The U.S. has a “dysfunctional patent system”

June 28, 2012 by Joshua
in Blog, Creativity, Entrepreneurship

The U.S. has “a dysfunctional patent system.” Those aren’t my words. They aren’t the words of an ignorant person either.

They are the words of U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Posner, one of the nation’s most esteemed judges and faculty at University of Chicago.

A patent dispute between Apple and Motorola prompted that description. Here’s an article from a couple weeks ago — Famous judge spikes Apple-Google case, calls patent system “dysfunctional” — describing the case.

Here’s a recent article — In bid for patent sanity, judge throws out entire Apple/Motorola case — reporting that he threw out the case with prejudice.

My thoughts

I could write volumes on the problems with patents and copyright. The ideas have some merit and they probably once served widespread useful purposes, but they are fundamentally government-granted monopolies. Monopolies grow to stifle competition. People have subverted their intended purposes — no doubt intending to improve the world at every stage — to the point where they mainly support huge corporations and law firms.

I wrote and hold several patents. Once the system exists, you have to participate. However the system benefits society, it also drains society. I also believe patents and copyrights could be used to help society. I just don’t see how to get there from here.

Quoting my post at Hacker News (I’ll note here that I don’t edit posts there as much as I do here, so it’s less developed as I’d like),

As a technology founder who later got an MBA, I’ve found a divide among the technology and business camps on patents and trademarks.

Tech people I know generally agree that patents and copyright stifle innovation. They may once have helped, but no longer.

Business people I know believe patents help create entrepreneurship. They think about it from a founder’s perspective (few founded technology-based companies themselves) and think patents would help that person establish a foothold against incumbents. They ask, “Without patent protection, how can someone get paid for their creation?”

As I see it, the business people don’t have relevant experience. They’re talking about a myth that doesn’t exist anymore if it ever did. People who innovate and create have relevant experience and know how patents and copyright are used in practice.

At least this judge understands too. I hope his acts catch on.

The more relevant question seems “Without patent protection, how can patent lawyers get paid?” because patent lawyers is what the system creates, at the expense of technological innovation, as I see it anyway.

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