Richard Stallman: Legislate That Using Software On General Purpose Computers Is Not Infringing

from the one-way-out dept

Wired is running a series of opinion pieces concerning ways to "fix" problems with the patent system today (we've made our own suggestions in the past if anyone's interested). It started with a suggestion from Mark Lemley that was similar to his other recent statements about fixing the problems of software patents by actually applying existing law to stop functional claiming (i.e., claiming around general concepts rather than specific implementations).

The second post in the series comes from Richard Stallman, who notes that it seems quite unlikely that the US will carve out software patents, noting (correctly) that this might not solve the problem anyway, since patent lawyers would just change how they write patent applications to get around any such carve-out. Instead, he suggests a different solution: limiting how widely software patents can impact new technology:
My suggestion is to change the effect of patents. We should legislate that developing, distributing, or running a program on generally used computing hardware does not constitute patent infringement. This approach has several advantages:
  • It doesn’t require classifying patents or patent applications as “software” or “not software.”
  • It provides developers and users with protection from both existing and potential future computational idea patents.
  • Patent lawyers can’t defeat the intended effect by writing applications differently.
It's an interesting suggestion, but I'm not so sure it would go over that well. People would certainly question why general purpose computing gets a pass. Also, the "generally used computing hardware" standard could be kind of hard to define as well. It still seems like there are more elegant solutions that focus on the real root of the problem, rather than trying to "carve out" certain impacts that we don't like.

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  1. icon
    nasch (profile), 1 Nov 2012 @ 3:38pm

    Re: Baby in an ocean

    This is beyond a baby in dirty bathwater that we should avoid throwing out; it's more like a baby that's been drowning in an ocean.

    At this point it's not even clear there's a baby in there anymore.

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