Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 8th Oct 2012 09:24 UTC
Legal The failing US patent system is getting ever more mainstream - The New York Times is running a long and details piece on the failings of the system, especially in relation to the technology industry most of us hold so dearly. Most of the stuff in there isn't new to us - but there's two things in the article I want to highlight.
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Can anyone justify such a system ?
by Lennie on Mon 8th Oct 2012 10:20 UTC
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"Last year, for the first time, spending by Apple and Google on patent lawsuits and unusually big-dollar patent purchases exceeded spending on research and development of new products, according to public filings."

This is obviously not the intent of the law and government.

The intent was that patents provide incentives to invent.

Edited 2012-10-08 10:20 UTC

Reply Score: 10

JAlexoid Member since:

Thus anyone who says that the law is working as intended is delusional.

Reply Parent Score: 5

Lennie Member since:

Only if you add: in this particular industry.

I'm sure there are industries or even parts of this particular industry where it is still useful.

But in this case it obviously does not work.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Tony Swash Member since:

The fact that Apple and Google are spending so much is hardly surprising, intense IP litigation (and therefore costs) always takes place when technology mutates in such a way as to profoundly transform models in business arenas that are very large in such a way as to destroy old financial and market systems and create new ones. That is what is happening in the realm of the mobile device, vast fortunes are at stake and the only two successful players (so far) are Apple and Google. The conditions that create periods of intense IP litigation in any specific domain of technology do not last for ever. This one will fade away at some point. But not yet.

I have worked outside and inside government during my long working life and being outside it is a lot easier to see clear cut and seemingly obvious solutions to problems. Once inside however and confronted with the nitty gritty detail of how to actual change things with making things worse it get's very complicated very fast.

I am always suspicious of seemingly obvious and simple solutions, such as the abolition of IP laws, because in general changing things, especially things that involve a great deal of money, are always actually very difficult and never straightforward.

The question I would pose is that if one accepts the current legal framework for IP is broken what do you replace it with? That's a very serious and big question and I would interested to see what people suggest.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Thom_Holwerda Member since:

The question I would pose is that if one accepts the current legal framework for IP is broken what do you replace it with? That's a very serious and big question and I would interested to see what people suggest.

There's a lot of different suggestions out there, most better than what we have now. Here's mine:

Reply Parent Score: 3

Lennie Member since:

I would only say patents for ICT don't seem to work and should be abolished.

We have enough other things in place to prevent blatant copying like copyright and trademark protection.

The alternative is to have an easy way to kill the obvious patents without long or expensive trials.

Reply Parent Score: 2

MOS6510 Member since:

Why not keep it like it is, for starters, but limit the period a patent is valid for. Let's make it one year. Now companies really need to push innovation to stay ahead.

After a while you can make the period 6 months.

Reply Parent Score: 4

Tony Swash Member since:

Based on the interesting and thoughtful comments here it is clear that patent reform is not easy, and there are lots of ways to go about it and lots of opinions about how it should be done. The really contentious area is software patents, and it looks like the suggested ways to reform those (essentially that boils down their abolition) may open up new problems particularly for those with an investment in creation of software. It is likely that any reform of patents, and of software patents in particular (as the suggestion is for the most radical change in that area), may well open up new sorts of problems and will almost certainly be very contentious.

All of the above is not meant to argue against reform but simply to sketch out why it is so tricky and why in a realpolitik process, legislators my just choose to kick the can along the road.

I would repeat my point that in any given field IP legal activity tends to come in waves, usually associated with particularly disruptive technical change, and then to subside. Currently such a wave is affecting technologies, products and companies that interest people in forums such as this but tomorrow it could be in an entirely different field. Does anybody remember the bitter IP wars around photocopying technology?

I think in a world and in markets where a couple of years of technical advantage can mean the difference between success and failure it is understandable that companies that introduce what they consider to be particularly innovative and disruptive products will seek to protect them with legally enforceable IP rights. It is also inevitable that other companies will seek to outflank and render useless that IP protection and will almost certainly always win in the long run.

I don't want to open a can of worms by defending Apple but I do think that they are realistic about what they can achieve in the realm of IP protection and what they want is for other companies to be deterred from automatically and immediately lavishly copying Apple's every move and every product. To some extent Samsung has pulled back from doing that lately but for while they really were blatant about shadowing Apple's every move. Whose to blame them as it it resulted in pretty much Android's only money making success. And whose to blame Apple for trying to stop them? In the long run if Apple aspires successfully to be a leader in product design it has to accept that eventually others will emulate their approach and emulate the various designs they produce. That's what happens to cutting edge design, it sets trends in motion. But I think it is good to have a system that makes sure that that doesn't happen the next day, or in a an utterly blatant fashion (like sticking iTunes and Safari icons on the walls of Samsung's retail stores - Samsung actually did that).

Personally I wish they the IP wars could die away and that innovation could be more widespread in the industry. I am also hoping for a white Christmas ;)

Reply Parent Score: 2

darknexus Member since:

Of course anyone can justify it, if they're making lots of money from it. Look where the money goes… to the lawyers. Of course they would want this to continue, seeing as how they're getting rich off of it.

Reply Parent Score: 8

Lennie Member since:

Technical innovation is better than lawyers for a country ?

If companies in your country create good innovations/products they'll be able to export their products.

And lawyers are just good for the local economy ?

Reply Parent Score: 1