How The Patent System Is Eating Away At Scientific Research

from the that's-just-great dept

The problems with the patent system are a common refrain around here, with most of the focus being on patent trolls who do no innovating, but wait for real innovation to occur, and then demand a piece of the action. It's a huge problem, slowing down all sorts of innovation and generally harming our economy in ways that will make it difficult to recover. The problem appears to extend way beyond industry, unfortunately. Slashdot is pointing to a new survey of scientific researchers, who note that 40% note that their work was impacted negatively because of patents. Of those 40%: "58% said their work was delayed, 50% reported they had to change the research, and 28% reported abandoning their research project." While the post behind that link suggests talking to your elected representatives about patent reform, it's worth being aware that most of the current plans for patent reforms seem like to make things worse, not better. They're mostly focused on two main ideas: hiring more patent examiners and switching the patent process in the US to a "first to file" system rather than a "first to invent." The first is a problem because it ignores the reality of patents today, where so much is going on, and everyone is applying for as many patents as possible. Simply adding more patent examiners will never be enough, because patent examiners don't scale at a rate anywhere near what would be needed. Years ago, the phone companies realized that human operators connecting every phone call would no longer scale and realized they needed to revamp the entire phone system. Our elected officials and folks in the patent office don't yet realize they're facing the same problem. As for "first to file," while that would bring us in line with most other countries around the world, it also would just encourage companies to file more patents as fast as possible, rather than really spending time to see if their innovation merits a patent.

To really reform the patent system, we need to recognize that patents often grant an unnecessary monopoly. In many cases, the market can reward innovators for actually bringing products to market, rather than simply imagining things. Along those lines, a new test for obviousness is needed. Currently, patent examiners ignore the obviousness question (which is supposed to be a core question asked in granting a patent) and focus only on "prior art." The two are not the same thing. In many industries, there's a progression that becomes obvious over time, and it serves no useful purpose to simply grant a full monopoly to the first company (or person) who writes the idea down. It harms competition, it harms innovation, it harms consumers and it harms the economy. Let the real innovators create products and bring them to market where they can compete in the market. This country has a very effective financial market that helps drive money to good ideas -- so the argument that small inventors can't bring things to market doesn't hold much water either. The patent system needs real reform, but it doesn't seem likely to get it any time soon.



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    Just one guy, Nov 10th, 2005 @ 12:36am

    No Subject Given

    I might be completely off on this point, but: suppose the Patent Office were based on a "first to invent" basis and granted two very differently-looking but substantially similar patents to two different proponents. Then the first proponent could have grounds to sue the Patent Office itself because it did not check deep enough when granting the second patent.
    On the other hand, if the Patent Office is on a first to file system, then the whole issue about whether the two patent are actually describing the same invention becomes matter for the court, and the Paper Office would be liable only on proving the correctness of the actual time stamp on each patent ("this request was filed at 9:25 in California, and that one at 12:15 in Massachussets").
    It seems to me a much safer protocol for the Patent Office.

     

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    Alex Macfie (profile), Nov 10th, 2005 @ 3:21am

    First-to-file makes it easier to invalidate bullsh

    Under a first-to-file system, any disclosure of an invention dating before a patent filing is valid prior art against the patent. Under first-to-invent, the prior art has to be before the claimed invention date (which of course is earlier than the filing date). Thus, first-to-file makes bogus patents easier to invalidate by increasing the body of patent-busting prior art available. Particularly since the period immediately before patent filing is likely to be that when there is going to be most prior art. So roll on first-to-file!

     

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    Newob, Nov 10th, 2005 @ 5:00am

    p2patent?

    What about that Peer to Patent thingy?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2005 @ 5:53am

    Missing the Point

    Mike,
    With your statement of "patent trolls who do no innovating, but wait for real innovation to occur"...you are once again mistakenly combining "innovation" with "marketing".
    A person can be innovative without making a single sale, because innovation refers to how creative the idea/design is and not how well it sells (marketing).
    In addition, a product can become a huge success even if it's NOT innovative - depending on the marketing of the product.
    The patent system is not designed to evaluate the marketing potential of an idea, it's only responsibility it to determine if an idea is unique and non-obvious, and allow the creator of that idea to financially gain from it.
    Also, your continuous comments that if an inventor can't properly bring a product to market that they should loose the patent is outright ridiculous, because big companies will almost always have the ability to market a product better then a lone inventor. So, if we implemented your idea, then getting a patent would NOT be a level playing field - only big companies would own patents - not very American like is it?
    Yes, patents may be slowing or preventing some ideas from becoming realized. But, the whole point of the patent system - to prevent others from benefiting from someone else's innovation. Your response to this would probably be something like "what good is innovation if it never gets realized?". Well, just because there is a patent on an idea doesn't mean no one else can use that idea - it just means that a license fee needs to be paid to use the idea. It's a pretty self-regulating system. If the license price of a patent is too high, then nobody will license it and the patent owner won't make any money, which is exactly the opposite of what the patent owner wants. So, the price to license a patent usually works out to be proportionate to it's value.
    So, if some company comes up with an idea that it thinks will sell well, but later finds out that idea is already patented, they could still bring that idea to market, it's just that they won't be able to keep 100% of the profits. So, just because someone else owns a patent doesn't mean no one else can't bring it to market.
    If a particular idea never comes to market and there is a patent on it (which would be your complaint), it probably means that no one else thought the value of the idea was all that great and not worth putting a lot into marketing it.

