UK Lobbyists Claim UK Software Industry In Trouble Because It Doesn't Have Software Patents

from the say-what-now? dept

techflaws.org points us to the news that the SME Innovation Alliance, a lobbying group that supposedly represents small tech firms, is complaining that the UK needs software patents, and saying that its software industry is suffering without them. That strikes me as pretty funny, because just recently I've been hearing from a bunch of fairly innovative UK-based startups, who seem to be doing just fine.
"We need to recognise that software is a material — you can make inventions from that material," [John] Mitchell [chairman of the SME Innovation Alliance], said at the event, held to discuss the recent Hargreaves report into intellectual property law. "It's like wood, it's like paper, so why have some artificial limitation?"
Um, because a patent is the artificial limitation -- it's the artificial limitation on everyone else. Furthermore, software is nothing like wood or paper, and it's downright scary that someone who runs a group called the "Innovation Alliance" thinks that one is like the other. Finally, software is already protected by intellectual property law, it's just that it's copyright. Why would he pretend that's not the case?
"If you don't have a patent system to protect your software industry, you're not going to have a software industry. How much more evidence do you need?" he asked.
Um, a lot, because the UK does have a software industry. Apparently Mitchell just doesn't know where to look. Furthermore, plenty of countries that don't recognize software patents have a software industry. Why would he argue otherwise? Either way, I would think this seems like good evidence for why innovative companies should not want to be a part of the SME Innovation Alliance, as the organization's views seem woefully out of touch on actual innovation.
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Filed Under: patents, software, software industry, software patents, uk


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  1. identicon
    Jose_X, 23 Jun 2011 @ 7:37am

    Re:

    There are alternatives to "US software". It's called open source software and is international in nature. Over 90% of the top 500 supercomputers use it over alternatives like Windows. Google and many other web firms built their businesses on it. The new android platform leverages it extensively. Even two-timing very proprietary Apple leverages large chunks of it within their core software.

    Also -- and very importantly -- it's essentially all I use, and I have been getting along fine all of these years. :-)

    The UK is tied down quite a bit to Microsoft software, but the reason you "need" Microsoft when you use Microsoft or when you use any other proprietary software has to do with lockin that comes from trade secrets, the complexity, and the fluid nature (easily updated by the vendor firm in real-time) of such software and is a phenomenon that exists independent of patents. Microsoft wrote most of its core software without relying on patents, with Bill Gates famously stating in the 1990s and recounted here http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/09/opinion/09lee.html

    “If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.”

    Of course, as other Microsoft internal memos since then and opened up in court lawsuits have revealed, Microsoft moved over to become perhaps the largest creator of pure software patents on a yearly basis as a way to in fact address their competition. See, now they are huge and software patents offer a way to stifle and defund threatening competition. That is the purpose of software patents. To prop up large organizations afraid of upstarts. [And, yes, Microsoft has been among the most shameless, arrogant, and anti-competitive software firms of the past three decades.]

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