Subject: Re: Novel anti-software-patent article
From: "D.V. Henkel-Wallace" <gumby@henkel-wallace.org>
Date: Thu, 06 Jan 2000 12:33:52 -0800

At 18:21 06-01-00 +0000, Crispin Cowan wrote:
>So, the purpose of patents is to advance the state of the arts for the public
>good.  Ok, now consider crypto algorithms.  Suppose that software algorithm
>patents are just abolished.  Further suppose that I invent a spiffy new crypto
>algorithm (a hypothetical and highly unlikely event :-)  How might I 
>profit from
>my invention?  The algorithm is so elegant that anyone can produce a 
>compatible
>implementation if I publish it.  If algorithm patents still worked, then I'd
>patent it.  But without patents, I'm just sunk.
>
>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?

Try:
   sed -e s/patents/royalties/
and reread what you wrote.

A lot of opposition to libre software is that it ends up being gratis as 
well, and thus "how will programmers eat?" or "what will be the motivation 
to innovate?"  We've discussed this issue ad nauseam on this mailing list, 
of course.  Your patent argument reads the same.

There are a variety of ways to benefit from your invention, just as there 
are a variety of ways to benefit from implementations of it that you give 
away.  And many of them are also financially rewarding, as we have seen on 
this list.

Fortunately on the copyright licensing side, we can experiment in parallel: 
free (in either sense) packages can compete openly with proprietary ones 
and may the best model win.  Unfortunately this doesn't work on the patent 
side.  Patents are explicitly intended to create and/or sustain an unequal 
relationship.

Arguably this has "promoted the Progress of Science and useful Arts" (I do 
in fact believe that it has) but with software and business processes the 
results have been more problematic.