There is a light that never goes out

A good post by Jeremy Allison about “Intellectual Property” in the software industry:

But “Intellectual Property” is a weasel phrase. It covers several different things, each of which is treated very differently in terms of property rights. For software this can mean trade secrets, copyright or patents. Let’s look at each in turn and see how Microsoft accounting can get creative and determine how much we all owe them for being presumptuous enough to be using Free Software not developed by them.

Much of the post centers around patents and why they make very little sense for software. Indeed, 20 years is an eternity in the context of computer software, so a patent is roughly analogous to a lifetime monopoly. When is the last time you heard a software engineer who was trying to solve a difficult problem say he was going to see if there were any expired patents that covered the issue so he could glean some insight into a solution. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? But adding knowledge to humanity is the stated purpose of the patent system. It’s abundantly clear this isn’t happening. Hopefully one of the current reform initiatives will make some headway. With the amount of lobbying dollars going toward keeping the (broken) status quo, it’s certainly going to be an uphill battle.


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