EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

06.10.10

New Doctoral Thesis Explores the Effects of Software Patent Policy on the Motivation and Innovation of Free/Libre and Open Source Developers

Posted in Law, Patents at 5:46 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Effects of Software Patent Policy on the Motivation and Innovation of Free/Libre and Open Source Developers

Summary: The thesis of Marcus Manfred Dapp offers an explanation of why software patents are bad for Europe (and for any other continent/country for that matter)

THE following thesis [PDF] is being passed around the FFII at the moment. It was written in English and it covers a topic very relevant to this Web site. The conclusion is as follows:

This study offers a first empirical investigation into the effects of motivation and SWP presence on individual innovation behavior of FOSS developers. A new metric is proposed to measure individual innovation behavior based on code contribution types: in this scale, algorithm-based code contributions are rated more innovative than reuse-based contributions. In a separate analysis, the effect of motivation and SWP presence on reverse-engineering as a special contribution type is analyzed as well. Another new metric is proposed to measure SWP presence: instead of only considering the legal situation of a jurisdiction, the patent pressure within a software domain is also included. A survey was conducted to provide a new data-set for the empirical analysis.
Concerning the effects of motivation on innovation behavior, strong support can be reported for the following result: Above-average intrinsic motivation (joy and self-expression in code-writing) increases the odds for more innovative, algorithm-based code contributions, while above-average extrinsic (monetary and skills-related) motivation seems to decrease the odds. In connection with reuse-based contributions, the opposite relationship finds moderate support: Above-average extrinsic motivation increases the odds for reuse-based contributions, while above-average intrinsic motivation decreases the odds. The third result relates to reverse-engineering: None of the five motivational factors included in the analysis seem to explain why FOSS developers engage in reverse-engineering activities.
These results emphasize the role of motivation within the FOSS system. Particularly intrinsic motivation appears to not only keep this system alive and kicking, but more of it also seems to lead to more innovative contributions. Simply put: ‘Programming challenging new stuff is fun’. On the other side, it appears that reuse-based contributions with a lower innovation level – often needed for ‘the last mile’ before a program is end-user-ready – can be supported by offering extrinsic incentives. What still remains opaque from a theoretical point of view is the question why developers engage in reverse engineering. A broader analysis of motivational factors is needed here.
Concerning the effects of SWP presence on innovation behavior, the empirical results are less conclusive. Neither opponents nor proponents of SWP will find support for their positions that the presence of SWP decrease or increase respectively the odds for innovative, algorithm based contributions by FOSS developers. None of the three metrics used to capture SWP presence lends sufficient support to either side – be it positive or negative. Support, however, is found for a hypothesis related to reverse-engineering: stronger SWP presence attracts reverse-engineering based contributions by FOSS developers.
These results confirm several challenges for research as well as for policy-makers. Both continue to lack a broad, sound empirical foundation to discuss the effects of software patents on FOSS innovation.
For researchers, the challenges raised in this study are (a) to develop an easy-to use yet nontrivial metric to measure the presence of software patents empirically; (b) to quantify their effect on the FOSS system, helping policy-makers make better-informed decision. For future research, it would be useful to verify some of the links argued for in this study using other data sources. CVS logs have been used in the past for code contribution analysis. Maybe the innovation metric proposed here could be helpful in that regard.
For policy-makers in innovation and intellectual property policy fields the challenges are (a) to decide whether FOSS deserves a special case when debating software patents because of its unique way of producing software for the common good; (b) to continue treading carefully in the field of software patents before jumping to legislation. The FOSS market has reached a size where harm cannot be considered collateral damage as it may have in the past. Although the results have not shown systematic harm to the FOSS communities, there is still no empirical support that the traditional arguments in favor of patents do hold for the FOSS system – or software in general as some continue to argue.
Some limitations of the study deserve mentioning. First, taking the individual developer as unit of analysis ignores explanatory factors on project level that can also influence innovation behavior, such as project size and organizational structure. The larger a project is, the more elaborate its organization structure becomes, the more contributors tend to specialize in their contributions – up to a point where dedicated roles may emerge. Such a division of labor biases the measurement of individual innovation behavior. Second, it is impossible to investigate whether software patents caused projects to stop by only surveying ‘alive’ projects from SF as it has been done in this study. To obtain a complete picture, it is necessary to run a dedicated study on failed projects – even if the response rate will be very low.

