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Trade secret actually isn't a bad option, if you patent truly had legs then your secret is probably going to be safe for a fair amount of time. If your patent is getting people on a technicality and really isn't very innovative then your secret won't be much of a secret.

The argument against trade secrets is that they hurt innovation by impeding the flow of information. Patents allow a company to publish their innovations without fear of someone coming along and simply stealing it. By allowing inventors to publish their information with little competitive disadvantage, we enable other inventors to build on their predecessors efforts.

That's not how software patents work in practice. They are written to be as broad and non-specific as possible, because their purpose is to be legal weapons. They are not about spreading innovation; competition, in functioning markets, is sufficient for that.

I think patents can be (and have been) distorted to be used as weapons, but their real purpose is to help innovation as I described.

The argument you're making is basically that the system right now is broken, so we should just throw it out. I do agree that it's broken, but I argue that fixing the system is a better solution than throwing it out.

The purpose of a patent system and the purposes of people using a patent system are two different things. The first one might motivate lawmakers; but it is the second one that actually matters.

Do you honestly believe there is such a problem with sharing innovation in the software industry, that we need government intervention to encourage sharing?

The current state of patent disclosure is such that your arguement makes little sense. Virtually nothing in software patent disclosures informs people about "how to do it". Almost all of the disclosures are vague and unspecific. If you, as a programmer, hear the title of a patent, you basically know how to do it.

Yeah, with Google search patents, they have been published years after the system was developed and is probably much evolved by now. Looking at the text in them, they only provide very vague guidelines to say SEO's try to learn more how how ranking works.

The better argument for software is that secrecy doesn't work.

Complexity does -- SaaS is very hard to reverse engineer.

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