Chad Perrin: SOB

5 October 2007

Is patent law overhaul bad for startups?

Filed under: Liberty — apotheon @ 02:53

In a word: No.[1]

Basically, the argument goes like this:

  1. The current patent law “overhaul” makes it more difficult to patent software.

  2. Big corporations like Microsoft have been subject to patent litigation lately because of small patent trolling “startups”.

  3. Everybody knows Microsoft is evil, so anyone fighting Microsoft in court is more likely to be good — especially if it’s a much smaller company.

  4. Sing it with me: Patents are the “foundation” of “our way of life”, this I know, ’cause the pharmaceutical companies tell me so.

  5. Thus, this patent law “overhaul” is bad for small startups.

Of course, that’s all poppycock. The truth of the matter is that patents favor companies with the money to acquire them and the money to defend them in court. Small startups are not in that category. Patents are, in effect, a tool for maintaining the economic status quo — not of increasing opportunity for up-and-comers who want to change things.

Reducing the power of software patents, and the ease of getting software patents, is good for small startups. The only exception is patent troll startups, which produce nothing and simply leach off of others.

So why are corporations like Microsoft behind patent law reform . . . ?

Simple: software patents are so awful for the software industry that everyone wants to get rid of (some of) them — everyone but the patent trolls, that is.

The questions that must be answered before coming to a final conclusion about whether this patent overhaul is bad for small startups, in the real world, are these:

  1. Is there some rider or loophole in the law that adds to the power of large corporations to squeeze out the little guy by getting and keeping patents more easily?

  2. Does this change in the law affect everyone across the board, or does it just make it more difficult for small startups to get new patents while keeping things as easy as ever for the “big boys”?

I haven’t seen any evidence of #2 at all. Of course, it doesn’t take any evidence for me to start imagining possibilities for #1.

[1] . . . assuming the patent law overhaul does what it is advertised as doing. That’s always a question you have to ask when it comes to legislators.

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All original content Copyright Chad Perrin: Distributed under the terms of the Open Works License