Patents are 'Scourge' on Software Industry: Infosys CEO

File photo of Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka
File photo of Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka

New Delhi: Terming patents as a "scourge" on the software industry, Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka has said his company is "rethinking" its approach on the subject.

With roots in software products industry, he wondered about the industry's "strange fixation" with patents, which he termed as unproductive for innovation.

"You touched a raw nerve. I think patents are a scourge on the software industry. Patents are a tremendous disservice," Mr Sikka told PTI in an interview.

He was asked about the declining number of patents that were being filed by Infosys. During fiscal year 2013-14, Infosys filed 79 patents against 97 in FY13 and 143 in FY12.

The chief of India's second largest software service exporter said, "President Obama has started some work around rethinking software patents, Google has started some work."

"You see the amount of undue attention that companies focus on these patents. Elon Musk recently did this really unprecedented move to open his patents. It was widely received... We are seriously thinking about rethinking our approach towards patents."

"I think the software industry and its strange fixation on patents is absolutely wrong and is actually not at all productive to innovation," he added.

Mr Sikka, who was the chief technology officer at German software major SAP before joining Infosys, said the scale where innovation is measured by the number of patents is an idea whose time has gone.

When asked if Infosys will open up its patents, Mr Sikka said, "I would encourage you to stay tuned. We will have to clear this with our lawyers. Let me say this. Life is too short to reinvent the wheel and shorter to reinvent a flat tyre. Software patents are definitely flat tyres."

Infosys's spending on research and development (R&D) has also registered a decline.

The firm had spent $147 million on R&D in 2013-14, $173 million in 2012-13 and $140 million in 2011-12.

Meanwhile, India is witnessing emergence of software product firms and start-ups working on various applications.

According to IT-ITeS industry body Nasscom, revenue from software products rose to $2.2 billion in 2013 from $1.2 billion in 2008.