2008-11-25

Software Patents - replies

Following my email on software patents, I got a prompt reply from my MP Andrew Murrison:
Thank you. The only remedy would be legislative so I'll write to the relevant BERR minister for his thoughts.
and a reply from Graham Watson MEP:
I am aware that there is growing debate as to the best way of protecting intellectual property with regard to software, but at the same time not stifling competition or the evolution of this technology. It has equally been suggested that copyright makes innovation more difficult as it allows companies like Microsoft to monopolise undefined areas of software, and that such copyright can only be challenged through the court system, unlike patents which are only granted after rigorous examination. Thank you for drawing this issue to my attention and I will certainly bear in mind your comments when this issue is next reviewed by the Parliament If I can be of any assistance in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me.
I feel I should reply to Graham, as it seems he has some misconceptions. The problem is that I'm not an expert either. Well, here's my reply:

Graham, thank you for your response to my email about software patents. You write:
It has equally been suggested that copyright makes innovation more difficult as it allows companies like Microsoft to monopolise undefined areas of software...
How can copyright allow a single company to monopolise an area? Copyright doesn't prevent anyone from using the ideas in a piece of software, it just prevents them from copying / modifying / distributing the code for that particular piece of software without permission.

In the field of web browsers for example, the fact that Microsoft's Internet Explorer has copyright restrictions hasn't stiffled competitors such as Mozilla. In fact I'm using Mozilla to write this!

You add:
and that such copyright can only be challenged through the court system, unlike patents which are only granted after rigorous examination.
But Mozilla didn't have to challenge anyone in the courts in order to write their web browser. This is in contrast to patents. If Microsoft had been able to patent the web browser, nobody else would have been able to make a competing product and the world would be all the poorer.

So I say yes to software copyright, no to software patents.

Regards,

Tony Locke

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