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[personal profile] abqdan
Patents used to protect truly novel ideas, but now they are used to protect 'concepts' or even just 'ideas'. This is nonsense.

Software patents have bugged me for years (no pun intended). Back in the 90s, some companies got fat filing patents on tiny portions of code in applications, then claiming they were unique. Once they had a patent, they could sue any company that used the code or something essentially the same. I'm quite sure I routinely wrote PHP code that infringed a patent or two - because I was writing applications that do standard business processes, and they can only be tackled using a limited set of algoithms. And I once worked for a software company that was far prouder of its ever-growing list of patents than it was of its actual products.

This is equivalent to granting a patent on the idea of a fork. Then only one company could make forks; other companies would have to license the patent in order to make rival forks. Sounds silly I know, but that is essentially what is happening in the software industry.

Applie just received a $1 billion judgement in a patent suit - over such things as how a list on a phone or tablet 'bounces' when scrolled. They claim to have invented various 'movements' including a two-finger squeeze to reduce the size of a picture on a screen. I can't swear to it, but I'll bet that gesture was used previously in a science fiction movie or book - indeed, a huge number of developments have been predicted in that genre. Should the original writers be getting the patent fees? After all, the idea was theirs first.

In the end, the consumer loses, because choice is restricted or costs increase for rival products.

Am I saying we should do away with patents? No, but I do think the laws are currently a mess, and do not deal well with our modern society. True innovators should be protected, but the innovations need to be more substantial than displaying a button on a web page.


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