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Is IP another bubble about to burst?

I expect almost everyone at will agree that software should be shared — that's how science works, after all. And, if you ask Venkatesh Hariharan, that's how, largely, India has been working for centuries.

This is quite an enjoyable read that I would recommend especially to those that are not quite sure about what to think about “intellectual property”, “software patents”, or whatever these gross ideas might be called.


As a child growing up in India, one of the first things I learned is a hymn to Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge, which says that:

Wonderful is your gift of knowledge
the more we share, the more it grows
the more we hoard it, the more it diminishes

As a grown-up living in a globalized world, I am constantly bombarded by the the term, “intellectual property.” Policy makers keep saying that India should create more IP. Countless seminars extol the virtues of IP even as patents are granted for “Method for swinging on a swing,” "Method for Concealing Partial Baldness." In the computer industry, patents are routinely granted for things that are obvious and have been known for years. (...)



The original idea of a patent was full and open disclosure in exchange for a fixed period of control. The assumption was as Edison said, 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration. The fixed period was to motivate the perspiration. As with any system it had glaring successes and failures but it was always as an option to trade secrets which, last I heard, are more numerous than patents. No one is required to use the patent system. Reverse engineering a trade secret cannot be patented as it is by definition prior art.

Inventors are not like Buddhist monks in that no one gives them gold coins just for sitting around inventing all day. They are on their own getting reimbursement for their effort. And as the author notes, they have to do it within their own culture.

That said the patent system has gotten out of hand and particularly in the foolish application to software. Everyone has their favorite rant on a software patent. Most of them are not about the software but on what is done regardless of the software making it happen. That is not an invention. That is not an novelty. They are things you have to be a dullard not to see as obvious.

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