Best Argument: Needed
Patents are a minefield
Ed Burnette: The goals of the patent system are commendable: to encourage and reward innovation, and to make information about new inventions available to other practitioners. This may have worked for physical objects, but when applied to software, the system is actually having the opposite effect.
Patents do not reward the innovators; instead, the only ones rewarded are the lawyers and those who game the system. Developers are routinely accused of "stealing" and hauled into court because somebody else came up with the same (often obvious) solution. Patents are bought and sold like commodities, with none of the proceeds benefiting the original author.
Because willful knowledge could trigger extra damages in a lawsuit, developers are seldom allowed to read patents. Even if we could, the legalease they contain is so convoluted and obscure that we can't hope to learn anything useful from them.
Patents are a minefield: broken, unfair, and ultimately self-defeating.
Software needs protection
Steven Shaw: The Founders considered protection of intellectual property so fundamental to the new nation of the United States that they wrote it into the Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 8). Not in an amendment to the Constitution, like free speech. It's in the actual document.
Without protection of intellectual property, the Founders knew, there would be no incentive for creators of inventions to "promote the Progress of Science." Their plan, hatched in the 18th Century, was a foundation of the explosion of American creativity and inventiveness of the next two centuries.
Today, there are those who believe software should not be afforded the protection of the patent laws. They are wrong. While some people would continue to write software without the option of patent protection, there would be a radical contraction in software development without the patent laws to guarantee profit to creators of new software.