Friday, April 01, 2005

What if the alphabet was patented?

From CNet Asia Eileen Yu Reports:
"Imagine if the Egyptians had patented the alphabet and decided to make it a licensable entity. And imagine if they charged, say, $1 for the use of each letter and $2 each for vowels because, well, even vowels cost more in the game show Wheel of Fortune."
Nice analogy. Unfortunately with the way that software patents are constantly being issued for prior art, it's worse than that. If the alphabet were patented by the Egyptians with prices like that, writing would never have caught on. Imagine instead if suddenly in 2005 someone patented the idea of using the alphabet in emails? Sure we've been using the alphabet in emails since the 1980s, but somehow this gets overlooked in the issuing of patents. Yu quotes Sunil Abraham
"He referred to a Microsoft-owned patent that describes the navigation of hyperlinks via the tab key. The software giant applied for the patent in 1997 and was granted ownership to it in 2004. However, he said, these same functions can be found in some Linux-based applications since 1994"

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