Summary: Why most mentions of a “reform” in the USPTO are misleading for the time being
THE NEWS on the patents front quieted down this month. We are not ignoring any of it. But it interesting to see that preservation of broken systems seems to strike a nerve with the public, yet officials mostly ignore it. What does that say about the government allegedly elected by the people (with corporate campaign funding)?
With Congress and the President pretending that a bad patent reform bill is all about “creating jobs” even as there’s little evidence that the reforms will actually do anything, Congress appears to be poised to approve the bill. Of course, the bill does almost nothing to address the real problems of the patent system, but that won’t stop the grandstanding. More important, it won’t stop the political back-scratching. While Congress won’t debate the bigger issues, they will be considering amendments that benefit a particular constituency rather than looking at anything that will actually benefit innovation or the economy.
Brian Proffitt is being pessimistic in his new post, “The bottom line of software patent reform”. In this somewhat defeatist post he argued that: “Critics of software patents argue that it would be great if all the extra legal overhead of this litigation could just go away. But if the bottom line says that it’s cheaper to just hire better lawyers rather than suffer the potential risks of young upstart competitors stealing even more revenue and customers, then businesses will opt for the former every time.
“This is why lawmakers only make half-hearted efforts to examine patent reform. They may listen to the latest big company that complains (like Google), but if and when that company moves on to pursuing their own litigation, why bother listening? Not to mention lobbying pressure from all the lawyers who are getting paid quite well to pursue these cases on behalf of their clients.”
Google is a tricky one because it is not doing the right thing by choosing the expensive and ineffective path. Clint Boulton says that they bought junk patents and we already know that Microsoft plans to attack Google through patent trolls like MOSAID. Google cannot use patents defensively against patent trolls.
Proffitt continues: “It’s a depressing situation all the way around, in all business sectors, at all levels of government. Litigation is a business expense that many businesses are willing to put time, effort, and money into if it can give them an edge over a competitor.
“Can software patents ever be reformed? Possibly, if enough lawsuits lose and companies realize that there’s no percentage in the game.
“It won’t be an ethical decision that drives reform, sadly, but a financial one.” █