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A Case Against Patents

Updated: Mar 6, 2022

Originally written on Oct 25, 2019

Patents stifle growth. They impede the diffusion and adaptation of new technologies. Majority of non-CS people have learned about computers only because of open-source projects, not because of Windows and Apples. Their users still don't know how computers work. If Apple thought it was gonna change the world, it has failed. Most people on this planet haven't even seen an Apple device. I had not seen one until I traveled to the US. The technical revolution has been brought by open source and Linus Torvalds. Android powers most smartphones on this planet. A Linux kernel resides in each of them.

Patents reward greed over service. If there were no patents laws, no one would ever waste time inventing useless things. Only those how truly want society to succeed would invent things, not those who primarily want to make money.

Patent laws create monopolies. The time period in which a patent holder cannot be competed with is enough for them to get so big they can exert power in multiple markets. They can easily buy any firms that emerge after the patent period ends. They capture entire supply chains to stop new entrants.

Patent laws give governments another opportunity to tax citizens and control the market, inducing market inefficiencies in turn. Moreover, we know that wherever a government is involved in anything, there is bound to be corruption.

Most importantly, there is no way to confirm that no one can independently produce the same invention without any knowledge of the patent holder's invention. Don't all children independently discover how to make a sandcastle? Can we allow an older child to get a patent and call everyone else's castle the former's copy? Have you never closed a fridge slowly to find out when exactly the light turns off? Was your experiment a knock off? Patents assume that some individuals are unique, that no one can develop the same idea or concept 100% independently.

That, too, is a wrong assumption. It is fairly common for people living in different nations to invent the same recipes without having any prior knowledge of the other. What is called Brittle in the US is the same as Badam Patti in India, but neither has copied from the other. They don't even know the other has it.

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