Monday, April 20, 2009

The Case for Patents

As a maker of things, I want, nay, need for things to be open. I need to be certain that I can find documentation on whatever it is that I'm working with. This calls for open standards of information exchange. The best way to do this is open sourcing.
However, as someone who wishes to make a living making things, and make a living making lots of different things that will eventually be manufactured, I need protection. What I offer here is what I consider to be a common sense approach to intellectual property.

1. Thou shalt be able to license thy IP for cash money.
You can patent your product to license it to companies that will manufacture it. How you negotiate those contracts is up to you.

2. Thou shalt not hurt the little guy.
You should make companies or at least larger businesses pay to be able to reproduce/manufacture your stuff, but individuals and small groups should be encouraged to make their own if they can. Another way of doing this is by allowing access to additional documentation, and by writing a good patent, which according to the USPTO, should be usable to recreate the thing you're patenting by someone "skilled in the art".

3. Code is naught but a pattern in binary, and can occur in unenforcable locales: ergo, it is not a "thing" and should not be patented.
Shoo! Scram! Software should be copyrighted, like music, art, and other arrangements and patterns. This is about patents, not copyrights! Get out of here and discuss that issue somewhere else! Remember that the binary code for DOS could also be an arrangement of states in atoms of gases in the sun's corona. This means nothing, so don't try to pass it off as something physical.

4. Similarly, process patents need to go.
A process, like software, is made up of algorithms, which are patterns of something, not a physical unitary thing like a Pneumatic Boxing Glove, or a Shark Protector Suit.

5. Thou shalt not take ownership of biological patterns.
DNA patents, too, have to go. How many times do I have to say that, if nature could make it randomly, and probably has, you really shouldn't be protecting it as IP?

6. First to file shuts out the little guy; this should not be so.
Though our system is first to invent here in the US, it is practically first to file, and it is first to file in the rest of the world. If you get to the patent office late, it doesn't matter how much proof you have, the patent won't be yours. This shuts out all of the small inventors who can't afford marauding gangs of patent attorneys to rush their patents through.

7. Thou shalt admit that IP protection is necessary.
To allow for people to make more of their wonderful ideas, there must be a way for them to pay their bills without being tied to manufacturing hundred-thousands of their wonderful products. There will always be consumers who, whether for lack of skill, time, or energy, want to buy rather than build. The profits from these sales should enable the creation of more wonderful ideas.

And finally...
8. Thou shalt pay thy staff to develop their ideas, whether or not they are part of their job, and give them due compensation in the form of majority ownership and control of their patents.
In Germany, there is a strict legal procedure governing exactly this, and saying exactly that, which can be found in this paper.

Trademarks are fine and dandy, but I think that copyright is a bad concept to begin with, and that you should pay for the media or for the file size when you buy a DVD or download a song, plus some amount to go directly to the artist. Either way, this is a post about patents. I think they're necessary to avoid having people taken advantage of by large manufacturers. And now for the comments!

1 comment:

Pete Marchetto said...

Be gentle.