Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Software Patents Are Insane

I'm a Software Engineer. I design and build software systems. It's what I do. Even when I'm off work, I design and build software systems.

And I hate software patents.

I firmly believe that they are one of (if not THE) worst idea that has ever been inflicted upon my industry and craft.

Case in point, have you ever typed into the address bar of your web-browser and gone to a website without having to type in the entire domain name? For example, I'll type in "Facebook" and be taken to http://www.facebook.com.

It's a reasonable action on the part of the browser and it makes sense. Additionally, it's functionality that's been around for many, many years now.

Which of course means that it is now patented.

TechCrunch has an article about an Israeli company that has received a new patent for that behavior (and for the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button that's been on Google's homepage for probably a decade now).

What this means is that browsers and search engines are either going to have to change the functionality that people expect and use, or pay a hefty sum in order to keep the functionality.

This is insane.

As a recent CATO article described, imagine if a certain type of plot twist was patented. Imagine, never again being able to read about someone suddenly being alive again. Never getting to see that type of literary device used in movies, comics, books or television shows. Unless the company using it paid someone a hefty dollop of dollars.

Sounds insane doesn't it?

Yet, we're perfectly accepting of the insanity in the software field?

No. Or at least, I think it's insane and pray that the upcoming Supreme Court case overturns the ability to patent software.

After all, we all need to remember that software systems are not inventions.

They are copyrightable works of art.

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