Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A good article on software patents...

Till now I was searching for a good site that would give me some idea about what are software patents. Its not that I was not aware of it all along. Its just that in the heat of this debate that is currently unsettled, I didn't know what to believe. Somehow I was searching for an article that dealt with the issue somewhat neutrally; and one particle article stuck my eye.

This is probably the third search listing at google when I had searched for "software patents vs no software patents". I never expected that something dealing with "free software" to come up, but it did. This article is just about that. The author uses "free software" as a line of defense. Well most of you may argue the neutrality, but I figure this makes sense. The article can be reached at :-

Before I mention more about this subject for future posts I should clarify my point of view. I support the idea behind free software because it supports freedom. It has made me realize that the modern IP system is very restrictive. It doesn't give us that much freedom. The essence of this freedom is something that is hard to realize if you are new to the subject. For other people it my even be hard to believe. But I do believe this freedom can help us develop in a promising direction though I may not be capable of expressing the essence of this freedom in words right now.

Well this article is biased towards free software. If you want to appreciate the argument please try to grasp what the essence of free software has to communicate to us.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Patents and the cult of free software

This issue is a subject of intense debate even now as I speak. But still, software patents exists around the world. Earlier patenting software had no real logic; a simple copyright was enough to protect the author. But later people realised the economic advantages of patenting software. It so happens that these advantages somehow outweighs the disadvantages. The United States Trademark and Patent Office (USTPO) first response to patenting software was that it was not patentable. I guess they held the idea that anything that was reducable to a system of mathematical algorithms was not patentable. Later on that changed.

Software patents are bad for the development of free software. It restricts development in fact! The nature how patents are registered in the patent office makes the situation more complicated. The best story I can think of at this moment is that of Richard Stallman's experience behind developing the GNU/Linux OS. [Read RMS essays]. Stallman gives solutions to solve the problem of software patents. But in my opinion I don't think there is one single solution that would put an end to the restrictive nature of patents!!!

Patents put you in danger. Some of the ideas you conceive while developing software may have been patented without your knowledge. In America, the system of applying a patent is that the patentee must sign up for his patent. This process might take a year. Only after a year it gets approved and the patent licence is issued. In between this one year, anyone who has accidently violated the patent sign up is liable for a hearing from the court and for liabilities. And when the patent goes licenced, the scenario is pretty much the same. You'll get screwed for violating patents! Thats the way patents are...

The subject matter is still under intense debate as I've mentioned before. So well, I'd rather say something that I feel is correct. Patents would sound logical if the case was an invention we are dealing with; for e.g. a new drug, or a new explosive charge. Here the inventor is claiming that he has knowledge on his invention rather than anyone else; and therefore says that I need to be the one that looks after the development of this idea. This way the society beneifts from his invention. Now if the invetion goes into other peoples' hands then it might result in some catastrophe. Imagine asking another person (other than the inventor) to look after a nuclear reactor which has something totally revolutionary in its design. I believe it is for these reasoms that patents must exist.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A little idea about patents

Ever wondered what a patent is?

I don't have a clear idea, but I have the over all picture.

Patents are just another set of intellectual property rights. Intellectual property rights again are laws that protect ideas that people have, and are genenrally not good to mess with. It is an umberalla term that is used to refer to the object of a variety of laws that includes copyright law, trademark law, etc. If you want to research on this I suggest looking though wikipedia. Click here.

If you have an invention and you know it somehow bebefits your society then you can go ahead and patent it. By doing so you are saying, "this is my invention; it is something revolutionary; I want to be the one to further develop on it. Others may not possess the aptitude to do so. Hence, this way I ensure that the society is benefitted in return."

So this is how the philosophy of patents work.

Now is it right to own software patents?