Recent thoughts on patents

Eric Flynn’s first column on copyright got me thinking. It’s a really good piece on copyright, but especially one thing jumped out and stuck in my mind:

Copyright is a privilege, not a right.

I believe basically a similar line of reasoning can be applied to patents.

Monopolies are evil. Patents are government-sanctioned monopolies. Hence, patents are evil.

However, the patent system is the best way we have to address an even bigger evil:

It’s so expensive to capitalise on an invention that only big companies can do it.

So to prevent this bigger evil we adopt a slightly lesser evil—the patent system. This doesn’t change the nature of it though, it’s still evil! Especially it means that expanding the area of what can be patented should be done with utmost care, because frivolous expansion brings a significant risk of harming society. In particular the burden of proof should be on the side that is seeking the expansion, not on the side arguing for the status quo.

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