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by Franki

Microsoft-watch have an interesting article about Microsoft’s new push for patent reform in the US. This is in a way to be expected. Although Microsoft are one of the biggest patent holders, they are also one of the biggest targets for patent infringement lawsuits, and so they want to change the rules. They are totally correct, the rules and implementation are both broken, and Microsoft’s suggestions are for the most part solid, but I can’t help but find their action suspect and wonder if they are not just trying to change the system to limit action against them, while leaving them open to use their own patents to carry on as usual. This is however a double bladed sword as I suspect that if Microsoft gets their reforms, a good many of their own patents will be invalid along with the rest.

The whole reason the software patent system is silly and broken is simple. If the giants who created TCP/IP (the underlying protocol running the Internet), HTML and the WWW, (Web pages), E-mail and the GUI (Graphical User Interface) had decided to patent and license their ideas, what would Microsoft, Linux, IBM and co have had to build from? I’d guess IBM would be the only player on the market now as Microsoft and most others were at that time, fairly small companies and couldn’t develop applications which had big patent licensing costs. Microsoft and everyone else freely use all the real innovation underpinning the Internet for free, but every time they come up some an idea, no matter how simple, trivial or obvious, they seem to feel the need to patent it immediately and sell licences. It is very sad that in the world today, money trumps everything and very few seem to do anything beneficial for IT without expecting fistfuls of cash in return. Imagine if the guys that created the Internet had had the same philosophy.

At the current rate, in the coming years it will become so expensive to licence all the patents necessary to write a basic application, that the application will have to be priced so high that the developers won’t be able to sell it. Only truly innovative inventions should be patentable, just taking a real world scenario and getting a patent for applying that real world scenario to the Internet does not qualify for a patent. That is part of what is wrong with the system and even though Microsoft is getting stung by lawsuits and is asking for changes, they are as big an offender with regards to stupid patent applications as any.

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