For about a year I’ve been thinking about all that’s wrong with the patent system. It started with a nice piece done by NPR called “The Patent War.” I was blown away that there are faceless companies with offices in Texas and all they do is suck up patents and litigate against them. We do not have patents to support technology thiefs.
The patent law was written in 1790 to “promote the progress of science and useful arts,” but today it is doing the exact opposite. I was reminded of this by a TED talk I watched yesterday called “Embrace the remix” by Kirby Ferguson. The talk focuses on what is creativity, but it has some very vivid contrasts. My favorite is the fact that much of the technology Steve Jobs used to get started was actually created by many over people and companies. He combined it in a way that was successful, but he would have failed had companies like Xerox patented things like a scroll bar, or a gui interface. Contrast this fact with Apple’s patent of the slide to unlock, and multi-touch, which is nothing more than a business trick to hord technology and stifle innovation.
If you would like to find out more, Brad Feld has a couple good posts on the subject:
- Software Patent Absurdity, May 2010
- Mailing Out Patent Absurdity, June 2010
- Time To Really Deal With The Broken Software Patent System, Aug 2011