“Those who exploit copyright and patent today will be regarded in a few decades as we regard those who exploited slavery.” –Crosbie, yesterday
Summary: As patents are an inherently problematic phenomenon, they ought to be abolished rather than just tamed or cooperated with (so-called ‘pragmatism’)
THE world’s ‘death patents’, which are promoted by the Gates Foundation, are an ethical problem and we have many older posts about the subject. The patent dilemma is most pronounced when people are killed by patents or their lives held as hostage by patents. SJVN, whose career involves a great deal of UNIX and Linux (then journalism), gets around to addressing this subject. He writes about “killer patents” as he calls them.
In the computer technology business, we tend to see patents as being bad for developers and business. What we don’t realize that the problems we have with Microsoft’s bogus patent claims against Linux and Oracle’s patent-based attack against Google are nothing compared to the evils that IP patents bring to the pharmacy business.
Take, for example, the assault that the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) is now mounting on Abbot Labs. PUBPAT is formally asking the United States Patent and Trademark Office to reexamine eight Abbot patents relating to the critical HIV/AIDS drug Ritonavir, aka Norvir.
Ritonavir, a protease inhibitor, was one of the early HIV/AID antiviral drugs. Today, as HIV has grown tougher, it is now more widely used to enhance the efficacy of other protease inhibitors in AIDs drug cocktails. In this role, it’s still a critical HIV/AIDS drug.
Being a technical person, SJVN understands that he does not really need patents. Copyrights are already there and the GPL too uses copyright laws. Groklaw, on the other hand, is not sufficiently sceptical of OIN and Peer-to-Patent. Groklaw editor Pamela Jones used to be a proponent of patents, but somewhere along the way she is said to have changed her mind. Right now we see the same adherence to accepting patents as a necessary evil, also from Eben Moglen who can make money from it. Groklaw tries to defend its audience [1, 2], which comprises many lawyers, including some who engage in patent lawsuits (also defence of course):
But as Eben Moglen pointed out recently at LinuxCon, the patent crisis in general isn’t going away. So it’s best that we figure out the very best ways to deal with it. I’m told his talk will be available as video soon, and when it’s up, it will be here on the Linux Foundation website.
Linux and FOSS compete on who has the best code, not patent infringement lawsuits, speaking of vision. It’s a superior development model. Nobody competes with courtrooms. I’m not saying no one sues. The GPL lawsuits are about copyright infringement, but they are what they say they are, not wolves in granny’s cap to fool Red Riding Hood. It’s why the code keeps getting better and better.
The title of this post is “How You Can Help Patent Attorneys Help Free Software” (implying that lawyers can solve the problem, usually for a fee). This is one area where Techrights does not fully agree with Groklaw. Using patent lawyers to fight against patents is like forming an alliance with Shell to end wars.
Patents are rarely beneficial to progress, if ever. Let’s use a new example. In relation to this article, TechDirt raises the question, “Would Photography Have Been Different If It Had Been Patented Up?”
Reader Murdoch points us to one of Wired’s regular “this day in tech” history pieces about how Louis Daguerre revealed all of the “secrets” to making daguerrotypes, which was the basis for photography, in 1839. Rather than a “patent” to lock up the offering, the French government gave Daguerre and his partner, Isidore Niepce, pensions in exchange for freeing the knowledge — with each receiving the equivalent today of $30,000 per year — a decent, but hardly huge sum. And with all that information public, suddenly everyone started innovating on the idea and trying to improve it, leading to modern photography.
Companies that make print — not photography — possible are keeping the prices high, artificially in most cases. The latest among several lawsuits which prevent real competition comes from HP:
THE MAKER OF EXPENSIVE PRINTER INK, HP has is going after its cheap and cheerful rivals, claiming that they have nicked its technology.
HP has asked the US International Trade Commission (ITC) to have a look at some of the inkjet ink supplies and components that are being shipped to the Land of the Free.
Just like Lexmark last week, they turn to the ITC [1, 2, 3, 4]. How does that improve development as opposed to HP’s bottom line? A lot of patents just make no sense to society (they have always made sense to the largest corporations however). They basically elevate prices, encourages price-gouging, and lessen competition. Let’s just get rid of patents (especially software patents), not learn how to live with them. █