Monday, November 21, 2005

Gaurdian article on patents

here. Says most of the normal stuff but yet another indication that the system needs work. One thing i haven't been able to find out is how the licensing fees work.
Lets say you invent the uber-widget and sales take off and then you find yourself sued by Megacorp for infringing on some obscure piece of code. No-one disputes that your widget is a good thing or that it is novel, only that some minor component in its inards has been patented. What would happen if you just said 'yeah, OK, here's 5c from every widget, we're making a new model for this Xmas and we'll strip that part out within a year or two - or maybe not if we're making enough money and can concentrate on other things'.
What this means is that instead of patent law resembling a mine field that you are pogo-hopping around in, it becomes much less.... confrontational. A 'no-harm, no-foul' kind of arrangement that respects your IP yet allows you to keep innovating. However, if the owner gets to licence the agreement under their terms say, $100 per instance, you are in a winner takes all game and innovation takes the back seat while patent lawyers start telling the ideas people what they can and can't think.
Has anyone challenged the licencing angle or is it just assumed that once it's proved you have the IP you can restrict any use of it that you don't like?


Blogger Boyd Adamson said...

It seems to me that what you're proposing would be analogous (and possibly the same thing as, but IANAL), the "compulsory licenses" that were created to allow piano roll companies to be able to make "copies" of published sheet music. They meant that the roll companies could make their rolls without permission in return for a fixed fee to the sheet music publisher.

Lawrence Lessig has some interesting comments on that here. (in fact, he has interesting comments in general - you should read "Free Culture" if you haven't already. It's available on-line, or as dead-treeware.)

The problem that I see is that the compulsory licenses were introduced in a situation where the existing copyright holders had just lost a court case saying that they, in effect, could do nothing about the piano rolls, they were owed nothing and it was tough. The compulsory licenses gave them something where they had nothing. The existing patent system seems to be in the opposite situation, and I can't see much reason for there to be change.

8:21 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

cheers boyd, i'll have a look at that website. once again, your own blog entry with a trackback might have been appropriate here (?) ;-)

9:29 AM  

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