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Christopher Mims

A View from Christopher Mims

White House Petition to End Software Patents Is a Hit

Now that Congress failed to reform software patents, will the Obama administration step up?

  • September 24, 2011

At this moment, on the White House’s official website for petitioning the government, the only thing as popular as legalizing marijuana and separating church from state is a petition to “Direct the Patent Office to Cease Issuing Software Patents.”

There are lots of good reasons to end the practice of patenting software, including the fact that software patents are primarily a vehicle for transferring wealth from the innovators who create it to patent trolls whose sole “product” is litigation. (Software patents are also sometimes used by big companies to take their rivals down a peg or two, in what seems like an effort to pile up so many cross-licensing fees that they all cancel each other out.)

Anyway, if you agree that this madness must stop, you’d better get yourself over to WhiteHouse.gov, because as of the last time I reloaded that site, the petition still needed 531 more signatures in order to merit an official response.

Unfortunately, that “official response”—a written statement—is about all anyone can expect from this effort. It seems that even though the U.S. Constitution provides an avenue for citizens to petition their government, it says nothing about how the government should handle those petitions.

Hopefully someone’s at least posting them over the water cooler, so administration decision-makers can get a sense of how those other branches of the government are failing to address one of the technology industry’s most pressing issues.

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