Infographic Showing The Problem With Patents

from the nicely-done dept

The folks over at FrugalDad have put together a nice infographic showing the problem with patents.

patents infographic
It appears that much of the information in the post comes from the awesome This American Life episode on patents.

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Comments on “Infographic Showing The Problem With Patents”

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dave blevins (profile) says:


Looks like it is [past] time to do a MAJOR reform of the patent “system”, like:

* Have all current patents expire in 1 year
* No patents for software (use copyright) or any living thing
* Any patent that is not is use by the patent holder is null and void
* Patents may be sold only once
* Patents must be licensed for no more than 0.01% of “device”_using_patent’s cost.
* Patents are given for maximum of 18 years or patent’s holder going out of business (being acquired is going out of business)
* Patents must be vetted by publishing and requesting evidence of “prior art”.

There may be more but this would be a good start.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Patents

“* Patents must be vetted by publishing and requesting evidence of “prior art”.”

You do realize, don’t you that that means revamping the entire way the USPTO does business, don’t you?

I’d add making it a capital crime to resort to the East Texas district court which seems to have some very funny ideas about things like patents. 😉

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Patents

Your patent reforms are far too complex. Allow me to proffer my own reforms:

* Abolish the patent system.

By definition, patents slow down progress. No amount of reforms are going to get around that. Your reforms might make progress faster and less costly than it currently is, but progress will still be slower and more costly than it needs to be.

Loki says:

Personally, I’ll go with Benjamin Franklin

Around this time, the deputy governor of Pennsylvania, George Thomas, made an offer to Franklin to patent his design, but Franklin never patented any of his designs and inventions. He believed ?that as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours, and this we should do freely and generously?

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Talking of lighting tapers – did you know that John Walker – who invented the match – was also a good guy…

“He refused to patent his invention, despite being encouraged to by Michael Faraday and others, considering it too trivial. However, he was still able to mass a sufficient fortune from his invention to enable him to retire from business.”

Joe Publius (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“…However, he was still able to mass a sufficient fortune from his invention to enable him to retire from business.”

Obviously Mr. Walker didn’t realize he could have sold that patent to a deserving IP firm who could then “provide” licenses to the right companies and “protect” the invention from counterfeiters who wanted to steal a convenient way to help light their homes and businesses.

What a selfish jerk.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Of course, let’s not forget things that were never patentable until recently say software, business process, medications and others that serve no particular purpose but to make the end product more expensive rather than less so.

I’m not sure the software industry as a whole ever wanted software patents, a few greedy outfits who thought they had a business process worth selling weren’t happy with copyright so talked some judge into making a ruling that made business processes patentable (essentially put paperclip A on paper stack b and place on desk C) and big Pharma got into the act by saying they’d go bust without pharmaceutical patents lasting well into the fifth milenia from now. Oh, and eternally renewable for making them a different colour or using white sugar instead of brown in the formulation which made no difference at all to the drug’s efficacy or lack thereof.

Yes, the patent system, like copyright, is broken. Only worse. Patents were meant to reveal not hide behind. They were meant to lessen the number of business secrets which really hasn’t happened given that it’s a crime to “thieve” one. And, like copyright, they were intended to be for short periods not millennial in length. (For all practical purposes.) They were meant to accelerate invention not impeded it and to get products to market rather than keep them off.

Patent inspectors do need to be qualified for their work so that we’d have never ended up with patents on things like one click purchasing on the Internet and other delights the link illustrates. Instead of being paid by how many they approve and rubber stamp.

Just to remind the inevitable AC who will come by to try to remind us all that the inventor/author does need to get an income from their work both copyright and patents were created to provide an incentive to create. Not a lifetime income from those creations. They had a short life with the idea to get the author/inventor back out there to create some more not eternally live off the spoils. Or worse some faceless corporation to live off the spoils eternally or trolling companies to be formed to sue others who come up with something ever so vaguely resembling what they purchased a patent on from the inventor or the copyright on from the author. (Neither of which were practical/good enough to generate any income of their own, mind.) And have a bought and paid for court in East Texas.

(I’d say /end rant but that wouldn’t be true. This will come up again, and again and again.)

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m also wondering what Cornell has to do with a 90210 patent…?

I take it they were all “example” patent numbers…as 1234567, 9876543, and 1010101 don’t sound like real patent numbers (they probably are, but don’t correspond with the colleges in question.)

Still, the infographic is a pretty good one, though I cannot normally stand infographics.

Violated (profile) says:


So both patents and copyright are both seriously broken and abuse systems and the monopolies who have corrupted the system for their own profit are the ones who fight hard to avoid reform while extending their own controls.

Congress are clearly a waste of time and space. Instead of doing something useful they only welcome the bribe money while giving these monopolies whatever they want to buy.

