Economist Assumes That The Problem Is 'Thieves' Rather Than Bad Patent Laws

from the wow dept

cryptozoologist points us to one of the most ridiculous analyses of the current patent situation by economist, and former Ross Perot running mate, Pat Choate, who doesn't seem to have a clue how innovation actually works, in claiming that patent infringement is usually "patent theft" by big companies. Independent invention? Overly broad patents? Patent thickets stifling innovation and research? Not even possible. It's all "theft."
America's largest big tech corporations are now using a business technique called "efficient infringement," which means that they calculate the benefits of stealing someone else's patented technology against the possibility of getting caught, tried in court and being forced to pay damages and penalties. If the benefits exceed the costs, they steal.

What makes patent theft so attractive is that infringement is not a criminal act and those found guilty face no jail time. Paying up is the worst that can happen to the infringer.
Of course, someone actually knowledgeable about patents would know the difference between infringement and theft. They would also know that it's quite rare for there to be a case of a company actually copying an idea from someone else. It's almost always independent invention -- and many of the lawsuits that he's so keen on later in the article are cases where an overly broad patent is brought up in a lawsuit about an innovation the original patent had nothing to do with.

This is a problem that happens all too often in these discussions. Folks who don't know much about how innovation really occurs in the tech world, and who falsely conflate concepts in tangible property with a completely different government-granted monopoly right -- automatically assume that infringement is the equivalent of "stealing." Are there cases where big companies "copy" an idea from a small company? Yes, absolutely. But it's a lot more rare than many make it out to be. The really innovative ideas? Those are the ones that big companies don't even realize are big ideas until it's too late.

A column like Choate's is dangerous in the amount of misinformation that it puts forth, backed up with the veneer of truth without any basis in fact.

Filed Under: economist, patent


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  1. icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), 12 Apr 2010 @ 8:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Yeah, you might not like his choice of words, but put that aside. I'd love some rational discussion around the meaning of the article rather than the article's composition."

    Fair enough, but when you consider the broader consequences of the word choice, as well as the possible motive for those choices, I think that has everything to do with the rest of the article. Why do you think we have such a problem with the word choice? It's because to us, it's clear what is being attempted.

    Most of us know what he means, I think. But he's still wrong. And there are probably enough infrequent visitors here that I'd hate for them to have one more misguided soldier running around talking about theft this and piracy that, a la political issues....

    I dunno, maybe I'm more inclined to weight the value of words heavily because I'm a writer. I just know how this whole repitition of loaded words thing works these days, and it pisses me off. Why can't he just use the proper word? I don't get it....

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