Software patents, pharmaceutical patents – stuff that harms our society instead of helping!

2019-04-17 Patents Bad

Via @dredmorbius:

“It is a well known fact that modern trade combinations tend strongly toward constancy of process and products, and by their very nature are opposed to new processes and new products originated by independent inventors, and hence tend to restrain competition in the development and sale of patents and patent rights; and consequently tend to discourage independent inventive thought.”

– Vaughan, F. L., Economics of our Patent System, (New York, 1925), quoting the Investor’s Guild on page 63 of Technological trends and national policy, including the social implications of new inventions. June, 1937 by United States. National Resources Committee. Science Committee; Ogburn, William Fielding, 1886-1959


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2018-04-25 Against Intellectual Monopoly

As recommended by Ed Morbius on Google+:

It is common to argue that intellectual property in the form of copyright and patent is necessary for the innovation and creation of ideas and inventions such as machines, drugs, computer software, books, music, literature and movies. In fact intellectual property is not like ordinary property at all, but constitutes a government grant of a costly and dangerous private monopoly over ideas. We show through theory and example that intellectual monopoly is not necessary for innovation and as a practical matter is damaging to growth, prosperity and liberty....

Downloadable PDF book


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2017-06-25 Against Intellectual Monopoly

Edward Morbius linked to Against Intellectual Monopoly by Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine (last blog posts from 2015)

I am reminded of me picking up Piracy by Adrian Johns back in 2014.

I want to read it all, but I don’t know when to do it. Something for this summer?

I just heard the Thinking Allowed episode Rentier capitalism - Protest camps and they talked about The Corruption of Capitalism: Why Rentiers Thrive and Work does not Pay by Guy Standing. He says that intellectual property is a form of rent and if 40% of your economy depends on it, no wonder that labor is not worth much. The review of the book in the Guardian provides some context.

We are terrible stewards of history. “Copyright plays a pretty large role in the destruction of our cultural history.” Truth!


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2016-05-22 The real problems with genetically modified organisms

Scot Stevenson linked to Genetically Engineered Crops Are Safe, Analysis Finds and I left a comment on Google+.

My take is that the situation is similar to nuclear power plants. The core technology may be safe, I just don’t trust the people and business practices around them.

In terms of GMOs, my main problem is that they encourage monoculture because they enable monoculture. But, like the use of antibiotics in raising animals, that’s just a single round in the ever turning wheel of resistances pathogens, parasites and weeds acquire. Antibiotics pose an addition risk because the animals pee them into soil, and so the resistances spread. I don’t think that’s a problem with GMOs, or at least, not that I know of. But monoculture is a problem. Once a parasite discovers a way around the defense we engineered, all of our crops are at risk. The result is a system that is very brittle and prone to catastrophic failures. Sadly, the natural defenses against this result in less profits: diversification of crops, smaller patches of land per crop.

In addition to the problem of monoculture and resistances are the problems of single supplier dependencies (Monsanto), the uncertain status of glyphosate (does it cause cancer or not?), and the adverse effect on our intellectual property systems when big corporations depend on tighter regulation. Big pharma is strengthening the patent system all over the world and big agro is following in their footsteps – here I am, wanting to reduce the reach of patents.


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2012-01-17 SOPA Blackout Protest

I just saw Twitter CEO says SOPA blackout protest "silly" on BoingBoing. I wonder: Should I shut down Emacs Wiki for US residents? I’d have to do a quick geo location of the IP numbers before serving anything. That sucks.

Do US #Emacs users require a reminder to fight #SOPA and # PIPA? I think Emacswiki will stay up for the USA. I doubt US Congress uses it.

I always felt that I was as safe as I can be running Emacs Wiki: I live in Switzerland, the server is hosted in Germany, the domain name registrar is French, the top-level .org domain is the only thing connecting it to the USA. But then I read US Can Extradite UK Student For Copyright Infringement, Despite Site Being Legal In The UK – and now I wonder about the worst case. Perhaps I should get myself a different domain name.

