While my book is not specifically about patents, a book that focuses on innovation and grand challenges would be remiss to not point what a “grand challenge” it would be fix our patent system. Some excerpts about patents from The New Polymath
- The Wall Street Journal in an editorial summarized the mess the patent system is in as it tries to support widely different industries and as the U.S. Patent Office struggles to keep up with the rate of new filings: “New drugs require great specificity to earn a patent, whereas patents are often granted to broad, thus vague, innovations in software, communications and other technologies. Ironically, the aggregate value of these technology patents is then wiped out through litigation costs.”
- A phenomenon has arisen called “reverse settlement payments” in which big pharma sues a generic manufacturer for patent infringement, and then settles the case. The two parties agree to a “pay-for-delay” agreement, whereby the generic accepts a payment to stay out of the marketplace for a certain period of time. Obviously, governments are investigating such behavior, but the games go on, each side disrupting the other.
- Major telcos such as Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint sued Vonage, claiming prior art around VoIP dating back to the 1990s. But in spite of claiming prior art, they were not very interested in, and then not very successful at, offering VoIP to their customers. In fact, many have fought providers like Skype from offering VoIP on their mobile networks.
- So the town (Marshall, TX) of 20,000 “with more pottery manufacturers than software companies” has become famous around the world. It comes complete with its folklore of a “rocket docket” for the speed of its (patent) cases and of lawyers making “rattlesnake speeches” similar to the loud posturing the venomous species does to warn of its presence.
- Also consider this: Ben Franklin, a founding father of the United States and an inventor in his own right, disagreed on the need for patents, saying, “As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously.”