Missing The Point In The Debate Over Patents

from the fair-and-balanced dept

Over the past few years, the debate over patent reform has gotten louder, as there have been more and more cases demonstrating that the existing patent system is fundamentally broken. News.com has a "special report" up today that tries to look at the issue of patent holding companies who do nothing but try to license patents. In trying to present a "balanced" view, though, the article completely misses the point. It quotes the various supporters of patent holding companies (often referred to as "patent trolls") talking about how they're helping protect "the little guy" from big international companies that otherwise would profit off of their intellectual property. It sounds nice, but that's not what the problem really is all about. The patent system isn't designed to "protect the little guy." It's designed to promote innovation -- and that's what it needs to be judged on. Patents may make some sense in cases where a concept is truly unique and non-obvious -- but if others are coming up with the idea independently and are better able to bring it to market, then the patent holder is holding back innovation. The other companies didn't "steal" the idea, because they came up with it independently (suggesting that it wasn't unique enough to deserve patent protection anyway). And, as we've pointed out in the past, it's not the "invention" that's really that important, but the ability to successfully bring it to market that helps the economy grow. Unfortunately, the patent system is more designed to protect that "invention," but to impede the real innovations that help make a product successful in the market place. All of the points these patent holding firms are making would be a lot more valid if the patents they were holding onto and forcing everyone to license actually were unique, non-obvious ideas that others were really building off of. Instead, they're taking ideas that plenty of others are coming up with independently and making the real innovation more expensive.

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  1. identicon
    John, 21 Jul 2005 @ 10:18am

    Re: No Subject Given

    Hey Mike,

    Basically, I understand what you are saying. But your opinion seems to equate to "whoever can do the best job to commercialize an idea should benefit the most from that idea".

    Since big corporations have much more money then a small entity (small business or independent inventor) has, wouldn't they almost always be able to out-market and

    commercialize any idea better then a small entity?

    Do you now understand why your view on this issue would actually hinder innovation? Because it will effectively discourage small entities from inventing because there will be no

    incentive to do so, because they will never be able to commercialize an idea better then the big boys.

    "then he needs to find someone who is, and partner with them." Again, this view favors big companies, because they already have the required resources in-house to bring a

    product to market, resources that a small entity will have a hard time securing, if at all.

    Also, what's to stop a big business from just sitting back and waiting for an invention of some small entity to reach a particular threshold in sales. Then, the big company comes

    along and copies the invention and out-markets the small entity. In your view, does the big company then have the right to take the patent away from the small entity because it is doing a better job of commercializing the idea?

    There will always be someone that could commercialize an idea better then someone else. So, what would be the incentive for anyone to innovate, if someone else could come along and steal it from you just because they have more resources to commercialize it better then you?

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