     

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      Mike (profile), Nov 10th, 2005 @ 9:10am

      Re: Missing the Point

      With your statement of "patent trolls who do no innovating, but wait for real innovation to occur"...you are once again mistakenly combining "innovation" with "marketing".

      Not so. I've discussed this before, at length, but you're confusing innovation with invention. *Innovation* includes the ability to bring a product to market. Innovation without marketing isn't worth squat, and there's no reason to reward it.

      The purpose of the patent system is not as you claim, but it is to encourage innovation that is beneficial to our economy. That's it's only purpose. Thus, if the ideas are being held back, then it's clearly *failing*.

      As for your claim that big companies will take all the ideas, as stated in the post, that's bogus too. We have a very efficient capital markets systems that drives plenty of working capital to good ideas. So, if you have a good idea, get the working capital.

      Your final point is also bogus. If a company does come up with an idea totally independent of someone's patent, why does the person who got the patent deserve anything? They had NOTHING to do with the ACTUAL innovation which brought a product to market. That is the problem. They've made it MORE EXPENSIVE to innovate and therefore harmed the economy. That's the opposite of what the patent system is supposed to do.

       

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        Lawrence B. Ebert, Nov 10th, 2005 @ 8:44pm

        Re: Missing the Point

        Of --The purpose of the patent system is not as you claim, but it is to encourage innovation that is beneficial to our economy. That's it's only purpose. Thus, if the ideas are being held back, then it's clearly *failing*.--

        the purpose of the patent system is to promote disclosure of inventions. It is not, and never has been, to encourage innovation that is "beneficial to our economy." Capitalists do that. The USPTO does not check to see if an invention is economically viable, or could be economically viable. We do not want a government body to be doing that.

        Of your "final point," in a system wherein we are trying to promote disclosure by offering the right to exclude for a limited period, we don't want people wasting resources by doing what someone has already done, and published, previously. People working totally independently to rediscover the wheel are not beneficial to the economy.

        There probably are some bad patents (an antigravity patent issued in Nov. 05). Getting better trained examiners and giving more time (and database access) will help. However, some of the complaints don't seem to cut it. For all the discussion of the Eolas/Berkeley patent, the thing survived re-examination, and we have two academics (one from Princeton, one from Michigan)to thank for that. The W3C analysis of the Eolas patent was pathetically sad.

        Of the "obviousness" discussion, some of the arguments are simply not consistent with what is actually going on. See my
        article, "Patent Reform 2005: Can you hear me, Major Tom?" and discussion on IPBiz.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2005 @ 9:05pm

        Re: Missing the Point

        You said "We have a very efficient capital markets systems that drives plenty of working capital to good ideas. So, if you have a good idea, get the working capital."

        What world do you live on? Your exaggeration that it's almost easy for an inventor or small business to obtain sufficient capital to *fully* develop and market an idea *successfully* is laughable. Even if patents didn't exist, there is such a low percentage of small companies that can successfully obtain sufficient capital to bring a product to it's fullest potential - it's an art in itself. Yes, there have been some small companies that successfully marketed a product as well or even better then the "big guys", but that happens very rarely. So please stop making statements that account for only 1-2% of the instances, because my discussion is based on reality (the other 98% of the time).

        It may be that the biggest and most common road block for "innovation" is not the patent system, but one's talent or "connections" in securing sufficient capital to fully take an idea to it's potential. You are clearly blind if you think that the big guys don't have a tremendous advantage in bringing an idea to market vs. a single inventor or small business.

        And your theory that if someone can't bring an idea to it's fullest potential, they should not be given exclusive rights to it is ridiculous. That's like me saying that you should give up your techdirt.com domain/website because you're not making over a million dollars a year with it, but yet there are dozens of other websites that do, so you are harming the economy by not bringing your site to it's full potential and you need give it to someone else who can. So, how would you like it if Microsoft was allowed to just take the domain away from you and do a better job with it by hiring professional reporters from major magazines. You wouldn't like it one bit! But, thats exactly what you are saying should happen to inventors/small businesses if they can't bring a product to it's full potential for one reason or another. Do you see how irrational your theory is? Aren't you glad that there is a domain system in place that gives *exclusive* ownership of a domain to the first person to reserve it, or would you rather have a domain system that awards a domain name to the highest bidder?

