Software Patents – Bad Idea

Posted on April 11, 2007  Comments (1)

MIT League for Programming Freedom on Software Patents, including: Why Patents Are Bad for Software, No Patents on Ideas by Thomas Jefferson and letter from Donald E. Knuth to the U.S. Patent Office

In the period 1945-1980, it was generally believed that patent law did not pertain to software. However, it now appears that some people have received patents for algorithms of practical importance–e.g., Lempel-Ziv compression and RSA public key encryption–and are now legally preventing other programmers from using these algorithms.

This is a serious change from the previous policy under which the computer revolution became possible, and I fear this change will be harmful for society. It certainly would have had a profoundly negative effect on my own work: For example, I developed software called TeX that is now used to produce more than 90% of all books and journals in mathematics and physics and to produce hundreds of thousands of technical reports in all scientific disciplines. If software patents had been commonplace in 1980, I would not have been able to create such a system, nor would I probably have ever thought of doing it, nor can I imagine anyone else doing so.

Related: Are Software Patents Evil?The Patent System Needs to be Significantly ImprovedPatenting Life is a Bad IdeaIntellectual Property Rights and InnovationPatent LawThe Differences Between Culture and CodeGoogle Patent Search Fun

One Response to “Software Patents – Bad Idea”

  1. CuriousCat: Google Exec Says Patent System in Crisis
    August 2nd, 2007 @ 2:04 pm

    “Such businesses, often referred to as trolls in patent law, have proved to be a serious minefield for tech companies over the last few years. Lee highlighted the tribulations of Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry handheld, which settled a patent lawsuit for $612m last May…”

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