One oft-questioned objective of the Pirate Parties is the dismantlement of the patent system, as in scrapping the concept altogether. Patents are a remnant from the guild era that has never served to advance the rate of innovations, but always to brake it in favor of incumbent industries. It should have been killed when free enterprise laws were enacted worldwide in mid-1850s, but wasn’t.
The patent system delayed the Industrial Revolution by 30 years, broadcast radio by five to ten years, powered flight by 25 years… I could go on and on. And today, it’s no different. The situation certainly isn’t helped by clueless politicians who measure “innovation” as “number of filed patent applications”, which is about as useful as measuring “economic growth” as “number of smashed windows”. It’s not just unrelated, the correlation is strongly negative.
This is important: the patent system hasn’t derailed just recently. It was always a retardant on innovation. It’s just that the pace of ideas has picked up, and so this fact has become much more apparent — and much more damaging.
Engineers hate patents. Almost every engineer I’ve spoken to show the deepest burning sincere hatred for the patent system in their own field of work. At the very best, they haven’t questioned it and so are indifferent. Curiously, most engineers think that patents are necessary outside their own field of work, but in their own, they see how it is a major retardant of innovation. This goes for all engineers across all fields of work.
The justification that is constantly brought up across political panels when I criticize the patent system is that venture capital won’t flow into startups if they don’t have patents. Venture capitalists want it, I’m told, or they won’t invest in new startups, which is fueling our entire economy. It is true that startups and small businesses are the backbone of our economy. But I also know that venture capitalists and other kinds of business angels never consider patents to be the determining factor in investing.
Finally, via TechDirt, I learn that some very well-respected VCs are starting to say what they really think. And boy, are they telling it like it is. No punches are spared here.
“I can’t understand why our goverment allows this shit to go on. It’s wrong and its bad for society to have this cancer growing inside our economy.”
“The basic problem with patents is that you’re trying to assign property rights to something that doesn’t deserve property rights. […] The basic problem is that Chris [Dixon] and a bunch of engineers can be sitting at Hunch designing some amazing new feature and somebody unbeknownst to them has a patent on this feature and never actually implemented it and can now screw them over… It’s just not right, it shouldn’t exist.”
It’s great to have the people who supposedly matter politically on the topic coming clear in this very unambiguous language. Thank you, good sirs.
Nobody wants patents except patent lawyers and a few specific companies that can use patents to tax the public. Patents kill ideas, the growth of society, and our backbone businesses.