Intellectual property management has been receiving a lot of media attention lately given the slew of lawsuits plaguing the telecommunications market. Being in a field directly affected by the patent process, we thought it might be fitting to spark up some discussion on the topic.
The patent system was established to incentivize innovation and give inventors a temporary right to commercialize their ideas exclusively. There are areas where this works particularly well – those where an innovation can be clearly defined, such as with the development of new chemical compounds within the drug or petrochemical industries, for example.
Unfortunately, a large portion of industries linked to innovation simply can’t operate with that level of definition. The smartphone industry provides a prime example. In one of the funniest and most interesting arguments in the ongoing legal dispute between Apple and Samsung about an iPad related design patent, Samsung cited tablet-like devices from 2001: A Space Odyssey as an example of prior art.
Despite the economy being in decline, companies are spending billions of dollars on acquiring IP. There are even companies whose sole business is the acquisition of patents. While on the surface this appears to be a good thing, that money could be better allocated to fund R&D and create new knowledge/inventions (which is what patents were supposed to stimulate, right?). Add to that the obscene amount of money spent on lawsuits (some of them quite frivolous) aimed at asserting, or defending, patent claims and we have a huge drain on resources.
Taking all this into consideration, it isn’t too much of a stretch to say that the patent system in its current state is broken – at least for the vast majority of its applications. Maybe the answer is eliminating it entirely for innovations that can’t be defined stringently – and graduate towards an open source model for those. In the same vein, perhaps the institutions responsible for granting patent applications need to have requirements for higher specificity with submitted applications. Needless to say, there are obvious pros and cons to either of those solutions.
We want to know what you have to say about all this, so feel free to post your responses in the comments section, or check out the discussions on our Facebook page. If you are interested in reading more on the topic, there are some reference links below.