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To read comments to this article, go here
Who Should See the Film 'Patent Absurdity'? - Pick Your Brain - Updated
Monday, May 24 2010 @ 06:20 PM EDT

I have a request from End Software Patents' CiarŠn O'Riordan. He'd like your help.

He says VC good guy Brad Feld is interested in in mailing out copies of the film Patent Absurdity (Full title: Patent Absurdity: How software patents broke the system) to 200 people -- politicians, influential people in companies, policy setters at standards groups, and whoever will be influential in the debate the breaks out post-Bilski -- and he'd like to have some help from you coming up with a list of who best to send to.

If you have some ideas, please share them here and CiarŠn can find them or go directly to his site and leave your thoughts there, or both. They've started on the list. I see Microsoft people on the list. Personally, I consider that a waste. Their business model is patents, and that won't change unless they think of an easier or better plan. And Gene Quinn has planted his flag firmly in favor of patents, so I wouldn't waste one there. Maybe people like that could instead get a card or something to point them to the online film.

I know who I'd *like* to send it to: all the justices on the US Supreme Court and all the judges at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. But that's just me. There's probably protocol involved. I doubt judges open packages from strangers, after all. But I will research what is possible there.

The main thing is for you to think about who needs help understanding why software developers are so, so opposed to software patents, almost to a man, people who may not know and are willing to consider the issue.

Here's Feld's blog, where he explains his plan and what gave him the idea:

Last week, Microsoft sued Salesforce.com claiming infringement of 9 software patents. This comes shortly after Nokia sued Apple who sued Nokia over software patents, and after Apple sued HTC who sued Apple over software patents.

As an example of the ridiculous nature of software patents, Microsoftís claims cover user interface features, including a "system and method for providing and displaying a Web page having an embedded menu" and a "method and system for stacking toolbars in a computer display."

This explosion of litigation based on the patenting of software cannot be brushed-off as large corporations doing what they do, as almost every start-up software company is at some point being shaken down by software patent holders. Itís a massive tax on and retardant of innovation.

Iím promoting the film Patent Absurdity because I know itís helping people understand the situation. Itís gratifying to hear that more than 100,000 people have now viewed the film since it was released a month ago. But are the right people seeing it?

I donít know, so Iíve decided to send a DVD of the movie in the postal mail to 200 people who you think would most benefit our cause by seeing the movie and hearing the views of a few venture capitalists. My friends at the End Software Patents campaign have started the list and are asking for your help to identify those people that need to be made aware of how the patent system is failing us.

Watch the film, share it with friends, and take a look over the list of people who should watch this film.

So, your ideas, please, remembering that the amount is finite, and the hope is to reach those most likely to have influence as the discussion about software patents continues.

Update: The mailing was done on Sunday, June 6th, and you can find the letter and the list of recipients here. Here's the letter, and I think one of the best points he makes is that he is a venture capitalist working with startups who are finding patents a drag on innovation. This is the exact opposite of what judges and lawyers and the rest of us are so often told, that without patents no venture capitalist will fund a startup:

****************************

Dear XX

My name is Brad Feld and Iím a venture capitalist who has a popular web blog about innovation and investing in tech start-ups at www.feld.com.

Iím writing to you about a new documentary film "Patent Absurdity: how software patents broke the system", and including a DVD of that film with this letter. I hope you will spare 30 minutes to watch.

I selected you as one of two hundred influential people to receive this DVD because I wanted to make sure that the film is reaching the right peopleĖpeople who can help inform the debate over the patenting of software. Specifically, Iím hoping the film will bring you to an understanding of why patents on software are a massive tax on and retardant of innovation in the US.

Iím including with this letter a full list of the 200 people who are receiving a copy of this film as well as publishing those names on-line at:
http://en.swpat.org/wiki/ Who_should_see_Patent_Absurdity.

Any day now the US Supreme Court will issue a ruling in a landmark case known popularly as "Bilski". This ruling is likely to have significant impact on the US economy and the prospects for the new innovative companies that I partner with and who create great new products and services.

Patents, as you are probably aware, are government granted monopolies that last 20 years. They allow the patent holder to restrict others from entering the market. Historically, patents have covered novel machines, processes for industrial manufacture, and pharmaceuticals. In more recent years, patents on software have been grantedĖhundreds of thousands of patents. These patents cover essential techniques in computer programming, and their existence is having a chilling effect on the startup companies that I work with. These start-ups are finding it increasingly difficult to make headway through this software patent thicket.

Here are some specific points I would like to bring to your attention about software patents:

* The financial cost of defending yourself against a software patent claim are impossible to overcome. Just to analyze whether the claims being made against you are justified will incur legal fees in excess of $50,000.00, and more than $1 million in legal fees before trial. Yet it costs the price of a postage stamp for a software patent holder to make a legal claim against you.

(http://www.wsgr.com/ PDFSearch/09202004_patentpirates.pdf)

* Economic research demonstrates that software patents are acting as a drag on the US economy.

(http://en.swpat.org/wiki/ Studies_on_economics_and_innovation)

* Programmers Ė those skilled in the art of writing software, would be expected to benefit from, and support the patenting of software. They do not. They uniformly despise them as a limitation on their art.

(http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/ indprop/comp/analyses_en.htm)

* Venture capitalist like me, who work with new innovative start-ups can testify that software patents have a chilling effect on the market.

(http://en.swpat.org/wiki/ Statements_from_venture_capitalists)

* With well over 200,000 software patents having been issued, non practicing entities and hedge funds are buying up tens of thousands of these trash patents and using them to extract hundreds of millions of dollars from US companies. This activity takes the form of a protection racket.

(http://www.techdirt.com/ articles/20100217/1853298215.shtml)

I would be happy to offer my time to answer any questions you might have about this film and what we can do to help end this software patent absurdity.

Yours sincerely,

Brad Feld


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