Shouldn't We See It As A Problem When Patents Are The Product Itself?

from the just-basic-common-sense-here... dept

Forbes has given some space to Alan Minsk, a patent lawyer who was in-house patent counsel for Openwave -- a company that we recently noted had decided to become a patent troll after failing in the marketplace -- as well as with Intellectual Ventures, perhaps the world's largest patent troll. In his column, he talks up how simply wonderful it is that companies have realized that patents aren't just about protecting products, but have become key products themselves. He seems positively gleeful at the idea of writing patents so broad that they cover entirely unrelated industries:
My own approach was to identify potentially patentable innovations (i.e., those that were not clearly unpatentable) that had a well-defined strategic value proposition, and then proceeding to seek patent protection for a broad-based interpretation of the underlying concept of those innovations.

Since many innovations represent a solution to a technical problem, this approach often involved determining other industries (or other situations within the same industry) in which a similar problem arose, and then generalizing the description of the innovation so that it could be used in those other industries or situations. This typically required developing a description of the underlying concept of the innovation in generic functional terms instead of implementation specific terms (a process I termed “functional deconstruction.”)

And, because the strategic value propositions (or use cases) for a patent often changed as a company developed and competed with others, my approach was an iterative one that was re-visited regularly in case a decision that was appropriate at one time was no longer appropriate because of new information. This applied both to patent application filing decisions and to those made during negotiations with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as part of the process of obtaining a patent.
In other words, not only did he try to patent things as broadly as possible to cover other industries, he would regularly try to broaden the patent as the market changed, even though the application was already ongoing. The whole thing seems to be bragging about the exact process of how to destroy competition and innovation in a market by locking it up in some vague piece of paper.

If we are to believe that the patent system was designed to "promote the progress" then it needs to be admitted that patents are never an end, but always a means -- a means to develop actual products that genuinely represent progress. And yet, that's not what they've been for quite some time, and it's highlighted by the idea that they should ever be considered primary products in and of themselves. That's a sign of a totally broken system. It may be one where patent lawyers like Minsk make out nicely, but it shows a failure of the system as a whole -- and when that happens we have a system that hinders, rather than aids, innovation.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: alan minsk, patent troll, promote the progress
Companies: intellectual ventures, openwave


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    staff, 6 Jun 2012 @ 7:47am

    more dissembling

    You write like a paid puppet of large invention thieves.

    “Patent troll”

    Call it what you will...patent hoarder, patent troll, non-practicing entity, shell company, etc. It all means one thing: “we’re using your invention and we’re not going to pay or stop”. This is just dissembling by large infringers and their paid puppets to kill any inventor support system. It is purely about legalizing theft. The fact is, many of the large multinationals who defame inventors in this way themselves make no products in the US or create any American jobs and it is their continued blatant theft which makes it impossible for the true creators to do so.

    Prior to eBay v Mercexchange, small entities had a viable chance at commercializing their inventions. If the defendant was found guilty, an injunction was most always issued. Then the inventor small entity could enjoy the exclusive use of his invention in commercializing it. Unfortunately, injunctions are often no longer available to small entity inventors because of the Supreme Court decision so we have no fair chance to compete with much larger entities who are now free to use our inventions. Essentially, large infringers now have your gun and all the bullets. Worse yet, inability to commercialize means those same small entities will not be hiring new employees to roll out their products and services. And now some of those same parties who killed injunctions for small entities and thus blocked their chance at commercializing now complain that small entity inventors are not commercializing. They created the problem and now they want to blame small entities for it. What dissembling! If you don’t like this state of affairs (your unemployment is running out), tell your Congress member. Then maybe we can get some sense back in the patent system with injunctions fully enforceable on all infringers by all inventors, large and small.

    Those wishing to help fight big business giveaways should contact us as below and join the fight as we are building a network of inventors and other stakeholders to lobby Congress to restore property rights for all patent owners -large and small.

    For the truth about trolls, please see http://truereform.piausa.org/default.html#pt.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.