Velo, Rapido | This is about a few different things.
I was about to write to my mother, because I know she’ll actually think about my question and answer it (and because I think she knows the answer) but I figured that maybe one or two of my other three readers would have something to add, too.
I’ve been brainstorming good analogies to proprietary software, to what it means when Amazon holds a patent for the one click checkout, or when Microsoft owns a patent for the FAT file system. When every concievable element of a web retailer’s site is technically in violation of some patent or another.
One metaphor that I really like is about Monsanto and ADM vs centuries of agricultural knowledge and learning. Hundreds of years of agricultural stewardship and experimentation with crop hybridization and seed saving can be capped off in one fell swoop by ADM taking those successful seeds, making a hybrid and patenting that. Suddenly they own the patent, even though their contribution was a tiny step laid upon the work of generations. Add in the little things that slipped under everyone else’s radar like the Iraqi constitution’s explicit protection of GM seed patents and I can make a nice argument that they are stealing all the honey.
The Public Patent Foundation has some other good examples–drugs that many different scientists were actively working towards before Pfizer slipped in and grabbed a patent that would keep the rest off the market, but I’m looking for a few others examples of public knowledge being patented to allow a sole company to clign tight their already-large slice of the pie.
I’m also looking for good examples of software patents that could resonate with activists, if you want bonus points.