How Patents Make Great Products More Difficult

from the or-at-least-more-expensive dept

A post over at Slashdot highlights one of the biggest problems with patents today. Since every little tiny narrow idea is patented and controlled by different players, putting together the best pieces to create a “perfect” product is prohibitively expensive — if possible at all. Sure, you could try to create that perfect phone (which the article focuses on), but you’d have to deal with angry patent holders who would either sue for huge amounts or try to prevent the new device entirely. Once again, it’s an example of how the patent system holds back innovation by forgetting that most innovation is in doing a better job combining various ideas, rather than having a single spark of genius out of the blue. Competition helps drive innovation. Patents reduce competition. Guess what that does for innovation?


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Comments on “How Patents Make Great Products More Difficult”

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9 Comments
EW says:

Granted that some organizations patent the crap out of every tiny detail of every tiny idea they can come up with(or co-opt from others). IBM is a good example. But when you have an army of lawyers you can do whatever you want.

At the other end of the spectrum, those of us who are actually coming up with the new ideas have to make every patent count because of the expense involved.

An even larger problem for us is that the media reward the ability to generate hype rather actual innovation.

Defender says:

Remember...

The patent system was created to reward the first to invent something. In exchange for publishing the “how did I do that” to advance the knowledge of science, especially for those inventions that are difficult to reverse engineer, you get a limited time monopoly.

While I have heard a lot of grousing about patents, I haven’t heard of any solutions to replace it. How does a university, who will never actually make a product themselves, capitalize on their research — research that is partially funded by the existing revenue they get from patent licenses?

The theory, of course, is that people will spend more on R&D if they can see a payoff at the end of the rainbow. And then there are those companies that don’t innovate, but rather look what’s on the market and combine the best of each feature. While I agree that this later company is important, there must be some upside to the first-to-invent folks. In theory (again), market forces should determine the actual worth of these innovations. I think the problem we’re having is that when 1000 patents make up a computer chip, leaving out just one of those patents would make the chip inoperable — so how to you value that one patent? If the default royalty percentage is 2%, then 2×1000 is 200-times the income derived from the chip itself. Unfortunely, I think a lot of juries are placing too high a value on those individual patents.

Reed says:

Re: Remember...

“While I have heard a lot of grousing about patents, I haven’t heard of any solutions to replace it. How does a university, who will never actually make a product themselves, capitalize on their research — research that is partially funded by the existing revenue they get from patent licenses?”

Here is one solution that would work well, get rid of them and have no system to replace them. After all we survived for countless years without protections for IP that exist today.

How does a public university that receives donations and money from federal programs for research capitilize on their research? Are you flipping insane!?

They are supposed to turn their research over to the people and the scientific community, not look for a way they can make extra bucks. It’s called a conflict of interest!

If I found out my donations to my university along with federal funds were being used to make private people and firms rich (which they already probably are) I would be irate.

Benefacio says:

RE: Remember...

“After all we survived for countless years without protections for IP that exist today.”

True, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t had any sort of IP protectionism. Research Guild Secrets, Trade Secrets and Industrial Counter-/Espionage to have a better understanding of basic business practices. I believe you will also have a better understanding of how we got to our current state of IP Law as well as why unrestricted marketplaces are a bad idea.

I would like to see an amendment to current patent law that forces current and future patent holders to grant a license to all that apply for one and keeps the fees to a non-preferential nature. It would also be nice if some sort of fee oversight could be provided but I do realize that this sort of thing has failed more often than succeeded in the past. I believe this would stop patent hoarding in its tracks, open wider an existing marketplace for marketing patents as well as lowering the barrier to innovation for companies wanting to make use of new technology.

angry dude says:

Re: RE: Remember...

“I would like to see an amendment to current patent law that forces current and future patent holders to grant a license to all that apply for one and keeps the fees to a non-preferential nature.”

That’s what standards organizations like ITU are for…

They make your patented technology part of official industry standard – you agree to license it to all parties at the same reasonable and non-discriminatory royalty rate.

And still, you have to sue infringers to collect licensing fees, like in the recent CSIRO vs. Buffalo case.
Welcome to capitalism again

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