matters is that there is creation of new stuff and possibly also of new
markets jobs, and value in general.

Patents in the software industry are not an enabler, they are just a
barrier that closes markets. That's because while in other industries
the incentive given by the monopoly is necessary, in the software
industry the cost to develop new programs is so low that what prevails
is the chilling effect of the monopoly over the incentive.

Mature markets where most of the technology is so well known and is
becoming really cheap to produce (automotive industry) start seeing the
same problem even if the process come from a completely different
direction. Single patents are almost worthless for the existing players
as they have so big portfolios that they can't even think of suing
competitors as the counter attack would just destroy both parties (or
more probably just lead to an agreement and a simple net loss of money
without any result). However patents are extremely important (together
with some extremely protective regulation) as a barrier to avoid new
dynamic competition to arise. To build a car today is extremely easy,
you don't need to create a heavy industry to create everything yourself,
you just have to go shopping around from each specialized vendor for all
the pieces you need. Why then there is nobody doing this and being
extremely innovative and dynamic and seize a piece of the market?
Why does not exist an "Open Car" initiative, where vendors standardize
on a set of base models that can be extremely customized by little
players? Mostly because of patents portfolios I'd say. You cannot access
the club of the VIPs.
But I am digressing and I am sure there also many other factors in that
industry. Let's please keep us focused on software.

Simo.