Forget Actual Research; Suing Over Patents Much More Lucrative For Scientists

from the wonderful dept

Last year we wrote about how HP was hiring a bunch of scientists, not to work on the new and better products — but in order to study competitor’s products for potential patent infringement. Now, a new article is highlighting how many people with training to become scientists are shifting their focus and heading off to law school to become patent attorneys instead — and the big IP law firms are paying exceptionally well for law graduates with science backgrounds. Consider this yet another unintended consequence of our screwed up patent system: it’s now much more lucrative for those with an interest in science to focus on patent infringement lawsuits than on actual innovation. Of course, considering how many scientific researchers claim that their research is stymied due to fears over patent infringement, perhaps it’s no wonder that many are figuring that’s a better field to go into.

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Comments on “Forget Actual Research; Suing Over Patents Much More Lucrative For Scientists”

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Sanguine Dream says:


in one breath people say that the current state of patent law is fostering research and innovation but in the next breath we see people with scientific backgrounds (perhaps even minoring in a field of science) going to law shcool in order to become patent attornies.

Kinda reminds me of the old dot com days when a “company” consisted of a small group of people that would patent something obvious (and that someone else would likely develop in the near future) then hire a small group of lawyers to actively search for anyone that may infringe on it. No research, no development, no product. Just some guys with a team of lawyer defending a patent they weren’t working on.

ScaredOfTheMan says:

What a waste....

How many innovations and inventions will be discovered by scientists around the world, while our great minds spend their days reviewing legal briefs.

While we fight amongst ourselves over Patent infringement we have a whole country of a billion people that could care less about our IP, and spends its time copying our technology advancements to their benefit and our loss.

Buzz (profile) says:


OK, someone please tell me if you felt the same way:

When I was in elementary/middle school first learning about the patent system, it never made sense to me. The guest speaker told us, “It encourages innovation!” At the time, I just accepted it as something beyond my then incapable logic skills. However, today, I honestly could say Iᅟᅠᅟᅠ saw this coming. Giving someone exclusive rights and the ability to sue others did not really encourage innovation in my eyes.

Today, we realize the nightmare I imagined as a child. In a country such as this where lawsuits run rampant, it does not really surprise me given the state of things. This country really ought to enter into a 5 year hiatus where no lawsuits are allowed related to patents, copyright, trademark, etc. Suddenly, the litigation-based companies will realize that the situation is not as bad as they make it out to be. 🙁

angry dude says:

Ah, techdirt idiots are at work again…

Mike, you just have no clue at all…

For your information, it’s very hard to get a permanent position doing science e.g. physics
So WTF is it so difficult to understand that people switch to legal careers as a better paying alternative ?

Also, most scientists are not self-employed: they work for some university or company. It is not their business to be afraid of patent infringement – it’s up to their bosses.
And I’ve never seen a patent infringement case brought against some research project – patent lawsuits are after money-making activities like selling products or services

And yes, patents DO encourage innovation AND public disclosure of R&D results in the first place, by providing incentives in the form of a limited time exclusivity.
Without patents nobody other than the government would invest any money in research.
What is so difficult to understand here, my little retarded friend ?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

And yes, patents DO encourage innovation AND public disclosure of R&D results in the first place, by providing incentives in the form of a limited time exclusivity.

So the fact Microsoft is in an uproar (but not acutally suing) over their belief that open source software violates over 200 of their own patents is an attempt to encourage innovation? Yeah threating to wage war on open source is a great way to kick start innovation. Mind you they won’t tell exactly which patents they believe are being violated.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You learn to ignore “angry dude”… he’s one of those people who just spring up to make an ass out of themselves, spew some shit that makes no sense, then disappears before he has to account for it.

I have heard argument after argument about how allowing patents helps innovation, but the truth is that it helps the bottom line. There is no way possible on this earth that you can show how a patent helps anyone but the company that holds it. That helps their bottom line, not innovation. If you want to argue, at least be honest with the arguments. Your not arguing that less people will innovate without patents, your arguing that less people will become rich off an idea without patents.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

> And I’ve never seen a patent infringement case brought against some research project

Who do we believe? The research project that found the chilling effects, or angry dude’s personal experience? Gee, that’s a tough one….

> And yes, patents DO encourage innovation AND public disclosure of R&D results in the first place, by providing incentives in the form of a limited time exclusivity.

You can say it 1000 times and it doesn’t make it true. If you bothered to actually read tech dirt instead of spewing, you might see plenty of evidence that this is not true.

