Far from it. But the suspense goes on…
Tags: RIM vs. NTP
Ch. Tronche's blog
Mes pensées afin que je ne les oublie pas…
Source: The Register.
Once again we have to question if patents (essentially software ones) are part of the solution or part of the problem.
In short, Microsoft wants to enter the smart phone market. Not only to enter it, but to storm it. To become the Microsoft of the smart phone, the undisputable mammoth.
However, the task is such than even Microsoft can’t do it alone. It needs other companies to build everything that’s necessary and is not an operating system or an application. It wants an ecology of applications for smart phones and PDAs, with Microsoft operating system at the center of the stage, very much like every third-party application for desktop Windows adds value to Microsoft today (and may be lack of appropriate software for Windows server makes avenue for other operating systems in the server world, but that’s another story).
The trouble is that companies (especially technologically saavy ones) are rather cold about it nowadays: they remember RIM vs NTP, RIM in Germany, battles around Qualcomm’s patents and more, and more.
So they don’t even try, and those having patents are the winners: they’ve stopped innovation from their competitors, not because their patents hold, because of superior technology or better product (they seldom build products), but by fear of litigation.
Thus, this isn’t good news for Microsoft. But there’s a solution: protect the small companies from IP litigation with the mighty shield of Microsoft money. This is what Microsoft is proposing.
Two thoughts about it:
There was another way to unleash innovation by the way: just drop software patents in the law.
Software patents certainly incur important costs:
They’re other cons also:
The software patents thus, create no incentive for innovation, is almost useless, and really stifle it by increasing the cost of software, the breath and blood of the 21st century information economy.
Why should we tolerate it then ? Don’t we want innovation and growth ?
We should remember today why the patents, what are the fundamental ideas behind them (as opposed to the way they’re used, that is, the how-tos of patents).
What is a patent ?
A patent is a law-granted monopoly.
Why patents ?
How do you get a patent ?
You fill some papers at the patent office, describing the invention in such a way that someone “skilled in the art” can reproduce it, claiming what’s supposed to be new, what you want a monopoly for, and other informations.
And you pay (important thing).
The office then “examines” the patent. Here, the examination means different things in different countries. In any contry, the patent’s gonna be read by someone, who tries to assert if it’s “reasonnable”. For example, if you try to get a patent for a perpetual motion machine, chances are that your patent will get rejected. Some formal checkings are made, for example I believe that, in the US, patents can only be granted to individuals, not organizations. In some countries, a prior art search is made (the office tries to assert the novelty of your patent). In other countries, there’s no such search, and the burden of the prior art search rests on you, the patent applicant (very much like in the trade mark system).
At some point, your patent gets registered.
What then ?
An important thing is that, whatever the patent office says, any interested party can go to court after your patent registration and claims your patent is invalid because for example, lack or novelty, or infriging a previous patent.
This raises the interesting question of how much money’s a brand new patent worth (close to zero, if you followed this last paragraph).