WSJ Latest To Note Ridiculous State Of The Patent System

from the anyone-not-noticing? dept

The avalanche of mainstream press stories condemning the state of the patent system (especially when it comes to software) continues. The latest is a column in the Wall Street Journal by former WSJ publisher L. Gordon Crovitz that also condemns the state of the patent system. I don't always agree with Crovitz (in fact, I was just strongly disagreeing with him over his First Amendment views), but it's nice to see another well known commentator point out the problem and pure economic waste created by the patent system:
The costs of our broken patent system are often abstract, but this month Google put a price tag on the problem: $12.5 billion. That's what Google paid for Motorola's U.S. smartphone business and its 17,000 patents. This is $12.5 billion that one of America's most creative companies will not use to innovate, fund research or hire anyone beside patent lawyers.

[....]

The value of patents in software and hardware such as smartphones has everything to do with litigation risk. It has almost nothing to do with technology.
So now we've got This American Life, the NY Times, the Washington Post, the Economist and the Wall Street Journal -- all coming out with articles about how the patent system is massively hindering innovation in the tech industry, and is generally driving money to unproductive and non-innovative parties. So, again, we have to ask, why is Congress still pretending that it's tackling this problem with its current useless patent reform bill that doesn't address the problems raised by all of these articles? Where's the real patent reform, Congress?


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    Paul (profile), Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 2:50pm

    Meh! More inflated noise!

    Who is this L. Gordon Crovitz, and who is this Wall Street Journal?

    Anybody can quote some obscure nobody from some little fringe rag to support their views.

    Give it up Mike. Come back when you can quote someone real.

    /sarcasm

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 3:14pm

    Perhaps if Google had spent 12.5 billion on lobbyists they would be.......

     

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      That Anonymous Coward (profile), Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 3:16pm

      Re:

      pissing good money into a giant bucket already full of other "donations" to the Congresscritters?

      At least this way they have pretty shiny happy patent paperwork.

       

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        CommonSense (profile), Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 7:23pm

        Re: Re:

        I've never pictured patent paperwork to be happy, more in a neutral mood. Pretty and shiny sure, but always a little happy to help people get rich, and a little sad about screwing over innovation, so they'd balance out. Maybe it's getting a little play time with all the cash though...that'd make it happy...

         

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    Abraham Stoltzfus, Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 3:22pm

    You need to start calling this blog patent and copyright dirt instead of techdirt. I rarely ever see tech stories anymore unless the tech is involved in a patent/copyright/trademark story. Anymore it just seems like Mike doesnt want ANYONE to make money on their inventions and ideas. Just give it all away and hope someone will spend money on something else while they come to see you or something. You dont even write your owon articles, they are just copy and pastes from other articles and links to other articles

     

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      Zot-Sindi, Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 3:32pm

      Re:

      You dont even write your owon articles, they are just copy and pastes from other articles and links to other articles

      hmm... is that right?
      it just seems like Mike doesnt want ANYONE to make money on their inventions and ideas.

      where have i seen this before? oh yeah, in the comments of just about every troll on this site ever atleast once or twice
      Just give it all away and hope someone will spend money on something else while they come to see you or something

      same as above, for someone who is so quick to complain how somebody else is "not writing their own content copying and pasting" stuff (not to mention hating copying in general) you trolls sure seem to do alot of it

       

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        Zot-Sindi, Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 3:34pm

        Re: Re:

        oh yeah and for the record, i've only been on this site for about a month or two and i've already seen that same exact kind of comments regurgitated over and over, maybe worded slightly differently each time but the same core arguments, that's just how bad it is as far as copypastas go

         

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 24th, 2011 @ 12:44am

      Re:

      Anymore it just seems like Mike doesnt want ANYONE to make money on their inventions and ideas

      Hmm. The exact opposite is true. I want people to be able to make money on their inventions and ideas by innovating and bringing them to market. My problem is when they are prevented from doing so.

      Just give it all away and hope someone will spend money on something else while they come to see you or something.

      Funny. I've condemned the "give it away and pray" approach. I'm arguing for smart business models.

      You dont even write your owon articles, they are just copy and pastes from other articles and links to other articles

      Um. Ok. Anyone can look on the site and see that's simply not true. But thanks for playing.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2011 @ 9:16am

        Re: Re:

        "I want people to be able to make money on their inventions and ideas by innovating and bringing them to market."

        Shouldn't this read "I want as many people as possible to make money on inventions and ideas by innovating and bringing them to market." The word "their" seems missplaced since the crux of the arguments presented here is no one should be precluded by "monopolies" from using anything whether created by them or not.

         

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    herbert, Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 3:22pm

    just one more for congress to ignore!

     

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    Anonymoose Custard, Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 3:26pm

    Real patent reform won't happen

    Because no one will admit that the idea of patents is fundamentally incompatible with the reality of invention: That for patents to succeed in spurring invention, inventors must be free to build upon previous ideas. Patents, by definition, restrict inventions to the original ideas, but invention does not happen with entirely original ideas in a vacuum - they build upon what already exists.

    You can't fix that.

     

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    Shane C (profile), Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 3:42pm

    Congress

    Where's the real patent reform, Congress?

