A Couple Videos About Our Crazy Patent System

from the you-might-enjoy... dept

We're hearing more and more talk about how broken the patent system is, and recently came across a pair of videos we figured some of you might enjoy. The first is a comedic riff on Apple's recent page turn design patent, leading Ron Charles to post an amusing video of how Apple might explain its patenting of "letters":
There are some good lines in there. "Everything we've done, is designed to be very capable, but also familiar. So our goal, was to take all the amazing things that people like to do... and own them."

On a slightly more serious note, economist Alex Tabarrok, has put together a video arguing for the end of software patents:
It's not a bad video, though I think the analysis is a bit overly simplistic, in that it kicks off with the idea that pharma patents make sense. The more you dig into the details of pharma patents, the more you realize that's not true either. However, even granting that, the argument he makes is the commonly seen economics argument that, at the very least, things like pharma and software display such different economic characteristics that it's silly to use the same patent system for both. Specifically, the sunk costs of innovation for software tend to be relatively low, so the protection a patent grants might not be useful. It also notes how patents can impede innovation. One thing I'm happy it includes is a note about how you get less innovation when you don't have competitors pushing you to keep innovating. That's a point that often gets missed in these debates.

Either way, I figured folks might enjoy both of these videos.

Filed Under: patents, software patents, videos

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2012 @ 11:10am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The "rounded corners" was just one of several elements that comprised the claimed design. To potentially infringe one would have to incorporate into their product all of the several elements, and not just select ones like "rounded corners". Design patents have a more limited term than utility patents, and significantly different requirements for establishing infringement. In the case of design patents the test is essentially the one used with respect to trademark infringement, i.e., an ordinary consumer exercizing ordinary care.

    I agree that there is no clear definition of what comprises a "software" patent, so lumping all patents that involve software to some degree can be very misleading.

    It is not particularly difficult to explain patents to lay persons if you are conversant in what a patent comprises. It is when "lay" explains to "lay" that things start to go awry. I will readily admit, however, that many of the patents held up a really, really "bad" patents are decidedly so. Are they the majority? Experience informs me this is not at all the case.

    Re patents under government contracts, or any other contracts for that matter, patent rights in all cases go to the actual inventors, and not to the financier. Of course, they can subsequently be transferred by contract, but in the absence of a contract a financier is SOL. This stands in clear contrast to copyright law where a "work for hire" produces the opposite result.

    It is also important to realize that in most cases under government contracts an invention has been created prior to the contract, with the contract merely being the vehicle by which to adapt an invention to the particular needs of the government agency. For inventions actually invented in their totality under a government contract (conceived and first actually reduced to practice), longstanding experience demonstrated that commercialization of the invention was a rarity given that commercial entities would still be required to make substantial investments for a product incorporating the investment to be made market-ready. The Bayh-Dole Act, love it or hate it, was crafted to provide commercial market incentives. I do agree on one thing, however. I subscribe to the position that an invention created by a government employee or officer in the course of their ordinary duties should not be patentable, as is the case under copyright law with works created by officers and employees in the course of their ordinary duties.

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