Wednesday, March 06, 2002

Patent Madness The French seemsto be against Europe's mad US style software patent initiative, arguing that it's bad for innovation in general, and free software in particular. It's interesting that a government singles out free software as an important factor in considering legislation.

The problem with patents is that their effect on innovation is unclear, as they both increase the value of innovating and the cost of inputs of innovation. Moreover, there are strong incentives to innovate software and business methods anyway, so they fail the acid test for intellectual property.

Finally, it's worth noting that getting a patent is quite different from defending a patent. The Patent Office will readily hand patents out for any old thing, but the "non obvious, useful, and novel" standards are called into question when defending patent claims in court. This is inefficient because it forces people to litigate against patents to demonstrate their invalidity.

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