Thursday, April 11, 2013

Fighting the Patents Industry Which Focuses on Software

by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Shield of transparency

Shield of transparency
Patents are the Nemesis of Free (as in freedom) software. But who is it that's really behind patents? There is the systemic component (institutional) and the corporate component. The latter, which relies on the former, is also the one which lobbies the former. One might say that, in the United States in particular, large corporations such as IBM and Microsoft reinforce the patent system for the sake of protectionism*. Rackspace, a smaller company, says the patent system is "legally sanctioned extortion", so we know that the USPTO is serving neither small nor medium-sized companies. One can identify the system as benefiting lawyers, patent trolls, and large corporation which can afford to use the other two groups (trolls are sometimes used as a litigation proxy by larger entities to whom this investment and risk are worthwhile).

I advocate aiming for change in the system, not those who exploit the system. The problem is, those who write the law which makes the system (through lobbyists) are the same entities which exploit it. It is a problem of political entryism -- one that we find in the copyright world as well. Monsanto too made it infamous. The bottom line is, based on my experience battling software patents for nearly a decade, you should always fight at both levels. If you assume that the patent office is controlled by corporations -- which is correct -- then battle that office while also battling its enablers and those whose extortion it enables.

What makes me worried is that patent lawyers have taken over much of the public debate while developers remain apathetic or passive. There is a sense of defeatism. The ills of a system which facilitates government-granted monopolies on abstract ideas which are reducible to mathematics are not to be underestimated. Customers -- not just developers (irrespective of how they develop software) -- should be up in arms over it, but they are not. Well, to be fair, some of them became active after Apple had won the billion-dollar case against Samsung -- a case which has been rotting since then, due to jury/foreman misconduct and crucial patents that get invalidated upon re-examination, proving incompetence at the USPTO.

Unless we fight against software patents, the many patent lawyers who are vocal about it will have the stage dominated by their views. It's not too late to beat software patents in the US, preventing them from spreading further.

* IBM and Microsoft also lobby at the EPO (EU) and IPONZ (New Zealand) as multinationals whose interests they believe supersede those of the locals. The EPO and IPONZ enjoy profit from glorification of patents, as seen today right here.

-- Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Enhanced by Zemanta

1 comment:

  1. I was a little confused by that! Now it's fixed.Thanks again for a great workshop!

    CNC Routers