Innovation vs. patents
Fortune reported on Sunday how Microsoft is considering enforcing up to 255 of its patents that are part of Linux. They believe that the reason that Linux is of such high quality is because Microsoft have invested so much time and money innovating and creating software that users can benefit from.
Gary Barnett from Ovum has stated previously that this could be the beginning of patent wars. He explains:
Such a war, in which every patent holder sought to exercise its rights, could bring the software industry to a standstill…
…If a full-blown war did break out then the only winners would be lawyers, although even they would probably be obliged to go back to writing their legal arguments on pen and paper. If patent war breaks out, you may as well throw your computers away, since they’ll be more or less useless. If every patent were ‘exercised’ it is hard to see how anyone would be able to write or sell any software at all.
What does this mean? Could it be the end of free downloadable software?
This reminds me of the ongoing disputes in the pharmaceutical arena.
Hypothia explains that “discovery drugs is hard and therefore expensive”. There are also countless other examples mooting whether pharmaceutical companies should forego their R&D investments into new drugs to allow poorer countries to obtain them.
This blog is not about the right and wrongs of each of the two scenarios but about whether it is fair for companies to expect a return on their innovation. To put it bluntly, Microsoft needs to move the position of the arguement from ‘them vs us’ to ‘innovation vs stagnation’.
Gary Barnett continues to explain:
The moment when a pharmaceuticals company decides that it is better to invest R&D effort in finding ‘additional’ uses for a drug in order to extend an existing patent, rather than in developing new drugs, is the moment when patent law begins to defeat its original purpose.
What is clear is that the patent battle is turning into a religious arguement where passions are raised. We need to look to leadership from independent sources (like analysts) to take the discussion to a fact-based one where compromise is possible and innovation can still be encouraged and rewarded.
Filed under: analyst relations, blogging, technology | 3 Comments