Bonum Certa Men Certa

The Patents Gold Rush Continues

Gold rush
Gold rush memories

Summary: The morbid obsession with monopolising mere ideas still dominates the media, even increasingly in China

LAST month we came across a lot of pro-patents propaganda. One lawyers' site gave us what it called "WIPO facts and figures" and several sites framed US universities as some kind of champions of patents (see for example [1, 2, 3, 4]). Local news networks tried to turn this into a local issue, e.g. in Tennessee [1, 2] and in Washington, D.C. Even China jumped into this bandwagon and conflated patents with "innovation". Large corporations in China have increasingly grown patents-greedy and now lead the charts in terms of the number of patents. This is protectionism. To call it "innovation" is simply misleading.

"The most disturbing fact is perhaps the deemphasis of real patent debates."This is all somewhat disturbing because the obsession with patents, which was typically a north American thing (and to a lesser degree Japanese-Korean), is now spreading to China, which was historically associated with knockoffs and cloning.

This whole cult-like mentality of proponents of patents is occasionally being challenged; while patent lawyers continue to cheer for a future full of patents (more then ever before) there are those willing to ask, "Do patents still work in today’s fast-moving tech landscape?"

The National Post (Canada) published exactly one month ago a piece titled "Getting patents right". It's a rebuttal to lobbyists who want yet more patents, even when it's clearly against the public interests. Richard Gold said that "Canadians would be saddled with an extraordinary number of patents that would have deterred other researchers from investigating the use of known drugs for novel uses." The same applies to software, among other fields.

The most disturbing fact is perhaps the deemphasis of real patent debates. It has all been reduced to "trolls" now. We shall cover this in the next post.

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