defending the right to innovate
Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.
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Sadly patent trolls really do inhibit innovation: new research from Catherine Tucker. (Thanks to Jim Bessen and Cecil Quillen for this.)
The way the patent system functions is very different than people imagine. In early stages of a new technology growing the market is crucial - and encouraging competitors much more important than trying to suppress them. Hence patents can play only a negative role. Tesla has figured this out: especially interesting to read is how Elon Musk's thinking about patents evolved as he came to understand how different is the reality from the rhetoric.
In my latest article, "Rights Violations Aren't the Only Bads," I argue that it makes no sense for a pro-IP person to say to an anti-IP person, "Well, if you don't believe that ideas can be owned, then you can't complain if someone plagiarizes or adulterates your work."
I try to show that this response is total nonsense.
My latest piece on IP is "Intellectual Property Fosters Corporate Concentration."
Larry Lessig is says we should ask politicians just one question "What will you do to end this corruption?" I'm not sure I will trust their answers, but it is a good question. You find the details and help him here.
As Congress gets ready to pass a greatly watered down patent reform act - watered down largely due to the lobbying of the two biggest patent trolls, IBM and Microsoft - and the Supreme Court begins to contemplate abolishing software patents, there are a few other news items.
First, there is the letter of Cecil D. Quillen, Jr. whose efforts on behalf of patent reform we have mentioned here before. Needless to say, despite the thoughtful comments he has received little response.
Next, Salvatore Modica send us this link to an article documenting how patents on the human genome have reduced research in the area. There is a message here, especially for people like Andrew Sullivan who exaggerate the role of pharmaceutical companies in saving their lives.
Finally I'd like to draw attention to the excellent paper of Bessen and Nuvolari in which they nail the reason for widespread knowledge sharing: the existence of a competing existing technology.
Floyd Norris writes on patent trolls and the law link here. It is well-worth a read as it offers hope that the Supreme Court will reverse common practice in appeals where the winner doesn't get his legal fees paid by the loser. This practice has made it difficult for small defendants to cover their costs and makes them reluctant to fight the trolls even when they have a good case as their company may not survive.
The trolls have had an easy time of it so far. Is this the end for them?
First, techdirt and then the Electronic Frontier Foundation examine the draft bill on patent reform introduced by House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte. Techdirt (http://www.techdirt.com/blog/innovation/articles/20130923/17400624628/posturing-over-patent-reform-shows-how-young-companies-innovate-while-old-companies-litigate.shtml) looks at the sources of support for the proposal, mostly from startups that are innovators and are frequent critics of existing patents. Older firms which have an established position and may fear innovation are opposed. EFF's piece (https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/09/troll-killing-patent-reform-one-step-closer) looks at the details and specifies what it likes in the draft, most of the bill's proposals. Given the balance of forces in the Congress, passage seems questionable but one can always hope.
Bartees Cox Jr. contrasts the company image and the public image of the patent troll, Intellectual Ventures (http://www.publicknowledge.org/blog/two-sides-intellectual-ventures). He sums it up, "Intellectual Ventures is giving you the good side of the story. They say that they are champions of invention and they're quick to point out their health and medical research. Everyone else in the battle for patent reform sees the other side. The side that preys on businesses without penalty, that buys up patents to sue innovators building companies, and that ultimately keeps innovation at a standstill while raking in massive profits. Later, he writes, "Because when a company like Intellectual Ventures sits on technologies and patents, waiting for someone to independently make a product to become unintentional fodder for a lawsuit trap, there is no benefit to knowledge, consumers, or to society." Worth a read and thought about the purpose of patents and current experience and whether we wouldn't be better off without them.
The other day, the New York Times published instructions for aspiring inventors on how to take their inventions through the patent granting process and on to the retailers' shelves link here. The examples are a couple of aspiring inventors and describes the pitfalls, the costs, and a rough estimate of the likelihood of success.
In the first example, the invention is a sun shade for a baby's stroller. The problem in this case was the number of thieves waiting to take the aspiring inventor's money without providing any service or charging an arm and a leg for minimal services. First lesson: know your help's history. Second lesson: you have to do a lot of the work yourself; it is hard to write a contract that specifies what is needed and to find a contractor who can provide it.
The second case is an inventor of a screw device to replace the broken one on the ear pieces of eyeglasses. The experience with companies who are selling consulting and other assistance is much the same as in the first case. The upfront costs of patenting and marketing are stiff and the need for added funding, often high.
The article seems to suggest that there is a growing number of successful inventor-developers and leaves the thought that with a bit of effort, you too can succeed. This does not account for the number who failed. Nor does the data cite the proportion that were brought to market by big companies who seem to dominate the marketplace when you shop and who turn out to end up with the patents that make market dominance possible.
Most Recent Comments
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at 05/05/2014 01:03 PM by Sheogorath
Rights Violations Aren't the Only Bads I hear that nonsense from pro-IP people all the
at 04/07/2014 04:47 AM by Dan McCracken
Intellectual Property Fosters Corporate Concentration Yeah, I see the discouragement of working on a patented device all the time. Great examples
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at 11/24/2013 10:48 AM by SpaceCorp Technologies
at 11/20/2013 03:18 PM by Anonymous
Does the decline in total factor productivity explain the drop in innovation? So, if our patent system was "broken," TFP of durable goods should have dropped. Conversely, since
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Patents on 3D Printing Challenged by Prior Art To Loup Vaillant: "So, you think we wouldn't have had those 9 technologies without patents? I can
at 09/13/2013 04:22 PM by Anonymous
Patents on 3D Printing Challenged by Prior Art @anonymous: So, you think we wouldn't have had those 9 technologies without patents? I can accept
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at 09/03/2013 06:06 PM by Anonymous
Public Knowledge announces a Patent Reform Project No patents should be allowed on ANY software. And no patents on Business Methods. If the have to
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