On Patents

Let’s say you’re Neo, and you were the first person ever to come up with the idea of a novel. It’s like a short story, but longer, and you’re really proud of it.

Trinity then runs up to you and takes one of the few printed copies of your novel. You don’t want her to do that, as you paid good money to have it printed, and was hoping to get that money back, so you taze her. Trinity tried to commit theft.

She sulks for a bit, then asks if she can borrow one copy to read it. You say “sure”, but she sneaks off to the copy machine and starts printing her own copies of the book. You don’t want her to do that, as you want to be the only one who can make new copies of your novel, as you want to make a profit of it, so you taze her. Trinity tried to commit copyright infringement.

She sobs for a bit more, then starts writing her own novel. You don’t want her to do that, because you came up with the idea of writing a longer short story first, and you want to profit from all novels that are ever written, by anyone, so you taze her. Trinity tried to commit patent infringement.

I am fine with the concept of “owning stuff”, so I’m against theft. Society breaks down if people can’t “own stuff”.

I am mostly fine with the concept of “selling stuff you made”, so I’m also against copyright infringement. I don’t think it’s quite as bad as theft, and I’m not sure it’s good for society that some professions can get paid over and over long after they did the work (say, in the case of a game developer), whereas others need to perform the job over and over to get paid (say, in the case of a hairdresser or a lawyer). But yeah, “selling stuff you made” is good.

But there is no way in hell you can convince me that it’s beneficial for society to not share ideas. Ideas are free. They improve on old things, make them better, and this results in all of society being better. Sharing ideas is how we improve.

A common argument for patents is that inventors won’t invent unless they can protect their ideas. The problem with this argument is that patents apply even if the infringer came up with the idea independently. If the idea is that easy to think of, why do we need to reward the person who happened to be first?

I will say that there are areas which are very costly to research, but where the benefits for mankind long term are very positive. I would personally prefer it to have those be government funded (like with CERN or NASA) and patent free as opposed to what’s happening with medicine, but I do understand why some people thing patents are good in these areas.

Trivial patents, such as for software, are counterproductive (they slown down technical advancement), evil (they sacrifice baby goats to baal), and costly (companies get tied up in pointless lawsuits).

If you own a software patent, you should feel bad.

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  12. mouseypeach reblogged this from notch and added:
    Good clarification here on what all these words mean
  13. consulting-genetic-experiment reblogged this from notch and added:
    This is what the world needs. Fewer software patents and more idea sharing. It will cause fewer problems, and solve more...
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