02.04.08

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Patents != Innovation

Posted in America, Australia, Europe, Patents, SCO at 1:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Digital Majority continues to tackle the software patent issues in Europe. It also covers the sad situation elsewhere in the world. The following example, which comes from India, just shows how badly misunderstood the value of protecting ideas really is.

I find not only the proposed law and the reasoning behind it worrying, but also the very uncritical way it is reported in Science. There seems to be no questioning of the equation “patents = innovation”.

Criticism in this case is directed at ScienceMag, but as the following item shows, they do not necessarily fail to cover another side of this equation. Here is their older paper called “When Patents Threaten Science”.

Patents should not be used to protect laws of nature, products of nature, or mathematical formulas.

Taking the above into consideration, it remains worrisome that centralisation in Europe, which also takes law into account, may be bad news as far as software patents are concerned. From FFII:

IAM magazine admits that a central court can legalize software patents

[...]

Imagine a freaky judge at a central patent court adopting the same decision as the english judge Kitchin has made recently, and you get software patents validated Europe wide.

Down there in Australia, the system has already been ruined by America-style DMCA and software patents. The following article, which may contain the biases of a Linux conference (just taking context into account), does not believe that this poses any real danger to Free software.

Efforts to overturn software patents — a major concern in the open source community — were likely to fail, Weatherall suggested. “I don’t think the fight is over, but I don’t think you’re going to kill software patents,” she said. “There’s a lot of them. Every one cost in the five figures to apply for. The amount of investment is enormous, and that’s the sort of thing you have to tear down to tear down software patents.”

Weatherall also advised concerned hackers not to become ridiculously obsessed with legal issues. “Don’t obsess about law reform and changes in the law. Your best protection during law reform processes is success. if you are coding well then people will go out of their way to protect you.”

As the new Micro Trend boycott illustrates, along with the backlash against NetApp, there are always good people out there who are willing to challenge spurious/junk patents. This make attempted cases against FOSS nothing but a loss of money to the plaintiff. It also harm’s the plaintiff’s image as companies like SCO (or even the RIAA) have already taught us. With Free software being so widely deployed, suing FOSS is always guaranteed to be a case of suing your own customers. It’s insane.

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