Patent or copyright?

I recently published an article on an Italian monthly magazine (a PDF version of which – in Italian – is downloadable here) on the patent/copyright for software dispute.

A recent EU parliament decision confirmed the impossibility to patent pieces of programming code, leaving Copyright as the only form of intellectual protection. This has been an higly highlightable decision since it was one of the very few times the Parlament hasn’t followed the EU Commission suggestion.

Even if I’m not going to translate the whole article the’re a few points I’d like to report here

  1. Even if it’s not possible to patent the software itself you could protect the IDEA behind the software+hardware system; this is a de-facto patent for software too
  2. I do believe tha copyright alone is not strong enough to protect companies from sofwtare stealing. But the same could be said for patents too (it would be impossible for small companies to charge for intellectual property infringment the big guys such IBM or Microsoft). Moreover IBM alone files EVERYDAY nearly 10 patents making virtually IMPOSSIBLE to infringe a number of already patented by others technologies, it’s just a matter of big numbers;
  3. Said this in my very personal vision the patent becomes a technology indicator for small research laboratories like the one I manage: if you’re smart enough to invent something that could provide a patent filing then you’re doing a nice job;
  4. Patents are a powerful marketing tool for companies, expecially when they’re small: “Hey, I’m small but so brilliant I have a n patents portfolio!”;

Patents where invented to divulgate innovation. Yes, sure! Have you ever read one of them? I’ve read a whole lot of them, and I can assure that would be – at its best – extremely difficult to replicate the patented invention with just the patent documents in your hands.

Patents (to a different extent, copyright) are today acting as powerful bonds to innovation. They’re filed just to prevent other to copy your idea, not to help them build on that. I’m plenty with examples on this last item, but my suggestion is to give a look to this wonderful books – NOTE: need to properly link them, be patient).

I’m so fond of the open source license Mobup is built on. I think I had a great software concept, we developed it and asked others to help us building it in exchange of the knowledge our source code conveys. Are you smart enough to transform it and taking it to the next level?

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