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Against Monopoly

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business method patents

Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.





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Prometheus or innovation unbound?

The New York Times ran a surprisingly long and tough piece from Reuters titled Making Sense of Patent Law link here. It opens, saying "The United States Supreme Court has a chance to reverse the mission creep in patent law. The system is supposed to reward inventors but not stifle innovation. Fuzzy and overly broad concepts like thought processes generally are not protected. Yet one company, Prometheus Laboratories, reckons it owns a method for interpreting how patients react to a drug."

It then traces the history of patent law covering ideas which consistently forbade such patents but by 1994, was patenting "any software with a practical purpose."

The instant case began "in 2004, [when] Prometheus claimed the Mayo Clinic had infringed a patent on a seemingly simple process for diagnosing patients. The procedure was the kind of analysis based on observation that doctors do every day, the clinic maintained. But the Federal Circuit upheld the patent. The Supreme Court is to hear oral arguments in the case on Dec. 7."

"The seven years of litigation are one cost of a broken system. The number of federal patent infringement lawsuits has soared, to more than 3,300 last year from about 800 in 1980. Legal experts say the suits have cost companies hundreds of billions of dollars a year."

"But the greater expense may be lost innovation. The risk of getting sued discourages research investment and delays medical breakthroughs the opposite of what those who devised the patent system intended. Reversing years of damaging precedents is hard, but a Supreme Court ruling against Prometheus would be a start."

Hope rises. We will be watching.

Business Method Patents

The political economy of IP is very revealing. In Steal This Idea, I described how the US support for copyrights shifted when the US became a stronger producer from being a stronger net consumer.

When the economy weakens, IP is often used as a means to ratchet up profits.

As far as business methods are concerned, it began with State Street -- a banking patent. Now that others are able to challenge the financial moguls, finance turns against protection.

The rank opportunism of IP and the political hacks who support the various interest groups is appalling.


   
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