[Linux-aus] Open letter to abolish software patents

David Newall davidn at davidnewall.com
Wed Aug 4 20:34:53 EST 2010

I hope this hasn't been aired on this forum before; forgive me, if it 
has, for repeating old news.  Also, please, forgive me for raising a 
subject which is not strictly on-topic.

Ben Sturmfels et al have organised an open letter to Senator the Hon Kim 
Carr, Federal Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, 
urging the abolishment of software patents in response to the  Federal 
Government's Advisory Council on Intellectual Property's (ACIP) Options 
Paper on Patentable Subject Matter.  I was not aware of the Options 
Paper, and for such an important issue to have garnered less than twenty 
responses (as at August 4), I think it reasonable to say that its 
circulation was, at best, only marginally effective.

As an professional author of software, I have a very personal interest 
in the question of whether it should be patentable and under what terms, 
and it is my opinion, contrary to what would seem to be common sense, 
that the protections which patents grant do not encourage innovation.  I 
have heard of no case where the expense of creating new and innovative 
software was borne because a monopoly might be granted on the result.  
Investments might have been made with this outcome in mind, but if so, 
only rarely and with such little publicity that it failed to come to my 
attention.  On the other hand, I am aware of many cases where patents 
have been used to prevent innovation, even patents on what I feel are 
obvious or trivial "inventions."

Innovation and society's enrichment are intended outcomes of patents, I 
have not observed this within the software industry.  I have seen only 
the reverse.

If you wish to read Ben's letter, and dare I say, to sign it, too, 
please visit http://apps.softwarefreedom.com.au/patents.  ACIP's Options 
Paper can be retreived from 
Responses to the Options Paper are available from 

Please do sign Ben's letter.

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