John Oliver on patent trolls


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This was a great segment, but I found the lack of “submarine patents” in it as a missed opportunity. Submarine patents, especially the ones where the claims are amended to match another invention after initial filing, are even worse than what he talked about, and even more obviously a problem.

I know this opinion is not popular among several segments of the population (economists, corporate types, etc.), but I don’t mind patent trolls as much as many other people. My company is sued by patent trolls on a regular basis. I just see it as the cost of doing business.

My biggest concern is that this situation is being exploited by free marketers and Big Inc. to destroy the patent system. The courts have really bought into this agenda in the last 20 years with court decisions making it easier to kill patents for obviousness (KSR), avoid infringement (Hilton Davis, Festo), or if your patent survives all challenges, you’re not necessarily entitled to an injunction (ebay). Add to that the IPR procedure at the US Patent Office which is killing 75-80% of all challenged patents. And they’re calling for more patent reform?!

Who benefits from that? Certainly not the small entrepreneur or startup that needs the patent to compete against its larger, more experienced, better funded competitors. You may invent the better mouse trap but without capital or distribution, you’ll have a hard time making it big. In a post-patent world you’re just inventing to be copied by people that have more resources and can out-market you…

Maybe most the patents are shit?


Maybe most the patents are shit?

That’s a good question. It is unclear whether there’s a self-selecting bias (people have only been challenging weak patents) and/or whether the deciding panels in the patent office are skeptical of patents. Either way, I tend to be especially wary of administrative results that lie outside a bell curve…

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