Patents [heavy sigh]

Morale among progressive reformists rode an all time peak going into January 2009. President-elect Barack Obama was poised to take power and spirits were running high. So many people believed great changes were in store for our nation. As soon as the appointments began that elation subsided rapidly.

Software patents have been a huge obstacle to the advancement and development of new technologies and the opening of new avenues of business. For creative, hardworking programmers and development teams with innovative insights, building on available knowledge faces legal challenges and financial hurdles because of the current judicial interpretation of patent law. It's impossible to say exactly how many worthwhile, life-improving software projects have been shelved because of litigation hungry corporate legal departments with their feelers out for ideas that traverse terrain that has been registered, but the impact on software developers has been very significant and burdensome.

For a clearer explanation of dept of that impact one must look beyond the initial claims of infringement. Software patents stop business projects in their tracks not only when pieces of code and processes under a claim of ownership have been used, but all advancement that would be built on that usage is also halted. The existing new software under a claim of infringement becomes unavailable, and also any future advancements that may have come from that software ceases to be possible. The effect of software patenting is stifling.

Many supporters of the Electronic Frontier Foundation had high hopes that the 2008 shift in power would herald a more insightful legal approach to patent law. Fingers were crossed that Justice Department appointments would contain the names of some of our nation's full field of brilliant, forward thinking attorneys. The announcement of the appointment of a significant percentage of attorneys who had previously worked with the Recording Industry Association of America put a damper on the emotions of anyone who was giddy with optimism. Those appointments indicated that the interpretation of digital rights wasn't heading down an openly reformist path. For some people, at that moment those appointments were announced at the very beginning of the Obama Administration, progressive supporters had been betrayed.

Currently, in related news, there's a case before the Supreme Court involving medical patents. Rather than attack the fact that such patents shouldn't exit at all the defense attorneys are arguing over the scope of the patent in question. Perhaps they believe that path has a higher probability of success. Once again, however, an opportunity to challenge the validity of current patent practices has been missed. The lower courts have created law through ruling, and so far it still stands.

This issue may seem like trivia to the average citizen. Patent law may become more important to them when someone in their family faces medical hardship because of it. Perhaps that's what it takes for more people to care about how corporate greed has defined the law of the land. The technical details of obscure rulings may have to start killing people before the issue really takes center stage. Hopefully it won't come to that.

It should be pointed out that the stifling effect of current patent jurisprudence as applied to medicine is that potentially life saving advancements may be shut out due to doctors being barred from applying an independently derived procedure if the procedure applies to an area that has already been patented. As with software, the initial block to innovation potentially blocks much greater progress. That avenues of treating people may be shut off because of legal interpretations based on corporate profit is really quite chilling, and very serious.

I completely left out the biggest reason these patents shouldn't exist, for those who need context. They all deal with intangible processes. They have nothing to do with concrete inventions.
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