The Patent Pledge: Good Idea... But Wrong Target

from the it's-a-start dept

Paul Graham's latest brainstorm is (as per usual) pretty thought provoking. He's put together an idea called The Patent Pledge in which companies agree that they'll never first assert a patent against a company with less than 25 employees. A small group of companies have already agreed to the pledge. Though, as he notes, there's nothing binding about the pledge and the terms of the pledge are intentionally vague.

The bigger issue is that it seems like this pledge may be targeted at exactly the wrong group on both sides of the pledge. First off, the companies signing it tend to be startups who aren't asserting any patents against anyone anyway. Second, when startups of less than 25 people are getting sued for infringement, it's pretty frequently by small trolls, who have no business but suing (or threatening to sue), and who would never sign such a pledge. I don't think we're going to see Lodsys or Kootol sign up for something like this ever, and no amount of shame is going to make them care about it.

Right now the big problem with patents tends to be more focused on the trolls who are suing and the bigger, older tech companies who are moving away from innovation and into a "protecting" mode with a big pile of patents.

Still, I do like the general idea of figuring out ways to put more societal pressure on companies not to sue innovative companies over patents, but I'm not entirely sure if this idea, as set forth, is the best way to do it. In fact, the other issue with this is that I could even see scenarios under which this makes things worse -- in that a patent holder who signed such a pledge could just wait until a company has more employees... and then can claim it can demand a much bigger award for infringement, since the company has been benefiting from the fruits of infringement for longer.

However, I'm curious if anyone has idea on how to improve on such a pledge, to see how it might be made more effective.

Filed Under: patent pledge, patents


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  1. icon
    Crosbie Fitch (profile), 6 Sep 2011 @ 2:26am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Compulsory Licensing

    less than* $100k income/turnover are limited to liability for damages at $10k per annum.

    None of these are improvements. They are unprincipled palliatives that serve only to perpetuate injustice.

    You do not improve a turd by giving it a polish and a sugar coating. You take it off the menu!

    People have got to deprogram themselves of the fairy tale that patent once worked to incentivise invention and bring about the industrial revolution, and can thus be repaired to do so once more. It never did! Correlation is not causation. If an inventor is worth rewarding, the free market will reward them. Patent is an impediment, a parasite on progress that enriches the monopolist and the corrupt statesmen who grant them.


    * I first tried the 'less than' character, but that lost the 2nd half of my comment. I then tried ampersand lt;, but that also truncated it.

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