Subject: Re: Novel anti-software-patent article
Date: Thu, 6 Jan 2000 15:08:38 -0500

>> So, *totally* abolishing patents seems to have the effect of turning
>> crypto algorithm research from a business into a hobby.  How does
>> that advance the state of the arts?
>The original idea was to encourage businesses to do the research by
>allowing them to profit off their work *for a time*.  IMHO, the
>biggest problem with the system is that the "time" is too long.  If
>algorithm patents were good for, say, a small number of years from
>application, and software copyrights were only good for a small number
>of years from publication, instead of being good for (effectively)
>forever, we'd see a good blend of companies striving to push
>technology and new technology entering the public domain.  The expiry
>times for patents and copyrights should be long enough for companies
>to recoup their costs and make a reasonable profit, but no longer.

Agreed.  (Although IMO copyright should last a lot longer.)

>I wonder - can the public sue companies who have profited too much
>from patented works, on the basis that they have unjustly kept the
>work out of the public domain?

IANAL but I doubt it.  Laws are only indirectly about justice...if they
did it within the law and the law is explicitly one which Congress
has the right to pass, I doubt that much can be done about it.

>Another wonder - could patent and copyright law limit profit from
>works to some multiple of investment?  For example, if FooCo spent
>$10mil on a work and patented it, once they'd made $100mil they'd lose
>all legal protection for their patent and works derived from it?

The pharmecutical industry would scream bloody murder.  With
such risky investments and long lead times, they really do need
to achieve very high multiples of dollars/success.

You see, you are not just paying for the money expended, but for
the money expended and the risk of failure.  If the chances of a
payoff are 1/20, in order to put up a large sum of money you
actually need the potential reward to be more than 20 times the
expenditure.  (Basic fact of investment, in a sane market the risk
in a portfolio is correlated with the return.  We are not in anything
resembling a sane market today though...)