Thursday, June 13, 2013

Patent Trolls or Goals?

"Congress shall have power...To promote 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." - United States Constitution: Article 1.8.8.

How do we track how well we are "promoting progress" in the United States? How do we measure innovation? I might suggest that tracking patents could be a great measure of innovation. Unfortunately, patent law and the politics surrounding it are a mess right now. The White House just published a fascinating piece entitled "Taking on Patent Trolls to Protect American Innovation". They analyze the impacts of patent litigation on the economy and on innovation. Over the past 10 years, as technology has exploded(for better or worse), so have patent filings. In fact, the number of patent cases filed over the past decade has doubled, from around 2500 to 5000 since 2003. Impressively, "patent trolls" account for over 3000 of these cases, much more than the couple hundred they were 10 years ago.

Coincidentally(maybe?), This American Life broadcast a part-two on their story on patent trolls. Fascinating, as Intellectual Ventures - the local (Bellevue) company - is the star of the story, as well as a major player in the study shared by the White House.

I encourage everyone to hear Intellectual Ventures perspective as well, and draw your own conclusions. They have three pertinent articles:
I agree wholeheartedly that our current system of patent law is flawed, and that massive amounts of litigation don't inspire innovation. For me, it hinges upon intention. Are we rewarding innovation or just trying to make a buck?

Coming from the perspective of positive psychology, I offer a reframe to the discussion. How do we(as a society) go back to square one and "promote the progress of science and useful arts"? The top line in the White House's patent report executive summary says, "Some firms that own patents but do not make products with them play an important role in U.S. innovation ecosystem, for example by connecting manufacturers with inventors, thereby allowing inventors to focus on what they do best". 

What practices can we implement to encourage this type of behavior?

1 comment:

  1. What is your take on bio patents, patenting gene sequences? As the frontier of innovation has gone towards genetics and such, it will be interesting to see how this trolling and patent intrigue play out in this area as well.


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