Not so many years ago, even as I was filled with fear and loathing of the hideous misconduct of the US Patent & Trademark Office, I retained some respect for the notion of patents. I even wrote what I think is an unusually easy-to-read introduction to Patent Theory. But no more. The whole thing is too broken to be fixed. Maybe it worked once, but it doesn’t any more. The patent system needs to be torn down and thrown out.
I offer the following evidence, just a few random things that came across the radar in recent weeks. Some of these are long but they’re all worth reading:
RIM hit with more patent woes. Sample quote: “A black cloud of litigation is nothing new for RIM, as lawsuits are commonplace in the competitive technology sector.”
Sawyer Weighs In On Intellectual Ventures. Sample quote: “There is no positive evidence for software patents improving or increasing innovation in software. None.”
Sequential Innovation, Patents, and Imitation (PDF). Sample quote: “The natural experiment that occurred when patent protection was extended to software in the 1980's provides a test of this model. Standard arguments would predict that R&D intensity and productivity should have increased among patenting firms. Consistent with our model, however, these increases did not occur.”
Patent infringement lawsuits raking in the big bucks. Sample quote: “It's clear that the upper hand currently belongs to those who aren't making products.”
Reducing the Cost of IP Law. Sample Quote: “There are literally no studies clearly showing any net gains from IP. If anything, it appears that the patent system, for example, imposes a gigantic net cost on the economy (approximately $31 billion a year, in my estimate).”
I particularly like that last piece, even though it’s too long. While we all might agree that, in theory, it’d be good to introduce legal structures that provide incentives for inventors, the evidence is in, and it’s clear that the current structure fails to achieve that while imposing horrendous costs and inefficiencies.
And here are a few words for the huge community of legal professionals who make their living pursuing patent law: You’re actively damaging society. Look in the mirror and find something better to do.