In case you've missed it, there has been a fascinating exchange about the U.S. patent system unfolding on the pages of EE Times over the past couple weeks.
First, editor Rick Merritt wrote a comprehensive, balanced and thought-provoking piece about the current state of the U.S. patent system (which is, as he points out, is broken).
In the interest of brevity I will not go into a long discourse about why Rick's piece was so brilliant. I will leave it at this: I recommend that anyone who has not yet read it do so.
But an even more interesting aspect to this story was that Rick also delivered his opinion on how engineers should deal with what he calls "mad patent disease."
He suggested that engineers stop filing patents, refuse to sign contracts that give employers the right to your inventions and avoid participating in any due diligence efforts on patent portfolios. ( I cringed when I first read that part, too).
This struck a chord, as you would expect. Readers have weighed in so far with nearly 10 comments (this is, for us, is a lot). And their responses are perhaps the most fascinating of all. Most disagree with Rick, essentially, although they seem to agree that the patent system needs fixing. But one suggests that the current patent system benefits "the individual engineer who has a great idea and wants to build a company before the big corporation figures out a solution." And another suggests that Rick's radical idea doesn't go far enough, and that the solution is to "eliminate patents all together."
To top it off, EE Times has thus far published several thoughtful, well-reasoned letters to the editor from readers whothough they fundamentally disagree with Rick's call to actionagree with at least some of the issues raised and were moved to suggest their own tweaks to the patent system.
Ultimately, it seems to me that most people agree that the patent system needs some fixing, be it large or small. It also seems to me that any system that seeks to recognize, reward and protect innovation will never be able to please all of the people all of the time.
I have to respectfully disagree with Rick's proposal that engineers stage a patent strike, more than anything else because of the practical reason that without 100 percent participation (impossible) it would do nothing.
And as some readers have already pointed out, it could result in increasing the level of unemployment among EEs.
Still, by taking an extreme position, Rick has stirred the pot and encouraged some very interesting debate on this topic. My hat goes off to him for that, as well as his detailed reporting on the issue. I also applaud the readers who have thus far weighed in. I hope that other voices will join in the discussion.