Stop Patent Mischief By Curbing Patent Enforcement

Simon Phipps | InfoWorld | November 9, 2012

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Software patents are evil. They allow the work of innovators to be ambushed and raise the cost of technology innovation. But finding a viable solution to the software patent mess isn't easy.

As it happens, Wired is running a series of articles on this topic, including an essay by Richard Stallman, founder and president of the Free Software Foundation. Stallman proposes limiting the enforceability of patents against software, noting that the subjects of patents "can also be implemented in hardware ... and many of them have been. Each patent typically covers both hardware and software implementations of the idea."

The result, says Stallman, is severe difficulty in closely defining a "software patent" to accomplish what many of us would really like: ban software patents outright. Instead, Stallman says:

My suggestion is to change the effect of patents. We should legislate that developing, distributing, or running a program on generally used computing hardware does not constitute patent infringement. Doing this would require legislation, and although his proposal sounds appealing, the devil is in the details...