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Hacking through the Software Patent Thickets

May 25, 2010, 15:02 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Glyn Mody)

[ Thanks to Glyn Moody for this link. ]

"Most people in the hacking community are well aware that patents represent one of the most serious threats to free software. But the situation is actually even worse than it seems, thanks to the proliferation of what are called patent thickets. To understand why these are so bad, and why they represent a particular problem for software, it is necessary to go back to the beginning of patent law.

"The patent thicket As their name implies, patents are about making something "patent", or public, so that others can use and build on an invention – but only after a certain period, during which time the patent-holder has a monopoly right (what kind of right is discussed below). Indeed, the origin of British patent law – and of many anglophone countries that base their law on this tradition – is the 1623 Statute of Monopolies.

"The idea of patents was to ensure that new discoveries were not kept secret. "

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