Do software patents destroy the American dream?

A very insightful comment on Slashdot questions whether software patents tend to prevent people from starting companies from scratch, as you can’t get started unless you have a patent portfolio to defend yourself with.  If this could be shown to be the case, then I think this would be a strong line of attack against the current patent regime.  I mean, this is a full frontal assault on the American dream, isn’t it? 

The American dream is that you can start from nothing in this country, and as long as you work hard and you play your cards right, you can win wealth and success and make a name for yourself.  But if you can’t even get in the game unless you are already a big company with a patent portfolio, then we’ve created a new nobility.  Except instead of bluebloods who own all the land, it’s corporations that own all the ideas and use their profits to buy congressmen.  Yes, creativity exists, people do make new things, but the new things have to be built upon old things unless we’re going to go back to the Stone Age and start trying to invent things that don’t rely on fire or the wheel.

Although some “intellectual property” can be tolerated, if people are allowed to own the very foundations of our technological society, if nobody can build without their permission, then we really are in an age of digital feudalism, and we’re intellectual serfs.  There are efforts to fight back against particularly broad and stifling patents, such as the EFF’s Patent Busting Project, but ultimately we’re going to need to change the system that awards companies these egregiously bad patents.  We shouldn’t have to donate our hard-earned money to strike down bad patents that are enforced with our taxes; they shouldn’t be granted in the first place.

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