Subject: RE: [Freesw]
From: PILCH Hartmut <>
Date: Tue, 15 May 2001 09:57:39 +0200 (CEST)

> Isn't it wrong to discuss acknowledgement of contribution to software
> innovation with a focus on patent busting? It seems much more important to
> reflect on which positive credits are needed, on how one can create visible
> and trustable acknowledgement of contributions. Such credits would be
> credentials that software innovators could present to possible sources of
> funding.

Visible and trustable acknowledgement has always existed in the form of
research papers and discussions in the expert community.

> This would remove one of the only substantial arguments for software
> patents, which is that software innovators often have trouble attracting
> investment because they cannot present tangible evidence of the originality
> and quality of their work (compared to innovators in other fields).

A problem here is that "innovation" alone is in fact not worth all that
much.  See Joel Spolsky's (designer of MS Excel) articles on what matters
in the software business.  It consists in well organising a group of
developpers to produce complex systems, not in finding individual
mousetrap ideas and producing mousetraps.  Whether an idea is new or not
compared to prior art is quite irrelevant.  Most ideas are reinvented all
the time, and what matters is whether you can oversee the whole system, in
terms of programming as well as in terms of social organisation.

It seems some companies would like to attract capital merely on the merit
of having 2-3 ideas.  And some venture capitalists would like to invest
without understanding the business.  The question is then whether we want
to design our legal system to accomodate protectionist whiners or to
provide legal security to capable businesses.

> Software patents may well be of insignificant value in that respect,
> but until there is a convincing alternative, there is a risk that they
> look useful (at least to venture capitalists and technology transfer
> organisations).

Do "technology transfer organisations" actually do anything else than
using patents and the like in order to impede the transfer of technology?
Any "convincing alternative" that they could accept would again have to
consist in a means of excluding others.  And they don't like copyright,
because in order to assess the value of copyrighted assets, you need
entrepreneurship rather than IP accounting knowledge.

Hartmut Pilch
Federation for a Free Information Infrastructure
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