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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Simon Treaty

I have an idea for a solution to this patent madness. I've heard hints of ideas in this direction, but haven't seen quite this proposed. If you know of an existing movement or proposal like this, let me know. If not, and if you think it's a good idea, please link to this entry.

The idea is dirt simple. It is an open cross-licensing agreement, and it would work like this:

Any individual or company that signs the Simon Treaty agrees never to pursue any other members (signatories) for patent infringement, and agrees to allow other members to pursue any non-members for infringement on their behalf.

This is essentially a standard cross-licensing agreement, except that it is by definition open to anyone who cares to join.

Obviously this will not appeal to companies that think their IP is where their value is. But for those who believe it's the actual product or service that counts and are scrambling to gather enough IP simply as a defense against the growing legions of IP trolls, this is a simple and powerful solution. Essentially, these companies would be banding together as a single powerful army that has agreed in writing never to fight internally. And the offer is open to all who may tire of the battle.

Some believe that patents help, others (like me) believe they are an ethical and practical abomination with no proven history of doing anything other than artificially concentrating wealth while simultaneously stifling real productivity. If the Simon Treaty took off, it would become a Darwinian competition between the two philosophies, since the treaty members would exist in a relatively less patent encumbered world than non-members, and thus the two populations should relatively prosper or falter depending on the true, pragmatic virtue of their ideals.

I'm betting on the members. I would sign it (and I make my living inventing things). Would you?

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Simon Funk / simonfunk@gmail.com