        I believe the patent system is designed to promote innovation by leveling the playing field for new ideas. This is America...when someone comes up with a new idea, the immediate thought is typically "how much money could be made with this idea?", and not "I wonder how my idea can help bring peace to our world?". If there wasn't a patent system, then anyone who came up with a new idea would probably just say to themselves "why should I spend thousands of dollars to develop my idea, when some other company could simply come along and copy my design and probably sell it cheaper then it cost's me to make it myself!?". Thus, the idea would probably then be forgotten because there is little chance for the small inventor to "gain" from it - which would be a real loss of innovation.

        But, the patent system offers many ways to profit from one's ideas, providing a very good reason to develop the idea (encourages innovation) instead of just "forgetting" about it:

        1) Allows an inventor to sell their product without any risk of competition, even if another company could mass-produce and sell it for half the price. This is the "level playing field" aspect of patents - it prevents the "big" companies from easily crushing small companies simply because they have deeper pockets to market an idea better.

        2) License revenues from someone else producing the idea.

        3) Outright sale of the patent.

        So, in summary, you have to decide whether you think most ideas come from big companies or from small businesses/single-inventors.... If you think they come from big companies, then there really is no need for a patent system at all because most small businesses or inventors would offer little competition in bringing a product to market. And there would be little reason to offer an incentive to small companies/inventors to develop their idea because they only account for a small percentage of the total ideas created.

        But, if you think that most ideas come from small businesses or single inventors, then don't you think they need some type of advantage over the big guys other then just "luck" or the small chance that they can obtain enough capital to bring it to market as well as the big guys can?

        Yes, I agree there are some "problem" patents that were issued, like the Anti-gravity one, or ones that have obvious prior-art. But, the percentage of these "problem" patents is probably very low, and since it's impossible to create a system that is 100% foolproof, the current system needs a much smaller improvement then everyone claims it really needs.

         

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          Mike (profile), Nov 10th, 2005 @ 9:23pm

          Re: Missing the Point

          hat's like me saying that you should give up your techdirt.com domain/website because you're not making over a million dollars a year with it, but yet there are dozens of other websites that do, so you are harming the economy by not bringing your site to it's full potential and you need give it to someone else who can. So, how would you like it if Microsoft was allowed to just take the domain away from you and do a better job with it by hiring professional reporters from major magazines. You wouldn't like it one bit!

          It's pretty difficult to take you seriously if you really think that's a valid analogy.

          Someone is absolutely free to take the *idea* behind Techdirt and compete with us. That's the market at work. If they can do a better job, and we can't adjust, that's the way things go.

          I have no clue what taking our domain has to do with anything. That's leaving me without something specific. That's not, at all, what happens when companies compete.

          An idea isn't a "thing" like a domain.

          Sorry. I can't even read the rest of your post seriously when you make an analogy like that.

          As I've said before, let the market compete. If Microsoft decides they can do a better job in our space, bring 'em on. That would be great. It would be a validation of what we do.

          That's all I'm saying. Let these ideas compete in the market.

          No one *deserves* to profit from ideas alone. You need to make the idea valuable, and you do that by bringing it to market, where it's true value can be realized. Giving people money just because they have an idea, but can't execute on it makes no sense. It's a *roadblock* to innovation.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2005 @ 5:00am

            Re: Missing the Point

            If you can't understand my "domain" analogy, then I can't help.

            As far as my other points, I'll just assume you opted to cop-out with "I can't even read.." because you do believe them to be valid, but just don't want to admit it.

             

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              Mike (profile), Nov 11th, 2005 @ 9:08am

              Re: Missing the Point

              The domain analogy doesn't make sense because it's completely different. How hard is that to understand? As I made clear, in your domain analogy something is taken from me that I no longer have. That's not true in the patent situation.

              An apt analogy is if someone comes in and competes with me on the ideas that we had. That's BUSINESS. That's a good thing. So, if (as in your analogy) Microsoft decides to compete with me, it's a good thing.

               

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            Newob, Nov 11th, 2005 @ 5:31am

            Re: Missing the Point

            Mike:
            Giving people money just because they have an idea, but can't execute on it makes no sense. It's a *roadblock* to innovation.

            Ahh, but you don't make money just by owning a patent. Somebody has to license your patent first, and you would have to charge them.

