Blocks competing software, reducing choice
- (For the general impediment to entering the software market, see Cost barrier to market entry.)
Software patents prevent multiple teams from innovating in the same field, and prevent multiple teams from providing the same functionality. So instead of ten word processors, you'll only have two.
This factor is particularly important in the software field because the software industry already has a strong tendency towards the creation of natural monopolies, partly due to the cost of competing with an established incumbent, and partly due to the natural desire of users to adopt the products that they see a majority of other users using, because of the benefits this brings in terms of interoperability and adoption costs.
For new entrants to the market, interoperability with established products is often a precondition of success. Patents can make such interoperability much harder (sometimes impossible) to achieve.
The cost of all these patents has to be paid by someone, often the users.
Studies supporting this
The evidence suggests software patents are used strategically; that is, to prevent competitors from developing in a similar field, rather than to incentivise innovation
Related pages on ESP Wiki
- Cost barrier to market entry - lowering quality, raising prices
- Used for sabotage rather than competition
- Patenting around what will become essential
- No Education Patents, archive.org copy (see also: Harm to education)
- BBC article about BlackBoard's patents, 2006
- Tokyo court orders popular word processor off market, 2005, the main competitor to Microsoft Word in Japan is removed from the market due to patents owned by Matsushita Electric Industrial, aka Panasonic.
- Microsoft to charge royalty fees to prevent Acer, Asustek from using Android in netbooks, say Taiwan makers, 26 Oct 2010, Digitimes
- Apple-Samsung patent fight is not about pushing competition off the market, 28 June 2012, IPeg - a strange article which defends software patents by saying that they're a tool for impeding competitors!?