Google Finally Speaking Up About Problems With Patent System

from the good-for-them dept

Back when Google first put forth its stalking horse bid for Nortel’s patents, the company explained its position by basically dancing around the issue of just how ridiculous patents had become. It made it clear that it was looking to buy the patents for defensive purposes, but couldn’t bring itself to really condemn the problems of the patent system. Some patent system supporters have tried to claim that this was actually Google realizing the value of patents.

Of course, to many of us, it demonstrated the exact opposite. Google was demonstrating the ridiculousness of the patent system by showing that it was ready to pay billions not for the “innovation,” but to avoid wasteful lawsuits. Of course, in the end, the patents went to a coalition of companies that didn’t include Google, and it seems likely that we’ll start seeing them in litigation pretty quickly. Even then Google was pretty quiet about its opinion on patents.

That seems to be changing. The company’s General Counsel spoke with TechCrunch’s MG Siegler and finally seemed willing to say what’s widely known in Silicon Valley: that patents do the opposite of encouraging innovation and they represent a tremendous tax on innovation:

“A patent isn’t innovation. It’s the right to block someone else from innovating… Patents are government-granted monopolies… We have them to reward innovation, but that?s not happening here.”

Nothing exactly earth shattering, but it’s nice to see Google finally willing to come out and state the obvious, rather than holding back. Now, if only our elected officials would listen.

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Companies: google

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Comments on “Google Finally Speaking Up About Problems With Patent System”

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Robert Doyle (profile) says:

No more lawsuits

I think if Google really wanted to make a point they could simply refuse to sue people for infringing on their patents.

I’m not saying to stop filing them – credit where credit is due – but to truly take the high road and refuse to pursue people/companies in that manner.

They should still talk about it and this community should still report on it, simply to highlight how much damage could be done.

Plus, the hit to the legal community’s pocket would be worth it.

Or better yet, send only interns to court when they get sued. Show some true disdain for the ridiculousness of the whole thing.

Vic Kley says:

Re: Re: Re: Moore's Warriors Not Innovation?

Are you all only talking about minor variations of program structures and Software Patents? If so say so otherwise your ridiculous point appears to be the top of your heads. I would still disagree but there is a place for debate concerning pre-existing software inventions.

The progress of smaller, faster, cheaper as applied to computing power and storage however is an area where the truly new invention is not open to debate. New solutions are necessary for fairly small markets (the actual methods and equipment for semiconductor manufacture) in which there must be protection or no investment will take place.

Each year there are new obstacles to the progress of electronics which powers must of the innovation your readers use and anticipate. New obstacles to Moore’s Law.

Each year there are a few people, Moore’s Warriors, who provide solutions which must be protected. Solutions work and Moore’s Law marches forward, marches forward as it always has on the backs of myriad small but critical inventions.

These inventions enable the products which in turn are perceived as “innovations” successful products.

Google, Apple, GE, GM, Lenovo, Siemens, Toyota and IBM, all depend on inventions and a patent system of which they may be entirely unaware.

Attack the patent system, and its inventors blindly and the inevitable result will be the companies who owe their success to Moore’s Law may well defeat the inventors – Moore’s Warriors.

An act of suicide. Blind suicide that takes our country and our children’s future down with it.

ken (profile) says:

1 - 5 years max on patents

Patents lasting for 20 years might as well be perpetual because any technology from 20 years ago is long obsolete. How many people are still using 20 year technology besides the music biz and their cd’s?

Patents should last no more than 1 – 5 years and they should be absolutely specific. If you aren’t actively developing a patent you should lose it after one year and be subject to lawsuits for the damages done to those who would have used it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 1 - 5 years max on patents

How many people are still using 20 year technology besides the music biz and their cd’s?

The C language. The C++ language. FORTRAN. Unix. And many many more; these were just the ones I came up with in a few seconds.

Just because you cannot recall any examples does not mean that they do not exist, nor that they are not important.

Of course, these examples were never patented (and AFAIK software patents did not exist back then).

Rick Martin, Patent Attorney (profile) says:

Is Intellectual Ventures A Crook?

Visit the public PAIRS system at USPTO and check patent application serial number 11/173,990 and the Third Party Submission 37 CFR 1.99 dated 9/18/2007.That was me. Nathan had filed 35 patents on a nine year old idea of offering free printed photos in exchange for printing ads on the photos. Sort of print “Alpo” on your tie, then Alpo pays for your printed photo for the privilege of keeping their name in your family photo album forever.How was it that IV could not find half a dozen killer references but little me did? Was Nathan trying to monopolize an entire advertising method with 35 fraudulently obtained patents? The USPTO Finally Rejected this case after six years.Big Money with Bad Patents are Bad for America. NPR should rewind their reporters to describe why these smelly tactics are not cause to tear down the patent system.

HothMonster says:

I dont know why we dont just keep reporting on the patent given to toast like 10 years ago (or the hundreds of other toast patents) until people realize how god damn stupid the whole system is. It was something like “process for thermally enriching bread,” and I believe was a mention during the This American Life episode discussed earlier today.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

We?ve Heard This Before

The lawyer who coined the term ?patent troll? is now working for Intellectual Ventures (the world?s biggest-ever patent troll) as their chief counsel.

Basically, small(er), growing companies quite rightly see patents as a nuisance and an obstacle to innovation. But once they become big and established, they begin to appreciate the point in using patents from the other side, to hold back new, up-and-coming competitors.

Google?s attitude now is similar to Microsoft?s in the early 1990s: by many measures already a big company, but still with plenty of room for growth, so it still values hanging on to the startup mentality. Once it has reached the limits of its own growth opportunities, you will see its attitude predictably change.

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

Patent reform

No one can seriously argue that the patent system as it exists is NOT doing serious harm to our economy (and the world as a whole). No one can argue that the US government selling out to big entertainment, et al, is not a serious concern.
But it is almost the definition of “moronic” to be so extremist! First, someone says “patents as they exist are so bad we would likely be better off without the present system”, which is definitely true. Then person two jumps up and says ANY kind of system is bad!MORONS!

staff (profile) says:


“just how ridiculous patents had become”

The patents of others are always “ridiculous” when you’re a defendant. Take a look. Far more often large firms like Google are defendants rather than plaintiffs. It all depends as they say on whose ox is being gored as the old story goes.

If infringers don’t pay you to write this rubbish, they should.

ddstark says:

Is Intellectual Ventures A Crook? Rick Martin

Rick Martin AKA Ralph Martin He is on probation for misusing client funds. Google 10PDJ124 before hiring this crook. Legal name Ralph Martin. Also went bankrupt and was kicked out of offices at 385 Main Street though he still promotes this address on website. Though he shows several people on website he is a one man band. He admitted in court that he abused his son and the court took away visitation. Read what the attorney rating agency says about him at

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