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Does the patent system need to be reformed?

Patents were meant to spur innovation and reward inventors financially. However, the system seems to have many flaws, such as: (1) Many patents are awarded to obvious "inventions" (such as one-click shopping) or whole problems (not just particular solutions) and amount to a kind of "land grab." (2) The duration of the patent is not adjusted for the rate of technological change in the industry or for the ingenuity or other value of the particular invention. (3) The government bureaucrats who award patents or not are hardly authorities in the relevant fields, and the mistakes they make can serious damage a business or even a whole industry. (4) The system is easily abused by corrupt lawyers, patent trolls, and the like. (5) Given the enormous cost of litigating patent claims, the patent system benefits established companies at the expense of small entrepreneurs, even if the latter have justice on their side. Are these genuine and serious problems? Are patents still a value in today's fast-paced, information-based economy? Should the patent system change -- and if so, how?

Alok , 12.10.2014, 07:09
Idea status: under consideration


DianaHsieh, 21.10.2014, 07:50
Here's the full original question:

Patents were meant to spur innovation and help protect innovators by making them a good return for sharing their ideas publicly. However, there are gaping flaws in the law, and on top of it the legal processes too, which should be remedying those flaws quickly. Some of these are:

1. The premise of the law was that genuine and worthy innovations would be promoted, and the society as a whole would benefit greatly. But there is no test for the obviousness. All sundry "innovations" (eg one-click patent from one of your favourite companies) were given land grab rights.

2. There is little distinction between the relative value of the innovation, and a patent "award" has no way of adjusting the compensation for the value delivered.

3. There is no way to gauge the monopoly term rightly for different industries. Why would the society want to grant exclusivity to one company for first "filing papers" in an industry where there is an avalanche of innovation expected.

4. The people who judge the patents are not the foremost authority on the field and as is so apparent these days, make a lot mistakes. I'm saddened that Rim lost out so much time, effort and money to a bunch of exploiting lawyers, on patents which were all deemed invalid afterwards.

5. As with all government interference, the system is ripe for misuse. The patent law depends in very large part in it being administered well to be fair. The administration is either too incompetent or corrupt or just cant cope.

6. The system is laid bare to exploitation. In one hand there are the lawyers who like leeches feed off the sweat and blood of the innovators and the productive. On the other hand there are vultures like Nathan Myhrvold, who want to feed on any industry where they can, by grabbing low hanging fruit at rock bottom bargain prices and then preying on their victims stealthily - http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2011-07-20/patents-are-very-valuable-tech-giants-discover-nathan-myhrvold . (I used to idolise this guy once ... :-( )

7. The patent law, like many modern laws and government policies, is designed to keep the incumbent secure and the newcomer out of business. "Crony capitalism" et al. The patent is now granted to the first to file, and not the first to discover or publish for instance ...

8. In an innovation economy, there is hardly any use for patents. It's like giving bravery awards for just breathing air. The era of few and rare innovations is way behind us.

9. Many patents are granted for extremely broad terms. So broad that they effectively patent the problem itself and not the solution to the problem. Should any one person have a monopoly to entire country's problems ...?

10. The length of patent grants, similar to the Mickey Mouse copyright act, keeps increasing. How is it justified?

So my question is: if you agree that it's rational and reasonable to improve these state of affairs, how will you change the world? (I know you're fighting other similar problems too ... ).
robertgarmong, 15.12.2014, 19:18
If you could get Adam Mossoff on for an interview, that would be terrific. I gather he defends the current patent system, though I don't know what he thinks about some of the recent arguments about patent trolling and such other problems. I'd love to hear his take on the issues, if he has time for an interview.

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