As it looks like the government might actually move towards real legislation to at least try to tackle the patent troll problem, the patent trolls are realizing that they need to ramp up their lobbying efforts with Congress
. The article is kind of funny in a variety of ways, arguing that the patent maximalists haven't had the ear of Congress forever:
The attack on so-called trolls has obscured the complexity of patent-rights issues, said Adam Mossoff, a law professor at George Mason University School of Law. That’s in part because “patent companies weren’t active in lobbying or PR,” Mossoff said. “They let patent skeptics in the academy and in think tanks and firms that oppose them set the terms of the patent policy debate.”
No offense, but that sounds like someone who just joined the discussion here. From 2004 until 2011, there was a long, intense debate about patent reform, with early proposals having some aspects that might have curtailed at least some of the trolling problem. But they all got squeezed out because massive patent holders absolutely were extremely active in lobbying and PR
. Yes, in many cases it came from the pharmaceutical side of the fence, as the pharma industry effectively killed patent bills every Congressional session, but the idea that patent maximalists haven't had their say is simply untrue.
Then there's this, from Intellectual Venture's new boss lobbyist, Russ Merbeth:
The current debate about patent trolls “seems to create uncertainty around patents generally,” said Russ Merbeth, chief policy counsel at Intellectual Ventures. “From our perspective, that’s going to have a long-term negative impact on American competitiveness.”
That's an up-is-down, day-is-night kind of statement. The uncertainty
around patents has always been whether or not (and when) actual innovators were going to get sued for doing something obvious by patent trolls and hoarders like Intellectual Ventures. That's the uncertainty. The fact that innovative companies had to hire more lawyers than engineers? That
creates uncertainty and has a long-term negative impact on American competitiveness. It's the companies that are actually innovating that are getting sued. Meanwhile, companies like Intellectual Ventures, who have never brought a product to market ever
, sit back and collect billions
of dollars from the actual innovators? That's a recipe for disaster. You're taking money out of the hands of innovators -- those who expand and grow the economy, improve our competitiveness and generally improve our lives -- and giving it to a bunch of lawyers who aren't doing that at all?
Last month, IV’s Myhrvold, the former chief technology officer of Microsoft, made a visit to the Hill to argue that his firm, with its thousands of patents, plays an important role in the tech industry ecoysystem by providing a secondary market for patents. The system is generally working, he said, and the industry should hold off on new changes and let the America Invents Act — the patent reform legislation passed in 2011 — take full effect.
“Fundamentally, the term patent troll gets thrown at anybody that is a plaintiff in a patent case,” he said during an event in D.C. “If you are in favor of invention, I think you have to be in favor of invention rights.”
By the way, remember the Mossoff quote above about how the patent folks weren't active -- does he know why the America Invents Act finally passed in 2011? Because it finally got watered down enough that Intellectual Ventures stopped its shady practices
to block the bill. Intellectual Ventures was heavily
involved in the patent reform debate last time around, contrary to Mossoff's historical revisionism.
As for Myhrvold's claims here, note his careful word choice. He talks about "invention" -- not innovation. The two are different, but the fact is that Myhrvold isn't even talking about invention. He's talking about patenting, which is the process of getting a monopoly on whatever you can get a monopoly on -- whether or not you've actually invented anything at all. Furthermore, even if you believe in invention, that has nothing to do with supporting patent reform that stops patent trolls like Intellectual Ventures. Patent trolls harm inventors
, because they give a patent to whoever got their application through the patent office -- and that harms every other inventor
who might be building something much better, and much more valuable to society, by putting a giant tollbooth in its way.
It's much, much better (and empirically more effective for the economy) to reward invention
by letting inventors compete in the market
. Let the market decide who builds the better product, and go from there.