Subject: Re: EY invests in online patent exchange
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Fri, 24 Sep 1999 13:22:51 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "Brian" == Brian Bartholomew <> writes:

    Brian> If we believe that software patents really are bad, then we
    Brian> should be able to come up with a functional theory.

Bzzzt.  Of course we can come up with a functional theory.  The
theories already proposed account for the anecdotes quite well.  But
that's not good enough.

Consider the following analogy.  Most doctors strongly believe that
malpractice law assigning arbitrary levels of liability to doctors
"really is bad."  They have some plausible arguments, too.  Problem
is, they leave out a some important factors, and their perceptions of
the size and statistical prevalence of different.costs are distorted.

We suffer from exactly the same problem:  our self-interest[1] is a very
plausible explanation for our opposition to software patents, and for
our failure to accept counterarguments to our arguments.  This makes
for both bad social science and weak politics.

    >> Add a plausible theoretical analysis that justifies those
    >> anecdotes as examples of fundamental processes of the patent
    >> system

    Brian> "Plausible"?  Or "Correct"?

"Plausible."  There's no such thing as "correct" in the more popular
philosophies of science (in particular, not the one I subscribe to),
and certainly not in politics.

    Brian> Are we doing marketing or science?

I see a need for doing both.

[1]  Ie, our desire to accomplish our stated goal of spreading free
software, which does not (as has been pointed out) generate sufficient 
revenue to keep stables of patent lawyers on retainer.

University of Tsukuba                Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences       Tel/fax: +81 (298) 53-5091
What are those two straight lines for?  "Free software rules."