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“if you’re against software patents, you’re against patents in general.”

Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham’s 2006 essay “Are Software Patents Evil?” opens with “if you’re against software patents, you’re against patents in general.”


{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Crosbie Fitch August 13, 2011, 5:30 am

    Still surprising just how many still cling to their indoctrination that patents are mostly useful except in some cases. It’s pretty difficult confronting the fact that everything you’ve believed about patents is a pretext to persuade the masses to provide support.

    I too, once thought (relatively briefly) that ‘mechanical designs should be patentable, but not software’. But, once you fully understand why software patents are counter-productive then you soon understand that patents are counter-productive full-stop. You just need to be confronted by the need to reconcile a correlation of patents with innovation with a case in which counter-causation is evident.

    There’s still a widespread assumption even amongst critics of patents, that one is duty bound to prefix any criticism with support, e.g. “While there are many cases in which patents promote the progress,…”

    It should at least be “While I have yet to see a case in which the prospect of a patent has mothered the publication of a useful invention where without it, necessity, financial reward, and commercial advantage would have failed, …”

    • Stephan Kinsella August 13, 2011, 6:34 am

      I think the problem is lack of principled thinking–hostility to it or inability to engage in it. People are so used nowadays to opposing anything they view as “extreme” or “radical”–like getting rid of patent law altogether. They simply cannot entertain that possibility since it just must be too extreme. Let’s be reasonable, they say–don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Let’s reform it, but of course we can’t repeal it! Etc.

  • spirit splice August 17, 2011, 11:09 am

    To add to that, I find it most interesting the paradox we see. On the one hand we have, as you say, the fear of the radical (which ironically means “root” rather than extreme) and people want moderation fixing what is broken and corrupt; yet at the same time, people are all for atom bomb solutions to ant hill problems. Look at the hysteria over 9-11 or the fake anthrax threat, look at how often stupid law to ban harmless activity are passed because someone got hurt or killed one time (often their own fault) and therefore “we must do SOMETHING”!!!!

    What a weird people.

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