A clear mechanism exist that control the opportunity to advance. Economic circulation is the movement of money throughout society. The more people with more money the more those people can build and maintain a better living situation. This, is the promise of the civilized economy. It is threatened when we embrace artificial scarcity in the raw input of creation. The Innovation Act under consideration may attempt to address this situation of artificial scarcity in software technology creation. However, it seems that some oppose the Innovation Act. I oppose their opposition and stand with those that would abolish software patents.
All major corporations that produce information technology provide a valuable service. I admire the way large technology businesses have harnessed collective organization to focused efforts. Focus has bred coherent solutions that benefit many. Another side to the story, however begins with knowledge, science, and motivation.
Software is Math Even if it Does Not Look That Way
Software is built primarily by software developers. As a technology and a concept, software has an origin. Where did software come from? You can trace the origin of software from Mathematics and Logic.
Math and/or logic knowledge is learned and used by all of us who routinely build software. Math is clear, logic is clear. Both processes have a coherent nature that is naturally obvious to people. They are things all of us can understand and comprehend when we learn and know the basic rules. Where do these rules come from?
Much of math and logic, the basic rules that define them is public knowledge. Many of the tenets of these things are taught from elementary school to university. Software is applied mathematics and logic in symbolic form. Between public education, paid university attendance, and the natural proclivity of persons to explore; software is an inevitable, automatic result.
Burn Software Freedom to the Ground
How then do we have a situation where software is controlled by some major or mid-sized corporations who want to prohibit the creation of similar software? VentureBeat.com has reported that actions are underway by some of the largest corporations to make sure they keep the power to stop other software developers from making software that compete with what they make. This is very unfortunate, because the victims of this policy are widespread. The unintended consequences is that while some smaller players may benefit, most others who would build and explore will see their opportunity to advance fully stopped.
Open Collaborative Observation is a Necessary Foundation
I know that software developers share ideas. Sharing is in the DNA of software developers. Sharing is how software developers get through their projects. Sharing is how software developers learn and sharing is how software developers improve upon what has come before. The knowledge that software developers have, does not emerge in a vacuum. Software developer knowledge and skill has an origin. That knowledge is sometimes academically based and some of that knowledge is experiential. You can definitely say that software developers do indeed learn from the works, techniques, discussions with, and collaboration with or observation of other software developers. Sharing is the fuel of software development evolution.
Bill Gates learned some things by collaborating with Steve Jobs early in the life of Microsoft. The early engineers at IBM learned things from other scientists and engineers as well as the publicly published works from great people like John von Neumann who consulted with them. Apple certainly learned much from the published body of knowledge and experience of persons in a wide range of fields from the arts to industrial and electronics engineering.
Trade Secrets and Software Patents
I can understand protecting actual software files and true trade secrets. I do see a difference between that and general ideas common in the community of software development. Ideas are free, many people do have the same ideas. That does happen, all the time. At whatever level of education a person is, there are ideas at that level of education and knowledge that are common or that can be discovered independently by multiple persons. The specific, unique combination of ideas in a total solution in which elements combined form a unique sequence may be different, but the elements themselves and the overall mechanism is not, itself, unique and is wholly subject to reproduction in another form.
This, is the first reason why software patents are illogical.
Diminished Opportunity for Most Everyone
When major corporations can stop and individual or an organization of persons with less economic and political standing from pursuing ideas or improving on a known design in a way that helps the overall situation, then we all remain much poorer. Specific individuals or small groups prohibited from building software or continuing the distribution of software they make, free or paid, when their products are benevolent, receive a full disincentive to contribute to the advancement of science and technology. Their voice, vision, and impact may be entirely silenced from history.
This is a shameful development and a second reason why software patents are quietly corrosive.
Creating Fear to Paralyze Creation
Any person or group of aligned individuals who make software that are greatly discouraged from making software becomes an opportunity lost for the entire community. The survival of a few major corporations does not mean we all will thrive. A higher quantity of attempted ideas and a larger number of successful alternatives enables us all to have more and better tools to reach and possibly exceed our potential. Software patents are destructive to the growth of intellectually focused and intellectually creative people who would create things that could add quality to life and capability to still further ideas.