So all we do is moan and protest where nothing much then happens.

darryl says:

And who cares again ??

wow all that effort for less than 10 comments !!

That really does show just how much people CARE about patents, in stupid people making stupid ‘infographics’.

if the says “30% of patents allready exist” that is reasonable, if not more than 30% the fact is.

And Masnick you know this !!!

Patents are A NEW METHOD of achieving a specific result.
Yes, that specific result may allready exist, but that new method does not.

Thermally enhancing bread !!! (toast), NO..
again, Masnick and Co. you get the basic idea’s right but completely miss the actual point.

If you get bread that is a couple of days old, and is not as soft as it was when it was fresh, and you put that bread in a microwave over for about 10 seconds (or less) it makes that bread fresh again. (BUT DOES NOT MAKE FUCKING TOAST) !!.

Let’s say Goodyear come up with a new type of tyre for cars, lets be more precise here.

They come up with a new method of creating a new type of tyre, they patent the NEW METHOD, they do not stop others from creating tyres from other methods, or using other materials.

That is why we have cars with tyresnow, and not slices of tree trunks that are almost round that are used as wheels.

it is all about the constitution and “to advance the art”.


As in HOW that is achieved,,, oh thats right you dont like that bit, so you leave it out !!!!!

Why not show us some specific examples where patents have hindered innovation, (NOT IMMATATION)..

Also show us where if a company patetnts a new method of producing something, that somehow stops you from using the same thing produced by another method (which is also patented).

if you invent (highly unlickly) a light source (may be a LED), does that mean that ever patent for incandesent lights are now invalid ?

So then if I patent a method of making light (with a match) does that make the patent for the LED invalid ?

So intil you can make a valid point regarding patents why go to so much effort to show ignorance and stopidity.

When you are fully aware of what you are saying is a complete lie ! Do you do that because you have no other choice, as the truth and reality is so much different than what you can steal from others.

It’s a shame you did not invent that chart masnick, but for you to do it would have required original thought, and for you to actually make YOUR OWN statements, and not just parrot what “someone else” said.

Masnick, you are always “just the innocent messenger”, (but the one who profits from the work of others)…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: And who cares again ??

Troll harder. Any bread heated for 90 seconds with a heat element 2500 Celsius will become toast.

How is replenishing the liquid content of a dry bread by vaporizing something, innovative?

20 years ago I used to get old bread that was hard as a rock, put butter on it and throw it in the microwave for 5 seconds, it worked like a charm, until the microwave exploded because of all the butter that accumulated on the circuits which took years.

I bet every single person who ever heated bread knows if it has ice crystals in it it will become fresh again.

That patent doesn’t even explain how it happens, is not innovative where is the innovation?

Jose_X (profile) says:

Re: Re: And who cares again ??

The graphics has at least one flaw I noticed, IMO, and I think darryl plays off it.

The law doesn’t say a patent has to be a breakthrough (as the graphics appears to suggest is the case). The crummy law more than gladly accepts the very low standard to which darryl refers: “non-obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the art”.

Lot’s of things that are not obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the art — all inventive enough to be patentable by law — can be derived by a person having ordinary skill in the art after possibly as little as a few weeks’ or months’ work (or less), especially once a client asks for a solution to that problem.

And people of above average skill may possibly find each and every single patent to be obvious — at least as far as the word of the law goes.

So look at how many hands we are tying down for 20 years! Tying so many hands doesn’t promote the progress, as a general rule. The opportunity costs and intellectual restrictions are huge.

Listing patents out by number to darryl may merely result in him/her stating that we are wrong despite the obviousness to so many people (and maybe darryl is below average in common sense) that when the inventiveness bar (and the implementation bar.. as with software) is so low, you obviously will hamper a very large number of people many of the time (obviously there might be some good narrow patents that have been filed in these past decades).


Re: Re: Re: And who cares again ??

“Breakthrough” is a good shorthand for what was originally supposed to be patentable. This conflict goes all the way back to the beginning of the republic. The pendulum has swung both ways.

Our original patent examiner would have rejected most of this years patents for being far too obvious.

Any 17 year monopoly should be treated like toxic waste, not candy.

Jose_X (profile) says:

Re: And who cares again ??

>> Also show us where if a company patetnts a new method of producing something, that somehow stops you from using the same thing produced by another method (which is also patented).

Each and every time the method you have is more narrow than the method that was patented.

If you give a higher detailed invention of more restricted scope, because you understand the technology better, you will be in violation.

And if you came up with this independently, you will be in violation still.

This is neither just nor a way to promote the progress. It is a way to tie down the smartest inventors the US has and/or raise costs for consumers through unnecessary monopoly grants.

