Patents bit the House in the hip

In this interesting story in the Washington Post, the congress is appealing to a private holding company in Arlington (NTP) to let the Blackberry stay alive.

Apparently, the Blackberry is in violation of patents owned by the company and now the company wants to shut the service down and license the technology to other people.

Good thing they keep extending the terms on patents and copyrights, eh?

Seriously though, as somebody who's made most of his money over the last 20 years doing either freeware or commercial software development, I can hardly be accused of being anti-business on these issues. However, I think that this growth of long patents as the development cycles for technology shorten are likely to be pushing things in the wrong direction.

On the other hand, we can see how things like the GIF patent (actually a patent on LZW compression - owned by Unisys and IBM) have spurred the development of new technologies to do the same thing. But, there are those who can reasonably argue that this research time could have been better spent working on algorithms for other essential problems as opposed to developing systems to achieve basically the same compression.

Later this year (June, 2003), we'll all be able to use LZW to our heart's content (hopefully). But until then, it's still owned by the two parties.