No extraordinary claims are made, but it is clear that a correlation does seem to exist. If a legislator wishes to encourage software freedom and local production, then software patents would only act as a deterrent. They are detrimental.

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

8 Comments

  1. Jose_X said,

    June 10, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    Gravatar

    Alright, software patents have not been enforced heavily against open source developers (part of the reason is that software patents are very indecent and more so when attacking open source developers, and also patent owners have not yet gotten enough courage to attack directly too much because of shaky legal ground and fear of backlash); however, it’s important for competition’s sake (and consumers’ sake) that commercial entities supporting FOSS also not be vulnerable to patents assuming that noncommercial FOSS got an exception.

    Does it make sense to protect the large commercial companies against competition from smaller commercial groups? When essentially all products violate many patents (as is the case for software), the big folks win hands down. I thought the patent system was to subsidize (if inefficiently) the small folk against the larger in a time where there were fewer education, collaboration, inventions, etc, and everything moved much slower (heck, there was no email, “overnight” snail mail, or even one-month snail mail in some cases)?

    Software patents abridge (US) First Amendment rights. Monopolies are stifling. The US law is extremely broken (eg, hurts progress much more than other saner implementations of patents would). Creating artificial scarcity (the concept of it) is likely a very bad deal for society especially when people can work side by side in competing solutions without taking away from each other (and actually feeding each other) except in minor indirect ways that are actually seen as a positive of competition (competition for talent and for consumers). ..However, it’s good to get more research support along the lines of measuring software patents’ potentially very very stifling effects.

    [See also http://www.unionsquareventures.com/2010/02/software-patents-are-the-problem-not-the-answer.php ]

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I thought the patent system was to subsidize (if inefficiently) the small folk…

    Someone once rebutted/corrected me by arguing that the patent office was designed to encourage publication of ideas in exchange for a temporary monopoly (so that ideas don’t die with their inventor who uses trade secrets).

    Jose_X Reply:

    If something brings in more money as a trade secret, then it will stay a trade secret.

    On the other hand, if the trade secret had marginal value, then the patent route is a blessing.

    But worse, patent authors want broad patents to maximize the gains from patents, and this leaves lots of room to keep all your implementation details a trade secret (assuming you even have implementation details since others might be doing a much better job than you in this area) AND still get the broad patent monopolies!

    Supporters of the patent system want legislators and the public to believe they have amazing trade secrets.. and that these will be divulged with patents.

    Hogwash.

    In any case, for software, the general functionality of something can be discovered through various degrees of achievable reverse engineering as a worse case, so society does not need to sell its heart, soul, and wallet granting patents.

    What is difficult to do is to master the totality of precise details necessary to interoperate acceptably with a large product. Software has many “moving parts” each of which generally requires a high degree of precision that is tough to achieve without an honest effort to achieve clarity and transparency by parties developing at opposite sides of interface points. Patents absolutely do not get this information from inventors. And those wanting to keep the trade secrets purposefully go out of their way to obfuscate and keep a moving target.

    On so many levels software patenting fails that it really is remarkable the staying power of these legal WMD.

    I hope Bilski brings some long-term sanity. Otherwise, lots of wasted effort and money will keep being poured into the WMD race.

  2. satipera said,

    June 11, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Gravatar

    I would encourage people to read this, it does contain some interesting points such as how the patent holders are not living up to their making information public side of the deal because of the way patents are described. This also makes me wonder why patent holders are allowed to enforce their patent rights then use NDA’s which completely go against the spirit of public disclosure required by patents.

    The author also goes into some detail about what should qualify as innovation in order to measure it. There is very little about the quality of patents and how and why industry players are enforcing and not enforcing their patents to achieve market dominance.

    The scope of the dissertation is actually very narrow. SW patents are just one of the motivations looked at in relation to FLOSS developers. The real damage being done by software patents to software development at the industry rather than individual level and the way it causes the distorted market to operate are outside its scope and the cause of disappointment.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Let’s remember that software patents are bad for small companies regardless of whether they produce Free software or not.

  3. Jose_X said,

    June 11, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    Gravatar

    PJ wrote up a great piece here: http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20100522202326865#comments (warning: it is a bit long).

    What I got from this story is that, though it might take a while for bad laws to be repealed, the odds of it happening grow over time.

