Patents

So there’s a petition. Direct the Patent Office to Cease Issuing Software Patents. It’s got a lot of signatures on it.

Let’s agree that Patent Trolls are Bad. Likewise, let’s agree that the Mutually-Assured-Destruction style standoff at the high end of the company scale is more pointless than useful. And let’s accept the fact that if you’re a tiny company, you pretty much have to just pay people who attack you with patents, irrespective of if you think they have an actual case.

But to cease issuing software patents? All that would really accomplish is that all the people who currently have software patents would now have a total stranglehold over all new entrants, who would be unable to defend themselves using their own patents.

Of course, the petition doesn’t actually propose that. If you read all the way to the end of the last paragraph, it says “and to void all previously issued software patents”.

There are more than 200,000 outstanding software patents, according to various unattributed sources on the internet. This economist article points out that both the Nortel and the Motorola deals, on a price-per-patent basis, valued those patents at $510,204.08 each. So, with lots of handwaving, we can argue that this petition is asking the US government to unilaterally destroy $100bn worth of corporate-held property.

That’ll be popular.