Bonum Certa Men Certa

The Economist Says What Patent Lawyers and Other Maximalists Prefer Not to Hear About the Patent System

The EconomistSummary: Responses to a new batch of complaints from The Economist over what's increasingly perceived as patents excess (due to maximalists who would have us believe that the more, the merrier)

"T

oo much of a good thing" is a famous term we have recurringly seen mentioned in relation to the USPTO, where patent quality has gone downhill and patent numbers skyrocketed, just like in China.

"Too much of a good thing" is the headline of this recent article from The Economist (very influential publication), which angered many patent lawyers when it said the truth about patents some time ago (less than a year). "The Economist is at it again," IP Kat wrote some days ago, "when it comes to patents" (it's sort of a rant, as words like "at it again" serve to insinuate).

"The Economist is at it again," the author starts with (not just in the headline). "This time the issue is not innovation but the decline in market competiveness and the increase in industry concentration, both as embodied in the stickiness of oversized corporate profits. Companies are making too much money and displaying too little competitive instincts, preferring to consolidate their positions, to the detriment of the economy writ-large."

When excessive, abundant, wide thickets of patents are everywhere, who benefits? It is interesting to see patent scope (or examination lenience) coming under attack from the Establishment media too, more than once even. What we found more interesting than the response from IP Kat are the comments in response to IP Kat, namely:

The Economist attack on patents mentions a number of legitimate problems with the patent system, including reducing the number of unenforced or weak patents. However, some of the proposed solutions, e.g. reducing patent terms and expanding the options for challenging patents without a full blown court case, seem to be unrealistic.

Reducing patent terms is virtually impossible since nearly every country in the world is a party to the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement, which mandates a 20 year patent term. Amending TRIPS would be far more difficult than amending the US Constitution. Forget it. An alternative solution would be to tinker with maintenance fees payable by patent holders. Before the European Patent Office, maintenance (renewal) fees are payable every year, start the third year after filing an application and reach €2000 by around year 10. If the US adopted a similar system, rather than only charging fees after grant of a patent and making them payable every 4 years, it could have a helpful effect.

As for out-of court options for challenging patents, these may already go too far. Witness the recent activity of Kyle Bass, a well known hedge fund manager, in using Inter Partes Reviews (IPR) before the USPTO to challenge key pharmaceutical patents in order to take advantage of the effects of the challenges on the stock prices of the companies holding the patents. Another way to reduce the number of weak patents would be to raise the quality of examination by making a job as a US Patent Examiner more attractive. This could be achieved by increasing the compensation of Examiners, particularly senior Examiners. The compensation of US Examiners is significantly less than their counterparts at the European Patent Office (EPO). In fact, partners at European law firms have been known to leave their jobs to become Examiners at the EPO. This would be unheard of in the US.

Regrettably, any changes to maintenance fees or significantly impacting the compensation of Examiners would require the most unproductive Congress in history to stir itself from lethargy, which could be an unrealistic proposition.


The part which says "partners at European law firms have been known to leave their jobs to become Examiners at the EPO" (we know about exodus in the opposite direction) triggered this comment: "I have not heard of this at all in recent times." Neither have we. People don't want to work for the EPO, which has a serious brain drain problem, as we covered here before.

Here is another (newer) comment that says:

I haven't read "The Economist" recently, but in points I and II it is absolutely correct, certainly in the fields in which I work. The gaming of the system by big companies is especially egregious. Thankfully the EPO has realised to some extent what's going on and the Examiners involved (I've spoken with some of them) do their limited best to restrict some of the more outrageous cons. However, they are always playing catch-up.

On the far side of the Atlantic, where it sometimes seems that the USPTO selects examiners on the basis of a rather unique blend of incompetence, laziness, stupidity, sheer bloody-mindedness and downright dishonesty, things are often much worse, and these obstructive patents, filed purely for that purpose, block off whole areas of legitimate research and actually impede progress.

The patent system may not be broken, but it is certainly badly distorted and rigged against the little guy.


The part worth emphasising says that "it sometimes seems that the USPTO selects examiners on the basis of a rather unique blend of incompetence, laziness, stupidity, sheer bloody-mindedness and downright dishonesty, things are often much worse, and these obstructive patents, filed purely for that purpose, block off whole areas of legitimate research and actually impede progress."

Amen to that. "Adding software patents as yet a further mechanism for concentration on top of that makes for a landscape that looks even more worrying," says a later comment.

Thankfully it's widely recognised, even in IP Kat circles, that software patents contribute little to competition, economics, innovation and so on. They oughtn't exist at all.

