In the debate on software patents, the defenders of patents use moral and theoretical arguments, but avoid using data or facts. Different people are good at making different types of arguments. I am a believer in the division of labour. So not everyone will use empirically-rooted arguments. But it seems a bit odd to me that I cannot find anyone who writes things like:
Because Microsoft did not have a patent on the graphical user interface, it made a decision not to invest in operating systems, but because it had a patent on X it increased R&D in that area by 582%.
Instead, the supporters of software patents concentrate on theoretical arguments. As an example, take this article by a patent lawyer writing about software:
In a market where inventions cannot be protected in order to yield a return on the invested resources, very few would be prepared to make those investments available.
I like theoretical arguments, and the argument in the paragraph above is a perfectly reasonable position to have. But if patents really do have a beneficial effect in software, shouldn’t someone somewhere be able to give us some figures to back up that idea? Where is the empirical evidence?