Yet both companies in this case spent tens of millions just to get a
hearing. On top of the cost of the case, Samsung stands to lose more
than $1 billion because the jury decided largely against it.
case is just one example among hundreds, thousands. Every day companies
are quietly negotiating licensing deals with their competitors for
access to intellectual property. No one knows how much they should or
Interestingly, no one talks about how much they
do pay either. No one knows the price paid to buy or license patents in
the vast majority of transactions. It’s all handled under a cloak of
In this cost-squeezed industry, patents represent one of
the last huge markets yet to come under serious scrutiny. I say, let’s
make this business transparent -- starting today.
Set a standard, pass a law. All patents are heretofore sold for 50 cents a pound.
ahead and scream that my idea is absurd. Those who scream the loudest
will be the ones reaping the thickest margins on junk patents. Fine,
make it a dollar a pound and be done with it.
This is the most Communistic reading of the US Constitution I have ever seen. Yeah, put 'em in doungons and let 'em invent for the Progress. It had been tried before somewhere, Comrade, it did not work out.
Nope, the US Constitution only talks about promoting "the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries". In other words, it protects the Progress of Science and Arts, not the inventors! The copyright and patent protections are just a way of ensuring such Progress.
The important corollary is that if the system is failing to do that, the Constitution requires that it be changed.
Well, you could see where is the US innovation today, that has to do somewhat how inventors get gratified for their work,since in most cases they get much less than the lawyer who files the patent with the patent office.
As the CTO of an electronics startup, I would be quite happy to see patents abolished. They are a game at best, and a diversion from really pertinent innovation. As to "what do we have left?", the answer is our wits, our ability to actually execute the great idea, and the effectiveness of the team of people who are going to do it (or not). There is greater value there than in a court fight.
There is a rigorous process to determine what an invention is. It may not be perfect but beats “in my head a long time ago” or “obvious by hindsight” by far. Some engineering options can lead to unexpected results and make a lot of money for the business. These are worth protecting while theories are not. If monopolies don’t explore these options, startups will, and do it with the protection of the US patent law. This is why US is still innovating. It is misguided for engineers to join the chorus for weakening the US patent system. For when that is gone, you will be living in a dorm with anti-suicide net around it.
You hit the nail on the head with "What constitutes an invention?" Something that seems innovative to a layman is often, as you said, just differences in engineering choices, or minor tweaks to an existing invention that are obvious to those skilled in the art but not claimed by the patent on the earlier invention.
In summarizing the problem, I would modify your last sentence as follows: "Protecting solutions to problems that anyone could or already has figured out without assistance distorts the economics for everyone."
I am as opposed as anyone else, to the ridiculousness of many of the much-hyped patent litigation cases. But quite honestly, in this era in which developed countries have gotten away from manufacturing to such a large extent, rights to your intellectual property is pretty much all we have left.
It's easier when your IP ends up in a wigit that you manufacture. The simple fact is, that model doesn't work anymore. So scoff all you like, guys, but what do we have left?
Join our online Radio Show on Friday 11th July starting at 2:00pm Eastern, when EETimes editor of all things fun and interesting, Max Maxfield, and embedded systems expert, Jack Ganssle, will debate as to just what is, and is not, and embedded system.