Monday, November 06, 2006

Patents and self-pity

I'm not a fan of cribbers (unless it is me who is doing the cribbing !). But if someone complains again about excessive patenting, I'm going to scream. The problem is those who crib about patenting either have no solution to offer, or the solutions they offer are so infeasible that it is better that they keep their mouths shut. Other than creating awareness about a problem, they have no role, except be a pain in the a$$.

People who *do* can solve the problem. People who only talk, are the problem. Take the instance of Richard Stallman. GPLv2 is a great piece of work, while GPLv3 is stupid. GCC, Emacs and friends were the products of FSF's initial work, and they are good. They actually did some work ( though I don't agree with the biases embedded in the licence text). Though I think GPLv3 is stupid and probably the result of self-delusion, atleast the FSF has done something (even if it was some 2 decades ago) to the society. The principle behind GPL, that of copy-left, is really genius - using the very provisions of the ocpy-right law to turn it over its head, to change the rules of the game. I guess we can be grateful to Stallman and FSF, atleast for that. Notwithstanding my disagreements about GPLv3, if anybody can rightfully complain about copy-rights, IP laws and DMCA, it is Stallman. He has done something, and despite that, if he is still facing problems, then that needs to be addressed.

I guess some such thing is required for the patents. To use the provisions of patent law to turn it over its head. Call it anti-patent if you like. And unlike copy-right, a patent can be invalidated quite easily - all that you have to demonstrate is prior art. That is the what an anti-patent will do. Anti-patent is a patent like paper that details an idea and all the extensions of it. What I'd like to do is to have a website (like the USPTO, or the bugzilla) where all the "anti-patents" and patents are listed. The beauty of it is this: an anti-patent doesn't belong to anybody and hence, it legally cannot infringe with a patent even if it technically does. So, potentially, anybody with any damn idea can create an anti-patent and get it listed. If there is a prior patent for the same idea, no loss to anyone. If not, nobody will get a patent on it. If I can't or don't want to be the sole beneficiary of an idea, there is no reason why someone else should be. Actually, this would also benefits companies that rely on patents - prior art search will be far easier.

If you have an idea, then better make money out of it while you can or simply publish it. Everyone will benefit in that way. If you don't like patents, better do something about what _you_ can. If it doesn't work, then speak about it.

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