Subject: Re: A few thoughts.
From: shap@eros.cis.upenn.edu
Date: Thu, 13 Aug 1998 02:38:51 -0300

David:

In some real sense you have reinvented the basic idea behind patents.
A patent provides a legally enforced, time-limited exclusivity.  The
tradeoff is that the technology has to be published.

My personal opinion is that the main problem with patents is their
lifespan -- in some industries an 18 year renewable span is
appropriate; in others it is not.

Permit me, however, to suggest a more cynical view to ponder.

Innovations can be discovered by anyone.  The patent system, by virtue
of being expensive, stacks the deck in favor of those large corporate
interests who can afford to file.  The rest of us (you and me) have to
beg and scrape to get a filing to happen unless our innovation is both
elegantly simple and profoundly far reaching.

After a certain point, a company like Microsoft innovates because it
induces cost among application vendors.  An application author who is
too busy catching up with the latest windows innovations has no time
to contemplate other platforms.  These innovations need not be
contentful.

Individuals, in contrast, innovate because they see some real
advantage that they believe they can leverage.

The current patent system favors the party with the most dollars to
litigate.

If you believe that meaningful innovation is good, and that the
knowledge in your head gives you an edge, it might really be better
for all concerned if patents did not exist.  This tends to level the
playing field by eliminating much of the litigation issue.

Hard to know if this is actually sound, and I do not really see how to
construct a controlled experiment, but food for thought...



shap