Patent law can slow down Bitcoin companies, but it cannot slow down Bitcoin. Because Bitcoin is not a company.
Whom will you sue if Bitcoin core software implements something that someone claims as a patent?
The people running the code?
The people who created the code?
The person who made the first commit of that specific feature or maybe subsequently patched it?
Or the person who rewrote it completely?
Who will you sue under patent law? You can’t.
You can sue companies. Patents will be a very big problem for Bitcoin startups. Trademarks are already a problem for them, as you may have noticed in Andreas Antonopoulos’s little fight online with a company that trademarked the phrase “the internet of money,” which they did not even invent.
Patents and trademarks will be problems for Bitcoin companies. We must reinvent what it means to be a company, what it means to be an ad-hoc association of human beings operating virtually across the world in a decentralized manner, on a blockchain with voting and dividend rights in an association.
That is theoretically still a company, but it’s also something that doesn’t look anything like a company. And if all the members are anonymous, you may have a bit of a problem enforcing your patent law.
Things will become interesting, we will see. As always, the law lags behind by a decade from the application of technology. They are now writing laws to regulate Bitcoin as it was in 2009.
Do you think they have any idea what locktime payment channels, Segregated Witness, Lightning Network and confidential transactions will do to their silly little laws?
Bitcoin is moving on. By the time they catch up with this, we will be ten years ahead, and we have been playing these games with them on the internet for thirty years. I think we are winning.