IP Watchdog: Will Congress be misled on patent reform again?, by Gene Quinn
This post originally appeared in IP Watchdog on January 5, 2015.
The United States patent system is under attack by large corporations who benefit from weak patent protection. Ironically, the company most often identified as leading the charge – Google, Inc. – filed two patent applications as a start-up before they even acquired the domain name Google.com. Those patents Google filed related to their innovative page rank system, which is what propelled Google to dominance in the search engine marketplace. So Google understands their marketplace dominance, how they obtained that dominance through aggressive use of the patent system, and now they want to make it harder for other innovators and start-ups to supplant them as they did with Yahoo! and Microsoft, for example. It is good business for Google to have a weaker patent system, but insulating the natural monopoly that Google has become by destroying the patent system isn’t the answer for a prosperous America.
Congress, the Obama Administration and the Courts have been misled. Changing patent law in ways that make it nearly impossible for inventors and start-up companies to pursue innovation will have a substantial negative impact on job creation and the economy. As a result of misguided patent reform and bad judicial decisions a primary foundation of the great American economic engine is unnecessarily crumbling. It doesn’t need to be this way, but if we do not act soon, we will all pay dearly for this historic blunder.
Over the past eight years, the patent system has been turned on its head and patent rights have eroded year after year (see here and here). Once celebrated, inventors are now vilified simply because they assert their hard-earned patent rights against corporations who take their inventions without regard to whether exclusive rights have been obtained. The great untold story is that many giant corporations simply trample independent inventors, start-ups and others who engage in the difficult job of inventing.
A crafty narrative has emerged. There is a belief by some that our national innovation ecosystem is somehow fostered by a regime whereby patent and other intellectual property rights are ignored. It is, of course, a fallacy to argue that patents get in the way of innovation when the opposite is true — patents promote innovation. But the narrative that patents harm innovation has taken root and is grounded on an erroneous definition of innovation. Innovation is doing something new, but giant corporations that are lobbying for an ever weaker patent system have convinced lawmakers that innovation is not about doing something new that has never before been done, but instead they argue that innovation is about whether they themselves are able to sell a product that they have never before manufactured or sold. The fact that the product is new to them does not mean the product exhibits even a smidgeon of innovation. In fact, in many cases these allegedly new products are nearly identical to other products and offerings already in the marketplace. Simply stated: It is not innovative to offer something that already exists.
Innovation requires time, money, energy, dedication and long term commitment. Innovation requires patent protection or it is not economically feasible.