After two weeks of a work-vacation back in the Netherlands, one of the discussions I got into with a former collegue was about software patents. This is still a problematic issue. For example, I have a US company with a new technology that is now patent-pending, while at the same moment, he has an European company with a new technology, but in Europe you cannot patent software.
Hypothetically, I can always win this battle. If I would know about his technology just before he brings it to market, re-create it quickly and patent it over here in the US. Although he has all the right to publish his technology outside the US, I can actually prevent him for making his software available to the US citizens or even viewable on US soil. I could even tell him to pay for his own invention if he wants to sell it to US citizens. In this way, it simply sounds evil.
Still, I am patenting my technologies, and it has nothing to do with money, and not about stealing technologies. I am patenting it so I can work on it for five years without being threatened by someone else to steal my idea and publish it immediately. At least not in the US. If I would be back in the Netherlands now, even if the US did not allow software patenting, I would not be able to secure my own invention, and could no do anything with it. I had to release it as soon as possible to be the first, which also threatens the quality of the product, maybe launching my company into utter failure.
I am absolutely in favor of software patents. Not to hold them, but to give the inventor the time and space to really make his invention work, and work well. And if I want to use someone else’s invention, I would have to pay for it, which is nothing more than reasonable.
The reasoning that I hear a lot against software patenting is that it stops creativity. I do not agree with this except for one thing though; the patent wars that are going on. It is very easy to accidentally use someone else’s patent without even knowing this since you do not always run a full check all the time. And the threats thrown around are scary. The thought you have to go through an expensive trial does make people scared to invent something new in the first place.
Too bad, because this hostility of powerhunger companies or people who just want to get rich as fast as possible; that’s what is creating the halt on creativity and inventions.