Do software patents stifle creativity

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29 Replies - 4407 Views - Last Post: 21 July 2010 - 09:14 AM

Poll: Do software patents stifle creativity (24 member(s) have cast votes)

Do you believe in software patents?

  1. Yes (2 votes [8.33%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 8.33%

  2. No (17 votes [70.83%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 70.83%

  3. No feeling one way or another (5 votes [20.83%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 20.83%

Do patents stifle creativity?

  1. Yes (20 votes [83.33%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 83.33%

  2. No (3 votes [12.50%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 12.50%

  3. No comment (1 votes [4.17%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 4.17%

Should the US adopt this law?

  1. No way (3 votes [12.50%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 12.50%

  2. Yes (11 votes [45.83%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 45.83%

  3. No comment (10 votes [41.67%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 41.67%

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#1 PsychoCoder  Icon User is offline

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Do software patents stifle creativity

Post icon  Posted 18 July 2010 - 09:10 AM

Recently started this thread about a law that New Zealand had passed wiping out software patents (not allowing for anything involving software creation to be patented, that's how I read it anyways). There were a lot of comments on this topic so I wanted to expand on it.

In my opinion patents promote creativity and technology advancements instead of stifling it. Being able to create something new & useful, then being able to patent it, means your competition will have to work that much harder to one up you because they couldn't come along and just copy what you have done. I think a law like this would be a very bad move in this country (well any country for that matter).

I was asked in that thread whether I thought it was right that a company like Apple was able to patent their Pinch functionality/technology. While I do hate Apple with a purple passion (and anyone who knows me knows this) I do think they had/have the right to take such an act. If a company spends millions upon millions of dollars of R&D then development of their idea, how fair is it that some other company can come along and just copy it, with no recourse for the company that initially created the idea?

Would this type of action not stifle the advancement of software creation because companies would be afraid to come up with new & exciting technology/features because Company B could just come along and copy it, thus benefit from something they didn't have to spend anything on for R&D. Yes they would of course have to spend money to develop it, but they would save millions and benefit from another companies work.

I think is a law like this were to pass in the US (God forbid it does) it would set software development back 10 years or more, as companies like Apple & Microsoft would stop pushing the envelope because they would have to foot the bill for something that other companies could copy, thus giving everyone the same features, thus leading to boring software (in my opinion of course).

I think companies should have the inalienable right to protect what is there's, what they have spend so much time and money to create. And yes I think if a company goes through that much work, like with Apple's Pinch, they should be able to call it theirs, it doesn't matter to me what my feelings are for said company.

So what are your thoughts on an issue such as this?

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#2 moopet  Icon User is offline

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Re: Do software patents stifle creativity

Posted 18 July 2010 - 09:29 AM

I think software patents are bad, for a number of reasons. Mostly the standard ones cited by the free software lot.
I had a post all written out but I've deleted it because I pretty much agree with endsoftpatents.org - resources for computer scientists

This post has been edited by moopet: 18 July 2010 - 09:30 AM

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#3 Sergio Tapia  Icon User is offline

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Re: Do software patents stifle creativity

Posted 18 July 2010 - 09:49 AM

I have nothing against Copyrights. I do hate patents with a passion. Being able to patent logic and natural movements are bullshit wrong in my opinion. Go NZ!

This post has been edited by stapia.gutierrez: 18 July 2010 - 10:09 AM

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#4 PsychoCoder  Icon User is offline

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Re: Do software patents stifle creativity

Posted 18 July 2010 - 10:56 AM

Let's look at it this way :

Let's say you're a multi-million dollar company, you spend let's say $15 millions on R&D then another$5 million on development on something new, you would have no problem with every Tom, Dick & Harry stealing your idea, and watching your $20 million go down the drain because you have no way of protecting?

I dont think a company would stay in business long at that rate, being the one that foots the bill for everyone else on the planet (That could get expensive real quick)
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#5 dorknexus  Icon User is offline

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Re: Do software patents stifle creativity

Posted 18 July 2010 - 11:05 AM

You could protect it with a copyright (which makes more sense being that it's just source code) and then keep it closed source.
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#6 PsychoCoder  Icon User is offline

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Re: Do software patents stifle creativity

Posted 18 July 2010 - 11:13 AM

I'm not really talking about the source code, I know a Copyright can take care of that, I'm talking about the idea itself. I'll use Apple's Pinch, they have a patent on it and no one else can copy that, and I have no problem with that (And that's saying a lot given my feelings about Apple).

If this weren't allowed then there would no longer be any innovation, everyone would wait for a large company, like Apple or Microsoft, to come out with something new and fantastic then just copy it, and time companies like Apple & Microsoft would get tired of all their ideas and innovation being copied and stop doing it, waiting for someone else to do it.

I think it would be a vicious cycle and eventually there would be nothing to distinguish one company from another, and no creativity or innovation at all, and I personally think this would produce consumer harm and a serious stagnation in the software development world.
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#7 dorknexus  Icon User is offline

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Re: Do software patents stifle creativity

Posted 18 July 2010 - 11:27 AM

Innovation and creativity is all about sharing ideas and synthesizing existing ideas into new ones. If you are limiting how your ideas are shared via patents then you are slowing creativity.

For instance, in the biomedical industry, when a biomedical company releases a patent on a technology all other biomedical companies halt their research on that topic being patented. The reason is because the idea is no longer economically viable for them. But you see a reduction in the number of people researching the topic.
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#8 Raynes  Icon User is offline

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Re: Do software patents stifle creativity

Posted 18 July 2010 - 11:31 AM

I am of stapia's opinion.
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#9 Tom9729  Icon User is offline

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Re: Do software patents stifle creativity

Posted 18 July 2010 - 11:33 AM

Software patents (and patents in general) are great until someone patents something obvious and then proceeds to sue the living daylights out of everyone who has implemented anything even vaguely familiar.