A reasonable person will suspend their activity to build software or maybe tread so carefully as to self-undermine their efforts in that the time frame to arrive at their creative and intellectual conclusion in their work has long since passed. A reasonable person will see that some major corporations and patent trolls are, in fact, stopping people from writing software by sending people to court and bankrupting many of those persons and emerging organizations. A reasonable person will conclude that they are better off abstaining from more intense, concentrated, and vigorous pursuit of software that may (or may not be) a valuable contribution to society. All because someone else owned an amorphous idea that you possibly made real in a potentially better way.
How did we reach a place where we rent ideas for money?
Writing Software May Introduce Undue Personal Liability
You may have a sense that just having a thought, writing it down, and putting it into practice through software can land you in trouble. Does it seem contrary to good sense that having an idea, even if someone else has an idea, that you are punished for taking action when they did not? Or, you are punished because you took independent action to do the idea better. Yes, people, and I tend to have this trait personally at times, sometimes are possessive of the ideas they think they are the only ones who came up with. Is the possession of ideas too selfish and is the pursuit of controlling ideas destroy more than it creates? The answer seems yes. Yes, idea control, which software patents seem to represent, appear fully illogical when you uncover the true identity what is a software patent.
This idea of inciting fear in would be innovators to challenge the obviousness of software from large companies is the third reason software patents should be dismissed.
Compete on Implementation
I evolved in my thoughts on software patents. Originally, I did not care or really know much about them. The discipline I have worked in as an industry has changed though and I have seen the harsh outcomes of these things. It seems to me, you do not need to control ideas in this economy to have economic growth. People can sell actual software or release software as open source. Open source software intensely and broadly fuels knowledge about computer science (and other sciences) and technology. Paid software provides a mechanism for payers to get a result in exchange for funds the makers of the software can use to potentially (though not guaranteed) advance the software. Released software, open source or commercial, are all subject to examination.
Competition in software is a good thing. People can see what software does and they can try to make a better solution. Actual software code can be withheld at the author’s discretion, but the function of software cannot be withheld. It is obvious what a software is doing when it is doing what it does. We all have experienced software that was doing what it was doing in a way we found utterly disappointing. Let us not eliminate the ability to escape software stagnation or take a turn for the better by upholding software patents. Just because someone made something first, should not, in any way, block anyone else from attempting to do that thing better.
Undesirable Policy Can Come from Good Intentions
I will continue to extol the virtues of Microsoft technology in a business climate. I recognize the great developments that come out of IBM Research. Certainly, few can argue that Apple creates excellent products vertically integrated. However, none of that gives full credibility to the idea of software patents. None of the great things they have done or are on course to do should cause us to abandon alternative futures that could emerge in software that could be far greater if only the opportunity was there. I can agree with some parts of Microsoft’s, IBM’s and Apple’s technology and still disagree with their business and philosophical position on software patents and the idea of intellectual property.
These companies have success, they have momentum, and they have the ability to sustain themselves through prudent actions in their financial management, operations, sales, marketing, and hiring. There is a limit to their impact on the economy and a less limited role would probably be socially undesirable. They make billions and some of that money will find its way back into the economy, in the form of investments, but the lions share of revenue will remain concentrated in each company’s treasury. There is a space of opportunity that exist that can be accessed by individuals and small organizations to create new, positive economic effects and knowledge inputs for society. Software patents and an emphasis on intellectual property as a concept will run counter to the growth of start-ups, intellectual development, and the advancement of communities of various orders of economic standing.
But It is My Idea They Stole
Yes, people do sometimes hate it when someone takes their idea and profits from it. We have to be grown-up enough to say, yes, sometimes people will succeed in acting on our ideas or doing things we thought about doing. We can be as angry as we want, but those persons took action and made a valuable contribution from the standpoint of those that benefit from the implementation of those ideas. We cannot always profit from just thinking and we cannot always profit when we are late to the party, but the opportunity should be there to do and to act. Even when profit is not our motive, but to share a better way or comment on existing ways, the opportunity and natural permissive state should exist to allow such things to occur.
