29 February 2008

End Software Patents Now!

One of the most remarkable - and heartening - changes in recent years has been in the attitude to software patents. Until a few years back, there was a certain fatalism regarding these particularly pernicious intellectual monopolies, as if they belonged, with death and taxes, to the inevitable and immutable. But people have started fighting back, both in terms of seeking to have patents revoked, and trying to get the entire category abolished.

The latest manifestation of this is the End Software Patents site:

Every company is in the software business, which means that every company has software liability. We estimate $11.4 billion a year is spent on software patent litigation (see our resources for economists page), and not just by Microsoft and IBM—The Green Bay Packers, Kraft Foods, and Ford Motor are facing software patent infringement lawsuits for their use of the standard software necessary for running a modern business.

Software innovation happens without government intervention. Virtually all of the technologies you use now, was developed before software was widely viewed as patentable. The Web, email, your word processor and spreadsheet program, instant messaging, or even more technical features like the psychoachoustic encoding and Huffman compression underlying the MP3 standard—all of it was originally developed by enthusiastic programmers, many of whom have formed successful business around such software, none of whom asked the government for a monopoly. So if software authors have a proven track-record of innovation without patents, why force them to use patents? What is the gain from billions of dollars in patent litigation?

Best of all on what is sure to become one of the central sites in the fight against patents, are the resources. Even though I follow this area closely, I was amazed at just how much hard evidence there is that software patents are harmful from just about every point of view. Victory just got closer.

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