            On the other hand, what if you patent an idea specifically so that nobody can be charged to license it, so that nobody else can force anybody to pay for it; so that anybody is free to use it? That would be worthwhile.

             

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            Lawrence B. Ebert, Nov 11th, 2005 @ 5:34am

            Re: Missing the Point

            The patent system does not give people money just because they have an idea. Ninety percent of issued US patents don't make money for anyone. The patent system does grant a right to exclude for a limited time in return for public disclosure.

            Of the current discussion about avian flu/Tamiflu, the patent system allowed one entity (Gilead) who invented the composition, but who did not choose to market it, to
            license it to another entity (Roche) who is marketing it. The marketing entity, not the inventing entity, may have made a bad decision about obtaining supplies of the starting material (shikimic acid), so the "true value" of the invention is not being realized. The inventing entity is trying to march-in on the license, and governments are demanding that the marketing entity (Roche) sub-license.

            Of course, if there were no patent system, Gilead would not have been motivated to invent and would not have had a basis for doing a deal with Roche. And Roche would not have had a product to bring to the market.

             

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              Mike (profile), Nov 11th, 2005 @ 9:11am

              Re: Missing the Point

              Of course, if there were no patent system, Gilead would not have been motivated to invent and would not have had a basis for doing a deal with Roche. And Roche would not have had a product to bring to the market.

              Right, because there were no inventions before the patent system existed?

              Yeah, let's think through that one again...

               

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                Lawrence B. Ebert, Nov 11th, 2005 @ 8:42pm

                Re: Missing the Point

                Hmmm, how many potential treatments for avian flu have arisen in the non-patent area? What was the pharma area like pre-1790 (pre-US patents)? Would the Wrights have developed three-dimensional control of flight without a patent incentive? How well did Langley's well-funded flight program work out?

                 

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                  Mike (profile), Nov 12th, 2005 @ 11:50am

                  Re: Missing the Point

                  And how many innovations have been held back because of patent trolls making innovation more expensive?

                  I can trot out just as many examples as you can.

                  That's not the point. The point is coming up with the *best* system to encourage ongoing innovation in this country, and it seems pretty clear that the existing patent system has created an awful lot of problems. Again, I encourage you to look at Switzerland and the Netherlands when both countries stopped using patents, and look at how quickly those economies thrived.

                  There may need to be a balance, but right now it's not at all balanced.

                   

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                    Lawrence B. Ebert, Nov 12th, 2005 @ 2:43pm

                    Re: Missing the Point

                    Let's see, you meant to say both economies thrived by becoming piracy centers.

                    From George Monbiot's 2002 "Patent Nonsense":

                    But in 1859 a small company based in Basel "borrowed" the aniline dying process which had been developed and patented in Britain two years before. The company, later called Ciba, soon became a massive industrial enterprise, swiftly outstripping competing firms in Britain. Monbiot neglects to mention that the giants of dyes (later I.G. Farben) were located in Germany, with strong patent protection.

                    In the 1890s, Gerard Philips, unhampered by intellectual property laws, started manufacturing the incandescent lamps developed by Thomas Edison in the United States.

                    Monbiot gives the periods of "no patents" as 1850-1907 in Switzerland; 1869-1912 in the Netherlands.

                    Given that this is Einstein's "centennial" year of the three big papers, we know that there was a Swiss patent office in 1905, because Einstein was working there. Thus, the numbers may be a bit suspect. Otherwise, it might be a bit surprising that the Swiss and the Dutch didn't steal the Wright Brothers work, too. They certainly were after pharma.

                    And, of course, somewhere along the line they decided to cease being patent-free.

                     

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                      Mike (profile), Nov 12th, 2005 @ 3:16pm

                      Re: Missing the Point

                      Yeah, but wasn't the competition good for everyone? It forced everyone to build better products and compete in the marketplace to actually make a better product instead of rest on their laurels.

                      I understand exactly where you're coming from, I'm just making it clear that there's a better solution. Free markets have shown to be much more efficient time and time again. So, let's make the market a bit more free, and stop giving away so many monopolies when they aren't needed.

                       

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            Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2005 @ 8:48am

            Re: Missing the Point

            Mike,

            Please answer this question....Do you think that most new ideas come from big companies or from small businesses/single-inventors?

            (p.s. I'm not talking about who has the most patents, I am just talking about where do you feel most new ideas come from)

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2005 @ 8:56am

              Re: Missing the Point

              ...I also forgot to mention that I am also NOT asking you what group do you think brings the most products to market....

              I am asking where do you feel the initial inception of an idea occurs most often (before the idea is ever developed or marketed).

              Is it by an employee of a large company (which then becomes the property of their employer) or by a single-inventor/owner of a small company?

