As Europeans are getting ready to debate the idea of software patents again, it's worth noting that, back here in the US, we've already surpassed the yearly record for software patents and it's expected that over 40,000 software patents will be granted in the calendar year 2006. Setting the record isn't that surprising, given that the emphasis on patenting software concepts is a relatively recent phenomenon. However, no matter what you think of software patents in general, is there anyone who actually believes that 40,000 different, unique and non-obvious software ideas came about in a single year? These would be ideas that it's unlikely many others could possibly come up with. If the purpose of the patent system is to encourage the creation of new concepts that otherwise would never see the light of day, does anyone honestly believe that those 40,000 concepts would never show up in a software product if the patent system didn't exist? This is a serious question, especially as our economy relies increasingly on software. If we're locking up 40,000 different software concepts each year, are we actually reducing the ability to actively make use of that software to improve our productivity and grow the economy?
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