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08.21.11

Misconception: The Problem With the US Patent System is Just Patent Trolls and/or Just Software Patents

Posted in Apple, Google, IBM, Law, Patents at 9:30 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: Clarifications and explanations regarding the goal of a (yet theoretical) patent reform that would actually prove to be effective

EVERY ONCE in a while, someone suggests an amendment to the systems we have in place. Law and governance forever evolve, or devolve. On the one hand there are lobbyists working at the behest of people who seek to distort the system for their client/s and on the other hand there are grassroots efforts to make the systems more sane and civilised. It is an eternal battle and the power that wins depends on the integrity of politicians. If politics expels lobbyists and abolishes cronyism, then the return on investment becomes too low for lobbying to remain a compelling option. Bill Gates and his friend Nathan (the world’s biggest patent troll) have been lobbying a lot recently to further perturb patent policy in favour of the billionaires. It is a tough battle in the US. We covered the issue many times before and showed that lobbying for the billionaires is shrewdly being disguised as helping “the little guy” (or gal).

“But spending money upfront for the chance of a better world is our job. And it’s the right thing to do.”
      –Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry
To confront or address this serious issue we must first define what the problems are. There is no single ‘camp’ here because some people want all software patents eliminated, some prefer to see only a portion of them (the “bad” ones) eliminated, and some just want to make patents work in favour of themselves or Linux (the "IBM way", maybe Google too based on its recent Android defence strategy).

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, a persistent critic of software patents as of late [1, 2, 3], makes suggestions for getting rid of patent trolls, which are more like a symptom than the main problem. Many of them use software patents and give the illusion that not only gigantic companies use patents to cause harm. “Every venture-backed startup needs to make a credible, public statement now: we will fight every patent troll case, to the Supreme Court if we have to,” suggests Gobry. “Every venture capitalist needs to make a credible, public statement: we will finance our portfolio companies’ cases against patent trolls. We recognize that it’s going to be a long, hard slog. We’re going to burn tons of money at first. But spending money upfront for the chance of a better world is our job. And it’s the right thing to do.”

Well, this is not the key problem and it “ignores they are *intended* part of patent system, though,” writes Georg Greve in relation to this article. Trying to pretend that getting rid of patent trolls is the only desired “reform” is what lobbyists of large companies have been doing. As we saw quite recently with Apple’s embargo threats and legal actions (with fake 'evidence'), the problem is not just bigger than patent trolls; it is bigger than software patents, too. Sometimes we have patent cartels. According to this new article, Apple continues to pursue patents. Here is the latest:

A patent application submitted by Apple has revealed its plans to turn the iPod and iPhone into a mobile karaoke system that can help to teach amateur singers how to hit the right pitch and key.

The bottom line is, large companies — not just patent trolls — are exploiting the USPTO to make themselves rich. This leaves more than 99% of the US public totally betrayed by this system that their government fosters.

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