GrokLaw on S/W Patents [10:26 am]
The elephant in the room in all software patent discussions is GNU/Linux. What about Linux? What about GPL’d software? How can the US patent system be made to fit a world that wants that software? And it does want it. Proponents of software patents need to answer that question. In Europe, they must answer it this exact minute. Because that is the real question. If you have software patents, what happens to GNU/Linux software?
I don’t see how you can have both. Sooner or later, the Patent Cold War guarantees only one software company in the world, a proprietary one, or a small club of proprietary software giants, will survive. Even Cold Wars are eventually won by somebody, you know, and the patent system is set up so that only the biggest and richest can play, and whoever has the most patents wins in the last battle. Software is math, with only so many ways to do certain fundamental tasks. Once somebody has a patent on every fundamental task, then no one new can write software. Why would the world want that?
[...] Let’s be honest. Patents are a monopoly grant with a purpose, and the purpose isn’t so you can make out like bandits. The whole idea is to benefit the rest of us too while allowing you to reap a fair reward for your labor for a limited period. Where, though, is the benefit to the public in the current system? I see the benefit to large companies, but where is the benefit to small and medium companies? The best they can hope for, under the current system, is to be bought by a bigger fish, and that isn’t everyone’s dream, you know.
What about all the programmers in the world who simply love to write Linux? They do it because they enjoy the creative challenge, and money isn’t the object of it all. That’s the real reason SCO can’t seem to find any infringing code in Linux, by the way. There is no fun in copying code, to those whose motivation is the creative challenge of writing beautiful code.
Where is the benefit to the public, if GPL’d code is not allowed to exist, merely because its authors don’t have millions or billions of dollars to play Patent Cold War?