[S]urveys of hundreds of significant new technologies show that almost all of them are invented simultaneously or nearly simultaneously by two or more teams working independently of each other. Invention appears in significant part to be a social, not an individual, phenomenon.
In addition, most employees file their patents into company control. Dying companies, once defined by innovation, can use those patents to stave off death, suing others. Yahoo is one example:
Yahoo tried and failed, over and over again, to build a social network that people would love and use. Unable to innovate, Yahoo is falling back to the last resort of a desperate, dying company: litigation as a business model.
(Andy Baio, via Kottke; see below for more information of the cost of patent litigation)
What can programmers do? If they refuse to patent at all, they risk being sued by someone else.
But there is a solution!
There are some limitations, but overall, this is a great step in the right direction. Defensive litigation protects against patent trolls in the present, and the lack of offensive litigation prevents these patents from falling into the hands of patent trolls in the future.
Bonus: “How I Beat a Patent Troll”
Drew Curtis demonstrates another solution: “Whenever possible, fight the infringement, not the patent.” (via kenhiatt)
An endnote, near the end of Drew’s presentation, on the cost of defending patent troll lawsuits, even if you’re successful in defending yourself: