Calling All Patent Trolls

Mon, 4 Jul 2011

It seems that everything's going downhill in the patent world: The free software community didn't get the result we were hoping for out of the Bilski case, and the i4i case actually made it harder to invalidate patents. The patent system is already such a mess, and these court decisions only seem to make it worse, so I've come to the conclusion that we need more patent trolls.

That might seem like a strange statement to come from me, but it's true. Large companies accumulate lots of patents. They then cross-license with other companies so, in their view, they only get the benefits of patents without any of the negatives.

You can't cross-license with a patent troll, though, since they don't make anything. Your only options are to somehow prove non-infringement, invalidate the patent, or to agree to a license. All of these options will cost money.

We need more patent trolls. In fact, we need lots and lots of them. Enough to bring about a patent nuclear war. We need for things to get so bad that companies start to realize they're going to lose more than they gain from the software patent system, and it will probably take patent nuclear war for that to happen.

Not that I think this is the best option, so don't get me wrong: I would love nothing less than to see software patents disappear tomorrow but, given how things are going in the courts, it seems that it will have to get worse before it gets better. Oddly enough, having lots of patent trolls might actually be good for the free software community in the long term.

Bring on the patent trolls. Let them sue the proprietary software companies into oblivion. Let's have patent nuclear war.