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More than innovation

When discussing patents, many politicians focus on innovation. Studies show that software patents block innovation, but there are also other very important issues.

As well as innovation, society's software needs include reliability, ease to use, compatibility with existing file formats, reasonable prices, acceptable conditions, and many other factors. All of these cannot be sacrificed for innovation, and many of these require either diverse competition or free software.

Do you mean innovation or development?

Some discussion of patent policy should focus on innovation, but many people talk about the problems of software patents as if the only problem was that they slow down innovation. To avoid understating the problem in this way, think about whether "innovation" is the right word, or if you mean the broader activity of "progress" or the even broader activity of "development".

Examples of valuable, non-innovative development

In each of these examples, the second group does development that does not require innovation but is valuable for society. Patent policy which only considers innovation would ignore the social value of the second group in these examples.

  • one company develops a PDF reader with Digital Restrictions Management (DRM), and a second company develops one without DRM.
  • one team develops a video player that works on GNU/Linux, and a second team develops one that works on GNU/Linux plus other operating systems.
  • one person develops a reusable web framework in Chinese, and a second develops a similar framework with multiple languages.
  • one company makes a social networking website that collects and distributes people's personal information, and a second makes a website that protects people's privacy (by using existing tools and known good practice).
  • one company makes a proprietary operating system that cannot be audited or controlled to the consumer's liking, and another group makes similar software as Free Software, so the customer can audit it and adapt it.


Issues of competition:

Social issues

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