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One of the big problems with software patents is that it can be vastly more expensive to deal with a single software patent accusation than to develop the impugned program. Physically bound patent processes often require hundreds of thousands -- if not millions of dollars of equipment to process. In that space, the thousands of dollars to defend against a spurious patent suit are an annoyance, but bearable. Writing a small program may take me a day or less of my time, worth perhaps a few hundred dollars Even a month's work, full time, is only a couple of thousand dollars of my time. Much less if you only include the direct costs of the time spent and you have a 'day job'. Against that backdrop, the threat of a lawsuit against my program is prohibitively expensive. No matter how innovative my program may be, the simple threat of a suit (viable or not) can be sufficient to scare me into terminating my endeavor. It gets much worse with people developing Freed software because, since the cost of distributing software is essentially zero, there is often no need to charge a direct fee for distributing a program that I developed to scratch my own itch and am now redistributin to the world in return for simple access to their upgrades to my program. If I have no direct financial return for distributing my product, where do I get the money to defend it against a patent troll? I can't pay my lawyer in 'good karma' points. Nor do I have the money to pay to get patents on all of the innovations in my own program. Instead I'm left worring about whether someone at a big company is going to patent my work and then use it against me later. Most of the real innovation in the software world occurs at the hands of the small players, but patents are really only serving the big money monstrosities. Without the economies of scale afforded by small players and Freed software, almost none of the backbone processes that support the internet would not have existed. The free sharing of software meant that -- instead of hundreds of mutually incompatible proprietary products, people were willing and able to share software that implmented the base standards of The Internet Email, the Domain Name system, common file formats, Web browsers, File transfer protocols and many other core (and peripheral) elements of today's Internet Revolution have benefited from the standardization that comes from free sharing and community improvements to good software. It is often only once a free idea has found enough traction that it comes to the attention of commercial interests. Software patents threaten that process. They can make it dangerous and expensive to make and distribute truly innovative products whileproviding no real benefits to the vast majority of real innovators.
Commented Nov 7, 2009 on
Abandoning software patents?
Patent Law Blog (Patently-O)
Abandoning software patents?
Editorial by Ciarán O'Riordan, Exective Director of End Software Patents Scope On Monday, November 9th, the Supreme Court will hear the case of Bilski's business method patent. Being the first review of patentable subject matter since 1981, this decision could make the rules for decades to come...
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