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[Fsfe-france] NYT: Why Bill Gates Wants 3,000 New Patents

From: Laurent GUERBY
Subject: [Fsfe-france] NYT: Why Bill Gates Wants 3,000 New Patents
Date: Sun, 31 Jul 2005 15:37:42 +0200

Decidement, la presse USA fait la part belle aux critiques des brevets
logiciels ces derniers temps, peut-etre le vote du parlement europeen y
est pour quelque chose ?

A noter le photomontage amusant de Bill Gates :


(Rappel: pour ceux qui ne veulent pas creer un compte NYT, il
suffit de copier l'URL dans la boite de recherche
de google, valider et cliquer sur le lien que
propose google.)

As recently as the 1970's, software developers relied solely upon
copyrights and trademarks to protect their work. This turned out rather
well for Microsoft. Had Dan Bricklin, the creator of VisiCalc, the
spreadsheet that gave people a reason to buy a personal computer,
obtained a patent covering the program in 1979, Microsoft would not have
been able to bring out Excel until 1999. Nor would Word or PowerPoint
have appeared if the companies that had brought out predecessors
obtained patent protection for their programs.

Mr. Bricklin, who has started several software companies and defensively
acquired a few software patents along the way, says he, too, would cheer
the abolition of software patents, which he sees as the bane of small
software companies. "The number of patents you can run into with a small
product is immense," he said. As for Microsoft's aggressive accumulation
in recent years, he asked, "Isn't Microsoft the poster child of success
without software patents?"
Why did Microsoft increase its patent-application target so sharply just
last year? 

"We realized we were underpatenting," Mr. Smith explained. The company
had seen studies showing that other information technology companies
filed about two patents for every $1 million spent on research and
development. If Microsoft was spending $6 billion to $7.5 billion
annually on its R&D, it would need to file at least 3,000 applications
to keep up with the Joneses.

That sounds perfectly innocuous. The really interesting comparisons,
though, are found not among software companies, but between software
companies and pharmaceutical companies. Pharma is lucky to land a single
patent after placing a multihundred-million-dollar bet and waiting
patiently 10 years for it to play out. Mark H. Webbink, the deputy
general counsel of Red Hat, a Linux and open-source distributor, said it
was ridiculous for a software company to grab identical protection for
work entailing relatively minuscule investment and trivial claims. He
said of current software patents, "To give 20 years of protection does
not help innovation."

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