Calpundit Has A Good Idea

Calpundit, talking about software patents:

“I happen to think that patents on ‘fundamental’ software technologies are way too easy to get in any case, but the real problem here is that of letting a broad patent sit dormant for a long time while other people use it, either knowingly or not. After there’s a critical mass, and the users can’t easily switch to something else, the patent holder sues. Unisys pulled this same trick over the underlying technology for the GIF image format.

It strikes me that patent law should resemble trademark law in this respect: if you don’t defend your patent, you lose it. Companies that adopt technology need to have a reasonable way of knowing whether the technology is patented and what the patent holder’s licensing terms are, and they need to know this before they invest heavily in the technology. Anything else is fundamentally unfair.”

Defend it or lose it. That’s a start, anyway.

I remember when (I think it was) Magnavox claimed a patent on using the “XOR” (exclusive or) instruction to generate graphics in video games. They sued some small companies that would have to settle, and used the precedent to go after bigger companies. Finally they went after Activision, won the lawsuit, and received a huge award.

Software patents are bad enough, and restrict innovation, but the practice of keeping your patent a secret until a rival has built up a significant business, and then pouncing, should be outlawed.

ALSO – go read the comments following Calpundit’s post!