Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Patent This!

Oh brother! Virtually every day there is a story coming out about how some corporation or another has patented the most obvious thing. It is simply outrageous. Particularly when it involves software. Software patents are a bane on society. Just one quick example: Microsoft patented the smiley :-) ?!? It's so unreal. But no... it is for real. (Groklaw has an excellent article on this issue. A must read, IMHO. I really like this quote by Rupert Goodwins in this piece, "You can only patent things that make physical changes in the world: these can contain software, but that software is not of itself patentable." Doesn't that make perfect sense? It does to me. Read the article, I think you will agree.)

I've meant to gather up a list of the stupidest patents issued over the course of just 2004-2005, but haven't gotten around to it yet. I'm sure someone has already done it. Maybe the idea of doing it has already been patented? Who knows? Go through this list, some of these are so patently (har har) funny, you'll roll out of your chair laughing... But, then it will hit you. These guys want it all, and they want it all right now--that's when this comedy show that is the US Patent Office suddenly becomes a terrifying nightmare that seems to have no end in sight... (At least not until they get bitten by their own handiwork perhaps? Check out the link. How ironic it would be...)

Today's news comes from Techdirt which points out that Trend Micro has a patent on the server-based anti-virus protection concept (stopping viruses at the server level). At least one company has been issued a court ordered ban on providing this type of product to their customers in the face of this patent. Who will they go after next? Symantec? McAfee? You?

It seems obvious to my simple mind that the only folks that benefit from software patents are lawyers and big corporations. After all, it takes $$ to pay the lawyers to sue. If you are a small business with software patents you really cannot go that route, you won't have the funds to stay the course. If you're "lucky", someone will just buy you out for your patents I guess... if the patents are worthy enough. In the end, it's still the lawyers and the big corporations who get all the cheese from software patents. They do absolutely nothing to benefit the rest of us. Copyright provides enough protection and is sufficient for code.

The European Union really (and barely) dogged a bullet on this issue just recently. They almost had software patents foisted upon them by their own bureaucrats, but the outcry was so massive it finally stopped the proponents of this diabolical entrapment. It came down to the wire though. They were stopped, for now. Next time around, Europe might find itself in the quagmire we are facing. It seems only a matter of time before the corporate interests win out over there as well. After all, they have very deep pockets and there is always next year...

This won't be the last time I bore you with this topic, I'm sure of that...

Hmm, I think I will go burn my Trend Micro T-Shirt now...

No comments: