Ubuntu's Mark Shuttleworth Predicts That Countries Who Limit Patents Will Have More Innovation

from the but-of-course dept

The BBC has an interesting article about Mark Shuttleworth and Ubuntu, and some of the innovations Canonical is working on. There's some good stuff in there, but what caught my attention was the bit at the end about patents:
"We know that we are sort of dancing naked through a minefield and there are much bigger institutions driving tanks through," Mr Shuttleworth says.

"It's basically impossible to ship any kind of working software without potentially trampling on some patent somewhere in the world, and it's completely impossible to do anything to prevent that.

"The patents system is being used to slow down a lot of healthy competition and that's a real problem. I think that the countries that have essentially figured that out and put hard limits on what you can patent will in fact do better."
Of course, this is the exact opposite of what the patent system is supposed to do -- but pretty much everyone who's actually innovating these days seems to recognize the same thing. What amazes me is that we haven't seen more of what Mark hints at towards the very end: countries providing explicit safe havens around patents. We have examples of this in the past -- perhaps most famously, the Netherlands and Switzerland in the latter half of the 19th century. The Netherlands dumped patents entirely, while the Swiss limited what was patentable massively (to the point that very little was considered patentable at all). And both countries saw economic growth as a result -- where industry and innovation flocked to both countries because they weren't being held back by patent disputes.

It does seem that perhaps some folks in the Netherlands remember this. There's an ongoing effort called the Appsterdam Foundation (in Amsterdam, of course), where part of the goal is to help protect app makers from crazy patent lawsuits. But I'm waiting for even more recognition from countries that this is a real growth opportunity. Assuming that countries have the nerves to withstand having the US taunt them each year with placement on the Special 301 list, there's a real opportunity for a developed nation to have innovation show up in droves by massively limiting patents.

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  1. identicon
    Old Man in The Sea, 10 May 2012 @ 3:32pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Hmmm.

    Bob, you obviously don't appreciate your history. Americans of the USA variety are very good at "stealing" and then patenting ideas, techniques and processes developed in other countries by non-Americans of the USA variety. Once they succeed in having the patent they then charge the original developers and countries for the priviledge of using the patent.

    If you don't believe me, try the development of penicilin production and application done during World War II in England.

    Try looking at the US Dept of Commerce and US Dept of Defence and the actions of the IEEE during the late 70's and early 80's.

    Try looking at the software research done at Indian Universities or Swiss Universities during the 70's and 80's.

    Look at the idea's that came out of Australia over many decades and are attributed to the USA or England.

    I don't know who you are or what your background is, but if we take any information from your writing, you appear to be completely actively and deliberately clueless - I have met people who are like this. I even have some in my own extended family and when it boils down to it, such people usually choose to remain this way irrespective of any facts they may stumble over.

    regards to all and a good day to each

    PS. My personal view is that you canna steal an idea, and every idea is based on something that already exists. Every device or system I design is based on what I have learned or been shown or what is needed. That is how we advance.

    People have called me brilliant at providing solutions and fixing problems but all I do is recombine different ideas and techniques in ways that are appropriate to the problem at hand. This is the same method used by others I work with and I have worked with many exceptionally brilliant men and women over the years.

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