Weblogs: Miscellaneous

No Software Patents

Friday, November 26, 2004

For the sake of innovation and a competitive software market, we sincerely hope that the European Union will seize this opportunity to exclude software from patentability and gain a major competitive advantage in the information age.

Software patents prevent independent developers from writing code

I'm concerned about software patents. I'm worried that independent developers like myself are slowly being prevented from writing software. The category of hobbiest development branded as illegal.

I'm concerned that in a few years, the only organisations that will be legally allowed to write software are massive companies holding massive portfolios of software patents. Only because other patent holding companies won't have enough financial resource to press their patents against these big companies without a sizable backlash of legal counter-challenges.

Legal software development under software patents is prohibitively expensive

As an independent and solo software developer I have no financial foundation to protect myself against an onslaught of legal challenges arising from software patents. I have no option but stop development on a project I enjoy - regardless of the merit of the software patent. (One line of code that checks a variable is not an empty string - a trivial operation - looks to be sufficient for a patent infringement)

Open source software faces a similar problem - we develop software not for financial reward, but to meet a requirement, empower users of that software. No commercial gain.

Software patents are a legal barrier to individual developers

Can I avoid writing software that doesn't infringe on a software patent? Without consuming an extraordinary amount of time investigating and analysing existing patents - no. Can I as an individual spend the necessary time researching every conceivable patent to establish whether I breach it or not? Its not a realistic proposition, and it would probably take a legally-trained group of people to produce a reliable prognosis of my legal situation.

This legal resource requirement effectively sidelines small developers and non-profit making organisations from legally writing software. The legal grey area is too large, and the implications too risky.

Software patents protect organisations with money from individuals with talent

In the US, the Microsofts and the IBMs have spent years building up a sizable arsenal of software patents. Over the last few months Microsoft has settled numerous suits where they were infringing on the patents of others. Those other companies were well established companies - not single developers.

What software patents have effectively done in the US is to provide large companies with a veto over any piece of software produced. If they feel threatened by any piece of software, they open the software patent library and use that as a threat to their competition. Only large companies can defend themselves against the ensuing army of litigation experts.

Software patents removes consumer rights

How do software patents protect my rights as a consumer? Making it illegal to write my own software doesn't sound like the protection of my rights, it sounds like I'm losing a right I currently have.

The World Wide Web was produced under the freedom of software developers. Patent free. With software patents in place, the web would not have been possible. Software patents prevent us from improving the quality of computing.

For the benefit of myself, other individual software developers (hobby, amateur or professional), the people who use our software, the future of the World Wide Web, I support the No to software Patents movement.

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