My Encounters with Intellectual Property
What does software patents mean to me? I have forfeited otherwise excellent jobs offers in information technology over this single issue. Once in my life, a few years ago, I was fired quietly from a job when new company owners, who bought a company I worked for, introduced intense intellectual property terms. Over 2 months following the change in ownership, I communicated through conference call and structured, written correspondence with the executives and legal representatives to attempt an accommodation that made better sense. I stood my ground for what I believed and resisted in much the same way I am communicating here today. Despite what I put forth, my ideas and perspectives in that situation and those that preceded it were not sufficient enough to override the economic imperatives of my audience and I lost my own economic standing proceeding through cycles of recovery.
Given the sacrifices I’ve made over a 4-year period on this issue, it is something I do believe in to my very core though it may not appear so at times and though the realities of survival may weigh upon such conviction. Nevertheless, there is an opportunity for the advocates of the Innovation Act to succeed in their goal to more fully revise the way intellectual property and software patents work in the United States. I want to add my voice, however minute or insignificant to this issue. I will be on record as opposed to software patents and the concept of intellectual property as I see the harm outweighs any good those things may serve.
Think and Make or Pay Dearly to Make What You Think
It represents the division between the freedom to conduct the execution of ideas in software during time unconnected with professional activity versus perpetually living in a state reduced to selling skills to the highest bidder in an ongoing condition of restrained exercise of those skills however permissive a professional environment one finds themselves. Surely, our social values are much better than this. Certainly, we can afford opportunity to all that is not connected with business loans; sophisticated investments; and such that our ideas can take root, grow and become a value to society in some form rather than remain closed in the domicile of the mind because it is legally and contractually more sensible to remain silent.
The entire regime of software patents and intellectual property is indeed corrosive. I know, much of this is unimaginable, if you do not build or create in which the very act of committing an idea to written form or executable software can subject you to censure in various forms. I wonder if this will all change for the better. It has been reported that the Supreme Court is discussing this idea of software patents, but it may be some time before the outcome of their decision is known. In the meantime, we can simply observe what some of the largest influencers in technology are doing to perpetuate software patents and look on with disappointment.
The Innovators’ Future Will Follow From These Decisions
We are entering a world, that I see, in which more people will have to start their own businesses and be entrepreneurial. Software technology will contribute, along with offshoring, in the reduction of jobs. Some of this may be cyclical. One can see a process in which jobs are relocated dislodging elder or experienced individuals only to return some time later to younger generations or the economically dislocated in a process that maintains wages and total lifetime payroll costs at a lower level. In a climate such as this, it can be beneficial to have the option of expressing ones creative and intellectual qualities to as an option to advance along the economic stratum of society. Such opportunities can remit greater benefits to local and regional communities as persons so engaged in commercial or non-commercial software enterprises contribute productive activity and potentially increased or re-introduced economic circulation.
We probably owe it to our collective future to see a change in the way we define property to exclude those things that are not actual property. Exclude from the definition, those things that cannot be scarce in their form when expressed. Exclude from the meaning of property those things that cannot be physically lost. Someone may do it better than you and you lose. Life has that risk element to it. We have to accept some forms of risk and be willing to participate in a climate of reasonable risk.
For Whom are the Rules for Anyway?
Software patents cannot be a means to eliminate risk from those who reach the top first. That, is the final reason software patents and this idea of intellectual property should be discarded. They are rent systems that eliminate risk and are thus as unnatural as it is unnatural to try to patent mathematics based on the laws of nature from which software is ultimately based. We need to broaden opportunity and provide natural, reasonable expression provided under Trademark but perhaps have a way to recognize the creators of ideas but allow all to apply those ideas without rent or royalty when it comes to software so that we all may have a chance at advanced innovation, expanded learning, and to possibly become better.