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Phenomenal Essay On Why Software Patents Are The Problem

Feb 19, 2010
Category Technology

If there is one thing you read today, go read Brad Burnham at Union Square Ventures excellent essay titled Software patents are the problem not the answer.

Several years ago when I first started saying things like “software patents are invalid constructs” or “software shouldn’t be able to be patented” or “software patents are a huge drag on innovation”, I was told by many people (lawyers, journalists, patent trolls, and other VCs) that while I might be right, no other venture capitalist would agree with me or support this position.

Several years ago my partner Jason Mendelson agreed and since then he’s become outspoken about his desire for the end of software patents.  Some people said that was cheating since he’s one of my partners at Foundry Group, but I’m ok with getting people on board one person at a time.  BTW – my other partners – Ryan McIntyre and Seth Levine – also strongly agree with this position.

Several months ago, Brad wrote a great essay titled We need an independent invention defense to minimize the damage of aggressive patent trollsI’m good friends with Brad and his partner Fred Wilson and we’ve had a number of conversations about this over the past six months, including the creation of an ad-hoc group we are calling “Abolish Software Patents” (which is similar in structure to the group behind the Startup Visa Movement.

Today, Brad wrote Software patents are the problem not the answer in response to the New York Times article on Nathan’ Myhrvold’s firm Intellectual Ventures approach to creating “invention capital” which was a soft profile piece in response to Myhrvold’s HBR article The Big Idea: Funding Eureka! 

Brad’s post is outstanding and mirrors my perspective on this.  And – if you want some entertainment (and additional perspective on what’s really going on) go take a look at TechDirt’s post today titled Nathan Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures Using Over 1,000 Shell Companies To Hide Patent Shakedown.

This problem with software patents (and the patent system in general) is going to come to a head in the next year or two and I hope the venture capital industry and broader software / Internet entrepreneurial community can rally behind intelligent solutions to this problem.