[Fsfe-ie] patents letter stuff

Ian Clarke ian at locut.us
Wed Jan 14 23:42:23 CET 2004

Ciaran O'Riordan wrote:
> I'd like to be able to point out that all software innovations that have
> pushed society forward, are patent-free.  So what other examples are there?

I think it would be easier to think of the software innovations that
pushed society forward that *weren't* patent free.

RSA and LZW are the only two widespread algorithms for which patents
existed yet which still received widespread usage that I can think of
off the top of my head.  Effectively alternatives were found for both
until their patents expired.

E-Cash might be an example of a potentially useful software innovation
that hasn't got anywhere, arguably because it is patented up to the hilt.

I find it hard to believe that a lack of examples of non-patented
innovations which mattered, or patented innovations which didn't, could
be the core issue in this debate - since neither is in short supply.

We need to identify what the core issue is here that decision makers
need to be persuaded of.  I think we will make a mistake if we nitpick
minor points of fact, we have to be clear and unambiguous.  Something like:

"The Internet is the most important innovation since the printing press.
    If software patents had existed in the 1970s, the Internet would
still be science fiction today".


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