Lamar Smith Wasting Time Trying To Define Patent Trolls

from the trolling-not-necessarily-the-issue dept

Rep. Lamar Smith has been working hard to change laws in all three branches of intellectual property -- and all of his proposals seem to make those IP laws even worse than they already are. For copyrights, he wants to expand the DMCA. For trademarks, he wants to get rid of many exceptions for use of trademarks. For patent reform, while coming up with a few good proposals, most of them are likely to make the system much worse. On that front, Smith held hearings today to see if Congress could come up with a working definition of a patent troll. While it's good to see Congress recognizing that patent hoarding can hold back innovation, defining just what a patent troll is doesn't seem like it's going to help. The issue isn't whether or not anyone is a patent troll, but whether the patent system is being used to hold back innovation. Trying to define what a patent troll is will simply confuse the issue, and lead companies to focus on avoiding the specific definitions of a patent troll, while trying to accuse every one they get into a patent lawsuit with of meeting the regulatory definition of patent troll. A much more important issue would be to focus on making sure the patent system is actually encouraging innovation.

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  1. identicon
    Eric, 16 Jun 2006 @ 10:50am

    Sorry it's not fast enough for you

    Glad to see that the individual who started the discussion can be so easily distracted from it....

    And it's not a waste of time for Lamar Smith to ask for a working definition of a patent troll. Getting Congress to define a patent troll's behavior is an important step in getting Congress to admit there's a problem with the patent system. If there's a such thing as companies or individuals "hoarding" patents, that implies that there should be a limit on the number of patents any company/individual can hold; the argument for which being that there's a negative innovative or market effect from the practice of hoarding patents. And since the current patent system does not address this practice, the definition would further prove there's a problem with the system. By obtaining a definition of a "patent troll" he's automatically proven the system is flawed and in need of reform.

    As a congressman, you can't waltz into Congress and say, "Hey this system doesn't work." You'll make more enemies than friends, and in general, affect nothing with your complaint. Nobody there cares about general complaints. You need to have a specific problem, some backing, and a cohesive argument; a precedent (or in this case a Congressional definition) is very effective in achieving all those things. Then you have a foothold and people begin to see what the real problem is.

    Think of it like a self-diagnosis. There's not a doctor out there that's going to give you a prescription because you walked into his office and said "I have disease X." He's going to say "what are your symptoms?" and diagnose you himself. Then once he discovers you actually DO have disease X, he can prescribe you something.

    Regardless of whatever else Mr. Smith has done, he is currently taking step 1 in reforming the patent system. Be glad that someone is even taking steps. Complain when efforts are not being made, or have failed. Do not bite the hand that's at least ATTEMPTING to feed you.

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