It looks like the US patent system, that the free software movement has been fighting for the past 25 years, is dying.
First academia started questioning its usefulness (back in 1958), then the conservative cultural circles at WSJ.’ In the recent Blisky case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit put the software patents on shaky ground.
IBM threw the last, heaviest brick on the patent system announcing that it will increase by 50% the number of inventions that it releases in the public domain, instead of patenting them. The press release estimates a total of about 3,000 inventions by IBM during 2009. Even more interesting:
its planned increase in publishing inventions will focus on those technology areas that will increase the build out of a new, smarter infrastructure.
which sounds like that to enable innovation you need to get rid of patents. Another interesting piece of IBM’s press release:
Publication of technological information is one means to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts,” the phrase in the U.S. Constitution giving the Congress the power to enact patent laws. Publication protects inventors from allegations of infringement by placing the intellectual property into the body of prior art. Publications also improve patent quality, since they can be cited by patent offices in limiting the scope of patent applications. Publication also helps spur follow-on innovation that ensures dynamic business growth.
Isn’t this what have we’ve been saying for the past 20 years?