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Debian Open Source Patents Linux

Debian, SFLC Publish Patent Advice For Community Distros 63

Posted by timothy
from the in-short-just-say-no dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Debian Project is pleased to announce the availability of the Community Distribution Patent Policy FAQ, a document meant to educate Free Software developers, and especially distribution editors, about software patent risks. The FAQ has been prepared by lawyers at Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) at the request of and with input from the Debian Project. While the document does not constitute legal advice, it provides insights on dealing with software patents, which might be applicable to other community-driven Free Software distributions. The Debian Project maintains a critical stance towards software patents: we consider software patents a threat to Free Software and we believe they provide no advantages in promoting software innovation."
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Debian, SFLC Publish Patent Advice For Community Distros

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 10, 2011 @02:45AM (#36709508)

    The basic idea behind the patent system is sound. There's no economic incentive for individuals and small to medium-sized businesses to invent things when a big company can just take the idea and easily outcompete due to greater resources. And without the patent system, there's no incentive to release inventions into the public domain rather than try to protect them as trade secrets.

    This applies just as much to software as to physical objects. Suppose I came up with a method to dramatically increase a car's gas mileage. What's the difference if the method is a change in the physical structure of the engine or an improved algorithm in the car's software? The same logic applies: if my method is not protectable by patent law, I lack economic incentive to put the necessary time and effort into developing the invention.

    I understand (and agree with) arguments that the patent time should be less for software, that the thresholds for patentability and enforcement are far too low, and that the whole system in general is being abused and needs major changes.

    But I have yet to see a rational argument for why physical inventions but not virtual inventions should be patentable.

  • by Lanteran (1883836) on Sunday July 10, 2011 @03:09AM (#36709556) Homepage Journal
    Patenting software is more akin to patenting, say, plot elements in a book than actual physical inventions. Copyright is all that should apply to software. Besides being incredibly stifling with such long lifetimes in terms of software, they are overly broad, usually incredibly obvious, and almost never provide the information to replicate what is described in the patent. I think the book analogy is a good one, so I'll go with it. What if someone patented, say, the scifi or fantasy generas, plot elements, etc.? It'd be nearly impossible to write a book, regardless of whether you had the ideas independently or not. Besides my issues with copyright term, I've got no problem with copyright alone applying to software- you can protect the code you wrote, while not being able to sue someone who independently came up with similar code.
  • by martin-boundary (547041) on Sunday July 10, 2011 @03:58AM (#36709698)

    The basic idea behind the patent system is sound. There's no economic incentive for individuals and small to medium-sized businesses to invent things when a big company can just take the idea and easily outcompete due to greater resources. And without the patent system, there's no incentive to release inventions into the public domain rather than try to protect them as trade secrets.

    No, the basic idea is not sound at all. It's a repugnant form of thought control. The problem is that someone on the other side of the country can pay the government to stop you personally from freely practicing the thoughts in your head. Worse, you don't know that you're infringing until you get sued, and then you're guilty even though it was entirely your own idea. Patents are antithetical to the ideals of a free society: The only guaranteed safe way of not being attacked by patent trolls is to never think up anything that might even remotely be considered novel.

    There are plenty of ways that patent systems could be reformed into something less damaging to society, but as it stands, the system is pure evil.

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