Email to the editor of The Economist – 18th June 2018
Your article “Into the danger zone” about the decline of US tech start-ups missed one key factor. It used to be the case that software in the US had much greater patent protection than most other countries, providing a strong base for the initial growth of companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon. That all changed with the 2014 US Supreme Court “Alice” decision, which greatly reduced the patentability of software “subject matter”. Copyrighted software can be written around, patented software cannot be, and so small software companies in the US today find it much harder to protect their innovative ideas. “Alice” was seen by IP strategists at the time as likely to have a damaging impact on the US software industry. With 2014/15 as the point where the downturn in software-based start-ups began, their fears have been realised.