Patent Lawyers And Business Model Patents: Perfect Together

from the think-they-have-a-bias? dept

With all the discussion concerning problems with the patent system, it's no surprise that we often get patent lawyers contacting us, claiming that we misunderstand patent law. We have spent plenty of time discussing things with them, and the summary always seems to boil down to a tautology: "the patent system works fine, because it works." However, as we see case after case where the patent system is clearly stifling innovation and rewarding those who either failed in the marketplace or chose not to compete at all, what's become even clearer is that the patent system works for patent attorneys. They make a killing off of the system, and have every incentive in the world to keep it as is -- even to the point of rationalizing all sorts of reasons why the system "works" in the face of increasing evidence that there are real problems with the system. There's a concise article over at News.com that points out that making business model patents legal (such as the one Netflix is now threatening Blockbuster with) was almost entirely the work of one specific patent attorney. Almost no one had been pushing for business model patents, but the judge who wrote the decision allowing such patents had been one of the patent attorneys who helped draft the patent law it relied on (the article doesn't mention him by name, but it's Giles Rich). In his decision, he claimed that it was "Congressional intent" to allow business model patents -- which he should know if he helped draft the law, which is why he's sometimes referred to as "the father of the patent system (though, it makes you wonder why he was presiding over this case). Unfortunately, that very same judge had written elsewhere that there was no real Congressional intent in the redraft of the patent law. They had been too busy to think about it, and simply turned it over to the patent attorneys (such as himself) to draft the new law as they saw fit. So, we have a patent attorney, who stands to greatly benefit from getting more patents out there writing the law -- and then later being the very judge who said business model patents were perfectly legal.

Meanwhile, if you think this is only a US-based issue, that may not be true for long. Simon Hart, who was involved in the case, alerts us to a new patent ruling in the UK, that also touches on the issue of business model patents. While the decision in the US noted there was no such thing as a "business method exception" to patents (claiming such a concept was obsolete), such an exception does still work in the UK -- and is apparently used quite frequently to reject questionable patents. However, in this latest rulling, the judge appears to have made something of... well... an exception to the business model exception. He recognized that it could be possible to allow a patent for business models if the business model is simply a component to the overall business, rather than an entire description of the business. If this sounds both confusing and potentially problematic, there are probably plenty of patent attorneys out there who are willing to start using this new loophole in the UK to push through some fun new patents there as well. In other words, it doesn't look like things are going to get better any time soon.
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  1. identicon
    fish, 1 Apr 2007 @ 8:21pm

    Re: Re: Hear, hear, Ed...

    sob... sob...

    Ed, I swear I was crying by the end of your message. You, the poor little guy, against all those big guys out there... can it get any more cliche - your idea, however novel you may think it was, should not be a patent. Society, not you, is the victim of patents such as yours, which are a simple means of extortion and create costs for everyone at many different levels. Your tone exudes arrogance and entitlement, and why not, are you not in fact looking for a big jackpot, a thousand free lunches, and would you not have us all root for you just because you are the tiny little inventor against those with the deep pockets? Even if you do win your case, and the U.S. legal system is actually skewed enough to give you a colour of right, you will know when you look in the mirror that you got away with extortion, and maybe you deserve it, since system is flawed enough to allow it, and if you get away with it, it must be ok, is that not the ultimate judgment concerning right and wrong in your land of the free? No sympathies here Ed, why not go and actually contribute something new. Selling stuff to people has been around a while...

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