    I can look forward to being on the right side, even if the courts and legislators may take time to get the idea.

  4. Jose_X said,

    June 11, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    Gravatar

    From the overview of the dissertation, it seems a result of the study was the confirmation that when the risks to create go up (when you can have your hard work made illegal), you are more likely to want to spend less mental energy while trying to achieve something more certain, which is the case when we reverse engineer. In reverse engineering, we are also sort of getting back at the unfair system.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Not much reverse engineering would be needed if standards were adhered to.

What Else is New


  1. Links 1/5/2016: Wine 1.9.9, Devuan Jessie 1.0 Beta

    Links for the day



  2. The US Patent System: Where One Wastes Years in Court and Spends $8,000,000 in Lawyers' Fees Fighting a Bogus Patent

    A roundup of news about software patents in the US and what they have led to, owing in part to the USPTO's declining patent quality (leaving others to clean up its mess)



  3. The European Patent Office Still Silently Abusive, Will Pay $15,000 in Compensation to Female Worker After Belated ILO Judgment

    The International Labour Organisation (ILO) issues a judgment on a case of abuse by the EPO and notes "excessive length of the internal appeal proceedings."



  4. [ES] Alice Continúa Quebrando Patentes de Software Asi Que los Abogados de Patentes, Cabilderos de los Monopolistas, Etc. Ahora Atacan a la Corte Suprema por Hacer Esto

    los cabilderos Corpórativos y abogados de patentes están tratándo de poner a Alicia en la tumba, por su impacto en las patentes de software que es muy profundo y así hasta ahora casi indetenible



  5. [ES] ¿Cómo Salvar la Reputación de la EPO?: Crear Más Jurados de Apelaciónes en Europa y Abolir la Malgíada/Malintencionada Fantasía de la UPC

    Una crítica evaluación de lo que ocurre en la Oficina Europea de Patentes (EPO), la que rápidamente se está yendo para abajo (y degradando sobre todo) a el nivel de los sistemas Chinos, en conjuntamente con corrupción, los abusos, y la bajísima calidad de las patentes



  6. [ES] La Corte de Apelaciónes del Circuito Federal (CAFC) Acaba de Ponerse a Favor de los Trolles de Patentes

    la tristémente célebre CAFC, que manifestó las patentes de software en los EE.UU, acaba de dar un regalo a los trolles de patentes quienes típicamente usan las patentes de software para extorsión enc complicidad con los jueces del Este de Texas



  7. [ES] Análisis de los Últimos Datos de Lex Machina Acerca de la Litigación de Patentes Muestra Como está Declinándo

    el Professor Mark Lemley de Lex Machina resalta las tendencias en litigation al colectar y analizar datos relacionados con patente y concerniéntes a monopolios intelectuales en general; actualmente muestra una sequía de litigaciones (muestran que ha disminuído)



  8. [ES] La India Está Teniendo Otra Prueba de los Peligros de las Patentes Occidentales, Debe Aprender a Rechazar Completamente las Patentes de Software en Medio de Gran Presión

    El gigante de software que es la India continua enfrentándos ea la cruel y agresivo cabildeo de Occidente, haciéndo que este controle a la India por patentes que no deberían de existir en primer lugar



  9. [ES] Microsoft Dice que Continuará Extorsiónando a Compañías Que Distribuyan Linux, Usando Patentes de Software Usuallmente

    La guerra de Microsoft contra Linux, una guerra que es peleada usando patentes de software patents (por ganancias y/o por chantáje con arreglos empaquetados), todavía continúa a pesar de todas las tácticas de relaciónes públicas de Microsoft y sus sócios



  10. Alice Continues to Smash Software Patents So Patent Lawyers, Monopolists' Lobbyists Etc. Now Attack the Supreme Court for Doing This

    Corporate lobbyists and patent lawyers are trying to put Alice in the grave, for its impact on software patents is very profound and thus far almost unstoppable



  11. How to Salvage the EPO's Reputation: Create More Boards of Appeal in Europe and Abolish the Misguided UPC Fantasy

    A critical evaluation of what goes on at the European Patent Office (EPO), which is quickly descending down (and overall degrading) to the level of Chinese systems, along with the corruption, the abuses, and the low quality of patents



  12. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) Has Just Sided With Patent Trolls

