[Fsfe-ie] How I explain the patents problem to the non-technical

Seth Johnson seth.johnson at realmeasures.dyndns.org
Wed May 26 23:19:04 CEST 2004

"mmcweeney at oceanfree.net" wrote:
>   "If I design a new bike, that's my design and I can copyright it."
> That was understood without a problem.
> Next I mentioned that Patents are ownership of a concept or idea, so if I had
> a patent on "Mechanically propelled transport", then every maker of bikes, skateboards,
> rollerskates, miniscooters etc. owes me.
> Once explained, the upshot is that jobs will go to juristictions where these
> patents don't apply.  So, it's not just a computer problem, but an economic
> one.

This is really good.  Only thing is, I personally would say "software
patents give people exclusive rights to abstract concepts or ideas."

1) The idea that "patents are necessary in order to have control of ideas
[as opposed to the supposedly inadequate coverage of original expression
provided by copyright]" is newthink -- as far as I'm concerned, even patents
in the tradition were not supposed to be for abstract ideas as such, but for
particular implementations of abstract theoretical insights; proscriptions
against having exclusive rights to ideality or abstract theory also apply to
patents, as we see reflected in codes such as Article 52 of the EPC.
2) Rather than speaking about patents in general, this says that when
patents are applied to software, then due to the inherent nature of
software, the result is that we are giving control over an abstract idea, a
general and theoretical insight.
3) I don't give over the notion that we're talking about ownership when we
talk about patents or copyright, but rather prefer to emphasize that these
are statutory rights and use the term "exclusive rights."



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