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Software Patents Depress Progress, Shows James E. Bessen of Boston University

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Patents at 11:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Boston University seal

Summary: More research shows what we are always seeing — that software patents are of negative contribution and there is yet more evidence now that Apple increases its extortion pressure on Android (Linux)

WHILE groups like the OIN use software patents to fight other software patents (fighting fire with fire, confusing people about the problem being one of “quality”) groups like the FFII, ourselves, FSFE, and FSF work hard to convince people that software patents as a whole need to be abolished. James E. Bessen, who is in Boston University (near the FSF), has published this academic paper whose abstract states:

This report examines changes in the patenting behavior of the software industry since the 1990s. It finds that most software firms still do not patent, most software patents are obtained by a few large firms in the software industry or in other industries, and the risk of litigation from software patents continues to increase dramatically. Given these findings, it is hard to conclude that software patents have provided a net social benefit in the software industry.

It can also be found here and elsewhere. Carlo Piana says:

Bessen: study on #swpats shows benefit for deep pockets & lawyers, not SWindustry or society.

He also says:

Of course we need no study to observe how #swpats are unhelpful & #evil. But it’s reassuring having evidence & numbers backing it

Piana actually said that the only solution is to abolish software patents. He is seemingly associated with the FSFE and he represented Samba in their case against Microsoft, which abused patents in this area (it still does).

The former head of the FFII summarises the paper by writing:

“Boston University’s James Bessen has published a landmark study [abstract; full paper available at the link, free of charge] on a generation of software patents. Looking at almost 20 years of software patents, he finds ‘that most software firms still do not patent, most software patents are obtained by a few large firms in the software industry or in other industries, and the risk of litigation from software patents continues to increase dramatically. Given these findings, it is hard to conclude that software patents have provided a net social benefit in the software industry.’ Not that this surprises anyone actually innovating in software.”

The current head of the FFII quotes the author as saying that “it is hard to conclude that software patents have provided a net social benefit in the software industry”

Apple is meanwhile becoming more of a patent aggressor against Linux (this started last year):

The Cupertino Bully Apple has filed a patent lawsuit against Samsung in South Korea.

Not only Microsoft is in a position of trying to destroy Linux. It’s too good a platform to build an operating system upon (WebOS, Android, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, et cetera). Apple and Microsoft cannot compete.

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