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Rivette's patent argument stifles innovation

A reader writes that RAND patent policies sacrifice that creative expression for the cold, expressionless creations of a corporation.


Rivette's patent argument stifles innovation

In response to the Oct. 12 column by Kevin Rivette, "Why the W3C patent proposal makes sense":

As a former patent lawyer and the author of a book designed to help companies extract as much revenue from patent licensing as possible, Rivette's position is understandable. The arguments provided, however, are ignoring some important facts regarding the development of software and standards.

Rivette writes, "Like it or not, software patents are here to stay and are going global." The fundamental problem with this argument is that innovation is not always patented. From the cotton gin and indoor wood stove to technologies like the Rijndael and Twofish encryption algorithms, many significant innovations have been given to the world.

While the motivations may differ for each, the end result is the same: freely available innovations for the world to use. A patent's explicit purpose is to prevent others from using an idea or innovation for a specific period of time. Should the Internet be built on a such a foundation?

Further, Rivette makes the comment that standards bodies such as JEDEC already embrace the RAND licensing model. To that, I ask this question: If RAND was so effective for JEDEC, why is there so much litigation and controversy surrounding the Rambus SDRAM patents? In my view, this appears to be one situation in which a submarine patent was used even with RAND rules in place.

Finally, Rivette makes the questionable comment that "in today's world...this (policy) could be the only way for intelligent, creative and motivated developers to create a revenue stream from their own ideas and hard work." Rivette seems to have missed a very true fact about software development and the open source movement--the fact that money is not the motivating factor for many.

Software development and innovation is a creative outlet, and like many artists, software developers innovate as an expression of creativity. Just like the musician who plays at bars, the software developer creates knowing that he may not receive a financial reward. RAND patent policies sacrifice that creative expression for the cold, expressionless creations of a corporation.

Software developers are creative enough to create solutions that are not patent encumbered, and those solutions allow a freedom to all Netizens to express themselves as they choose.

John Anderson