Summary: IBM claims a “record” on the privatisation — with government endorsement — of ideas
A few days ago we wrote about USPTO statistics. New numbers were suggesting that the patent levers are rising (more monopolies) as quality control is brought down and the press caught up with the patents professor following an official statement from sources including the USPTO, which is run by a former IBM guy. To quote the British technology press:
The annual rankings of patents awarded by the US Patent and Trademark Office used to come out of that government agency, but in 2007 it stopped because, as the public affairs officer told me at the time, people were too focused on patent counts and not on patent quality. Since then, IFI Claims Patent Services has diced and sliced the data in the USPTO databases and published the annual US patent count rankings, as a means of advertising for more complex patent services it offers for a fee.
IBM is a proponent of software patents and therefore not our friend. IBM used this to brag about its patents, claiming quite falsely that these are a measure of innovation. They are acting like it’s a contest and claim a record repeatedly, with some of the press playing along to that tune:
Weeks after the latest Blue Gene supercomputer shipped out from Rochester, IBM has topped the U.S. patent list for the 19th year in a row.
Big Blue tallied a whopping 6,180 patents issued in 2011. About 500 of those patents originated in Rochester.
I confronted an IBM manager over this. He insisted, as usual, that IBM acts responsively with patents. Now, to be fair, OIN relies a great deal on IBM and this new pile of patents reportedly helps Google defend Android (not in the ideal way [1, 2]). Does this quality as good news then?
Patents were a hot-button issue in 2011, so there’s no wonder so many companies were filling their portfolios with new intellectual property throughout the year.
Ideally, those patents oughtn’t be granted because they are a ‘theft’ of knowledge that otherwise can belong to society, not privatised quite so organically and arbitrarily. Isn’t it funny that the biggest client of the USPTO became its manager? The government should remove the power it gave to the USPTO if it wants to really encourage innovation. █