Letting trolls steal the implications from the inventors (and from society at large) with noting more inventive than little bits of paper with use cases on them is almost a crime against future humanity.
Of course the web is interactive, that's why the real inventors made the damn thing in the first place.
I'd say the proper term for it is 'discovery'.
Connecting computers together in a network and creating the infrastructure (ethernet, routers, DNS servers, stuff like that) is all actual invention. If someone creates an ethernet that is 200x better than what we currently have, or a much better way of routing packets etc, they should get credit for that invention and be able to patent it.
Once you have the physical infrastructure, anything else that you do with it is just discovering a neat property of a system which has already been created.
It is like patenting gravity, the Pythagorean theorem, or a certain chord progression. (Imagine if someone had patented IV-V-I, we wouldn't have had nearly 60 years worth of music!)
In this way, I would say that Berners-Lee didn't invent the web, he discovered an extremely interesting and useful property of combining computer networks and hypertext.
I say, nothing is worth infringing upon a creator's right to create. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
Even if there are some cases where a patent might have been beneficial overall, you still have to weigh the benefits against the costs of having a patent system at all. How much GDP is spent on patents in general?
It seems to me that if someone can describe superficially what an invention does and you can build it on the spot, then it probably doesn't deserve a patent. For example, if you were to describe the appearance of an engine block to me, I wouldn't be able to replicate the combustion engine, and it's probably worth patenting. But if you tell me that the user clicks on one button to purchase an item without going through a checkout phase, I can easily replicate that without any knowledge of how it works. Although come to think of it, that basically negates all business method patents.
Copying is only easier if you can reverse-engineer what they did. Sometimes, just seeing the invention brought to fruition provides enough clues for any skilled tradesman to reproduce the parts that are unrevealed. Well if that's true, then the patent should not have been granted in the first place, like you said! Remember, ideas by themselves aren't supposed to be patentable, only implementations of ideas. You see, the patent doesn't become violated just by writing or communicating about it. The violation occurs when you build something that really starts doing what the patents describes. The problem with software patents are precisely how fuzzy this distinction can become.
Software is special precisely because it is so general and flexible. Take the 'one-click' patent that you cited above. Suppose web browsers were built with macros so that you could script them to automatically verify shipping address and payment info upon clicking "buy" and confirm the order. To the end-user, this would be functionally equivalent to the "one-click". Should this macro behavior be blocked? What if an e-commerce site distributes a script for implementing one-click functionality that can be installed by customers? Would this violate the patent? I'm not sure.
Sure, you can't always copy something just by inspecting it. For example, if I invent a way to laminate baseball cards extremely well, you're not going to be able to inspect the laminated card and figure out how I did it, all you're going to see is that it's a really great lamination. And this is where the other aspect of patenting comes into play. If I never tell anyone how I did it, and I die, then my invention is lost. But if I patent it, then I've publicly documented for the world what my invention is, and anyone that wants to use it can license it from me (and, eventually, it will pass into public domain). So basically, the patent system works quite well for physical products or processes.
But, as you say, when you're talking about software patents (or really, business method patents in general), everything becomes really fuzzy. What's the difference between a business method and an idea? Why is one patentable and the other isn't? The more I think about this sort of thing, the more I'm convinced that all software patents should be invalid, period. If I write an instruction manual, I can't patent that. Copyright is what covers me there. So if I write instructions for the computer (i.e. software), why is that suddenly patentable? The fact that all software patents need to describe a computer executing the operations (which is what turns it from an idea into a patentable process) just shows how absurd the whole idea is.
Just imagine where the internet would be now, if every website developer had to face lawsuits from various ingenuous inventors, who happened to use his two lines of code before him. It would only be manageable to develop internet code by Google and Facebook, with enough lawyers in their backoffice.
You said that like that's a bad thing...
Either way, I have a hard time believing that this is a bigger problem than managing a patent system per se.
Also, there are probably much better ways to protect secrets systematically for the benefit of both inventors and the public.
More plausible is the potential benefit of being able to broadcast an invention and attract investors without having to give up a first-to-move advantage. Elisha Gray might suggest otherwise.
Long live the open web; it belongs to all of us.
On an unrelated note, scientists often don't do well in debate type situations like a courtroom because scientists are often more concerned about truth then winning an argument. Thus, they'll often concede a small point from the opposing argument that is trumped up as a major victory by the opposition. The point may have little impact toward the truth of the matter but is perceived as important by an ignorant audience because the opposition is touting it as such.
I wonder whether the writer was dramatizing things a bit. I would have expected TBL to have been better prepared by the defendants' lawyers.
In 2005, if I knew that touchscreens would get small enough to work on iPhones, could I spend $4k for 10 patents just to cover all kinds of things you can do with touchscreens on mobile phones? I would have a component there labeled "touchscreen", even though such a thing didn't exist yet. Then, when they finally got small enough and phones got produced, I could use this patent to charge apple and other companies any amount I wanted for the license, through the doctrine of equivalents
Patent trolls play the probability game which usually results in a net gain because the legal system is failing.
I would say that there should be laws against this but that will result in another loophole or way of making money.
Perhaps I'm a socialist wierdo, but I'd favour scrapping the entire patent process for something which rewards positive contributions to society as a whole rather than who can screw who first. People should be creating things that improve the human condition, not enslave it.
Suppose Eolas' patents are upheld. And Eolas sues all the large websites for an INJUNCTION to PREVENT them from using "interactive elements". Suppose they don't want to license it. Or if they do, they demand $10 BILLION DOLLARS from each company.
What can anyone do about it at that point? Patent law in the US does not have a compulsory licensing provision.
If the eolas patent gets upheld, this could very well have extreme effects for several years on the whole world.
What if someone right now goes ahead and patents the idea of apps for ... self driving cars? Or the idea of them using traffic maps?