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Software patent—- for whoes benefit July 28, 2004

Posted by mais in Uncategorized.
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Will Software Patents Destroy The U.S. Software Industry?

:: Manageability ::

There’s a pretty

disturbing thread
going on a TheServerSide.  It was supposed to be a
discussion about Hibernate, unfortunately its degenerated into an extremely
heated and personal shouting match between the Ward Mullins (CTO of ThoughtInc)
and Gavin King (co-author of Hibernate).  Apparently, Ward is taking the
playbook out of SCO, and playing the Patent FUD game.  That is, if you’re not a
commercial entity, then the software you’re distributing hasn’t been cleared by
the lawyers and it just might be possible that you might be violating someone’s
intellectual property (i.e. IP).  Software Patents is now a weapon of choice to
spread Fear, Uncertainty and Disinformation against a competitor.  It doesn’t
matter that your patents will hold up in the court of law, it doesn’t matter if
you can extract compensation, what seems to matter is that you can make
customers of a competitor think twice.  It’s an extremely bad situation, where
business is won, rather than competing on merits, but on mudslinging. 

In fact the trend looks like it’s turning for the worse as evidence by two
recent articles from CNET.  Overture’s business

strategy
to leverage its patent portfolio. Pinpoint, a company who’s

sole business model
is suing other companies for patent infringement.  We
are now seeing the horrible consequences of the US patent office misguided
policies to allow the patenting of software and business practices and to
compound it with turning the office into a money making business rather than a
public trust.  The US software industry could eventually consist mostly of
intellectual property lawyers trying to untangle the patent mess.  The reality
is, the rampant approval of questionable software patents has made
it impossible for any software written to avoid infringing on an existing
patent. 

The only reason why we don’t see even more rampant lawsuits is that its
simply not worth it to sue someone without deep pockets.  That however doesn’t
prevent companies for making unsubstantiated threats.  So far things have remain
relatively sane, that’s because the bigger companies don’t risk suing each
other, afterall they all have something to lose.  However, what happens if
you’ve got companies with nothing to loose, that is companies whose sole
business is not making software but rather suing companies.  They aren’t worried
about a counter suit, you can’t sue a lawyer for suing you. 

The future looks pretty grim, it doesn’t help that a lot of companies are
already outsourcing IT work outside the US, maybe that’s just the only place to
legally do innovative software development.  U.S. Software firms for all intents
and purpose would end up as subsidiaries of law firms.  The consolation maybe
that you can still make a living programming only using "standards".  Just make
sure you don’t innovate, that’s something you either have to clear with the
lawyers or done offshore!

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