Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Cory @ Boing Boing
Euro software patents: dead again! w00t!:

Aymeric sez, "I was at the Brussels demo [against software patents] today and the result, it appears, was slightly positive." That's an understatement: the software patent issue is dead again in the European Parliament and has to be rebooted from start if the other side wants to get it through!

The European Parliament has thrown out a bill that would have allowed software to be patented.

Politicians unanimously rejected the bill and now it must go through another round of consultation if it is to have a chance of becoming law.

During consultation the software patents bill could be substantially re-drafted or even scrapped.


(Thanks, Aymeric!)

This is great news. I wish Japan would listen to Europe on this issue.

Follow the link to Boing Boing for more information and updates.


Out of curiosity, why is this great news?

Because I don't like software patents. See this post and read the comments for a discussion about them that we had on this blog from January. Just Google for software patents for all of the other posts on the topic here. I've written about it a lot...

here in austria, the government finally decided to be against software patents (after several initiatives by many organizations) and will be supporting poland's opposition against software patents. power to the people! ;-)

Thanks for the background. Very intersting perspectives. I didn't realize the absolute costs to smaller companies & start-ups to sustain patent protection were so high. Coupled with barriers that don't exist in the open source community, I can see how patents could stifle innovation in certain instances.

From the perspective of someone who's wife has a few patents from a larger software company I tend to like them. Her company pays one time cash and/or stock rewards for innovative patentable solutions/features that are used in shipping products. I'm sure not all companies do this but it is a nice touch that rewards for truly creative ideas that the employee would, for the reasons you mention in the other thread, otherwise be unable to gain benefit from.

While the 'problem solving gene' that sales people sometimes seem to lack is what probably really drives most engineers, the idea that you'll actually personally benefit from your innovations does make for happy engineers. Selfish? Sure. But baby needs a new pair of shoes.

The incentive provided by patents isn't really always or even primarily for an engineer, nor in my opinion should be. The incentive is for capitalization and commercialization of an idea.

Many many novel ideas go unused or underused (throughout the economy) because they are not 'propertized' in such a way that they can be traded. Patents allow this to happen, and therefore can create incredible value.

The problems with the cost of obtaining a patent and litigating patents are high, but in my opinion that is where our focus should be in terms of improving the patent system.

However, software in my opinion is by its nature more needful of patent protection than many other technologies.

Suffice it to say that those who oppose will continue to do so, and those who support will continue to do so as well. The question at this point is simply who will win. ;) And if Europe makes it more difficult to obtain patents on software inventions, the resulting effect on their economies over the next 10 years will be very enlightening. I strongly suspect it will be negative.

Trevor, as in our conversation last month, you said what I was thinking. However, after the last experience of debating this issue, I have come to the conclusion that I really do not want to engage in more debate with these people (including our host) who appear to feel as strongly against the issue as I feel for it. So instead of debating, I am going to take advantage of the fact that I live in America and develop entrepreneurial businesses based on great ideas that are protected by strong intellectual property :-)

Joi, :-)

Actually, it's already possible to apply for 'software patents'.

The problem is that it's not clearly defined what is included and excluded by law. The law states that computer related inventions can be patented, but not programs or pieces of code. The directive is about clearing up this unclarity and not specifically about being able to file software patents or not:

"The proposed Directive would harmonise the way in which national patent laws deal with inventions using software."

IMHO, Manfred has it right.

Trevor - if we (i.e. anti-patents) win, we'll find out. Personally I think the effect would be extremely positive, but then I would. :-)

Think about it - the computing/software industry is pretty much unique in its rate of change so far, and I think a fair amount of that is because people are free to re-implement good ideas (obviously without illegally duplicating the copyrighted implementation).

"intellectual property", I think you're merging multiple types of IP into one there... Europe still has strong copyright laws (and the EUCD, unfortunately). It's just software patents we don't want.

Okay, I'll go back into my corner now...