PatentBS #2: Software patents critics are against innovation

PatentBS series #1: Abolishing software patents would harm Free Software

We read so much nonsense about patents these days. Calimaq started a #CopyrightMadness series and a blog so, sometimes, I feel like somebody should start another series: PatentBS. It is self explanatory.

Well, ok let’s start with this one from a Wired Opinion by Manny W. Schecter “Chief Patent Counsel, Associate General Counsel, and Managing IP Attorney at IBM – the top annual U.S. patentee for the past 19 years.” I won’t discuss the argument about how patents supposedly promote innovation, this rebuttal opinion already does it. So let’s concentrate on this piece of nonsense:

Eliminating patents for software will not enhance innovation or benefit our economy. Software is also the most easily appropriated type of intellectual property. Ever since U.S. courts made it clear that copyright is unavailable to protect their ideas, developers have sought to protect inventions embodied in their software via patents. Denying patent protection for software will cause these developers to look for other ways to protect their IP investment — resulting in code that is less open, less accessible, and less interoperable.

Such balkanization would discourage many of the collaborative ingredients of the very software ecosystem that has had enormous economic and technological impact.

Copyright can’t “protect” (i.e. monopolise) ideas implemented in software. So that’s why patents are used. We’ll pass on the rhetoric (ideas/inventions as if they’re the same thing).

The argument is: if we don’t grant patents to protect software developers, they’ll seek other means to protect themselves, and that will result in the production of less Free Software (aka open source software). That does not make any sense at all. Phew.

Patents and Free Software are antagonistic. They can’t work together, unless the patent owner grant a royalty-free license to anyone using the software covered by the patents, rendering the patent basically useless. So what would happen if we abolish patents? As the argument goes: we would have less Free Software because software developers would seek other ways to protect “their IP investment.” Well it’s funny, because it’s exactly what happens, and it’s a good thing.

Software is actually covered by copyright, and developers use copyright licenses to foster their development all the time! And this is exactly what’s used in Free Software, for instance with a copyleft license such as the GNU GPL. And that helps produce more Free Software, not less.

“Cryptography is the ultimate form of non-violent direct action” ⚓

Cryptography is the ultimate form of non-violent direct action. While nuclear weapons states can exert unlimited violence over even millions of individuals, strong cryptography means that a state, even by exercising unlimited violence, cannot violate the intent of individuals to keep secrets from them.

Strong cryptography can resist an unlimited application of violence. No amount of coercive force will ever solve a math problem.

But could we take this strange fact about the world and build it up to be a basic emancipatory building block for the independence of mankind in the platonic realm of the internet? And as societies merged with the internet could that liberty then be reflected back into physical reality to redefine the state?

Recall that states are the systems which determine where and how coercive force is consistently applied.

The question of how much coercive force can seep into the platonic realm of the internet from the physical world is answered by cryptography and the cypherpunks’ ideals.

As states merge with the internet and the future of our civilization becomes the future of the internet, we must redefine force relations.

If we do not, the universality of the internet will merge global humanity into one giant grid of mass surveillance and mass control.

We must raise an alarm. This book is a watchman’s shout in the night.

— Julian Assange, A Call to Cryptographic Arms