    Where's the real Congress?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 4:14pm

    Google didn't just buy patents

    I know the primary reason Google bought Motorola was for the patent portfolio, but they also did buy a fairly successful device maker (although, maybe not as successful as they once were).

    So, maybe they only paid $11.5B for those patents ;)

     

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    Adam, Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 4:28pm

    The additional problem with patents, Mike, is that they're nearly useless to the small entrepreneur anyway. I know of a case where a young inventor patented a rather clever way of solving an annoying industrial control problem. He and two others developed the idea and sold their solutions to a number of small companies that had these problems and their company made money.

    Then it occurred to them that their was a large high-tech industry that would benefit from their solution, bought some equipment and fully developed the solution which worked really well in their setup. They demonstrated their solution to one of the larger players in that industry and carefully explained how to implement it on their equipment. The modifications were made and demonstrations worked very well and yet, a few months later, the company said they weren't interested.

    You know where this is going -- the company decided they could just steal the idea and the inventor discovered this by testing several of the company's new products (the effects of the solution are visible in the performance). They sued. That suit has been dragging on for years, so much so that the only folks who'll make any money will be the law firm handling their suit while the thief prospers. To them, the suit's costs are pocket change.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 7:38pm

    "WSJ Latest To Note Ridiculous State Of The Patent System"

    A good start, now we just need more publications to notice the ridiculous state of copy protection laws.

     

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    Steve R. (profile), Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 8:31pm

    Congress Pretends to Solve but Does Nothing

    Mike concluding sentences sum-up the fact that Congress and the President are paralyzed into indecision. The debt ceiling, like patents, has been a known issue for a long long time that became a manufactured crises for theatrical drama. Our Congress people do not seem capable of actually solving anything. Kick-the-can-down-the-road has become a very popular Congressional game.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 8:51pm

    Huh

    How can anyone ask a question like "how can congress ignore smart people"?

    Did we not just sit through the most pathetic excuse for politics over the US debt ceiling? To say nothing about the generations of politics that brought us to that point?

    Congress is broken. It's possible that human culture in combination with modern environment is fundamentally flawed. Since neither will change, we're screwed. I wonder what's next? I suspect it will suck (from the POV of a single human)

    In short: if getting congress to be less stupid is part of the solution, then you don't have a solution. (kinda like security and users not being stupid)

     

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    VMax, Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 10:31pm

    Some slack needed

    I've known a few of these people. Most of them have no idea about the issues that they are dealing with. They try to get "experts" to help, but who is an expert? The person who rose to top of their mega-corp? The person (loser) who got burned by the patent? I think the problem is that we expect more from our rep's than any single person can manage. You don't get voted in based on your knowledge, you get voted in based on how many people don't hate you.

     

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      Ed C., Aug 24th, 2011 @ 2:45am

      Re: Some slack needed

      Too true! In the era of our founders, it wasn't beyond reason to expect a single person to have a general knowledge of society, technology, and the issues facing their state upon which to make intelligible decisions. Nowadays, that is all but impossible. Given that our schools horribly fall behind national and international standards in math and science education, it's clear that we no longer even try.

      So, what would be the alternative to the current soundbite and poll-chasing special interest puppet show that our democratic republic has become? (Yes, that is an honest question--I really don't have an answer.)

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2011 @ 1:41am

    Patents actually can hurt newspapers since they are desperately trying to recreate what Apple did and some where even trying to build their own tablets that they were thinking of giving it away if you signed with them.

     

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    staff, Aug 24th, 2011 @ 6:32am

    bias

    In the 1850's newspapers lambasted Samuel Morse and his telegraph firm. Why? Because they bristled at having to pay to transmit news from one city to another for publication. It's all about money. The same is true for the old cranky Wall Street Journal and other invention thieves who it appears pay you to write these biased pieces.

    It's about property rights. In Federalist No. 43, James Madison wrote regarding constitutional rights of inventors, "The utility of the clause will scarcely be questioned. The copyright of authors has been solemnly adjudged, in Great Britain, to be a right of common law. The right to useful inventions seems with equal reason to belong to the inventors. The public good fully coincides in both cases with the claims of the individuals."

    Please see http://truereform.piausa.org/default.html for a different/opposing view on patent reform.
    http://docs.piausa.org/

     

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    DinDaddy (profile), Aug 24th, 2011 @ 7:39pm

    Consistency

    While I agree with the gist of the post and the WSJ's take, there is this:

    "This is $12.5 billion that one of America's most creative companies will not use to innovate, fund research or hire anyone beside patent lawyers. "

    This is the same argument seen in a lot of content industry propaganda about "lost money'. Google now won't use this money for R&D or innovation, but the remaining part of Motorola that receive it might use some of it for those things, the money didn't just disappear.

     

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    patent litigation, Aug 28th, 2011 @ 8:53pm

    fail to see

    The main problems with the patent system stem basically from problems of inefficiency at the USPTO -- due in large part to lack of funds. I still fail to see how most provisions of the current so-called patent reform bill address the patent office's organizational challenges (especially with the potential for fee diversion still being part of the picture).

     

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