Former Patent Office Director Doesn't Understand The Purpose Of Patents

from the no-wonder-the-system-is-so-messed-up dept is running an overview piece looking at questions related to patent reform. It covers the basics, without going too deep into any particular area. However, among the more interesting quotes is one from former Patent Office director, James Rogan, who says that there’s nothing wrong with companies patenting something and then refusing to do anything with it. That’s an interesting position — and one that seems entirely contrary to the original purpose of the patent system — which is to promote innovation. The tradeoff in creating a patent is supposed to be that you’re publishing the information for others to use, but doing so in a way where the inventor gets compensated. People don’t have to patent something if they don’t want it to get out. They can just do nothing and not tell anyone about it. Patenting something and then not doing anything with it other than suing companies who actually do innovate completely goes against the purpose of the patent system. Meanwhile, the article also includes quite a quote from the man looking to take patent hoarding big time, Nathan Myhrvold, saying that anyone who complains about patents being too vague is just rationalizing his or her dislike of patents. So his response to the vagueness complaint — which can be seen in plenty of patents — is to completely generalize? That’s credible. He then goes on to say: “The stock market has stocks of companies that are flaky and questionable, right? But does that mean we should just avoid all public security markets?” Yes, but that’s why we have things in place to help people avoid being tricked and scammed by questionable companies. There’s no such equivalent in the patent system. On top of that, of course, the purpose of the stock market and the patent system are entirely different, so the analogy barely seems to make sense at all. As we noted recently, even those who originally created the patent system realized that giving an unrestricted monopoly to a single entity was risky and should only be used under very special circumstances. That doesn’t seem to support the idea that “vague” patents are legit.

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Comments on “Former Patent Office Director Doesn't Understand The Purpose Of Patents”

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Vlatro says:

No Subject Given

Idea patenting is wrong. Anyone can have an idea with very little work. To patent a concept within a the constraints of specific implementation of a specific type of product is productive. Then a working proof of concept should be provided. This shows that the patent serves a purpose. Then if the person or company who owns a patent wants to do nothing with it, fine. They put the work into it, let them take what they want from it.

nonuser says:

Re: No Subject Given

That would be an interesting patent reform, requiring the inventor to show on a biannual basis (let’s say) that he/she/they were implementing it, or had serious plans to implement it, in a product to be made available to the public.

The worst patents are the ones where people sit around and come up with, “A generic mechanism enabling a video game sent as an email attachment to notify the sender when game objectives have been reached” and clutter up the system with junk like that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

Just a thought: what if the person with the idea or change for an existing product or whatever the case may be has a perfectly good idea but lacks the financial means or perhaps the physical ability to implement, perfect, or test it? Should they not recieve anything for what they did contribute. Say someone had an idea for something that would require some sort of metallurgical work like, say, welding. Should that person have to spend the time and money learning how to weld simply to obtain a patent for their idea? Would not blueprints or instructions or something similar be enough?

Precision Blogger (user link) says:

There's value in patenting something and not using

I disagree with Mike on this one. One goal of the patent system is make discoveries public. If I patent a discovery and do nothing with it, people can still read what I did, and they might use that information to make yet another discovery. Society thus benefits, and I’m not necessarily “hoarding.”

I could have chosen to keep my discoery secret since I’m not going to follow up on it, and society might not benefit.
– Precision Blogger

protonjunky (user link) says:


I had a thought on a product many years ago (20)
yesterday I thought of it again,then built a Working model of it tried & tested.
Then went to the U.S. patent office ,you know it, there it was covered 5 ways past sunday !!
So I go looking for it sence they where all done around 2000
NO where to be FOUND for SALE !! NottA
Here is one I thought up in 1991 when I got my pool,,then a year ago I thought to look for it !! found it here
But he does not own,,I looked up the patent owned by someone else!! of couse not on the market

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