How The Patent System Is Like A Broken Web Cache

from the kills-the-pace-of-innovation dept

Rick Falkvinge has posted a thought-provoking piece that analogizes the patent system to various forms of web caching and their impact on discussions. As he notes, in online discussion forums and blogs, if there's a delay from when your comment is made to when it appears, the conversations tend to be slower and less involved. It gets really bad when all comments need to be moderated and that's because you don't get that immediate fulfillment. Honestly, one of the reasons why I think Twitter took off at the level it did was because it felt so realtime (and became more so over time).

And yet, the patent system is quite different. The whole basis is that you have to delay things.
You can observe the same phenomenon on moderated blogs, but on a much tougher scale. There, it can take hours for people to be able to build on and improve upon ideas, as the bottleneck is that much thinner. If somebody needs to manually approve a comment in a particular location, that’s basically a guarantee that there will not be a meaningful improvement of ideas in that location.

Now, imagine a twenty-year web cache server. If you come up with a good idea, people won’t be able to improve on your ideas and take them to the next level for twenty years. Another twenty for a total of forty years before you could respond in turn. You suffer. They suffer. The exchange of ideas as a whole doesn’t just suffer, it crawls to a near-stop, its velocity measurable only by laser precision measurements.

If five minutes of wait time kills the rate of ideas as much as it really and actually does in all our experience, what would a timescale of decades do?
The obvious retort is that innovation is different than a discussion. But, that's not really true. So many studies on innovation have shown that it's an ongoing process and that a big part of that process is often communication with others (not even directly about the innovation at hand) to replenish ideas and to keep things fresh and moving forward. It actually has many characteristics of a discussion.

So, with that in mind, Falkvinge's point is even stronger than you might think. He goes beyond just arguing that innovation is slowed down for the twenty year patent delay, to basically say that innovation is stifled to a much greater degree, because the necessary participation, experimentation and idea generation by others is so stifled, that they don't even take part.
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Filed Under: delay, innovation, patents, web cache

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  1. identicon
    patent litigation, 25 Jul 2011 @ 7:47pm

    falkvinge faulty

    I disagree with the Falkvinge post because it relies on the faulty premise that ideas are somehow stifled by the patent system. In fact, this is not the case, due to the publication requirement, which mandates publication of the contents of patent applications. Because of this requirement, members of the public have access to all of the ideas underlying a patent or patent application; they are only prevented from using the specific technology as implemented. And, if they are creative enough, they can find a way around such limitations and use the published ideas as springboards for their own inventions.

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