Having completely struck-out in their attempts to undermine copyrights and to weaken America’s national security by attacking the PATRIOT Act, the mischievous little elves at the EFF want to attack one of the major foundations of the technology business, the patent system. They claim widespread abuse of the patent system has had a “chilling effect” on free expression:
More and more people are using software and Internet technology to express themselves online. Website and blogging tools are increasingly popular. Video and audio streaming technology is ubiquitous. E-mail and Instant Messaging have reached users of all ages. Yet because patents can be anywhere and everywhere in these technologies, the average user has no way of knowing whether his or her tools are subject to legal threats. Patent owners who claim control over these means of community discourse can threaten anyone who uses them, even for personal non-commercial purposes. We lose much if we allow overreaching patent claims to reduce the tremendous benefits that software and technology bring to freedom of expression.
There probably are a few more patents issued than should be, and there’s a system of checks and balances in place allowing patents to be challenged and re-examined, as many of the illegitimate patents issued to Proxim regarding 802.11 were. In fact, it’s this very system that the elves are using to press their cause, and it works because of the legitimate players who use it.
Now that the EFF is jumping aboard, will other grandstanders and dilettantes follow, and if they do, which will be the greater danger – illegitimate patents or illegitimate challenges?