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02.18.11

FSF Explains Why Software Patents Are Bad While OIN Grows Stronger

Posted in Australia, FSF, OIN, Patents at 1:58 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

City lights
Melbourne at night

Summary: Churchill Club Great Debate on software patents ends; Rackspace joins the OIN; Australian reviews patentable subject matter and New Zealand wrestles with the “embedded” software loophole

As expected, a public debate took place to discuss the patentability of software and the FSF was there. No matter where we check [1, 2, 3], a video of this debate is not published yet. Paul Krill of InfoWorld has a new report about it, which he summarised as follows:

Free Software Foundation argues that software patents infringe on individual expression and present a roadblock to innovation

Meanwhile, the OIN keeps growing (Rackspace has just joined), so there is at least some reassurance that patent attacks on GNU/Linux will have a deterrent.

Further down, in the southern hemisphere, there is also some interesting progress regarding patents. There is an Australian “Review of Patentable Subject Matter” and “sadly,” explains Glyn Moody, this “doesn’t do anything about software patents, gene patents.” Recently, gene patents were questioned in Australia. There is also this from New Zealand:

The NZ Open Source Society has given what it calls “qualified support” to the draft IPONZ guideline on the patentability of inventions containing embedded computer programs.

“There is a fog of misinformation around software patents and the IPONZ guideline,” says Don Christie, NZOSS government liaison officer, in a statement.

The vast majority of the patents in New Zealand (also alleged software patents in New Zealand) are not owned by companies from New Zealand but by large companies mostly from the United States. So clearly the benefit of this type of patent system is not New Zealand’s benefit. There is this new article that quotes different statistics from the United States:

You hear it all the time from our political and economic leaders – small business is the engine of the U.S. economy. Of the nation’s 26.8 million businesses, some 99.9 percent of them have fewer than 500 employees, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In addition to driving the economy, small business is the source of a big share of the nation’s innovation. For example, 98 percent of telecommunications patents and 97 percent of software patents are issued to companies of 500 or fewer companies, according to a U.S. Small Business Administration study.

The innovation cannot be measured and enumerated in terms of patents, but the point the author is trying to make is that small businesses need government protection. As we know too well, patents are beneficial to large companies that can always counter-sue small companies (bar patent trolls); the same can apply to nations by saying that only large countries with a ton of patents (and some filed overseas) would likely benefit from the collective, worldwide patent system, which is a system of exclusion and protectionism (protecting those already in power, under the umbrella of WIPO and WTO). The US Chamber Of Commerce — like the ICC (lobby for large multinationals) — has released a 2011 IP Policy Agenda just now (amid huge scandals that are covered widely, such as spying on family members of Chamber Of Commerce critics so as to scare and silence them). The fight against patents excess is often a fight against sheer greed, as demonstrated even in the days of Edison — a now-glorified businessman who bullied people using patents he did not deserve.

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