               

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                Mike (profile), Nov 14th, 2005 @ 11:02am

                Re: Missing the Point

                I honestly don't care where they come from, as long as the end result is increasing innovation and helping the economy.

                As a small business owner myself, I do get the feeling that there's plenty of innovation coming from small companies. And, time and time again I've seen those small companies (often built on the idea of a single person) out run big lumbering companies who can't respond in time.

                But, honestly, I don't care where it comes from, and it doesn't really matter much to this debate.

                 

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                  Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2005 @ 12:19pm

                  Re: Missing the Point

                  Mike,

                  You should care....because if you feel that most new ideas come from the "small guys", then wouldn't you want to make sure that the small guys don't have *more* roads blocks then the "big guys" have, so there is an equal chance to get their ideas to the market?

                  (If the small guys have more hurdles then the big guys, don't you agree that this will result in many more of the smalls guy's ideas never becoming realized, which would actually *decrease* innovation, which isn't what you want right?)

                   

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                    Mike (profile), Nov 14th, 2005 @ 2:34pm

                    Re: Missing the Point

                    No, I think you misread what I said in your anxiousness to prove your point.

                    I think you're setting up a silly and false dichotomy between "big guys" and "small guys". The only hurdles I see are in the patent process itself.

                    There shouldn't be an "equal" chance to get an idea to market. Playing fields aren't level. It's that simple. However, there is always a chance to get your product to market. It's about building a good business, and that has nothing to do with patents. I'm a small business owner myself. We came up with a new business model, and we brought it to market, rather than waste time with patents. If someone wants to compete, let 'em compete. If they're big, so be it. If they're small, so be it.

                    Big guys have more money. That's always going to be the case. Small guys have other advantages in creativity and nimbleness. Use that to their advantage, not patents that slow down innovation and get people focused on the lawyers rather than the customers.

                     

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                      Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2005 @ 4:30pm

                      Re: Missing the Point

                      Mike,

                      This is twice that you avoided answering my question...

                      REPEAT QUESTION: Do you think most new ideas are from "Big-money companies" or "small business/single inventors"? It's really a very simple question.

                      Even if you think it's irrelevant, please amuse us and give a simple "big" or "small" answer instead of avoiding the question again....or are you afraid of contradicting yourself if you give an answer?

                       

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                        Mike (profile), Nov 14th, 2005 @ 6:30pm

                        Re: Missing the Point

                        Er. I did answer the question pretty clearly at the beginning: they come from both.

                        But, more to the point, it doesn't matter. Why should it? Funny, it seems like you're the one avoiding the point to pull some silly stunt that you think proves something.

                        The real answer is I couldn't care less where it comes from, because it DOESN'T MATTER. Which is what I said at the beginning. Okay, is that clear enough for you?

                         

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                          Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2005 @ 7:34pm

                          Re: Missing the Point

                          I didn't ask if they come from both "groups" or just one group, so I guess I have to spell out the question for you one more time...

                          QUESTION: What group do you think invents ***MOST*** of the new ideas? (meaning 51% or more of the new ideas). You don't need to lookup any statistics, just your "educated" guess is fine by me :)

                          HINT: "It doesn't matter" is not a valid answer.

                          If you again try to avoid answering this very simple question, then it appears my "stunt" has worked....in that you probably think it's the "small guy" group, but if you were to give that answer, it would only help prove my point (and ultimately contradict yourself), which it seems you want to avoid doing at all costs - even if it means appearing ignorant in answering a simple question.

                           

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                            Mike (profile), Nov 14th, 2005 @ 8:15pm

                            Re: Missing the Point

                            No, I honestly (1) have no clue and (2) don't think it matters.

                            But, if you want to have your fun, go ahead: let's assume that it's the small guys who come up with more new ideas. I don't know if it's true, and I don't care, but let's grant your premise.

                            So, go on, and tell us whatever it is you wanted to say already, so I can go back to pointing out why it doesn't matter.

                             

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                              Mike (profile), Nov 14th, 2005 @ 10:15pm

                              Re: Missing the Point

                              Hey, you know what, just for fun, let's assume that 100% of new ideas come from small companies/individuals.

                              Please, go ahead now and make your point.

                               

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                                Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2005 @ 5:32am

                                Re: Missing the Point

                                Ok, since it took three posts to get you to address a question correctly, I will need to make my point in baby steps...

                                I first need to make sure we are on the same page with a few simple facts. So, please confirm each one of these:

                                1) I agree that certain "obvious" patent's should not have been issued....but your main argument with the patent system is that it grants a "monopoly" to the inventor. Is this correct?

                                2) You agree that around 80% of new business fail within the first five years (http://www.bizjournals.com/houston/stories/2000/04/24/smallb3.html, and other sources such as the SBA)

                                3) That sufficient capital plays a major role in properly bringing a product to market.