And this is particularly wide reaching when we consider software, business method, and similar patents because these frequently have a very low bar to implementation and experimentation. Software is just writing.

opit (profile) says:

Re: Re: And who cares again ??

If that’s a choice,I pick “It is a way to tie down the smartest inventors the US has”
Anthropologists have a field day with the destabilizing effects of change on slave empires…even Rome I expect

The Roman Empire, ca. 1 – 300 C.E. (A.D.)

(from page 8)
The Roman Empire, ca. 1 – 300 C.E. (A.D.) I. Quick facts about the Roman Empire. … No middle class, large slave population discouraged technological innovation.

So what ‘bugs’ you is likely a feature.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: And who cares again ??

So…Masnick is evil for profiting from the works of others…
Strange, coulda sworn I read something just like that *scrolls back up* Oh yeah…the broken patent system where trolls can buy patents by the truckload and extort licence fees. Now, hows that for “profiting from the works of others”?
Darryl, we’ve successfully gotten rid of Out_of_the_blue, and I haven’t seen Average_joe in about a week, ditto for bob. Want to know why? Because of their ridiculous comments, like yours, were ridiculed and countered line by line by those of us who live in the real world. How long until you stop infesting this site? If you want to present counter-arguments, then go right ahead, we welcome debate in the comments: but make them COUNTER-ARGUMENTS, not attacks and put some thought into it. What you wrote above was a series of disconnected thoughts that simply by virtue of being typed into the same comment box result in a single paragraph of meaningless text.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why we all should lose respect for patents.

There was a time that for one to get a patent he needed to prove it was something new, something that didn’t existed before.

Today a bunch of leeches keep watching what others use and do and go running to the patent office to get a monopoly on that so they can stop others from doing it without paying them.

Those are social parasites that deserve nothing but scorn from society, not respect, they invent nothing, they create nothing they contribute nothing, they only take without giving nothing back.

halley (profile) says:

I tend to agree with the premises of the infographic, but I hate to say I was not impressed with the image at the bottom of #3. If you don’t have concrete patent numbers to make the point, don’t show patent numbers. It was like watching a really interesting drama on TV, but spotting a boom microphone hovering over the actors’ heads: hard to maintain the assumption of accuracy in all the other numbers from that point on.


Re: Turn your brain in to the bar.

What else could possibly justify a 17 year innovation stifling monopoly?

Clearly the current practices at the PTO are badly broken.

It’s not incorrect to point out that things should be done differently. There’s even “precedent” for it.

So the argument that “this is the way things are done” is a huge fallacy.

6 says:

“What else could possibly justify a 17 year innovation stifling monopoly?”

An enabling/enabled written disclosure of a novel, non-obvious invention? That’s what currently does it.

“Clearly the current practices at the PTO are badly broken.”

I don’t know about “badly”. But yes, they need some workin’ on. Moreso though the issue is the courts and congress. It is as Boss man David Kappos said in the interview posted today on IPwatchdog. The congress and the courts have decided on the ridiculous managerie of lawls and policies governing patents, they are the root cause of most of the problems, but on the other hand, he contends that they did it for a reason, to keep the system flexible. I kind of doubt they did it for that reason, but it is an argument one could make. IMO they did it because they are dumb, which btw is a fact that can be proved by substantial evidence.

staff (profile) says:

another biased article

?Patent troll?

Call it what you will…patent hoarder, patent troll, non-practicing entity, shell company, etc. It all means one thing: ?we?re using your invention and we?re not going to pay or stop?. This is just dissembling by large infringers to kill any inventor support system. It is purely about legalizing theft.

Prior to eBay v Mercexchange, small entities had a viable chance at commercializing their inventions. If the defendant was found guilty, an injunction was most always issued. Then the inventor small entity could enjoy the exclusive use of his invention in commercializing it. Unfortunately, injunctions are often no longer available to small entity inventors because of the Supreme Court decision so we have no fair chance to compete with much larger entities who are now free to use our inventions. Essentially, large infringers now have your gun and all the bullets. Worse yet, inability to commercialize means those same small entities will not be hiring new employees to roll out their products and services. And now some of those same parties who killed injunctions for small entities and thus blocked their chance at commercializing now complain that small entity inventors are not commercializing. They created the problem and now they want to blame small entities for it. What dissembling! If you don?t like this state of affairs (your unemployment is running out), tell your Congress member. Then maybe we can get some sense back in the patent system with injunctions fully enforceable on all infringers by all inventors, large and small.

Those wishing to help fight big business giveaways should contact us as below and join the fight as we are building a network of inventors and other stakeholders to lobby Congress to restore property rights for all patent owners -large and small.

For the truth about trolls, please see

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