The most famous expression of this truth was provided by Bill Gates in a Microsoft internal ‘Challenges and Strategy’ memo, dated May 16,1991. “If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented and had taken out patents”, he wrote, “the industry would be at a complete stand-still today.” Rather more revealingly, Gates concluded that the “solution” to the problem of patents was “patenting as much as we can… A future start-up with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose. That price might be high: Established companies have an interest in excluding future competitors.

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