December 13, 2003

Lawyers and Politicians and Software, oh my!

Vindicated! A few months ago I blogged about how strong "intellectual property" rights slowed innovation and concluded with this snide remark:

Is the software biz really in trouble? Well, all I can say is that you can tell something is really a problem when even economists start to notice.

Today on Brad Delong's blog I noticed his thoughts about this story in the Wall Street Journal. Quoting the WSJ:

When patents are too easy to get and hold onto, they become a weapon for would-be monopolists and their well-paid lawyers to increase profits rather than a reward for innovation. People get patents who don't deserve them, and then others wield those patents in what is close to legalized extortion. In the computer business, firms that do no research and make no products buy patents to use in lawsuits against companies that do make things. In biotechnology, where each advance builds on the last one and everyone relies on patented research tools, patent holders may be stymieing progress, the FTC cautions.

The WSJ writer notes: "This warning is worth listening to. It comes not from an antibusiness bureaucrat or a Democratic advocate of government industrial policy, but from a Reaganite Republican who prizes property rights, markets and competition as the only sure way to prosperity."

I'll update my snide remark now: You can tell something is really a problem when even economists, and then Republicans, start to notice.

Richard Stallman, thought of by some as a kook, has been talking about this for a while now (sorry, I was trying to find an earlier link). Sometimes (er, well usually) he may take an extreme position but at least he has the force of reason behind him.

Posted by thom at December 13, 2003 01:44 PM | TrackBack
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