Subject: Re: Examples needed against Soft Patents
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Mon, 20 Dec 2004 15:35:06 +0900

>>>>> "Ian" == Ian Lance Taylor <> writes:

    Ian> Unlike the traditional view of patents, software patents are
    Ian> a mechanism which favors the entrenched companies against the
    Ian> innovators.

It's best not to make that point as a dichotomy.  It's a matter of
degree, and the particular parameters of the patent system.  LZW and
RSA are arguably "good" patents; non-obvious and novel.  Net social
benefit?  Would they have been produced anyway?  Arguable, IMO.

The _indisputable_ problem is that there is strong incentive on the
part of some politically powerful entities to lobby for expansion of
coverage to "bad" patents simply to gain monopoly.  But this is true
for all patents; today, it seems better to simply scrap the system
than try to play with the parameters.  Maybe restrict it to a few
"second-best" cases (eg, pharmaceuticals, where the "public safety"
regulation makes development of a new drug a huge gamble that often
loses, and I really don't think we want to do without the public
safety regulation---Russ might disagree).  Or restrict it to the
traditional regime of "hardware"; it's arguably harmful there, too,
but probably there's some benefit to balance the harm.

Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
               Ask not how you can "do" free software business;
              ask what your business can "do for" free software.