Getting rid of them entirely will stifle innovation because no one will want to spend years developing something just to have everyone else copy them. Keeping things as they are will stifle progress and make it difficult for small companies who do not have the money for R&D or to license patents.

IMO leave software patents alone, but force companies to license their patents to anyone for a reasonable price.
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#10 dorknexus  Icon User is offline

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Re: Do software patents stifle creativity

Posted 18 July 2010 - 11:36 AM

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Getting rid of them entirely will stifle innovation because no one will want to spend years developing something just to have everyone else copy them


This is assuming they are innovating purely for the purposes of profit.
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#11 Sergio Tapia  Icon User is offline

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Re: Do software patents stifle creativity

Posted 18 July 2010 - 11:41 AM

Ideas come and go, actually implementing said idea takes a lot of work. For example, my DICHeads application looks a certain way, and does certain things. Would I be pissed that someone made something similar with similar functionality? No, because I don't believe in patenting ideas. If they were to actually copy my source code and repackage it with a different name, then that's a different issue.
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#12 Tom9729  Icon User is offline

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Re: Do software patents stifle creativity

Posted 18 July 2010 - 11:45 AM

View PostDark_Nexus, on 18 July 2010 - 01:36 PM, said:

This is assuming they are innovating purely for the purposes of profit.

That is generally how the business world works.

View Poststapia.gutierrez, on 18 July 2010 - 01:41 PM, said:

For example, my DICHeads application looks a certain way, and does certain things.

Not a good example unless you spent several years and tons of money on R&D.
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#13 dorknexus  Icon User is offline

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Re: Do software patents stifle creativity

Posted 18 July 2010 - 11:49 AM

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That is generally how the business world works.


Well no shit, if they are trying to make money they are most likely associated with a business. My point was what if they aren't associated with a business and are creating and innovating because that's what they want to do.
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#14 moopet  Icon User is offline

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Re: Do software patents stifle creativity

Posted 18 July 2010 - 12:06 PM

View PostTom9729, on 18 July 2010 - 05:45 PM, said:

View PostDark_Nexus, on 18 July 2010 - 01:36 PM, said:

This is assuming they are innovating purely for the purposes of profit.

That is generally how the business world works.

View Poststapia.gutierrez, on 18 July 2010 - 01:41 PM, said:

For example, my DICHeads application looks a certain way, and does certain things.

Not a good example unless you spent several years and tons of money on R&D.


A perfectly good example, to my mind: it shows the difference in your opinions about how the world does/could work.
The model where big companies spend a fortune on R&D and hope to recoup that with patent-protected product sales is not the only one. It's also about what motivates people (see: the Cathedral and the Bazaar) - money or reputation. The big model for refining ideas works, but so does a million hackers who want to get their kudos for inventing something. When you look on wikipedia and see "x was invented in 200y by Mrs Z." that's practically a place in the history books. And when money is removed as a carrot and stick, that kind of thing really counts.
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#15 mojo666  Icon User is offline

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Re: Do software patents stifle creativity

Posted 18 July 2010 - 01:26 PM

View PostPsychoCoder, on 18 July 2010 - 10:13 AM, said:

I'm not really talking about the source code, I know a Copyright can take care of that, I'm talking about the idea itself. I'll use Apple's Pinch, they have a patent on it and no one else can copy that, and I have no problem with that (And that's saying a lot given my feelings about Apple).


Suppose a particular keyboard manufacturer patented the ctrl+alt+delete. This is a multi-type input function. Now other keyboard manufacturers will have to use other keystrokes in place of ctrl+alt+delete. They may even produce different key layouts and different buttons on their keyboard. This screws over every one since they have to know different keystrokes and layouts based on which keyboard they own, while software companies now need to account for all the different buttons that may produce a command for their program.

Good development requires standards and knowledge of other people's ideas so we can build upon them. Patents force everyone to start from square one which means we have to rely on the original developer to get to square 100. They are rarely up to the task. The Iphone itself is a bunch of technologies developed by other people smashed together in one device. Someone develops a cellphone, now we have to wait for the patent to expire before someone else puts a camera on it. Now we have a phone with a camera, but we have to wait for the patent to expire before someone else makes it a touch screen ect. The only way we aren't stuck waiting is if the original cell phone inventor got the idea to put a camera on the phone. Yes, patents stifle creativity.

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If this weren't allowed then there would no longer be any innovation, everyone would wait for a large company, like Apple or Microsoft, to come out with something new and fantastic then just copy it, and time companies like Apple & Microsoft would get tired of all their ideas and innovation being copied and stop doing it, waiting for someone else to do it.

I think it would be a vicious cycle and eventually there would be nothing to distinguish one company from another, and no creativity or innovation at all, and I personally think this would produce consumer harm and a serious stagnation in the software development world.


If we remove patents, major companies will not stop developing. Can you imagine Microsoft saying "Oh no, other people are making good operating systems. I guess we will just give up on windows."

I also don't understand how you think a company can spend millions in R&D for something that another company can "just copy". In your pinch example, Apple only needed someone to say "hey let's make a pinch gesture be an input to our device". Then they went on to develop it. Now, everyone sees the pinch gesture and they need to develop their own implementations. The R&D is virtually identical for both companies.
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