                                Please confirm the above facts with either "Agree" or "Disagree" instead of an escape-goat response of "For fun, lets agree". Because it would be very funny if you give a "no clue" response to these facts, when you have such an strong option for every other story you post about ;)

                                 

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                                  Mike (profile), Nov 17th, 2005 @ 10:39am

                                  Re: Missing the Point

                                  Make your point or go away. Being pedantic doesn't make you look clever. I'm not here to "play games." If you have a point make it and then lets debate it. If you want to play games, go somewhere else.

                                  1. Wrong. My main argument is that the patent system is an inefficient system for bringing about innovation. Part of that is the monopoly aspect of it, but there's a lot more to it. Do you want me to play games with you where I make you step through why through a bunch of questions that try to make me look clever? Or can you figure it out yourself.

                                  2. Yup. Agreed, though that has little to do with patents.

                                  3. Huh. Well, that's a truism, so it's sorta impossible to disagree. Because you use the word "sufficient" there's really nothing else to be said. If you're implying "significant" amounts of capital, then I'd absolutely disagree. But sufficient makes the statement impossible to be false, and therefore useless.

                                  Anyway, look, if you don't make your point in the next post, this is a waste of time. Make the damn point.

                                   

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                                    identicon
                                    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2005 @ 6:42am

                                    Re: Missing the Point

                                    "this is a waste of time"... now you know exactly how I felt when I had to ask the same question three times, and after all that, your response was a game-playing "for fun, let's assume...". It's funny how you have a strong opinion for almost every topic you post about, but you have "no clue" whether most inventions come from the big guys or the small guys ;)

                                    Anyway, in regard to item #1, in reading all your posts about why patents don't promote innovation, I (and I am sure a lot of other people) thought your main reason for thinking this was because it grants a "monopoly" to the inventor (which hampers others from bringing that idea to market). So, since you said this assumption is "Wrong", then please let us all know what the "major" reason why you feel the patent system doesn't promote innovation? Remember, I am asking you for your "major" reason, not "minor" reason's like "they grant patents for obvious ideas", because in essence that reason would also boil down to the "monopoly" thing because the only harm in granting a patent for an obvious idea is that no one can use that idea (without legal woes) because the inventor now has a "monopoly" on that obvious idea.

                                    My whole point relates to the "monopoly" thing, so if that's not your major gripe attribute of the patent system, then I am curious, what is?

                                    In regard to #3, sorry about that, let me redo that question...Do you agree that if company "A" has 10 million to spend on marketing, and company "B" only has $10,000. And if they both sell the *same* product, the odds are that company "A" will do better?

                                     

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                                      Mike (profile), Nov 18th, 2005 @ 12:57pm

                                      Re: Missing the Point

                                      The problem with the patent system is that it adds a tremendous amount of ineffieciency to the process of innovation. A large part of that is the monopoly issue. However, it also adds legal costs, filing costs, and checking to see if your innovation somehow infringes on another patent, even if you didn't know about it before coming up with your innovation. It adds a tremendous amount of overhead that could be more wisely spent.

                                      As for #3, I do not agree with your premise. We've seen over and over again that small companies who are more nimble can often out run bigger companies. In many cases, companies with too much money get complacent or stupid. So, no, I disagree very much with your premise. However, it comes down to execution. If the smaller company executes poorly, too bad -- but that's their job. A small company recognizes they're small and *uses that to their advantage*. That's smart management.

                                       

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                                        Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2005 @ 2:50pm

                                        Re: Missing the Point

                                        #1: I could equally make a case of how the patent system could actually save time...Because each invention is fully documented, people won't have to waste time reinventing the wheel...but let's leave that for another argument ;)

                                        "it also adds Legal costs" - there are only legal costs if you are infringing on someone else's patent, which directly relates to the "monopoly" thing...next reason...

                                        "Checking to see if your innovation..." - again, the only reason to "check" anything is to make sure you are not infringing on someone else's issued monopoloy...next reason...

                                        So, since your "other" reasons turned out to be directly related to the "monopoly" thing, it does seems like the monopoly thing is really your biggest complaint with the patent system, or do you have another complaint with the patent system that doesn't relate at all to the "monopoly" thing?

                                        #3: "We've seen over and over again that small companies who are more nimble can often out run bigger companies."...

                                        You are doing it again...you are [purposely?] mis-interpreting a question to fit your needs...

                                        Yes, I have seen small companies out run a bigger company. But, that probably happens less then 10% of the time. Thats why I specifically asked if the "odds" (meaning 51% of the time or more) of success are higher with the company having significantly more money then another company.

