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Re: Red Hat on patent FUD

From: Alan Mackenzie
Subject: Re: Red Hat on patent FUD
Date: Mon, 23 Mar 2009 11:52:37 +0000 (UTC)
User-agent: tin/1.6.2-20030910 ("Pabbay") (UNIX) (FreeBSD/4.11-RELEASE (i386))

In gnu.misc.discuss Ezekiel <> wrote:
> On Sun, 22 Mar 2009 23:29:38 +0000, Alan Mackenzie it was written:

>> In gnu.misc.discuss amicus_curious <> wrote:
>>> "ml2mst" <> wrote in message
>>> news:gq2fsa$apa$
>>> You are wrong.  Patents are simply a means to protect the ideas of
>>> innovators from wanton copycatting by others.
>> Sorry, but you are wrong here.  There's no protection involved, because
>> the ideas aren't in any danger.  The ideas are enhanced rather than
>> damaged if they are copied by others.
>> No, patents are a means of _restricting_ the use of the ideas of
>> innovators.

>>> Those who can think of new things to do need to be rewarded or else we
>>> will be faced with a steep decline in technological progress.

>> Well, that's a very vague and very woolly.  Traditionally, especially in
>> the USA, people who've thought of new things set up companies and get
>> rich by making those things and selling them to eager customers.  "need
>> to be rewarded" suggests more the idea of a large government fund paying
>> out taxpayers' money to privileged people.

> The problem with no patents is that existing companies with existing 
> factories, existing employees and existing sales and distribution 
> channels would simply "take" any new innovation and bury any new company. 
> Patent protection is the only thing that stops existing companies from 
> stealing ideas and maintains a level playing field.

This is true.  However, never get confused as to what patent protection
protects: it is the inventor, not the invention.

The problem with excessive patenting, awarding patents to things which
aren't inventive, is that these self same channels get patents on
ordinary humdrum tools and working methods, thus suppressing competition
for humdrum products.  This seems to be the dominant mechanism at work
for software patents.

I'm not aware of any software patents in existence which cover things
inventive.  The only one I'm aware of, now expired, was for the RSA
public key encryption algorithm.  Things inventive enough to have been
patented are few: maybe Larry Wall's patch, the subroutine concept,
incremental search, the GUI, to take a few at random.

Alan Mackenzie (Nuremberg, Germany).

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