That anti-patent pamphlet I mentioned

Niall Douglas s_fsfeurope at
Fri Dec 13 16:02:05 UTC 2002

On 12 Dec 2002 at 0:42, Xavi Drudis Ferran wrote:

> Yes it is important. But you can't make that distiction with 
> software. As long as all your novel and inventive stuff is 
> software, the information and the machine are the same. 
> That's why you can't patent software, because you can 
> publicize information and monopolize it at the same time, 
> and with software, machine = software = information. 

The big problem with saying software is information is how easy you 
can get shot down for it. Any half-witted lawyer would shred that 
argument to pieces and all the protesting in the world will not help 

Hence the prevailing winds say software = the device. This is also 
wrong and we all (I think) know it, but because these are the only 
two areas known to the legal and political systems, we're getting 
burned for it.

I don't know how much support there is in here for it, but I believe 
software sits in a third category that needs special and distinct 
legal treatment.

Oh Arnoud, I should have thought through the last email better - I 
did *not* mean to say software is the same as design plans. They have 
similarities yes, but design plans are not useful without human 
involvement (supplying of materials for one thing). Software is 
eternally true and useful without any extra contextualisation.

> The way to recover investment in software in being first to market,
> and being knowledgeable in your field. In software there are only two
> ways to compete: - having a monopoly - innovating In manufacturing you
> can compete by costs of raw materials, distribution channels,
> production capacity, etc. 

I would add PR here too. If you look at Win95 vs. OS2/Warp, 95 won 
mostly because of an excellent PR campaign.

> In software the marginal costs are the same for everybody, you won't
> be successful with your program if it doesn't something new or does it
> better. 

I would disagree with this. Your software can do nothing new at all 
and indeed do it worse than the competition, but it can still sweep 
to success for all the technically wrong reasons.

> So don't tell me there's no incentive to innovate, because innovate is
> what programmers do for a living. Setting up patents to incentivate
> innovation in knowledge economy is like granting monopoly for
> tightening bolts in industrial economy. 

I'd also disagree with this. Most software engineers I /believe/ work 
in tying together other bits of software and producing a non-
innovative work. I have no hard figures on this, but the bespoke 
software industry is mostly bread and butter programming doing 
nothing new and original at all.


More information about the Discussion mailing list