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Myths and Hype About Patents

Posted in IBM, Patents at 3:42 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Patent hoarders crowned as champions of innovation


Summary: Distortion of history and fabricated reports about patents in the corporate media leave many people confused and ultimately unable to make rational judgment

PATENT news may not have been the top news as of late. There weren’t many articles about the subject. Instead it was Oracle's copyright case escalated closer to the SCOTUS that made the news and dominated this theme of news. Oracle’s attack on Android depends on it and Android is now the world’s dominant operating system, so it’s a big deal. The subject was very recently covered here, so we won’t elaborate on it; instead we’ll point out one of the earliest reports about it. The news is pretty much everywhere, not only in the West’s Establishment media but also in the East.

“Those who claim that an innovation was made possible because of patents usually rewrite history (revisionism) about cases where there was innovation despite patents.”In addition to the above there was also some media hype about patent statistics from the USPTO, perhaps the world’s most lenient (as in low standards) patent office. Matt Levy took the opportunity to debunk mythology which favours and glorifies patents, even some of the most famous of them (like sewing machines, cars, and other industrial revolution items). Levy said that “with patent reform again on the horizon, we’ll be seeing a lot of articles like this one (promoted by this blog post). The article in question claims that there was no big patent holdup in the early aviation industry, that it’s all just a myth put forth by the U.S. government. As a consequence, you shouldn’t listen to anyone claiming that there are problems in the U.S. patent system.”

We already tackled this piece of propaganda some weeks ago. Those who claim that an innovation was made possible because of patents usually rewrite history (revisionism) about cases where there was innovation despite patents. That’s true when it comes to sewing machines and means of transportation. There’s a history there that’s full of disputes, retardation of innovation and suppression of small players using patents. Edison, one of the myth makers, is not an innovator but a person who used patents to abuse and exploit — at times bankrupt — real innovators. Big business like Edison’s GE love to pretend that patents exist to serve the small people, providing them protection from large corporations. In reality, the very opposite holds true, almost universally.

Last week IBM made the headlines for being the ‘leading’ big corporation when it comes to amassing patents. IBM has a history of bullying other (smaller) companies using patents, so this is worth paying attention to. There were a lot of articles about it and they hail IBM as some kind of a heroic national enterprise because it is pushing pieces of papers, requesting that the government gives them patent monopolies, including software patents, as usual (the USPTO was headed by a man from IBM until not so long ago and he promoted software patents). Protectionism is not the same as innovation and since more than 9 out of 10 applications to the USPTO now end up enshrined as a patent, the total count of patents means little more than eagerness to do paperwork. When one single company can receive up to 10,000 patents in one single year it says quite a lot about how easy it is to obtain a patent in the United States’ USPTO.

Bloomberg was quick to cover this [1, 2] (Bloomberg and IBM are not far apart) and the seminal report said that “IBM Chief Executive Officer Ginni Rometty is still looking to newer areas like cloud computing and data analytics to reverse falling revenue and a projected decline in annual profit this year, the first drop since 2002. Last year, 40 percent of the company’s patents were issued for work relating to the company’s growth initiatives, IBM said in the statement.”

This simply means that IBM is making fewer products but yielding more paperwork. What an utter waste of workforce. Well, later on it was News Corp. and CBS covering that too [1, 2] (we believe they covered it the earliest, except perhaps Bloomberg) and then came the noise. Microsoft spin came from Microsoft propaganda sites and larer came the Korean angle which favours Samsung.

We should also mention some disgraced reports (like this one from Bloomberg) which say that Samsung wants to get BlackBerry’s patents. These patents have been decoupled from the other parts of the company (thus facilitating purchase like that of Motorola’s mobility business). Not much was achieve except bumping a stock (maybe gaming the market for someone’s quick fortune). We looked at these reports and found that they mostly lacked credibility and merit. Samsung already has wonderful hardware (cutting-edge, best bar none in some areas), a lot of patents, and at least 2 Linux-powered platforms. Samsung also hires FOSS and Linux professional these days, so why would it want anything from BlackBerry? Well, BlackBerry denies the rumour (denial not about the patents but about buying the company as a whole). Samsung also denies it, so we have not really covered it ourselves and we don’t intend to; unsubstantiated rumour is what it looked like and given how quickly it received a lot of coverage (even trending in Twitter at one point) before denials it seems possible that someone in Wall Street pulled a profitable stunt at the expense of many other people. Opportunists exist not only where patents grow.

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