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. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2010 @ 2:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    If I warn my kids about the risks of stealing music online, they know exactly what I'm talking about.

    What? It's the same thing as baby rape! Your kids didn't already know that raping babies was wrong? Just what kind of kids do you have, anyway?

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