"rights" and "freedoms"

Justin Wells jread at semiotek.com
Sun Oct 17 13:16:15 UTC 1999

On Sat, Oct 16, 1999 at 01:54:01PM -0400, Alex Nicolaou wrote:
> Richard Stallman wrote:
> > When patents and copyrights were adopted, in general they did not
> > interfere with the public's use of the works they were designed to
> > encourage, and they did encourage progress.  I think that made
> > them overall beneficial systems.
> I don't understand this argument. Patents are expressly there to protect
> the inventor's right to make money from a new process that is otherwise
> easily copied. Consider Lego bricks, for example. For many years, Lego
> bricks were protected by Lego's patents both on the bricks themselves
> and on a huge variety of building systems that could compete with Lego
> bricks but were never brought to market by Lego or anyone else. This
> patent protection resulted in two things:

That's only half the story. Patents are expressly there to promote the 
sharing of information. By offering a limited period of protection, 
companies are encouraged to share important discoveries and inventions
with everyone. When the period of protection expires, the formely 
patented information is free. 

Without patents, companies would keep secret the products of their 
research, to the detriment of everyone.

> Patents stand in the way of progress for the society. However, they are
> one of few ways to fairly reward the small percentage of society that
> actively contributes to progress.

Patents may slow progress down by 25-30 years, but they don't stop it. 

Personally I think the US Patent office has gone beserk, and needs to 
develop a better understanding of prior art in software. Also, it should
not be as expensive as it is to defend or fight a patent in court. Those
are "implementation" details though. 

Patents are an important tool in coaxing corporations to divulge 
their secrets to the public.


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