US Gov't Supports Keeping Patents Difficult To Invalidate
from the government-wants-its-fees... dept
In court, parties have to prove their case by some "standard of proof." In almost all civil cases, the standard is "preponderance of the evidence" -- meaning it is more likely than not that the facts are true. When the question is invalidating a patent, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decided that a defendant trying to prove a patent invalid must do so by a higher standard than normal civil cases, that of "clear and convincing" evidence. "Clear and convincing" means that the facts are "highly probable," which is a much more difficult standard to meet when trying to invalidate a patent than just a preponderance.That's it. It's pretty simple. The bar for invalidating bad patents should be "the preponderance of the evidence." Anyone who has any experience in actually bringing innovative products to market, and facing a bunch of threats and lawsuits from patent holders who have obviously bad patents would agree that this makes sense (or, rather, would agree that moving in this direction makes sense). In fact, that's why tons and tons of successful companies supported Microsoft in getting the Supreme Court to hear the case.
So pardon me for finding it laughable when i4i's chairman, Loudon Owen, claims that switching the standard would mean innovative organizations can't survive:
"As you can see from the amicus briefs, and from a letter previously sent to the Attorney General by over 260 signatories, this is an absolutely pivotal case that threatens the ability of inventors and innovative organizations to survive,"Let's be 100% clear here, because Owen is lying. If you have a legitimate patent, you have nothing to fear from this requested change. Even if you have a bad patent, it's unlikely that this change would mean much for you. It's only if you have a ridiculously bad patent that this change would have any impact. And that certainly is not about the ability of inventors or innovative organizations to survive. Oh, by the way, take a guess at the level of quality that i4i has with its patents? Yeah...
In the meantime, if you look at the list of folks who filed amicus briefs supporting i4i, you'll notice that it's basically a bunch of companies who rely on patent licensing, rather than products to get by. There's also a funny one about "leading venture capital firms," which doesn't list any actual "leading" VC firms. No Accel. No Sequoia. No Kleiner Perkins. No Union Square Ventures. Those are the firms that people get excited about. Those are the firms that everyone wants to raise money from. They're all absent. The rest of the list is a mix of "IP" organizations and pharmaceutical companies -- who are hanging onto patents as their last gasp effort to stay alive, since they're failing to actually innovate.
As for the brief from the US government itself, which is embedded below, it's pretty weak if you're familiar with the problem of bad patents. But it basically says the law (which, it should be reminded, was written by a former patent lawyer, and was done before the recent burst of massively bad patents), says we should use the higher standard, so we should. It's also laughable, in that it assumes that the US Patent Office actually does its job in making sure that patents are valid before allowing them.
Finally, we should note that, yes, there's tremendous irony in Microsoft trying to lower the standard for ditching bad patents, at the same time it appears to be relying on ridiculously bad patents in lawsuits itself.