Arnt Gulbrandsen
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Patere necesse est

This week, another thousand bloggers explain that patents are bad because they're used to harass, etc.

Noone seems to understand that for software patents to be meet their stated aims, it must be possible for programmers to learn something by searching for, finding and reading the relevant patent.

Wikipedia defines patents as a set of exclusive rights granted [...] to an inventor [...] in exchange for the public disclosure of an invention. That public disclosure isn't happening now: software patents aren't understandable to software developers, so the rights are granted in exchange for effectively nothing.

Wikipedia goes on to say the same thing again in different words: The word patent originates from the Latin patere, which means to lay open (i.e., to make available for public inspection).

Avoiding harassment is a start, but it's not enough. Patere necesse est.

Update: Two corollaries, obvious IMO, but... There must be something in each patent that's worth learning. Restating textbooks isn't enough. And each patent must be such that it's practically possible to work without infringing/licensing it.

Software patents not all bad

So Paul Allen sues over patents and I'm sure he'll attract a lot of flak for that. But a side issue interests me particularly: The patents were originally awarded to Interval Research, a tech R&D firm founded by Allen and former Xerox executive David Liddle in 1992. The firm was folded in 2000, and the patents were later transferred to Interval Licensing. […More…]