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Re: Red Hat on patent FUD

From: Ezekiel
Subject: Re: Red Hat on patent FUD
Date: Mon, 23 Mar 2009 08:03:05 -0400

"Alan Mackenzie" <> wrote in message 
> 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.

It protects the inventor from having others steal and profit from the 

> 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 in complete agreement that the patent system is issuing too many 
trivial patents. There's a lot of crap patents out there. Google has 
patents on blowing air on the back of computer racks and patents on 
physically running network patch cables along a 19" rack mount cabinet. But 
this doesn't mean that I'm against valid 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.

I didn't realize that you were talking about "software patents" - I must 
have been thrown off when you mentioned "factories" in your post and 
assumed you were referencing all patents.

I'm not against software patents any more then I'm against any valid and 
innovative patent. The problem with software patents is the same as what 
exists in just about every other patentable area... just about everything 
and anything is being patented.

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