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Why I Am Against Software Patents

Mar 25, 2010, 19:03 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Stephen O'Grady)

"The surprise to most people isn’t that I do not believe that software should be patentable. Given my long term interest in and coverage of free and open source software, I’m supposed to be at least mildly anti-establishment. It is also statistically unlikely that I would be in favor of patents, because industry sentiment is overwhelmingly against them at the present time (as the author acknowledges here).

"Most expect me to argue, as has Brad Feld’s anonymous lawyer, James Surowiecki or Red Hat, that patents are actually counterproductive with respect to innovation. That the entire purpose of a patent – to stimulate invention by granting the inventor wide-reaching protections – is subverted as broad, over-reaching patents are accumulated like mercury by competing organizations that are unwilling, unable or both to work together to advance markets. But while I agree with the sentiment, that’s not why I am against software patents.

"Others expect me to assert, as did Union Square Ventures’ Brad Burnham, that software is, by its nature, different from physical inventions and innovations. That it does not require the same protections to stimulate invention that physical goods do. But while I believe this to be true, this is not why I’m against software patents."

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