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Stephen Breyer (US Supreme Court Justice) on software patents

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Stephen Breyer, or Justice Breyer, is a judge on the US Supreme Court. Breyer wrote the opinion of the court in Mayo (2012).

Contents

[edit] Official statements

[edit] The Bilski hearing

(see: The Bilski hearing transcript, as text)

Recognition of the cost of patents:

Do you think that the framers would have wanted to require anyone successful in this great, vast, new continent because he thinks of something new to have had to run to Washington and to force any possible competitor to do a search and then stop the wheels of progress unless they get permission?

And on applying patents to information goods:

There are two that are plus and two that are minus. And the two that are plus is by giving people a monopoly, you get them to produce more. As you said, you get them to disclose.

The two minuses are they charge a higher price, so people use the product less; and moreover, the act of getting permissions and having to get permission can really slow things down and destroy advance. So there is a balance.

In the nineteenth century, they made it one way with respect to machines. Now you’re telling us: Make it today in respect to information. And if you ask me as a person how to make that balance in respect to information, if I am honest, I have to tell you: I don’t know. And I don’t know whether across the board or in this area or that area patent protection will do no harm or more harm than good.

[edit] Other cases

From his dissenting opinion in Labcorp v. Metabolite, 2006:

Patent law seeks to avoid the dangers of overprotection just as surely as it seeks to avoid the diminished incentive to invent that underprotection can threaten. One way in which patent law seeks to sail between these opposing and risky shoals is through rules that bring certain types of invention and discovery within the scope of patentability while excluding others.

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