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[d@DCC] Letter to the Editor Re: Opinion: Patent Progress
From: Russell McOrmond <russell _-at-_ flora.ca>
Re: http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,3959,1122081,00.asp I am glad this type of story is being written. There is a misconception that software patents are generally supported by the software industry that they are claimed to aid, even though the required economic studies to prove this have never been done. Patent offices have been expanding the scope of their domain to software and business models, treating the issue as a legal/enforcement issue when Intellectual Property is pure economic public policy. When the very people that public policy is aimed at helping are largely opposed, you know that some bad politics are at play. This inappropriate expansion is seen first in the United States, and then is pushed on the rest of the word by the US Trade negotiators who push extremely aggressively for unlimited patentability worldwide. They are trying to impose this very backward way of looking at patent policy (treating it as a legal rather than economic policy), and have unfortunately being fairly successful in the short term in doing so. I believe that if proper economic analysis is done of patents in this sector that the exclusion of software from patentability that the EU parliament tried to implement (and the EPO has been negligently ignoring) would be implemented (and enforced against patent offices) worldwide. It is interesting that this otherwise hidden concept is being made visible in the mainstream media, and I suspect that the SCO defamation case is helping. The uncertainty and speculation around SCO shows just how bad this problem can be when some undisclosed claimed infringement can cause reputation harm to critical parts of the industry. If deployments of Linux are being delayed because of this, what legal recourse will the Linux community have against SCO for this form of defamation, beyond the inevitable bankruptcy of SCO as a leftover from the Dot.Bomb era? If the SCO case was a real copyright or patent infringement case, the infringement would have been disclosed long before the story was brought to the media. If an infringement was disclosed, new code could have been written to innovate-around that claimed infringement. It would likely have been cheaper to innovate-around than to even question whether SCO has any legitimate rights to the particular UNIX code in the first place (which is debatable as well). Note: I am a Canadian IT consultant, specializing in Free/Libre and Open Source Software. I will soon be releasing a report on software patents for Industry Canada, ICT branch, which may be of interest to your magazine. http://www.flora.ca/russell/drafts/software-patent2003.shtml The final version will be published by the end of this month. --- Russell McOrmond, Internet Consultant: <http://www.flora.ca/> Governance software that controls ICT, automates government policy, or electronically counts votes, shouldn't be bought any more than politicians should be bought. -- http://www.flora.ca/russell/ -- For (un)subscription information, posting guidelines and links to other related sites please see http://www.digital-copyright.ca
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