Patents Haven’t Fostered Innovation For Years, Is How I Read This

I’m fond of saying that I hope to live long enough to go back and read everything I’ve favorited on Twitter.  That’s how I use the favorite button: to bookmark things so I’ll go back and read them when I have time.  Sometimes it’s because I actually agree with what was tweeted, but that’s not a solid guarantee.

This weekend I had time to peruse some stuff I’d bookmarked because it was cold and rainy which meant i couldn’t mow and weed the yard that’s looking pretty pathetic, virtually guaranteeing a letter from the Home Owner’s Association telling me I need to step up my landscaping game, and that’ll be a shame because then I’ll have to point out to them that it took 15 years to get a “No Soliciting” sign put up in my neighborhood and if they get 15 years to solve a problem then so do I.  #BecauseChildish

To the point (y’all know I always get there eventually), I read this Newsweek article about How Patents Kill Innovation And Hold Companies Back and was struck immediately by a couple of things:

1.  The citation of this article from 2012 by Lenny Kravetz that pointed out that “Over the past several years, the average popularity of patents has steadily declined among funded technology start-ups.” So we’ve known for almost three years then that arming yourself with a stable of patents didn’t equal success and/or innovation?

2.  Ditto this Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine study, put out the following year, which also indicates that it’s getting harder and harder to tie patents to actual innovation.  (I smell a trend, and it wasn’t started by the Stanford study.)  Tying them to litigation and lawyer incomes however, is not such a stretch.

I don’t understand why people are barking so loudly now about the Stanford study that says essentially the same thing?  Is it news, really?  Because it looks to me like a strikingly similar conclusion has already been reached.  Twice.

3.  This quote:

This brings us to IBM, which is such a patent hoarder it could inspire its own A&E TV show. The company recently announced that in 2014 it received arecord 7,534 patents, marking the 22nd straight year IBM has topped the list of most patents by a company. Over those 22 years, the company’s inventors have won more than 81,500 U.S. patents, swamping the total of any other company. Clearly, IBM spends a lot of time and resources seeking and securing patents, believing it’s the path to industry dominance.

Well played on the hoarder comment, lol.  Whenever I need inspiration to purge stuff from my house, which is almost never because I run a pretty tight ship, I watch a single episode and I’m spurred to give away anything that isn’t nailed down, living or not.


I disagree with the last sentence though…IBM may well spend time and resources building a patent arsenal, but it is it because they think it’s a path to industry dominance?  Or is it because they need a war chest to defend themselves, against trolls and other threats?  The best defense is a good offense, as they say.

4. Another quote:

And then some ancient patent circles back in the form of a troll with a bite—a patent that wouldn’t exist if nobody thought it was worth filing in the first place—and CEOs complain.

I don’t think troll patents “wouldn’t exist if nobody thought [they were] worth filing”.  I think in many cases they shouldn’t even have been issued in the first place, not least due in part to the issues with the USPTO examiner process.  Additionally, lawyers who excel at wordsmithing can go back and make any patent apply to any successful industry.  It’s what they are paid to do by patent troll companies who have no other way to be profitable but to sue other people.

I’m still not at the tipping point where we say patents are stupid and we shouldn’t even issue them anymore.  But despite the fact that the first words out of any of the Shark Tank mouths is “do you have a patent?”, thus perpetuating the now-dying notion that they equal innovation, I don’t think they’re serving the same purpose as originally intended: To promote the useful arts and sciences.



{Pile of junk image found here?.}

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