    The notorious CAFC, which manifested software patents in the United States, has just given a gift to patent trolls that typically use software patents for extortion down in Texas



  13. Analyses of the Latest Data From Lex Machina About Patent Litigation Show Some Litigation Declines

    Professor Mark Lemley's Lex Machina highlights litigation trends by collecting and analysing data related to patents and pertaining to intellectual monopolies in general; now it shows litigation droughts



  14. India is Having Another Taste of the Dangers of Western Patents, Must Learn to Reject Software Patents in the Face of Great Pressure

    The growing software giant which is India continues to face cruel and aggressive lobbying from the West, enabling the West to control India by patents that should not exist in the first place



  15. Links 29/4/2016: GNOME 3.21.1, Fairphone

    Links for the day



  16. Microsoft Says It Will Continue to Extort Companies That Distribute Linux, Using Software Patents As Usual

    Microsoft's war on Linux, a war which is waged using software patents (for revenue and/or for coercion in bundling deals), is still going on in spite of all the PR tactics from Microsoft and its paid partners



  17. Australia Might be Next to Block Software Patents If Commission's Advice is Followed

    Australian advice against software patents, which can hopefully influence Australian politicians and put an end, once and for all, to all software patents in Australia



  18. [ES] ''Si la Forma de Pensar de la EPO fuese Seguida, Guantánamo Sería Posible en Suelo Alemán.”

    La EPO está todavía bajo fuego, pero mucho de ello pasa detrás de las cortinas y envuelve abogados y/o burócratas



  19. The European Copy-Paste Office (EPO)

    This morning's example (not the first) of how the EPO uses 'social' media



  20. Links 28/4/2016: Fedora 24, EE Goes Open Source

    Links for the day



  21. Amid Referendum “the New European Unitary Patent System is Likely to Collapse Before It Started”

    The Unitary Patent Court (UPC) vision seems like it may be just one month away from its gradual death, depending on British voices amongst other key factors



  22. USTR is Trying to Shame and Bully India Into Introducing Software Patents in India

    Lobbying body of the US (corporations-led) is trying its usual dirty tactics against India's sound policy which excludes software/algorithms from patent scope



  23. No, Visual Studio is NOT Open Source and Xamarin Openwashing is NOT News

    The latest example of Microsoft openwashing, courtesy of confidants of Microsoft and those who got bamboozled by them



  24. Latest Black Duck Puff Pieces a Good Example of Bad Journalism and How Not to Report

    Why the latest "Future of Open Source Survey" -- much like its predecessors -- isn't really a survey but just another churnalism opportunity for the Microsoft-connected Black Duck, which is a proprietary parasite inside the FOSS community



  25. If EPO “Form of Thinking Were to be Followed, Guantanamo on German Soil Would be Possible.”

    The EPO is still under fire, but a lot of it happens behind the scenes and involves lawyers and/or bureaucrats



  26. Links 28/4/2016: Tomb Raider for GNU/Linux, Proxmox VE 4.2

    Links for the day



  27. [ES] La Departura de la Readidad de la EPO Y Su Entrada en la Esféra Industrial China de Propaganda

    La deceptiva trampa del maximálism de patentes, donde se asume que artficialmente aumentando el número de patentes otorgadas traerá el resultado esperado



  28. [ES] Una Fársa de Sistema: ¿Cómo la SIPO, USPTO, y cada vez más la EPO se Convierten en Llenado de Patentes (No Se Requiere Propia Examinación)

    Una crítica al decline en la calidad de patentes en algunas de las más grandes oficinas de patentes del mundo, donde aspiración parece ser neo-liberal en el sentido económico



  29. [ES] Microsoft ‘Asalto con Todo’ Contra Android, Java, y GNU/Linux, Usando la Clásica E.E.E. Táctica de Nuevo

    Otro recordatorio de la realidad que Microsoft está muy activo en el frente E.E.E., not no sólo contra GNU/Linux pero también Android y Java



  30. [ES] Más Rumores y Llamadas Acerca de Prospectos de Microsoft Vaya a Comprar Canonical (Ubuntu con todo y Zapatos)

    Teniendo en cuenta los últimos movimientos de Canonical, algunos expertos piensan que es posible que Shuttleworth elija el dinero a Microsoft sobre principios sino también inste para que esto ocurra


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts