Tech at Night: A summary of the patent fight

On May 21, 2015, in General, by Neil Stevens
Tech at Night

Let’s recap the patent situation, and why it’s so heated right now.

Back before Republicans took the Senate, Reid and Obama made a deal with Boehner’s House to get the America Invents Act. It ended up being a huge gift to the lawyer lobby (at the time I warned that the American Bar Association was backing it for a reason, in a time of relatively high legal unemployment).

So what do we do about it, and why?

The biggest problem right now are so-called patent trolls: firms that can’t and don’t innovate, but exist only to game the patent system to sue companies trying to make the world a better place, and profit from that. They find friendly judges and work the system. It’s a huge burden on startups and small businesses, and leeches off of the deep pockets besides. Patent lawsuits skyrocketed under Obama’s AIA.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Capitol Hill. What started off as patent troll legislation became comprehensive patent reform. Well, any conservative who’s followed politics a while knows what happens when the Congress passes comprehensive anything reform: Big business and Big government go into a back room, divide up the rents, and the rest of us have to pass it to find out what’s in it.

There is decent patent legislation pending right now (patent legislation pending, get it?). There’s a bill that would reform demand letters, which is a narrow reform that targets the trolls without rigging the whole system. There’s also another idea that makes a lot of sense: make sure the USPTO has no incentive whatsoever to issue dumb, obvious patents, meaning the bureaucracy shouldn’t get more budget to spend building a fiefdom, by issuing more patents.

But that’s not what the major bill does, so the fight is on. Some inventors and small businesses oppose it, while the usual well-connected suspects favor it. I say we should oppose comprehensive anything, and just pass narrow bills to fix identifiable problems.

Despite admitting some of its software insecurities are its own fault, for failing to use cryptography, Google continues to use NSA as the boogeyman.

I love it when anarchists get caught.

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