One of the criticisms we often have about the patent system is that in recent years it's been setup in a way that encourages people to sit on patents and sue, rather than actually bringing products to market. We'd much rather see products compete in the marketplace, where their true value can be judged. With the growth of patent hoarding and nuclear stockpiling, however, it doesn't seem like we're going to get there any time soon. Instead, patents are now being used either for defensive purposes or to attack others -- rather than to help bring real innovations to market. That's unfortunate. Of course, with all this attention on patents, it's not just patent lawyers looking to cash in. There was a ton of buzz for a big new patent auction, even if very few buyers actually showed up. Part of that could just be the "first time" nature of the event. However, the folks behind it plan to have them regularly... and eventually try to turn the whole system into a regular "marketplace for patents." This is definitely an interesting idea, and one worth watching. One of the reasons for setting this up in the first place, they claim, is to get a more positive image out there of patents and the market for intellectual property -- but it seems just as likely to open things up to further abuse of the system. Those in the best position to hold back the innovation of others could very likely use such a marketplace to hoard patents to prevent others from innovating. Since true innovation often occurs by actually getting stuff done and products to market, the fear is that those who are actually innovating won't even be paying attention when some random patent goes up for sale that could eventually stop them from actually bringing their product to market. When we say we want to see innovations compete in the market, we didn't mean this kind of market -- but one where actual products get developed.
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