Say It Ain't So, Woz: Steve Wozniak Says Patent Trolls Are Okay

from the too-bad dept

Via Joe Mullin, we learn the rather unfortunate news that, when asked about Paul Allen’s decision to sue lots of big tech companies over questionable patents, Wozniak comes out in favor of “patent trolls” and patent holders suing companies who actually innovate. For someone so beloved by the tech community, these statements seem really unfortunate. He starts out by repeating the myth that patents somehow help out the small guy (ignoring that we’re talking about Paul Allen, one of the richest guys on the planet):

I think this lawsuit represents the idea that hey, patents, individual inventors, they don’t have the funds to go up against big companies. So he’s sorta representing some original investors. And I’m not at all against the idea of patent trolls.

The interviewer, from Bloomberg TV, pushes back pretty quickly, pointing out that Paul Allen is not the inventor and there’s no indication that the inventors on these patents would actually get any of the money should Allen succeed. Woz’s response is again disappointing, saying that Allen “represents inventors.” Nearly everything that Woz talks about comes off as really uninformed about the patent world today. For example, the interviewer notes that dealing with patents has become a “cost of doing business” and Woz seems to think that’s a good thing:

Every tech company is very aware that patents are really the heart of our innovation and invention system and (a) that you have to have your own patent position and you gotta be aware that there might be others. And, yes, you might be infringing. It’s very awkward, because some patents are so general. It’s hard to say how they’ll be interpreted. There’s a lot of ambiguity in the system.

So, wait, patents are the heart of the system, but there’s a ton of ambiguity. Can someone ship Woz a copy of Bessen and Meurer’s Patent Failure quickly, so he can learn about the stacks upon stacks of research that have shown that “ambiguity in the system” now costs society a hell of a lot more than any innovation created by it?

Of course, back in Wozniak’s autobiography, he talked about how much of a success Apple was without relying patents at the very beginning. Too bad he’s now forgotten that.

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Comments on “Say It Ain't So, Woz: Steve Wozniak Says Patent Trolls Are Okay”

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step back says:

Re: Just a note.


Guess what?

The Maz, just like the Woz, is no patent attorney either.
You just posted a comment that basically says you don’t want to listen to the Maz’s “opinions” about patents.

But then again, as Tina Turner used to sing, Woz logic got to do with it, got to do with it? It’s just Maz’s second hand emotion. 🙂

angry dude says:

Techdirt imbeciles

Allen does not represent inventors.
He owns the result of their work for hire via patents
He paid them pretty decent salaries during the good old days of Interval Research and now he owns their work and can do whatever he wants with it – sell, license or sue
This is the essence of capitalism

Simple, idiots ?

burdlaw (profile) says:

Right On, Wozniak

A small inventor can’t sue on his own. He needs a contingent fee litigator or a Paul Allen to take on the big thieves and stop their “We’re using your invention and we’re not going to pay” game. Allen sure as hell does represent inventors in this case. Woz is right, so “Right on, Woz.” Big guys need to either innovate or pay those who do (directly or indirectly, as here). Otherwise, small inventors never get rewarded for inventing and, by the way, they are the primary ones doing the inventing. What is needed is a more effective way to quickly resolve infringement claims at reduced cost, not to just stomp on the small guys and steal their inventions. Apparently many of you commentators just don’t get it!


((PP= pro patents)

step back says:

Re: Right On, Wozniak (bottom line)

Big Boys sue each other for patent infringement all the time.

You don’t see the Maz crying corporate shill tears when some big oil company sues another for deep water drill technology infringement.

Yet the Maz has “special” rules for his “special” friends. He insists that they should somehow be immune from the market forces that all other players have to play by.

The Woz is right.

That much is plain, simple and inescapable logic.
A small inventor has a right, just like anybody else, to monetize the value of his patent assets. And if the market is such that the small inventor chooses (with his free market will) to sell to Paul Allen, or whomever, that’s just the way the free market cookie crumbles. Why cry about it and the spilled milk now? It is absolute hypocrisy to argue that there should be special rules for special friends. Yet that, dear friends, is the bottom line to Maz’s rants here against “software” patents. Special rules for special friends.

Vic Kley says:

Woz is much, much wiser then Masnick

Gee here is our choice:

Believe Woz who has been there and done that more then once or Masnick and some academics and other paid BS slingers whose knowledge of creating new things is apparently nanoscale.

Why don’t you ask Woz your questions? Right like he would even answer your email assuming you could get it in front of him.

Woz is honest, this is not the response Apple wanted to hear and you can bet Woz will be a witness in the Apple trial if it isn’t settled.

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