by Mike Masnick

Live By Intellectual Property, Die By Intellectual Property

from the irony,-anyone? dept

I guess it's really no surprise that a company that makes its living trying to sell software to protect intellectual property would take issues like patents seriously. Still, there's a bit of irony involved in a patent battle over different types of copy protection. Amusingly, the companies aren't saying that one is necessarily violating another's patent -- but that each have patents that "overlap" with each other, and that "there can be only one" patent holder for the idea. Of course, you would think that having two (or more) patents on the same idea might immediately cancel both patents, as it would suggest that neither patent is "non-obvious to the skilled practitioner," as per the requirements on getting a patent. If two patents over the same idea were given out, doesn't that suggest that the skilled practitioners were all making the same (oops!) obvious steps forward? At the same time, you would think that these two companies might realize that they'd probably both be better off sharing the markets and (gasp!) competing on the merits of their offerings -- rather than risk losing out entirely on a market. However, the mindset seems to be that the only way to compete is to have a monopoly on the idea -- and all that really means is that (thanks to less competition) copy protection products will continue to be pretty weak for the foreseeable future.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    marko, Apr 20th, 2005 @ 1:09pm

    You might not understand patents.

    Just because there are two patents on the same idea doesnt invalidate both of them. What's important is who invented the gizmo first.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Mike (profile), Apr 20th, 2005 @ 1:34pm

    Re: You might not understand patents.

    No, I understand the law concerning who invented first in the US (and it's different around the rest of the world, where it's who *filed* first -- no matter who invented first).

    The point, though, is that if both came up with the idea independently, it seems to invalidate the whole basis of *both* patents -- that it was non-obvious.

    A patent isn't just about who came up with an idea first -- but that the idea be non-obvious to the skilled practitioner.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    anony, Apr 20th, 2005 @ 4:04pm

    Not the point

    Why the criticism of enforcing a patent so as not to compete on the merits of their offerings? Companies have to devote resources to making patentable advances - and often without success. It does not mean companies cannot compete - they can sell the patent right so the inventor would receive a premium on their invention, while competition takes care of the quality of the product. And even if the industry is worse off as a result, you have to provide an incentive for the real groundbreaking inventions - that's a price worth paying for a bit of inefficiency.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Mike (profile), Apr 20th, 2005 @ 4:19pm

    Re: Not the point

    Yes, but the evidence has shown, repeatedly, that patents DON'T incentivize innovation. Instead, they do the reverse.

    The incentive for real innovation is being able to sell in the marketplace.

    Are you really suggesting that there would be no innovation if there were no patents?

    Either way, the point still stands. In this case, the idea clearly wasn't "non-obvious to the skilled practitioner" and therefore, no patent should be granted

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Nathan, Apr 21st, 2005 @ 3:40am

    Re: Not the point

    As always people will have problems that they need solved right here and right now. This will always drive innovation.

    Giving someone a monopoly on an idea or a process pretty much prevents others from improving on it without violating said patent. This is partly what slows the innovation.

    Also you have people who have improved on the process or idea, and are afraid to share their knowledge for fear of being sued.

    Patents didn't exist in ancient times, and people still managed to innovate and invent. You'd think this alone would be proof that they aren't necessary for the system to work...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Daryl, Nov 30th, 2005 @ 4:35pm

    Re: Not the point

    Kind of rediculous comment.. how would you like it if you made something and somebody else just duplicated it and sold more of it. I think that statement should be more directed towards IP Patents (I.E. Make everything open source :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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