                                        So, are you saying for the record that you currently see small companies out-running larger companies more then 50% of the time?

                                        If not, then please stop using the words "often" or "many" as if it means "most of the time", especially when I am specifically asking for the "odds" or "what happens most often".

                                        So, I repeat the question: Are the "odds" of success in favor of company A or company B? (keep in mind that company A probably didn't obtain it's 10 million from being complacent or stupid ;)

                                         

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                                          Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2005 @ 6:53am

                                          Re: Missing the Point

                                          Mike,

                                          Should I take your reluctance to reply to mean that you don't want to admit:

                                          1) That it really does boil down to the "monopoly" thing as being your main/biggest gripe with the patent system.

                                          2) That the "odds" are really in favor of company A.

                                           

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                                            Mike (profile), Dec 12th, 2005 @ 3:56pm

                                            Re: Missing the Point

                                            Oh sorry. I'd pretty much forgotten about this thread. However, I pointed out before, that you should go ahead and make your point rather than asking silly questions. You've had a few weeks to do so and I see you haven't yet. Please, make your point. The pedantic Socratic method isn't doing you any favors -- it just makes you look silly, honestly. You obviously want me to say that the monopoly issue is the problem and that the odds are in favor of company A. I've already said that's not true, but, since you seem to have a problem explaining stuff until someone answers your questions in the way you intended, we'll go with it.

                                            The monopoly is the problem and a bigger company has better "odds" (even though I don't actually believe that).

                                            So, prove your point. Don't ask any more questions. I'll respond to your point, but no more questions.

                                             

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                                              Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2005 @ 6:38am

                                              Re: Missing the Point

                                              "rather than asking silly questions".

                                              I'm sorry for asking these silly questions, it's just that I have found that if I put too many different statements in a single post to you, you tend to "skip" over the significant points and instead just reply about a trivial statement I made within the post (I'm thinking that you do this because you have no defense on the more significant points I made). So, I have learned that I need to break a discussion with you into separate parts so they will be difficult for you to ignore answering them ;) But, even when I do this, you still manage to find a way to mis-interpret even a simple question - as illustrated in this thread in which I had to ask the SAME question THREE times, and I still didn't get a serious answer from you!

                                              ---------------
                                              "and that the odds are in favor of company A. I've already said that's not true"

                                              If you truly believe that the "odds" of success are in favor of company B (which only has $10k for marketing) vs. company A (that has $10 million for marketing), then you clearly have a significant fault in your understanding of the business world, and that is why you will never "get" what patents are really all about.

                                              Thanks! - Now I don't have to make any other points because you just confirmed my main point :)

                                               

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                                                Mike (profile), Dec 14th, 2005 @ 9:55am

                                                Re: Missing the Point


                                                If you truly believe that the "odds" of success are in favor of company B (which only has $10k for marketing) vs. company A (that has $10 million for marketing), then you clearly have a significant fault in your understanding of the business world, and that is why you will never "get" what patents are really all about.


                                                Hmm. You're the one who keeps accusing me of a reading comprehension problem, but I think it's maybe you who has difficulty understanding. Since you like to reduce everything to such simple steps, apparently these more "complex" thoughts are difficult for you to follow, so let me slow it down for you a bit (or would you prefer I insult your intelligence by doing it using the Socratic method?)

                                                It has nothing to do with "odds." This isn't a gamble. This isn't a "bet." It has everything to do with execution. I think that's where you're confused. You seem to think that it's all about the idea. I *know* that it's all in the execution. And, as such, there are a variety of factors involved -- of which money is only a small part. A good company takes the advantages it has, whether it's size, speed, innovative ability, money, partnerships, whatever... and uses that to execute better. That's why I've had problems all along with your gross oversimplification of things. To me, at least, it suggests that you don't quite understand how business works -- but, I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt (unlike you towards me) and assume that's not necessarily true -- but so far I haven't seen it.

                                                And, honestly, I'd take you a lot more seriously if you didn't act like such an ass towards me. I've shown myself more than willing to debate the actual issues throughout this thing. I have never once shied away from the actual points, despite your claim. My complaint was simply with the fact that you were over simplifying things to distort the argument -- and all I've tried to do is explain to you that it's not quite as black and white as you seem to think.

                                                Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for you to actually prove your point: telling me I'm too stupid to understand doesn't exactly prove very much. I would have expected a better conclusion out of you. I could just as easily spin that around and say you clearly don't have a point, because after all of this the best you could come up with was a personal insult about how I don't "get it." But that would be sorta childish, wouldn't it?

