06.10.18

Gervase Markham Outlines the Case Against Software Patents

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Patents at 1:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Gervase Markham
By Didyktile, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Summary: “Innovation in software proceeds at a rapid pace, and does not need the “encouragement” of patents,” explains Markham

The former Governator at the Mozilla Corporation, Gervase Markham (the programmer, not the poet), has something to say about software patents. “In 2006,” according to Wikipedia, “he won a Google-O’Reilly Open Source Award as “Best Community Activist” [...] and has been undergoing treatment for metastatic adenoid cystic carcinoma.”

“As we have stressed so many times before, almost every software developer is against software patents.”We were very saddened to learn some months ago that his time alive might be very limited. His words about software patents are therefore more critical/important to preserve.

Spotted via the blog (in Planet Mozilla) of the developer, Gervase Markham, was this piece titled “A Case for the Total Abolition of Software Patents” (later mentioned in Soylent News as well). “A little while back,” it says, “I wrote a piece outlining the case for the total abolition (or non-introduction) of software patents, as seen through the lens of “promoting innovation”. Few of the arguments are new, but the “Narrow Road to Patent Goodness” presentation of the information is quite novel as far as I know, and may form a good basis for anyone trying to explain all the possible problems with software (or other) patents.”

From the introduction:

Very few software patents make it down the road to patent goodness. The vast majority cost the company money to file and then lie gathering dust, acting only to provide a vague chilling effect on innovation in that area for those brave enough to do a patent search. A few become famous and tie up an enormous amount of industry and lawyer time and money. And almost none achieve that fabled goal of protecting the small inventor from the large rapacious company which wants to “steal his idea” and leave him penniless. If you add to that poor hit-rate the negative systemic effects from having a software patent system, it seems to me that the conclusion becomes obvious. Innovation in software proceeds at a rapid pace, and does not need the “encouragement” of patents. Software patents are a problem for the industry now, and will only be a bigger one in the future. We should work to end them.

We are going to keep this archived in case the domain expires in the future. As we have stressed so many times before, almost every software developer is against software patents. Patent law firms don’t like to talk about it.

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