Patents are out of bounds when it comes to standard protocols.Theres a reason for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It was created to foster invention by rewarding inventors for their time and trouble by granting temporary monopoly protection for the fruits of their labor. The net result is a benefit to society: Rewarding inventors tends to bring about more invention and economic productivity. Because patent applications mandate disclosure, the patent process has social advantages over trade-secret alternatives. However, if a given law or enforcement pattern of a lawincluding patent lawresults in harm to society, then its time to change the laws. Patents on software carry the potential of harm to the software industry and thereby to the economy. Equally problematic are the so-called method patents, or patents on application behavior, such as Amazons famousor infamousone-click patent.
How dangerous are software patents? Information Builders President and CEO Gerald Cohen warned eWEEK editors that the presence of patents is a scourge to the industry. Cohen has seen much innovation in a patent-free climate. Now he and other software leaders are being threatened with lawsuits. Software companies need to create software, which, after all, often has a short shelf life. They do not need to spend precious resources hiring expensive attorneys. Copyright protection should be enough. A copyright protects original expression; its existence encourages software developers to seek new ways of presenting function to users and of streamlining integration behind the scenes.