Friday, October 01, 2004

PATENTS BEING ADDRESSED IN PRESIDENTIAL RACE - OK, well, not really. Slashdot has an interview with Green Party candidate David Cobb, and - surprise! - he is against patenting software. Whatever one thinks about the Green Party (and personally, I don't think much of it), kudos to Mr. Cobb for actually being able to address patent/IP issues in his discussions. Some of the comments made by Mr. Cobb are as follows:

The Green Party supports protection of software (free or proprietary) by means of the copyright. We strongly oppose granting of software patents. Mathematical algorithms are discovered, not invented, by humans; therefore, they are not patentable. The overwhelming majority of software patents cover algorithms and should never have been awarded, or they cover message formats of some kind, which are essentially arbitrary. Format patents only exist to restrain competition, and the harm falls disproportionately on programmers who work independently or for the smallest employers."

For most of the history of the US Patents and Copyrights Office, most patent applications were denied. Most "inventions" didn't meet the triple test of being novel, useful/valuable, and not obvious to "someone skilled in the art." Patents that were granted lasted 12 years which was considered to be a third of an invention's useful life. Today, the patent office rubber stamps just about anything. We don't need a new policy, we need the old policy. Let's give standing to all stakeholders to challenge and strike down mistaken or overly broad patents, or patents granted despite the existence of prior art. (Besides genetic patents being a particularly vile abuse of corporate power, genes are, by definition, prior art. We oppose the genetic modification of organisms, as well, but that's another topic.) There's also a place for an eminent domain process for striking down a patent when there is an overriding public interest, as in the case of absurdly overpriced life-saving drugs.

You know, I admire him for being able to discuss these issues intelligently, but is there anything these guys see that doesn't require overbearing government regulation? To each according to his abilities, I guess . . .

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