Monday, October 04, 2004

MORE ANTI-SOFTWARE PUBLICATIONS: The League for Programming Freedom has this interesting article on why software should not be patentable. Some of the rationale given is that software isn't just something new, software is something fundamentally different. Abstract and slippery, it doesn't conform to the ordinary constraints of the real world of objects. The nature of software has created not only a different kind of intellectual challenge, but a different kind of industry with its own particular economic structure. And because software is largely free from physical constraints, complexity has grown to the current state where a single large computer program cannot be completely understood by any one person. The complexity of software means that it is dependent on many technologies. The abstraction of software means that it is hard to classify these technologies, so there is a combinatorial explosion of potential patent coverage which removes any kind of certainty about what is patented and what is not.

The result is that:
Software patents are expensive to search.
Software patents are expensive to analyze.
Software patents are expensive to fight over in court.

In short, because of their broad coverage and complexity, software patents introduce far more uncertainty than do their non-software cousins. And uncertainty is bad for business. Uncertainty makes it difficult to decide the best strategy to pursue. Which patents might you be in violation of? Will the patent owners take any action? What royalties will they request? Will they sue? Will you be able to get the patent overturned? What damages might be awarded?

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