                                                 

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                                              Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2005 @ 6:53am

                                              Re: Missing the Point

                                              Darn...I just realized that I made the mistake of discussing two different issues in my last post to Mike :(

                                              Will Mike ONLY reply to the first (easier to dispute) issue, or will he dare to also reply to the second (much more difficult to dispute) issue by "fully" explaining/proving why he feels company B's are currently out marketing company A's more then 50% of the time?

                                              Let's see... :)

                                               

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                                        Anonymous Coward, Nov 28th, 2005 @ 3:39pm

                                        Re: Missing the Point

                                        Mike?

                                         

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous of Course, Nov 10th, 2005 @ 6:10am

    Obvious to whom?

    Timely subject. I reviewed a patent yesterday that was obvious and prior art. The nitwits at the USPTO need a good kick in the ass. I've spent a lot of time looking at patents and have concluded that the examiners are in so far over their heads that they have NO CLUE about what they're supposed to be examining. As long as it's written in the correct form and on the right color paper you're goingto get a patent... then try to defend it, good luck. We need more technical people and fewer lawyers at the USPTO if we're to even begin to fix this problem.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    nonuser, Nov 10th, 2005 @ 6:42am

    the impetus for patent reform

    will likely come from rising health care costs and complaints from researchers in the biotech field (about genes being patented, etc.) rather than from software.

    Let's be ready to piggyback on that legislative effort when that happens.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Scott Shaffer, Nov 10th, 2005 @ 7:04am

    The New American Business Model

    Patents, and their enforcement are changing the way America does/will do business. The New American Business Model

     

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  •  
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    Ross C. "Bubba" Nicholson (profile), Nov 10th, 2005 @ 10:02am

    Patent law: disincentive needed

    Nowhere is corporate theft more rampant than in the patent system here in America. It should be a felony to file a patent for something you didn't invent. Lawyers who advise clients to claim invention falsely should be punished severely with long prison sentences as accessories.

     

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    identicon
    DV Henkel-Wallace, Nov 10th, 2005 @ 10:21am

    I think the survey misses the point.

    I have worked in the patent-avoiding world (software before patents became widespread) and patent-dependent world (pharma). The patent system is screwed up but that question doesn't get to why.

    If the patent system causes people to abandon a project that, as stated, is an OK result. The theory of the patent system (promote the useful arts and sciences) is to give a monopoly that increases the incentive to finish developing something.

    The real problem is one of degree. If someone abandons their research because of an inappropriate patent or because the patent term is too long (software) or too short (arguably some pharma/medical cases) then the system has failed. But the question as stated in this summary, in insufficiently precise to give useful data.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Lawrence B. Ebert, Nov 11th, 2005 @ 5:59am

    The willingness simply to discuss research has bee

    Of --. Slashdot is pointing to a new survey of scientific researchers, who note that 40% note that their work was impacted negatively because of patents. Of those 40%: "58% said their work was delayed, 50% reported they had to change the research, and 28% reported abandoning their research project." --
    one notes that in an earlier survey of a cross-section of biologists, mathematicians, and physicists, Walsh and Hong noted that willingness to talk about research had gone from 50% in 1966 to 26% in 1998. The patent system, by granting rights in inventions which are disclosed, promotes discussion. Competition among academics, related or unrelated to industrial affiliation, does not promote discussion.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Lawrence B. Ebert, Nov 11th, 2005 @ 6:34am

    The SIPPI/AAAS study

    The study involved about 1,100 scientists. The "40%" number you discuss refers to a fraction (24%) of the 1,100 who had acquired IP, so we are talking about 9.6% of the 1,100. Of the problems, most were in the industrial sector of biosciences. The predominant factor among academics for not disseminating information was that they wanted to conduct more research (not that patents were a problem).

     

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  •  
    identicon
    small guy, Nov 13th, 2005 @ 7:25pm

    Get some education !!!

    Mike, you continue to post your ignorant comments
    about patents and patent system.
    I, for one thing, am absolutely certain that
    you haven't invented anything of any importance.
    Your comments sound absolutely ridiculous to
    anybody who actually invented something useful.
    Why don't you get a life and stop posting BS here ?
    Or, maybe, you get some dividents from all
    those large infringers like HP and Microshit ?
    Get a life, man, read some books!
    Reading your uninformed comments is getting boring...

     

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    •  
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      Mike (profile), Nov 13th, 2005 @ 8:34pm

      Re: Get some education !!!

      Hmm. Wouldn't I have a more objective view if I didn't patent something, and therefore had no direct financial stake in all of this?

      Meanwhile, why is it that you attack me personally, rather than actually discussing the ideas I'm setting forth.

      I have no problem debating the ideas. Insulting me just makes it look like you can't debate the ideas, so that's all you're reduced to.

      As for telling me what to write on my own site... you keep coming back, don't you? If you're so upset by it, don't read it any more.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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