The US Patent System is Only Getting Worse as 92% of Patent Applications Now ‘Successful’, Everything Under the Sun Patented
Innovation myth hinged on grossly lenient system
Summary: Amazon shows that it continues to be a major part of the patent problem (trying to patent every silly idea) not just the US but potentially also in Europe
THE USPTO, like several other pseudo-’federal’ agencies (controlled by corporations and/or lobbyists, e.g. the FCC) is totally out of control and over time it is getting increasingly detached from its original goal/s. It’s time to abolish or restart the USPTO, as we pointed out even half a decade ago.
In today’s news we have Amazon, which tries to legitimise software patents in Europe, getting a patent on photography against a white background. Yes, seriously.
As Timothy B. Lee points out, almost every patent application (in the US) now becomes a patent and this includes not only Amazon’s infamous “one-click” shopping but also photographing merchandise. As TechDirt put it:
US Patent Office Grants ‘Photography Against A White Background’ Patent To Amazon
The US Patent and Trademark Office is frequently maligned for its baffling/terrible decisions… and rightfully so. Because this is exactly the sort of thing for which the USPTO should be maligned. Udi Tirosh at DIY Photography has uncovered a recently granted patent for the previously-unheard of process of photographing things/people against a white backdrop… to of all companies, Amazon.
The USTPO deserves no more than zero legitimacy at this stage and as Glyn Moody recently pointed out in his talk, we need to keep this corrupt mess out of Europe:
Software Patents in Denmark: To Be or Not To Be?
Every week brings us new reports about the destructive effect of software patents in the US, and of a patent office there that is only too willing to grant them and other undeserving patents: an excellent if depressing article by Timothy Lee points out that the “allowance rate” – the percentage of patents that are eventually granted by the USPTO – is now a staggering 92%.
There are very good grounds for fearing that the imminent new Unitary Patent system will bring exactly the same problems to Europe, and yet there has been almost no discussion about it, certainly not here in the UK. Similarly, British citizens have not been asked whether they want this new system foisted on to them. You might say that’s an unreasonable thing to expect, since patents by their very nature are complex, specialised subjects. That may be true, but the fact that Denmark will be holding a national referendum on the subject in a few weeks’ time, shows that it can be done.
Today, we live in a very different world. In 2012, 469,000 patent applications were filed with the USPTO; 258,000 in Europe; 11,000 in Denmark alone. That is a world of inventive abundance, not scarcity. Some might say that’s great, and that it shows that the patent system is doing its job well, encouraging lots of inventors to come up with lots of inventions. But we need to look more closely at both the benefits and costs of that patent system, and its overall impact on the economy.
That’s precisely what a new research paper from Bessen, Neuhäusler, Turner and Williams entitled simply “The Costs and Benefits of United States Patents” attempts to do. It’s fairly long and complex – it’s written by economists, for economists – but its results are entirely straightforward.
The research looked at the costs and benefits to US companies of patents from 1984 to 2009. That’s particularly useful, since it embraces quite distinct periods in patenting. Overall, it found that the total benefits accruing to US companies from patents was around $385 billion. Calculating the total costs, which include indirect losses as well as the more obvious ones, was harder, and the authors of the paper came up with two different estimates based on slightly different methodologies.
There is no doubt that the USPTO is totally out of control. Keeping the USPTO at bay by preventing imperialist expansion of patents is essential right now. It has not been entirely successful over the years, but popular pressure played an important role not just in Europe but also in India, to name just one country. This is class war between billionaires or their corporations and everybody else. █