Global Impact of Software Patents
As companies and individuals expand beyond the domestic domain and venture into a global market, the issues of patents and copyrights become increasingly complex. The basis for a patent is to protect an implementation of some original idea in order to give the holder of the patent rights over their achievement. A copyright serves a similar purpose in providing the copyright holder with power of their own work. Many countries offer means to protect patented and copyrighted materials from being duplicated illegally. However, intellectual property rights such as computer software create a particularly difficult situation because of how easy software is to distribute and reproduce. Though a patent or copyright may exist and be protected in one country, other countries may not choose to acknowledge or extend its protective power.
Therefore, to achieve universal protection, one must secure patents and copyrights in every country that issues them. Unfortunately, even this may not be enough protection. Many countries do not provide any protection from patent or copyright violations. Because of this, there is tremendous effort to have patents and copyrights enforced globally.
Though internationally protected patents and copyrights provide the holder with the rights they deserve, they also have considerable consequences. Undeveloped countries are at a severe disadvantage when it comes to both obtaining patents and securing rights to use them. Efforts to have software patents and copyrights enforced internationally have damaging affects on developing countries because of the high prices associated with obtaining them and the power that developed countries have to enforce patents.
Problems Developing Countries Face:
Developing countries do not have the means to compete with large corporations in the international market. There is considerable cost involved in securing patents for individuals and developing countries. The concept of a single unified patent system appears to be a way to alleviate the cost of patents. Evan I. Schwartz writes for the Technology Review at MIT and looks at how the individual is affected by the high costs of obtaining patents in multiple countries. Schwartz states that the “creation of a single global patent system could solve this conundrum for . . . small inventors.”1 This would mean that obtaining a patent would be much more cost effective for individuals, developing countries, and large corporations. However, the problems with patents reach far beyond the scope of the price associated with obtaining them.
Once a patent or copyright is issued, the owner has the ability to require royalties on the use of the material. The owner can also declare who can and cannot use the material. This presents a problem specifically for developing countries because the royalties are often too high. Corporations will choose to either restrict access to...