Jan 8, 2012
From Frugal Dad, inspired by the This American Life episode, “When Patents Attack“…
(via John D Cook)
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Category: z - Arts & Culture, z - Business & Marketing
You may say the patent system hinders development, but it also encourages it. Business A would not want to invest time and money developing something and then introduce it to the market only to have competitors piggyback off the fruits of their labor. Without this protection for investment, businesses wouldn’t invest and/or wouldn’t share what they made. It is the sharing of these inventions that helps further innovation. The limited time of the patent helps them recoup their investment and receive profits that motivate others to use the patent system.
Perhaps the time period of protection is too long in the tech industry and should be shortened considering the rapid advancements in this sector. That is likely a better solution than scrapping the patent system as a whole.
And as for the patent trolls (that’s what those who hoard but don’t use patents are often called), they suck. Perhaps the patent system could require continued use, as is required with trademarks. Again, that is likely a better solution than scrapping the patent system as a whole.
People keep thinking that, but there isn’t a lot of evidence for it. I have worked for fairly big companies in two distinct industries, both of which regarded patents as useless for actual IP protection.
In one, the view was that if we patented our developments, they would immediately be copied by the Chinese companies that continuously scan patents for information, but ignore IP law. Trying to sue thos Chinese companies would be very costly, and a waste of time. So instead we just relied on trade secrecy.
In the other, we were constantly developing junk patents as a “patent fence” because you had to do so to stay in business. In a patent fence, you have thousands of patents on every conceivable obvious application of existing technologies. Then if someone sues you with their junk patents, you can counter-sue. Both cases are costly but weak, so you settle out of court, and everyone gets saved from the stupid system.
Each junk patent can possibly be overturned for a few tens of thounsands of dollars — but a good patent fence has /thousands/ of the things.
Companies in that business then lower their legal costs by cross-licensing all their patents to each other. Thus the overall effect if to strangle innovation by creating an impossible barrier to entry by a genuine new innovator.
Crazy thing was, we actually did do so good creative R&D work there. But none of that stuff got patented because the legal department was so focussed on patent fences, they actually didn’t have any communications channels to Engineering. It would have been more than my job was worth to try to bother one of those busy, high-paid lawyers.
That’s what patent innovation is really like today.
I couldn’t get past “costly ligitation. “
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