August 29, 2003 · Lessig
The battle against software patents is coming to a head in the EU. (Not that much of the support for software patents has come from the head.) As these articles (News.com, TheRegister, and Slashdot) describe, the battle has become quite heated, with the side of right not expected to prevail.
A large number of F/OSS-related sites are shutting down because of the move. See, e.g., Gimp. And those amazing Europeans are actually marching in the streets about this threat to the freedom to innovate.
That there is a threat would be more obvious to WIPO and the US government if it didn’t spend its efforts working to remain ignorant about the importance of balance in intellectual property law. But I understand, they’re very busy, those regulating sorts. So here’s perhaps the most concise and compelling account of just why software patents will harm new innovators (that’s you Europe) and benefit old innovators (that’s America), written in 1991 by Mr. Gates:
“If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today�s ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete stand-still today. The solution . . . is patent exchanges . . . and patenting as much as we can. . . . A future start-up with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose. That price might be high: Established companies have an interest in excluding future competitors.” Fred Warshofsky, The Patent Wars 170-71 (NY: Wiley 1994).
Perhaps the F/OSS sites should take more advantage of this unique opportunity for them to quote the wisdom of Mr. Gates.