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Carmack on Game Patents

This post from John Carmack (thanks Frans) offers a comment from the id Software technical director on patenting technologies used in video games. The post responds to this Slashdot thread about the legal beagles who have launched The Patent Arcade attempting to encourage more game technology patents (since that would be an opportunity to drink from an untapped revenue stream). Here's Mr. Carmack's take:

I'm proud that there is "a relative dearth of patent applications for the video game industry, especially considering how technology-dependent the video game industry is, and given its size in terms of annual sales."

Before issuing a condemnation, I try hard to think about it from their point of view -- the laws of the land set the rules of the game, and lawyers are deeply confused at why some of us aren't using all the tools that the game gives us.

Patents are usually discussed in the context of someone "stealing" an idea from the long suffering lone inventor that devoted his life to creating this one brilliant idea, blah blah blah.

But in the majority of cases in software, patents effect independent invention. Get a dozen sharp programmers together, give them all a hard problem to work on, and a bunch of them will come up with solutions that would probably be patentable, and be similar enough that the first programmer to file the patent could sue the others for patent infringement.

Why should society reward that? What benefit does it bring? It doesn't help bring more, better, or cheaper products to market. Those all come from competition, not arbitrary monopolies. The programmer that filed the patent didn't work any harder because a patent might be available, solving the problem was his job and he had to do it anyway. Getting a patent is uncorrelated to any positive attributes, and just serves to allow either money or wasted effort to be extorted from generally unsuspecting and innocent people or companies.

Yes, it is a legal tool that may help you against your competitors, but I'll have no part of it. Its basically mugging someone.

I could waste hours going on about this. I really need to just write a position paper some day that I can cut and paste when this topic comes up.

30. Carmack is a demagogue Jun 3, 2005, 03:52 shul
Having made up a pretty non-existing scenario in which the same party of interest creates a "brain storming room" with a bunch of sharp programmers and then send them off to file their own patents Carmack then goes on to say that in such a case the first one is ok while the other get shafted.

Well, although I admire Carmack, on this one he is simply wrong. The usual flow is either one very sharp person tries to get a patent on something or a company does. Usually there are not that many contenders at first. Usually only one patent for a particular innovative idea is being put on the table; a year later someone else suddenly realizes he thought of the same idea before, so why not sue?

Well, the idea behind the patent mechanism (which is pretty screwed up right now because of the legal system) was to benefit society by giving it recipes for cutting edge technologies while protecting the original creator for the next 20 years or so.

But the system is screwed. It rewards those who has better means and not neccessarily better ideas. It stops better ideas from getting to the world because most ideas are evolution of older ones, and determining (from a legal point of view) when you actually improved something vs. when you simply copied something is very hard.

The extremest would say, I don't want to patent anything, but then the problem is with technology staying in private hands instead of getting out there.

Previous Post Reply Quote Edit Delete Report
    Date Subject Author
  1. Jun 2, 11:19 As Yoda would say . .. ZigZang
  2. Jun 2, 11:27  Re: As Yoda would say . .. changingman
  7. Jun 2, 14:33  Been Bitten Before ViRGE
  21. Jun 2, 19:25   Re: Been Bitten Before toranaga
  14. Jun 2, 16:22  Re: As Yoda would say . .. FourPak
  3. Jun 2, 11:33 No subject SavageD
  4. Jun 2, 11:45 Blimey antonye
  5. Jun 2, 14:08  Re: Blimey Zathrus
  6. Jun 2, 14:20   Re: Blimey SquirrelZero
  24. Jun 2, 22:00    Re: Blimey Camaro76
  27. Jun 2, 23:58     Re: Blimey Camaro76
  12. Jun 2, 16:05   Re: Blimey Riley Pizt
  25. Jun 2, 22:44    Re: Blimey Zathrus
  26. Jun 2, 23:21     Re: Blimey Riley Pizt
  28. Jun 3, 00:06      Re: Blimey Zathrus
  32. Jun 3, 05:58       Re: Blimey Riley Pizt
  33. Jun 3, 08:15        Re: Blimey Zathrus
  35. Jun 3, 15:57         Re: Blimey Riley Pizt
  11. Jun 2, 16:02  Re: Blimey Riley Pizt
  13. Jun 2, 16:07   Re: Blimey Gen. Hospital
  8. Jun 2, 14:48 Carmack who? Alamar
  9. Jun 2, 15:18  Re: Carmack who?  Rob 
  10. Jun 2, 15:25  Re: Lawyers looking for more money Yosemite Sam
  15. Jun 2, 16:22 Carmack is very smart indeed. Sark45
  16. Jun 2, 17:25  Re: Carmack is very smart indeed. Michael Bolton's hair dresser
  23. Jun 2, 21:34   hmmmmm. Carver
  17. Jun 2, 17:36 SCUM! Hump
  18. Jun 2, 17:39  Re: SCUM! Marvin T. Martian
  19. Jun 2, 18:17   Re: SCUM! SquirrelZero
  20. Jun 2, 19:05    Re: SCUM! WebDemon
  22. Jun 2, 20:53 Just think... raVen
  29. Jun 3, 00:20 Patents - Good and Bad Prez
  31. Jun 3, 05:33  Re: Patents - Good and Bad Hump
  34. Jun 3, 15:34   Re: Patents - Good and Bad Prez
>> 30. Jun 3, 03:52 Carmack is a demagogue shul

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