Sunday, June 05, 2005

Red Hat: patents broken glass on highways of progress

It is true that invention, as presented in patents, is not equal to innovation.

Edward B. Roberts: The first generalization is: innovation = invention + exploitation. The invention process covers all efforts aimed at creating new ideas and getting them to work. The exploitation process includes all stages of commercial development, application, and transfer.

Peter F. Drucker: Its [innovation's] criterion is not science or technology, but a change in the economic or social environment, a change in the behavior of people as consumers or producers. Innovation creates new wealth or new potential for action rather than mere knowledge.

What the folks at Red Hat [below] don't seem to understand is that the patent process is designed to give incentives to people to write things down and let the public know about them. A great deal of the problem with a seeming lack of prior art in the "software" area of patents arises BECAUSE people were not writing and disclosing what they were doing. Such people need to recognize that "the enemy is us," (who didn't write things down). If people had been writing down and disclosing what they were doing, they would not have their present problem. If they were directed to "open source," they could have written things down in publications other than patents. The problem is that a lot of people weren't writing down anything, which failure impedes both invention and innovation, and encourages wasteful duplicative efforts.


'Patents are not equal to innovation,' stated Webbink [Mark Webbink, deputy general counsel at Red Hat] in his keynote June 3, 2005. 'More often, innovation occurs despite patents. What we observe today in the software industry is the use of patents to maintain marketshare, even where that marketshare has been obtained by anticompetitive means. We need to move away from a system of software patents compromised by trivial, incremental enhancements that block innovation, to a system that is aimed at rewarding substantial innovation.'

Red Hat's aim then is to create a patent commons for the open source community, whereby open-source companies would allow other open-source companies to use patents donated to this pool, licence-free and without the fear of being taken to court.

from Localtechwire:

Javed Tapia, director of Red Hat India, told the Indian web site Sify that patents create a “minefield”.

"For genuine innovators and entrepreneurs, patents have become broken glass on the highways of progress,” he said. “With patent restrictions, entrepreneurs and innovators have to be extremely careful to ensure that they are not walking into a legal minefield."



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