Imagine If Tim Berners Lee Or Roy Fielding Had Patented Their Work
06 Sep 2016
I'm back wallowing through my API patent work, which I'm sure a portion of my readership is like, "oh gawd, hurry up and move on", which is the same way I feel, but the shit is so deep in this area of my API research I find myself often getting stuck. I just do not know enough about the law, intellectual property, and the patenting algorithms to argue coherently against API focused patents, but in my heart, I know that the API itself should be excluded from the process that is being defined.
I know that many folks think I'm anti-patent. This is the default stance of intellectual property believers. I am not. I get the concept in many circumstances, but when it comes to the Internet, and web technology I think the concept needs an overhaul. The USPTO is woefully ill-equipped to process the patents for such abstract concepts, and companies are rushing to file patents that exploit this--get em' in while you can! The number of growing mentions for API in patent applications shows that there really is no gate when it comes to filing your abstract idea, and locking up your very piece of the digital frontier.
Unable to make a coherent argument against, I'm left thinking about the web, and APIs and what the world would look like if Tim Berners-Lee or Roy Fielding had felt the need to patent their work. With this in mind, I just can't see the interface for your intellectual property being something that should be included as part of the patent language. Go ahead and lay your claim to your algorithmic intellectual property (I guess), but the interface for it, the piece you are going to use the web to provide access to and expect that other businesses integrate into their web, mobile, system, and device-based applications--leave it out.
I do not have a legal argument against you putting API technology in your patents, but I can make a philosophical one, and plead with you to consider the future of technology you would like to see. If you have trouble envisioning this, think of what the Internet would look like if Tim Berners-Lee had patented his work, and what APIs would have looked like if Roy T. Fielding had patented his work. I'm guessing the Internet would look very, very different, and I'm guessing APIs would never have been a thing.
Ok, last patent story until I make it through all of Lawrence Lessig's books.