What Does It Say When The World's Largest Patent Holder Sees Problems With The System?
from the seems-telling dept
The world's most prolific patent filer, IBM, is taking steps to address what it sees as significant flaws in the patent system. Under a new policy, the company will be more open about what patents it holds, post filed patents to the web before they're accepted by the patent office, and stand opposed to broad, business-model patents that don't represent any technical innovation. CEO Sam Palmisano nicely lays out the business case for patent reform, "The larger picture here is that intellectual property is the crucial capital in a global knowledge economy. If you need a dozen lawyers involved every time you want to do something, it's going to be a huge barrier. We need to make sure that intellectual property is not used as a barrier to growth in the future." The company acknowledges that by posting its patent applications to the web, years in advance of when the patent is accepted, it's tipping off its competitors as to what technologies the company is working on. But ceding this competitive advantage is a small price to pay, if the overall technology market grows because of it. In fact, having competitors develop competing and complementary technologies to IBM's is critical to developing a thriving ecosystem. In this light, it shouldn't be surprising that a company with a history of innovation, like IBM, lead the way on patent reform. The current system is fraught with risks, including the possibility that less innovative firms will use the patent weapon to extract money from it, rather than actually bringing innovative products to market. Of course, it doesn't seem like IBM will slow down their own patent applications any time soon. There's still a defensive case for filing patents as inoculation against future lawsuits. But it's good to see such an influential company moving in this direction. Hopefully more of its peers will follow suit.