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View Diary: Why Patents Can Stifle Innovation (74 comments)

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  •  I'm afraid I have to disagree (2+ / 0-)
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    NoMoJoe, FG

    On this:

    And of course there are the famous patents Apple used to win a billion dollars from Samsung: The ability to enlarge documents by tapping the screen, using square icons to denote “apps”, having a product that is rectangular in shape and white, and rectangular and black. This is simply ridiculous. Bill Flora of the New York Times argued that enforcing patents like these is like enforcing patents on round steering wheels.
    You can read my comments and links elsewhere on Apple vs Samsung and you should note that (a) Samsung has a long history of copying successful competitors (b) most certainly copied the iPhone look, functionality and feel, all the way down to the packaging (c) has frequently used it's own patents against competitors including Apple (including their current suits on FRAND patents which is going nowhere) and (d) they never seem to learn.

    I also have to ask this:

    If Trade Dress patents and invention patents prevent others from copying, how does that discourageinnovation?

    IOW, if designer/engineers are forced to make things different, wouldn't that encourage innovation?

    You have to answer this apparent paradox if what you are proposing is to reign-in the system.

    Certainly I'd agree the system is screwed-up, prone to abuse and favors the big over the small, but no system (i.e., deregulation) has never proven to be a solution.

    Should we not have laws against murder merely because some wealthy people with lawyers get away with it?

    Reforming the system might be a better idea.

    What about my Daughter's future?

    by koNko on Sat Oct 13, 2012 at 09:36:28 AM PDT

    •  I never argued that we should get rid of patents (1+ / 0-)
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      but rather that we should reform the patent system. I never gave any clear direction as to what path of reform I believe we should take - I left that to the discussion.

      Secondly, as to Apple and Samsung, I simply cannot fathom how you can design a smartphone these days without it being rectangular in shape and in either black or white color.

      •  Is that a problem? (0+ / 0-)

        Most smartphones and even more feature phones, are rectangular, have rounded corners and are available in black or white, and Apple has not sued the makers because they are not copies of the iPhone.

        One company, Samsung, make a model series that quite obviously did, right down to the accessories and packaging (refer to the photos I link to elsewhere), and they did get sued, with a jury agreeing certain models violated the trade dress patent involved and others not.

        I think that suggests the scope of the Apple patent would not and has not prevented other from making phones with those generic features in other embodiments as you seem to  imply.

        And despite the highly emotional flame wars that have erupted between Android and Apple Fanboys which have colored public perceptions of the case promoting the meme you are repeating, Apple has not trolled the industry suing indiscriminately on the basis of the patent (if I'm mistaken about that, please cite the cases).

        So what I'm going to suggest is that you more carefully study the case of Apple vs Samsung in all respects to understand the facts, including that Apple proactively raised complaints about the copying to it's partner Samsung, pursued cross-licensing agreements that Samsung declined, and only filed suit after exhausting good-faith negotiations.

        Which is how the system is supposed to work, no?

        I'd also be interested in your take on the numerous FRAND suits Samsung is trolling the industry with (including Apple) because this is actually a better example of patent abuse and might make a better example to argue your case.

        You may also note that Apple and Microsoft have not clashed in this domain and the reason is quite simple; they have a broad based cross-licensing agreement including a mutual agreement not to copy each other's product trade dress, thus, we can see MS now releasing the Surface pads which actually started development before iPad, and yet no suits between them.

        Lastly I'd repeat the question put to others: if patents restrain explicit copying, how does that stifle innovation?

        Wouldn't it have the opposite effect to promote it by prompting competitors to make things different?

        Give me a serious and convincing answer to this apparent contradiction and you may be on the way to a better argument than you present with the Apple vs Samsung example.

        Samsung's most successful smartphone design to date is Galaxy 3, which is rectangular with rounded corners, comes in black and white, looks nothing like an Apple product, and quite successfully differentiates itself on it's own design, feature set and appearance.

        Which also suggests the system can work.

        I realize you did not provide any answers on how to improve the system; hence my question that assumes you haven't got any but invites your suggestions. Got any?

        What about my Daughter's future?

        by koNko on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 12:12:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I do have ideas that I think could work (1+ / 0-)
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          but this diary is mostly about presenting facts with some of my own personal analysis mixed in. But since you asked so kindly, I will tell you fully what I think: the U.S. Patent Office needs to be enlarged significantly, with new hires including people with computer science and engineering backgrounds. There needs to be more funding so that the backlog can be cleared up, and there needs to be more employees who have some kind of an understanding of the patent that they just approved. There needs to be a stronger filtering system so that invalid patents aren't left for the courts to invalidate. This is, in the current political environment, a pipe dream. But this is the first step to fundamental patent reform in the U.S.

          You know what I think about Apple and Samsung? They can both be patent trolls at times. So has Oracle and Google. And any other large tech company. It is required to be aggressive sometimes to survive in this broken patent system. Perhaps my definition of "patent troll" is more expansive than yours - the term itself is very fluid. But you asked for my opinion, and here it is.

          •  Generally I agree (0+ / 0-)

            But the problem is not just staffing and resources, but also a poorly defined and antiquated system/categories that leave too much room for broadly defined and specious claims.

            There should be classes of patents, some more limited than others and more restrictive rules on defining embodiments.

            There should also be tighter restrictions against claiming natural properties as inventions, such as one of the cases I elaborated, which is a common way to corral existing (unpatented) practice and build a portfolio of "variations on a theme" to extend the term of license.

            But copyright is even a bigger mess.

            What about my Daughter's future?

            by koNko on Mon Oct 15, 2012 at 08:11:51 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  By the way (0+ / 0-)

            The term "Patent Troll" is normally applied to "Non-Practioners", i.e., companies that buy or apply for patents for the purpose of extracting royalties or judgements but do not use the technologies to produce anything.

            Something you might find interesting is the Wikipedia chronology of the Smartphone Wars, which tracks the history of litigation and ITC suits.

            What about my Daughter's future?

            by koNko on Mon Oct 15, 2012 at 05:42:42 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Non-practicing entities (0+ / 0-)

              is one way to call patent trolls, to be sure, but not necessarily the other way around.

              You seem to be very informed about the history of smartphone patent lawsuits, thanks for the information!

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