Actually, I think the main problem is that with all the scare mongering around copyright infringement and the astronomical punishments dealt out in the US, I have lost my confidence in their judicial system when it comes to copyright and patents. The most positive explanation for that is that I’m just misinterpreting all the bad news I’m reading online. My impression is formed by following @internetlaw, @privacylaw, @techdirt and @boingboing, following the occasional link. I end up reading Actual damages for single unauthorized download of software program held to be cost of single license fee (from $1,370,590 down to $4,200) and I wonder how much it cost the accused in time, energy and money to get this result. I would not want to fight this battle in court, even if I win.

Case in point: How USPTO's recklessness destroys business, innovation, and competition – a company produces something and years later a competitor is awarded a patent. The cost of going to court is prohibitive, and so they just give up.

Overprotective copyright and a judicial system that encourages statutory damages, patent offices unable to cope with new technology, a highly networked world making it easy to publish internationally with incompatible legal systems. It makes my head hurt!

Update: I decided to post a more personal message on EmacsWiki:2012-01-18.


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2009-02-08 IETF and Patents

Based on an email I received just now, I was suddenly inspired to write the following:

To whom it may concern,

I’ve heard from the Free Software Foundation that the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is trying to propose a standard encumbered by a patent claimed by RedPhone Security. I heard that RedPhone has given a license to anyone who implements the protocol, but they still threaten to sue anyone that uses it.

Patents are a tricky issue for Free Software. As a developer of Free Software, I urge you to reconsider the proposal and push for a standard unencumbered by patents. Patents will lead to problems, as you must know based on the discussion around RFC 2026 section 10 leading to RFC 3668 and your position that “The IESG will not make any explicit determination that the assurance of reasonable and non-discriminatory terms or any other terms for the use of an Implementing Technology has been fulfilled in practice.” To avoid them now is to save others from all the legal risks involved.

It is unfortunate that the patent situation in the USA has lead to this. But knowing that software patent problems cannot be resolved right here and right now, avoiding them and building truly open standards is the only promising option.

Regards from Switzerland
Alex Schröder


Comments on 2009-02-08 IETF and Patents

Today I got an email saying “Thank you for being part of a crowd of hundreds of people who have mailbombed the mailboxes of thousands of IETF ’members’ (since we don’t have any formal membership, just an email list). As a result, we all have such positive feeling about the FSF.”


AlexSchroeder 2009-02-11 23:04 UTC

Gives me such a positive feeling about the IETF...

RadomirDopieralski 2009-02-11 23:32 UTC

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2007-01-31 Trading Card Patent

My recent interest in roleplaying games (RPG) led me to the Wizards of the Coast website:

Founded in 1990 by Peter Adkison, Wizards of the Coast rose to prominence in the hobby games market on the strength of the innovative and revolutionary trading card game (TCG) Magic: The Gathering, the first game of its kind and the progenitor of a worldwide phenomenon in gaming. In 1997, the company was granted an exclusive patent on trading card games and their method of play. [1]

Isn’t that madness?

Software and Business Process patents should go down the drain where they belong.


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2006-10-30 Doing Away With Intellectual Property

So, what can we do to fight the excesses of copyright and patents?

  1. Some online shops such as Amazon allow customers to tag their products. Let’s tag the DRM supporting media players & the DRM protected media using a tag: DefectiveByDesign. Check it out: defectivebydesign tag at
  2. Some courts in Europe are starting to reject software and business practice patents. Heise has an example from the UK. [1]
  3. Developping countries are starting to resist pressure at the WIPO for more restrictive regimes. Heise has an example from recent talks in Geneva. [2] A report in English is available from the IntellectualPropertyWatch. [3] The IP Watch article also gives a hint at how such meetings are run. It’s important that a presentation happens as part of a distinguished item instead of the catch-all “Other Issues”. It’s important that a presentation be given, and not a statement be made. Fascinating & silly.

I’m most impressed by the tagging campaign, however.


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