Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Patent – An Armor or a Stamp of Innovation?

In the past, patents were seen as the epitome of innovation, a badge of honor that raised the holder above their peers in a given domain or field. These days, however, have seen a drastic pull away from the originally lofty connotations associated with being a patent holder. We have seen the term “patent troll” now being branded around too often for comfort in recent times. A Patent troll according to Wikipedia “is a pejorative term used for a person or company who enforces patents against one or more alleged infringers in a manner considered aggressive or opportunistic with no intention to manufacture or market the patented invention.”

Federal judges, economists, corporate executives, and others say flaws in the U.S. software patent system are hampering innovation. They also note that software patents are being used as litigation weapons. An assessment by Stanford University found that as much as $20 billion was spent on patent litigation and patent purchases in the last two years in the smartphone industry alone. Public filings reveal that for the first time, spending by Apple and Google on patent lawsuits and large patent purchases exceeded spending on research and development in 2011. Critics say the patent office frequently grants patents that describe obscure algorithms or business methods without patent examiners demanding specific details on calculations occur or how the software operates. This enables some patents to be so broad that patent holders can claim extensive ownership of apparently unrelated products built by others. Companies are frequently sued for violating patents they never knew existed or never thought might apply to their creations. "The standards for granting patents are too loose," argues federal appellate judge Richard A. Posner. Large technology companies generally want to curb the financial damages juries can award for minor patent violations, whereas drug manufacturers want to ensure they can sue for billions of dollars if a single patent is infringed.

SOURCE nytimes

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