This Is What A Patent Thicket Looks Like [Updated]

from the visualization-works dept

A couple weeks ago, we asked if any smartphone could survive the patent thicket. In the last few months there has been a ton of lawsuits (and ITC filings) over smartphones supposedly violating patents. And since that post was written a few more lawsuits were filed as well. It's patent nuclear war breaking out in the smartphone space, and the end result is that we, the public, all suffer. Lots of money is being spent on lawsuits, and that could have gone into better development and giving us more features, better prices and better service.

Of course, while I described this in words, sometimes, as the cliche goes, a picture is worth a lot more. Thanks to Nick Bilton at the NY Times for putting together that picture (see update below) that shows what the patent thicket in the smartphone space looks like:
That's a picture of a patent thicket, and it's a picture of waste that does the exact opposite of promoting innovation.

Update: Unfortunately, it looks like Bilton may have exaggerated a bit. Joe Mullin looks through the details and notices that some of the lawsuits appear totally unrelated to the smartphone space. As he notes, there are plenty of smartphone patent lawsuits to go around, but there's no need to exaggerate them.
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Filed Under: patent thicket, patents, smartphones


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  1. icon
    johnjac (profile), 6 Mar 2010 @ 5:50am

    Re: The Value of Patents to The Consumer

    "First, patents don't prevent competitors from developing competing products. A patent only protects one product. Others are always free to develop better mousetraps and sell them at lower prices."

    Unless your patent of for the capturing and killing of mice. For example Tivo's patent for DVR if it stands, will give it a monopoly in that space. Or if your patent covers obviousness like using a touch screen to unlock a phone.

    Overly broad and overly obvious patents are purposely designed to drive away competition.


    "Second, to the extent that patents do enable a patentee to monopolize the supply chain and customers for his particular product offering, they have a cost reducing impact on that product, not a cost increasing impact, because they allow the patentee to achieve greater economies of scale in manufacturing."


    In you 1st point you praise power of competition, and in your 2nd point you praise the power of monopolies. Which is it?

    The 'economies of scale' argument can be and has been used to defend all monopolies. EoS is only 1/2 of the picture. A company is not going to look for EoS unless they have effective competition. Without competition there is no incentive to grow EoS because you already have 100% of the market.

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