Welcome!

Open Source Cloud Authors: Liz McMillan, Zakia Bouachraoui, William Schmarzo, Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz

Related Topics: Release Management , Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Microsoft Cloud, Open Source Cloud

Release Management : Article

Do Software Patents Stifle Innovation?

A debate has been raging about the usefulness of the US patent law governing software patents

Of late patents around mobile technologies have been in the news. Four high profile news items are (1) Oracle suing Google for Java patent violation, (2) Apple and Samsung fighting each other in different parts of the world, Microsoft, Apple, Rim and others jointly buying Nortel patent library for $4.5 billion and (4) Google buys Motorola Mobile and gets 17,000 patents.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. This diagram from Reuters shows the complex battlefield of mobile patent and significant portion of these patents are for software.

In the sideline of this patent war, a debate has been raging about the usefulness of the US patent law governing software patents. Point to note here is that each country has a different patent law. For example, in India, software per se cannot be patented.

If you want to have a quick look at what patenting is all about have a look at -

ABC of patenting – why, what and how

What is the debate on Software Patents about?
In US the patent law is expected…

“…to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited time to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries…”

However, the distractors claim that the software patent law does the exact opposite – it stifles innovation. They claim that there are enough scientific studies to prove this point. With so many patents around it is practically impossible to write a piece of software and feel confident that it does not violate any existing patent!

Here is couple of references to those studies:

There is also a Wikipedia page which discusses this topic.

For and Against – Three Arguments each

For:

  1. Public disclosure: Since patent must publicly disclose the invention it is expected to accelerate software development by making previously unknown and not obvious software inventions public.
  2. Allow the inventor to peacefully perfect the invention: Since every invention requires time and effort to perfect, the patent provides protection without the fear of imitation.
  3. Encourage the inventor to additional use to maximize return: The inventor will have incentive to search for further applications of the patented software.

Against:

  1. Patent has never been an incentive for a Startup or VC: Survey of software entrepreneurs and venture investors indicate that they would have invested even without patent protection.
  2. Defensive patenting locks up invention: Companies patent everything they can think of that might be relevant to their business and then implement only a fraction of those things, which creates a barrier for innovation.
  3. Deterrence to work on innovative idea: Companies may be reluctant to invest in a new idea because of the fear that the work may infringe on some existing patents.

What about economic benefit?
Pro
: For small companies patent should (1) provide protection to market their products, (2) increase the valuation of the company and (3) combat large players through patent law suit.

Con: The process of patenting is very expensive and only a small percentage of patents land up making any money. Small companies aren’t very well protected by patent because the damages awarded may be very small. It appears that the economic benefit goes to the “Patent Troll” who buys patents just to fight law suit and claim infringement.

Is Copyright not sufficient protection for software?

Sufficient: Copyright is the right of an author of any software to prevent others from copying their creative work without a license. Copyright protection is given automatically and immediately without the need to register, though registration strengthens protection. Often copyright infringement is relatively easy to determine.

Insufficient: Patents protect functionality. Copyright on the other hand only protects expression. Substantial modification to an original work, even if it performs exactly the same function, would not be prevented by copyright. To prove copyright infringement also requires the additional hurdle of proving copying which is not necessary for patent infringement.

Inventions aren’t created by a single genius
Current research suggests that inventions are created from a bunch of people competing and collaborating as the world changes. That makes the whole theory behind our current patent system is flawed. The current patent system is built around the idea that lone genius individuals need to be incented to make great leaps forward.

See this paper – The Myth of the Sole Inventor

If you believe in FOSS movement then it is very difficult to support software patent
Let me just refer to this post – Why Patent Injunctions Are Even Worse For Open Source.

Finally…
Some believe that…

Software = Algorithm = Mathematics … so it cannot be patented

Related Article

More Stories By Udayan Banerjee

Udayan Banerjee is CTO at NIIT Technologies Ltd, an IT industry veteran with more than 30 years' experience. He blogs at http://setandbma.wordpress.com.
The blog focuses on emerging technologies like cloud computing, mobile computing, social media aka web 2.0 etc. It also contains stuff about agile methodology and trends in architecture. It is a world view seen through the lens of a software service provider based out of Bangalore and serving clients across the world. The focus is mostly on...

  • Keep the hype out and project a realistic picture
  • Uncover trends not very apparent
  • Draw conclusion from real life experience
  • Point out fallacy & discrepancy when I see them
  • Talk about trends which I find interesting
Google

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
Dion Hinchcliffe is an internationally recognized digital expert, bestselling book author, frequent keynote speaker, analyst, futurist, and transformation expert based in Washington, DC. He is currently Chief Strategy Officer at the industry-leading digital strategy and online community solutions firm, 7Summits.
Digital Transformation is much more than a buzzword. The radical shift to digital mechanisms for almost every process is evident across all industries and verticals. This is often especially true in financial services, where the legacy environment is many times unable to keep up with the rapidly shifting demands of the consumer. The constant pressure to provide complete, omnichannel delivery of customer-facing solutions to meet both regulatory and customer demands is putting enormous pressure on...
IoT is rapidly becoming mainstream as more and more investments are made into the platforms and technology. As this movement continues to expand and gain momentum it creates a massive wall of noise that can be difficult to sift through. Unfortunately, this inevitably makes IoT less approachable for people to get started with and can hamper efforts to integrate this key technology into your own portfolio. There are so many connected products already in place today with many hundreds more on the h...
The standardization of container runtimes and images has sparked the creation of an almost overwhelming number of new open source projects that build on and otherwise work with these specifications. Of course, there's Kubernetes, which orchestrates and manages collections of containers. It was one of the first and best-known examples of projects that make containers truly useful for production use. However, more recently, the container ecosystem has truly exploded. A service mesh like Istio addr...
Digital Transformation: Preparing Cloud & IoT Security for the Age of Artificial Intelligence. As automation and artificial intelligence (AI) power solution development and delivery, many businesses need to build backend cloud capabilities. Well-poised organizations, marketing smart devices with AI and BlockChain capabilities prepare to refine compliance and regulatory capabilities in 2018. Volumes of health, financial, technical and privacy data, along with tightening compliance requirements by...
Charles Araujo is an industry analyst, internationally recognized authority on the Digital Enterprise and author of The Quantum Age of IT: Why Everything You Know About IT is About to Change. As Principal Analyst with Intellyx, he writes, speaks and advises organizations on how to navigate through this time of disruption. He is also the founder of The Institute for Digital Transformation and a sought after keynote speaker. He has been a regular contributor to both InformationWeek and CIO Insight...
Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settlement products to hedge funds and investment banks. After, he co-founded a revenue cycle management company where he learned about Bitcoin and eventually Ethereal. Andrew's role at ConsenSys Enterprise is a mul...
To Really Work for Enterprises, MultiCloud Adoption Requires Far Better and Inclusive Cloud Monitoring and Cost Management … But How? Overwhelmingly, even as enterprises have adopted cloud computing and are expanding to multi-cloud computing, IT leaders remain concerned about how to monitor, manage and control costs across hybrid and multi-cloud deployments. It’s clear that traditional IT monitoring and management approaches, designed after all for on-premises data centers, are falling short in ...
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
Dynatrace is an application performance management software company with products for the information technology departments and digital business owners of medium and large businesses. Building the Future of Monitoring with Artificial Intelligence. Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more busine...