Time for a Shake-up in Patent Law

With the European rejection of changes to their patent law to cover software patents, perhaps it is time for a re-think worldwide
The massive vote against a proposed
change to patent law in Europe to create a single approach to patenting
software means that perhaps all countries should reconsider their
patent law on software, at the very least. The European Parliament rejected the law 648 to 14, with 18 abstentions.

Patenting of software in the US has reached absurd levels. The US
patent office has basically dropped all assessment, or so it appears,
and is granting patents unless someone objects. This forces much more
litigation than should be happening and this is very bad for innovation
from small companies who can not afford to defend themselves against an
attack from a large company with deep pockets and retained lawyers who
need to justify their payments. US companies have been patenting all
sorts of things that have had substantial prior use on the basis that
if they get the patent it is up to other people to challenge the patent
in court. They hope it may just appear easier to pay a nominal
licensing fee. Indeed the true decadence of the present system is
obvious with a number of US companies effectively stopping all real
trading and simply generating revenue off of patents and through
litigation.

It is my view that the US government is allowing the interests of big
business to drive intellectual property issues, and that this will
ultimately bite the American technology sector on the arse as the
centers of innovation move elsewhere. Patenting of software is one
example, as are the patenting practices in bio-technology and the
ongoing extension of copyright to protect Disney.

Could the rise of patent protection actually be stifling innovation? An
article in NewScientist magazine on the 2nd of July, 2005, entitled
“Are we on our way back to the Dark Ages?, by Robert Adler, discusses
the work of Jonathon Huebner that the rate of real innovation per billion of world population peaked
in 1873 and has been sharply declining ever since.Whilst this work is
highly disputed it does raise some interesting ideas about what
constitutes real innovation as opposed to mere refinement.

Perhaps it is time the whole world had a good look at intellectual
property laws and re-evaluated the types, relevance and appropriate
protections granted under the various forms of intellectual property
rights. And also the obligations.

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