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01.12.08

(Software) Patents Degradation in the American and European Systems

Posted in America, Europe, Law, Patents at 12:32 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“A patent is an artificial government-imposed monopoly on implementing a certain method or technique.”

Richard Stallman

It is worth stressing the fact that Microsoft used to fear software patents before it became a very large company. Many of us were taught that patents were intended to protect the ‘little guy’ whose inventions can be stolen and then commercialised by far larger companies, right? Now, if you look closely at what USPTO has become, here is what you find: [via digitalmajority.org]

You can patent pretty much anything these days as long as you’re able to pay for it. When I looked into obtaining a US patent several years ago I was told to budget $20k for the patent process (1-2 years), plus another $5k annually for “patent maintenance” if the patent was actually granted. Only then could I have the “privilege” of suing those who infringe on my patent – by paying outrageous attorney and court fees, of course.

Who benefits from this, other than large and wealthy corporations? Patent trolls, of course. To make matters worse, the level of their destruction is on the rise.

We reached the end of 2007. All the other blogs are reporting an overall decrease in IP litigation, a cutback from 2006, or are reporting the slightest of increases in patent filings from 2006 to 2007. That’s simply not true. By the real count — the number of defendants sued for patent infringement — 2007 was a record year. In fact, here’s my headline: “2007 shows a 30% increase in patent litigation over 2006, fueled by a 40% increase in the Eastern District of Texas.” And certainly from the number of patent cases brought by non-practicing entities and so-called patent trolls, it was a year that saw a tremendous increase in both the quantity and diversity of these entities.

It was recently shown that the number of patent applications are rising at the USPTO and there was even increased infusion of money going into it (whilst most other state budgets decline). As it turns out, Europe isn’t doing much better. [via digitalmajority.org]

In the past 25 years, the volume of patent applications at the EPO has quadrupled to reach 208,500 in 2006, and is expected to increase further. Much of this growth is attributable to the enhanced global activity of companies, to emerging economies such as China, India and South Korea buying into the patents system, and the increasing importance of new technologies, such as information and communication technology and biotechnology.

It truly seems like the patent systems around the world are getting worse (lower barriers) more quickly than they improve. Here is a new report suggesting the improvement of the European patent system [PDF].

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