The thousands of generic software patents held by large software giants, and other dedicated private entities, are increasingly becoming a huge and unfair barrier for new software companies, development communities and products to achieve wide market adoption.
In fact, as a software product competes with a product made by one of those large patent holders, they will sue or threaten to sue developers and/or large organization and corporate users for the infringement of their patents.
There are 2 approaches to solve this problem:
(1) The problem would be easily solved politically: (a) Put some sanity in the standards for approval of software patent claims; (b) re-proportion the duration of patent holders rights to the average duration of “useful economic life” of a software invention, so as not to prevent the ability of the wider population to and new creators to benefit from the use and remixing of those ideas. Efforts to enact this changes are under way, but it seems that lobbying efforts in the opposite direction are stronger (see for example the extension of copyright duration in the US and the continued awarding of ridiculous software patents).
(2) Another solutions is represented by the creation of a “copylefted” patent pool.
Here’s how it would work: A well founded and solid non-profit organization would:
- aggressively solicit the assignment to it of a large number of software patent rights
- it would instantly issue an irrevocable full license to such patents ideas to anyone in the world, except to anyone who will anytime in the future sue, or threaten to sue, anyone over software patent claims.
This article that appeared today shows encouraging signs for the possible success of this strategy.