[Fsfe-ie] patent letter to be sent thursday night (v2)

Ian Clarke ian at locut.us
Thu May 6 16:42:34 CEST 2004

>  Why should computer software be excluded from the patent system

I would answer this with our core contention - simple and to-the-point. 
  Something like "Software patents will stifle competition and 
innovation in the software industry".  Then we go on to justify that 
bold assertion.

> I've kept the letter to a readable length
> but IFSO would welcome further dialogue on this issue and will make
> itself available to answer any questions you may have.

How about "IFSO will be more than happy to respond to any questions you 
may have as a result of this brief summary of our position."

> "Software patents" is the idea of
> creating artificial limits.

How about "Software patents impose artificial limits on innovation, and 
are therefore contrary to the very freedom that nurtures innovation in 
the software industry".

> Software is easy to develop because it can ignore the limitations of
> the physical world.  For this reason, people can create very complex
> software packages which incorporate hundreds or thousands of ideas.
> Most new software is a combination of new and old ideas.

Replace this with "Software innovation is an incremental process. 
Software is created by building on a multitude of small innovations 
which combine to solve larger problems.  For example..."

>  A word
> processor with a spell checker must incorporate a lot of standard word
> processor ideas - otherwise it wouldn't be a word processor. 

> This
> type of incremental innovation is how software has progressed for the
> last half-century, and most people would agree that software has
> progressed very far in that time.

This last bit is redundant, I would get rid of it.  Less is more.

> In contrast, the one software innovation that has produced the

"In contrast" to what?  We should get rid of "In contrast, the" and 
capitalize "One".

> If individual software implementable ideas become ownable, that
> process of incremental innovation will have to stop.

Trivially disprovable, individual software implementable ideas are 
ownable in the US and incremental innovation still occurs there. 
Replace with:

"If individual software implementable ideas become ownable, it will 
inhibit this process of incremental innovation.

 >  To build a
> spell-checking word processor, you'll need to get permission from the
> holder of the word processor patents, and you'll need to pay for the
> right to write your spell-checking word processor.  Incremental
> development of software would become a legal minefield, and many
> software innovations would never reach the market.

>  And it doesn't
> matter if a programmer thinks of a patented idea on his/her own - it's
> still an illegal infringement.

How about:

"Crucially, even if a programmer independently develops an idea that is 
patented, it will still be an illegal infringement".

> In America, large software developing companies find it impossible to
> develop new software without infringing eachothers patents, so
> companies with large patent porfolios cross-license with eachother.
> This situation protects the large companies from the harm of software
> patents, but completely locks out small and medium enterprises, and
> individuals.

We should cite practical examples and studies of the harm caused by 
software patents *before* we give our theoretical explanation for why 
they cause this harm.  that way even if they don't understand our 
theoretical argument, they can still point to reputable studies that 
support our argument.


More information about the FSFE-IE mailing list