As for the disclosure issue:

> Without patents nobody other than the government would invest any money in research

Mike has pointed to research showing this isn’t true, specifically in the Netherlands and Switzerland. Where’s your research.

> What is so difficult to understand here, my little retarded friend ?

I might ask you the same. Mike keeps pointing to research that supports his position. Your response seems to be “wah, wah wah, I know patents are good so shut up!!”

Which is more believable?

angry dude says:

Re: Re: Re:

Mike has never invented anything useful in his life.

If you don’t believe me, just ask any real inventor out there – he will tell you exactly the same truth

Patents are here to stay. If you have a problem with this reality just move the f*** out of USA – go to China where you can copy and sell all you want

shut up angry dude says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

First off, do you even know Mike?

Second, angry dude just likes making things out of his erecter set and calling it an invention. Then patents it and makes a quick buck.

If the patent system is encouraging people to invent things then why are there so few inventors relative to the American public. Why did HP hire a bunch of scientists to search for patent infringements.

To me it seems that the patents are causing less innovation. For example, why is Microsoft so upset over 200 something patents when they control over 90% of the computer market and they are the biggest corporation in the world.

I’m also pretty sure that its against the law in China to copy and sell anything you want. In fact there punishment is worse than here in the US.

So how about you go home, get that stick out of your ass, do some research and post your reply with valid answers and proof rather than babble like a 10 year old jackass.

reed says:

Re: Re: Re:

“As for the article, the patent systems not to blame. “

I disagree here, the system itself creates these problems so stop trying to blame the individual (Or university, company, etc). If a system is broken then you get rid of it or replace it. The problem is the US is we can’t fix anything anymore and instead we only allow the situations to compound getting worse and worse.

“Scientists are not appreciated enough “

Of course not. Its not about invention or innovation anymore it is just about the money. I wonder how many great inventions and innovations would have been developed if all anyone was worried about was “where I am going to make the money”

Our cultures obsession with money is getting the better of us and if we continue I doubt our children will be able to enjoy a fraction of what we now take for granted. Welcome to capitalism without morality. What a great legacy for future generations!

rEdEyEz says:

Creativity? Innovation?

…these words mean nothing to people who have learned how to use the legal system to further their parasitic existence.

In a country whose government is polluted by socialists who foster entitlements for every fringe group it can possibly concoct, how can you blame businesses for jumping on a “corporate entitlement” bandwagon?

…sick, sorry state of affairs.

reed says:

Just one more point

“how can you blame businesses for jumping on a “corporate entitlement” bandwagon?”

While I can agree with you cynicism about socialism in this country (Central Bank, Corporate Welfare, etc) I don’t see companies as “jumping” on the bandwagon.

Welfare for corporations often termed as wealthfare is one of the first and most expensive entitlements around. They didn’t just jump on the bandwagon they built the damn thing! 🙂

Engineer turned Lawyer says:

Singular of Data is anecdote

Of the two dozen friends of mine that graduated from berkeley or stanford in sciences and engineering, about half later went on to go to law school (including myself) because the pay is just so much better. Many of the Bio majors were discouraged from studying medicine while still in school. This is what our society tells its best and brightest. Don’t create new things or help people. Be a sponge.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Fourth Mansions

It seems like quite a natural progression for any civilization: first you have primary industries (production of raw materials, agriculture etc), then secondary industries (manufacturing), then tertiary industries (services-oriented), and now quaternary industries (litigation-oriented). It’s a pattern seen over and over throughout the Galaxy.

The next stage of the progression after this is for the entire nation to ascend bodily into Heaven.

Andrew says:

A reminder

I’d like to remind all here that the internet is Serious Business, and thus it’s very important that we argue our little hearts away with argumentum ad hominiem as much as possible. This has been a public service announcement.

With that out of the way, I think that the concept of patents are very important — they give incentives to innovate and come up with new ideas, but unfortunately last too long and currently tend to prevent a lot of innovation. With that said, there are a few things we could do to make them work better.

  • Decrease the time a patent lasts. In the current climate, 20 years is just far too long to have a monopoly on an idea
  • Cancel patents if they’re not put into a product within a certain number of years. This stops patent-squatting
  • More rigorous criteria on the types of things that can be patented
  • More changes I can’t think of right now
Question says:

Airplanes and Patents

I was talking to an amateur pilot several days ago and he told me an interesting factoid that I’m too lazy to follow up on myself. He said that the Wright brothers came up with the most efficient way to fly a plane, a technique which involves warping the wings of the plane, but that they patented the technique. As a result, airlines use a different technique that is considerably less efficient and costs us all a lot more money. Anyone know if this is true?

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