Sunday, February 24, 2013

Software Patent Debate - BSA and National Association of Manufacturers Capitol Hill Briefing on February 21, 2013

On February 21, 2013, a group of leading executives and lawyers came together at a Capitol Hall briefing event co-hosted by the BSA | The Software Alliance and National Association of Manufacturers to talk about software patents. The software industry is vital to the growth of the U.S. economy so how we protect software innovation has become important.

Among those attending this event: panel discussion moderator Robert Stoll,a  law firm partner and former Commissioner of Patents, panelists Dorian Daley, Senior VP, GC and Secretary of Oracle, Brad Smith, GC and Executive VP of Microsoft, Neil Abrams, VP and Assistant GC of IBM, David Kahn, CEO of Covia Labs, and Thomas Lange, Director of Corporate RD, Modeling and Simulation for Procter & Gamble.

This briefing is welcome because the anti-software patent camp garners lots of press that drowns out the views of those in favor of software patents. They speak of problems (some imagined) engendered by software patents and patent trolls leading one to conclude let's just abolish them. Problem solved, right?

The Capitol Hall briefing lets the public consider the benefits. The major companies are well aware. That's why Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, IBM Microsoft, and Oracle have heavily invested in software patents. Is it just "mutually assured destruction?" Some tell me this is less the case today, and the current problem is patent trolls. If so, the cure should be narrowly aimed at abusive patent trolls not at software patents. Otherwise, you reduce or eliminate protection large and small operating companies require to protect software in the USA.

The value of software patents isn't lacking. What's lacking is a full discussion in the press. Part of the USA's strength is it believes in a marketplace of ideas and the public's ability to sort out what is the best ideas. I am comfortable with America's ability to make good choices if presented with both sides. So it makes sense for the public to hear from leaders how software patents have an important role in fostering software innovation, have encouraged investment in startups, and have proposals for improving the U.S. patent system. Here are some related articles on BSA's views:

Microsoft's Brad Smith: The Patent System: Fix What's Broken, Don't Break What's Working

BSA President & CEO Robert Holleyman: Clear Thinking on Software Patents

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