Are you getting tired of hearing about mega corporations suing each other over perceived patent infringements? Well, according to David Kappos, head of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the patent wars are a good thing.
“The explosion of litigation we are seeing is a reflection of how the patent system wires us for innovation,” Kappos said. “It’s natural and reasonable that innovators would seek to protect their breakthroughs using the patent system.”
So, for those keeping score at home, not only is patent litigation good, but it also encourages innovation according to Kappos.
You might say that more than a few people disagree with his claim. In fact, at a recent address at the Center for American Progress, Kappos seemed to spend as much time defending the current system as promoting it. In response to those who might claim the patent system is broken, Kappos responded, “Give it a rest already. Give the AIA [America Invents Act] a chance to work. Give it a chance to even get started.”
Wait. He’s not done. Here’s another one,
“To those commenting on the smartphone patent war with categorical statements that blame the so-called broken system on bad software patents, what I say is: get the facts. The facts don’t support your position.”
The folks over at Ars Technica were more than happy to pull out some relevant facts in response to Kappos’ strong comments. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
Kappos used a question in an attempt to prove his point. “Do we demand today’s innovation on the cheap via a weaker patent system that excludes subject matter, or do we moderate today’s consumption with a strong patent system so our children enjoy greater innovations?”
But, are patents actually incentive for innovation? Evidence is pointing to no. Researchers James Bessen and Michael Meurer found that the costs software and business patents — those especially prone to spending time in courts — began to exceed the benefits of holding patents back in the 1990s. And those legal fees haven’t gone down in the time since then, I assure you.
In fact, research estimates put litigation from patent trolls at a cost of 29 to up to 83 billion dollars.
I do respect the idea that we’re trying to protect our inventors, but at what point are we pinning ourselves to the ground with ideas and systems that are no longer effective? It’s not that the patent system needs to disappear entirely, but it needs some work.
Even the facts agree.