While much of what I write appears here, I also contribute to other venues as well. The following op/ed piece first appeared in last week's print edition of MHT (formerly Mass High Tech), the New England regional technology paper to which I periodically contribute a piece. Starting next month, I'll be doing a regularly column for them, focusing on the New England technology scene.
How often have you heard it said that "patents foster innovation?" That phrase rings true in pharmaceuticals, where investment requirements are enormous and failure common. But does it also apply in areas such as software? Does it really take the promise of a legal monopoly to motivate a typical founder or CTO to innovate? And what about the advantages patents give big companies over emerging ones, simply because the former can credibly threaten expensive patent litigation while the latter cannot?
I'll talk about the negative impacts of software patents another time. But today I'd like to make the case that patents are irrelevant to software innovation, based on my 25 years of representing hundreds of startups, the largest number of which have been either pure software companies or other ventures whose value lay in the software at the heart of their businesses. That history tells me that if patents were to disappear tomorrow, the process of innovation wouldn't skip a beat.