That anti-patent pamphlet I mentioned

Rui Miguel Seabra rms at
Tue Dec 17 10:51:23 UTC 2002

On Tue, 2002-12-17 at 07:08, Arnoud Galactus Engelfriet wrote:
> Rui Miguel Seabra wrote:
> > When you imitating a solution (either aware of it or not) you're having
> > more or less the same amount of effort the original solver had since
> > you're probably not even doing it the same way.
> OK. But in my terminology, you're not imitating, you're looking
> for an alternative since the solution is not essentially the same.
> > When you're copying the solution, you only had the work of copying
> > (almost zero, normally)... that is, you copied and relaunched as
> > yours...
> OK. And what if you make small modifications, for example making
> it out of plastic instead of metal?

LOL You can't make a patent that way!

You can't make a patent on a transportation device. You can make a
patent on a particular and well detailed transportation device.

To make something in metal you have to follow a set of procedures.
To make something in plastic (even if it does the same thing) you have
to follow a different set of procedures.

You can't patent: a device that solves this problem.
You can patent: this device that solves this problem.

Why should you be able to do that in software?

Software is so fundamentally different than hardware! It does not have
(not even a fraction) the same high costs, or risks. Its investigation
is *completely* incremental (you can't make some software that's so
radically new that it is based on nothing that doesn't already exist).

> > Why is your effort worth it, and not the others'?
> Basically, because I'm the first and I told the world how
> to avoid having to imitate the solution.

Well, the fact of having your patent, means precisely others will have
to avoid imitating your solution, so they do not run the risk of not
being allowed to do something!

Software patents do not promote disclosure.
Software patents propose obscurity. If you are the holder of a software
patent you decide:
  a) who can use that software today
  b) who will stop to use that software tomorrow
  c) change a) and b) at your will

And you can do so for an "eternity" in "software time".

The conclusion is obvious: most investigation is completely screwed.

1. Most people have to spend fortunes and an enormous time investigating
the existing patents in order to work around them.
We already know how hard (impossible?) it is to investigate the existing

2. Now add to that, the pending patents, which may bite you in the ass
when you least expect.

3. Add to that the thousands of software patents.

Sum 1+2+3, and please reach the same conclusion we did:

Only the powerful and rich can afford investigation. All others run
immense risks, so they feel unmotivated to investigate. As a result,
less people investigate. More obscurity.

Saying that that isn't true is completely ignoring reality. It already
happened, and is still happening.

Now some intent on changing the law so that becomes a reality in Europe.
Worse, those same people already have thousands of advantages granted by
the EPO, and still there is the intention of putting in harmony the
European and US Patent offices.

If you are in favour of an ideal system of patents that does not exist,
I could understand. But you are defending something that causes a lot
more harm to society than any unreal good it could bring.

+ No matter how much you do, you never do enough -- unknown
+ Whatever you do will be insignificant,
| but it is very important that you do it -- Gandhi
+ So let's do it...?
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