“It’s not clear that we really need patents in most industries” →

Judge Richard Posner, who dismissed Apple’s suit against Motorola and stopped Motorola from seeking a counter-injunction against Apple, sounds surprisingly like, well, most software engineers. (Or at least a little like John Siracusa.)

I’m not entirely sure I agree with Posner; it’s clearly not a good thing for Company A to spend $100M developing a new product of some kind only to have Company B spend $50K on having four interns reverse engineer it over a month, and it’s precisely that kind of situation that patent law was intended to address. But the problem is the patent system as it exists in practice, in which the reality is often that Company A is extorting or shutting down Company B based on a slew of nonsensical patents that should never have been granted in the first place.

I don’t entirely blame the Patent & Trademark Office for the current state of affairs; through the 1970s and 80s they tried to hold the line against software patents but kept getting their rulings overturned by appeals courts until they eventually gave up. And, like most non-military/security federal agencies ever since Reagan, the PTO is woefully underfunded for the job they’re being charged to do.

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