Subject: Re: IC's patent-pending technology
From: <stephen@xemacs.org>
Date: Thu, 28 Sep 2006 22:24:03 +0900

Thomas Lord writes:

 > Part of what so very, very cool about all this is that many of
 > us seem to agree that some incentive-based reward would be
 > entirely fair here even though this may not merit a full patent.

Well, there's only one easy tweak for patents AFAICS.  Change the
term.

I have no objection to shortening the term; in software, I agree that
5-7 years should be enough to (a) extract rents to cover enough
development costs to get plenty of incentive and (b) elicit
substantial competition (probably some of it improved), so we'd like
to get it into the public domain so that FLOSS can take advantage of
it (and increase the competitive pressure on the current state of the
art patent holder).  Caveat: "we" is that small minority of FSBers who
as yet haven't 100% given up on patent-like IP---I am unwilling to
equate "we" with "the public interest" here.

I think it's a very bad idea to change the term after you've seen the
application.  All this does is decrease the average incentive to
invest, while awarding some lucky patent-holders profits that they did
not expect when they invested, at the expense of unlucky ones who
overinvested given what they actually would get.

I'd like to hear what you have in mind otherwise for "partial
patent".  One possibility would be to legislate the International
Characters into the definition of patent.  Another would be the more
radical approach of simply exempting anything distributed under
copyleft (I'd prefer with an actual publication requirement as in the
covenant).

I think everything but shortening the term is a political nonstarter
though, and I doubt that will get through.