Publishing information is made dangerous
When companies can patent software ideas, publishing information is made dangerous because it highlights a domain where research is being done and thus where patent litigation might become profitable.
Other people patenting your work
Video player project x264 learned in November 2010 that someone (Tandberg) had been reading x264's software source code and had applied for a patent on an algorithm which was used in the x264 project.
Other people patenting around your work
For example, in 2004, a paper was published on "Precise detection of memory leaks". In 2007, a patent application was filed at the USPTO for a follow-on invention. The 2007 application cited the 2004 paper as being part of the state-of-the-art which is extended by the patent application. The authors of the 2004 paper have no connection to the authors of the 2007 patent application. Ironically, one of the authors of the 2004 paper is a prominent member of anti-swpat group FFII.
This can of course be legal, but being legal doesn't make it good.
Why patenting your ideas won't protect you
Take for example, a software developer and a patent troll. Let's say the software developer publishes some innovative software and he patents it. Then a patent troll looks at the software and files patents on related ideas. Our software developer continues to improve her software and unknowingly infringes a patent held by the patent troll.
Both parties have patents on the software, but the patent troll has a clear advantage. The software developer needs access to the patent troll's patents if she wants to continue distributing her software. The patent troll has no need for the software developers patents. The patent troll can continue his business (suing people) and the software developer's patent will not stop him in any way.
Related pages on ESP Wiki
- Prior-art database
- Freedom of expression
- Patenting around what will become essential
- A study showing that trolls do patent around published ideas (published patents) in the USA, by David Martin
- Coder Accuses IBM of Patenting His Work, 25 Nov 2010, Slashdot
- Patent skullduggery: Tandberg rips off x264 algorithm, 25 Nov 2010, Jason Garrett-Glaser