Patent Reform Battle Descending Into Farce
from the shredding-the-constitution? dept
The second big problem with the ad, is that it pretends (incorrectly) that the Founding Fathers wanted to treat what's now referred to as intellectual property as regular property. It is true, as the ad notes, that the Founding Fathers understood the importance of protecting private property -- but they were not talking about intellectual property. In fact, if you read the letters back and forth between Madison and Jefferson, you see that they're not discussing "property rights." They're discussing their (now realized) fear, that giving people monopolies on ideas could do more harm than good. They wanted to be very clear that the rights they were granting were not property rights, but very, very limited monopoly rights solely for the purpose of promoting innovation -- and were only to be handed out in the rarest of circumstances, when it was necessary to promote innovation. To claim that the Founding Fathers meant for patents to be property is absolutely wrong.
Next, the ad basically makes up a bunch of numbers for how much patent reform will cost. It points out that it costs a lot to bring a drug to market -- but there's a big implicit assumption in there that patents are necessary for pharmaceuticals to exist, when there's evidence to the contrary -- suggesting that patents actually do more to hold back medical innovation than to help it along. It also claims pretty much all revenue associated with certain inventions as being owed to patents -- ignoring the fact that those inventions would have come along even in the absence of patents (and may have developed much faster without patents). It's absolutely laughable that the ad includes the airplane industry, when the Wright Brothers' patents almost destroyed the US airplane industry by holding back innovation and keeping other more innovative firms out of the market. It took the pressure of World War I and the US gov't to finally get around the stranglehold on airplane innovation.
The other laughable part of the ad is that it says that the plan to reveal patent applications after 18 months will have "dire consequences" involving foreign entities stealing American ideas, while invoking the disclosure myth of patents. These "dire consequences" would be a lot more believable if the patent office didn't already reveal most patent applications after 18 months. In other words, this bit of "reform" isn't really reform at all, since it's what the USPTO already does... and the so-called dire consequences did not show up.
At the very end of the ad, the company tosses a bone to the software industry, saying that maybe we should have a separate patent system for the software industry because the fact that the software industry distributes its goods on computers and disks, it's impossible to determine prior art. This doesn't actually make any sense, but given the rest of the ad, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. Either way, this seems to highlight the level of debate on this issue. Various folks throw out complete nonsense without being able to back it up, and insist that the world will end if the patent system changes. It's a farce.