Recent Techrights' Posts

From 91% to 33% or Less: How Microsoft Has Lost Australia
Historically Australia was quite a stronghold for Microsoft
Debian Developer at Sirius Was Under the Wrong Impression That Staff Must Check or Should See E-mail All the Time (24/7 Work Attention is an Occupational Health Hazard)
My personal and professional experience with a Debian Developer (DD) at work
Techrights More Productive Than Ever Before
Today we finally crossed the 1,900-page milestone
 
Jim Zemlin, Whose Wife is Said to Have Committed Securities Fraud at Bakkt, Weds Gates Foundation With Linux Foundation to Combat Fraud?
Remember who these people are enabling
Navalny is Dead, This Week We Might Know if the US Will Kill Assange
Olaf Scholz backs Julian Assange’s battle to avoid US extradition
What Quality and Equality Mean
racial lines
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Monday, March 04, 2024
IRC logs for Monday, March 04, 2024
[Meme] Record EPO 'Productivity'
Patent applications granted
Job Groups 5 and 6 at the European Patent Office (EPO) Another Case of EPO Discrimination
an under-reported (or entirely not covered) backlash from last summer
[Meme] Microsoft Fan: "Microsoft is in a panic from the continued loss of its user base"
Published a couple of weeks ago
Android Has Reached New Highs in Mexico, According to Web-Derived Data (Android Now Almost a Majority of the "Market")
Not far from 50%, i.e. half of the "market"
In defence of Albanian women: Outreachy & Debian favoritism scandal
Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock
Links 04/03/2024: Old Crisis Looming, UPC Already in Infringement of Article 6 ECHR
Links for the day
The Right to Disconnect (Meme and Very Recent References)
relatively new press
Links 04/03/2024: Techno-Babble in Tech Job Ads and Vision Pro Already Breaking Apart
Links for the day
Europe's Adoption of GNU/Linux, by Country (Now About 6%)
in Switzerland, for instance, adoption of GNU/Linux has been profoundly low
[Meme] 'Debating' People by Subscribing Them to Lots of SPAM
Rebuttal? No, spam.
From Sexual Harassment of Women to Yet More Cybercrimes
They can be prosecuted
Not Only Has Adoption of Windows Vista 11 Flatlined/Plateaued, Now It is Going Down!
Did many people delete Vista 11 and install GNU/Linux instead?
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Sunday, March 03, 2024
IRC logs for Sunday, March 03, 2024
Venezuela: Windows Below 70% (Laptops and Desktops), GNU/Linux Up to 7%
It's a lot higher in Cuba
ICYMI: ZDNet Financially Controlled by Microsoft
a history of censoring SJVN's Microsoft-critical articles
Argentina Joining the 4% 'Club' (GNU/Linux on Desktops and Laptops)
Data as ODF
Transparency Sets Society Free
"Convenient delusions" aren't bliss but temporary relief
[Meme] The EPO, Europe's Second-Largest Institution, Which is Contracting With Belarus
Socialist EPO
The European Patent Office's (EPO) Illegal Ban on Mass Communication Gets in the Way of Democracy
The scientific process (patents apply to science) must allow scrutiny, both from within and from the outside
Links 03/03/2024: Depression in Hong Kong, Sex 'Apps' and STIs
Links for the day
Links Gemini 03/03/2024: NixOS and NextCloud, Back Into Ricing
Links for the day
The Debian family fallacy
Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock
GNU/Linux Peaking in Europe, Android Measured as Higher or More Prevalent Than Windows
Android topping Windows
For Every Action There's a Reaction
Gates lobbying Modi
Like in Africa, Android Takes Control, Raking in Almost All the 'Chips' in Asia
So Microsoft has no OS majority except in Japan and Russia (and tiny Armenia).
Links 03/03/2024: Goodbye, Navalny (Funeral Reports)
Links for the day
Gemini Links 03/03/2024: A Wild Devlog Appeared and GrapheneOS Ramble
Links for the day
Gemini at 3,800+
total number of known capsules at above 3.8k
Be a Navalny
We salute Mr. Navalny
Mozilla Firefox is Back in ~2% Territories, Jeopardising Its Status as Web Browser to Test/Target/Validate With
Some new stats
[Meme] Russian Standards of Law: The Executive Branch Decides Everything
the president's kangaroo court
Up Next: The Tricky Relationship Between the Administrative Tribunal of the ILO and the European Patent Organisation (EPO)
We've moved from presidents who run a republic by consent to corrupt, unqualified, dictatorial officials who bribe for the seat (buying the votes)
IRC Proceedings: Saturday, March 02, 2024
IRC logs for Saturday, March 02, 2024
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
Beware Imposter Sites of Techrights (Not Techrights.com or Techrights.org)
Only trust pages accessed through the domains controlled by us
Italy visa & residence permit: Albanian Outreachy, Wikimedia & Debian tighten control over woman
Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock