[Fsfe-ie] Possible opinion formers: academics

Ian Clarke ian at locut.us
Thu Dec 4 11:04:23 CET 2003

Justin Mason wrote:
> I used to work for Iona -- they were very keen on software patents, at
> least at one stage.  If I recall correctly, the board was keen on
> establishing a patent portfolio, since that's viewed as a Good Thing by
> investors and shareholders.  So it would be unlikely, I'd say.

I have experienced investor-pressure to get software patents to while in 
the US - unfortunately such investors are operating on a "Cargo Cult"* 

There are actually robust business reasons that software patents are a 
bad idea, and I used these arguments to persuade my partners and 
investors not to go down that route.  These are:

1) Its expensive for a small company

2) It takes 3 years, which may as-well be a lifetime for a small company

3) They are useless if a large company infringes the patent as they will
    simply accuse you of infringing one of their patents and force you to

4) By the time you have discovered (3) you have already disclosed your
    invention as part of the patent process and there is nothing you can
    do about it

I successfully advocated a trade secret strategy which is:

1) Free

2) Doesn't take any time

3) If it is a genuinely novel idea it won't be independently re-invented
    and so the issue of someone else "infringing" it won't arise

I relay this story to highlight the fact that most investors *do* like 
to see patents, but they typically don't know why.  I also relay it to 
highlight that there are good reasons why patents are a bad thing even 
from the perspective of the person seeking the software patent.


* http://www.physics.brocku.ca/etc/cargo_cult_science.html

More information about the FSFE-IE mailing list