No one should be in any doubt that patents are a key part - if not the key part - of any strategy to gain or hold market share in tech industry. Google is scrambling to cover its arse with hauls of patents from IBM and Motorola Mobility, as the smartphone and fondleslab patent wars scale new heights in courts in Europe and the …
I read articles like this ...
and I find myself wishing that the likes of Ed "fluffy and nice and kind and fair, not nasty at all, no way!" Milliband and Jose Manuel "EU Finance Tax" Barroso would read them too.
It's a big, ugly place full of unkind people out there.
China is doomed, which means we're all doomed
It used to be a country run by engineers. Now it's run by lawyers and will presumably soon disappear down the same toilet as the USA.
Sadly everything I've ever had that's "Made In China" (or the increasingly common "Made In PRC" to fool the ignorant) has been rubbish and has started malfunctioning just after the warranty expired (or even before, in the case of the digicam I bought for my daughter two months ago). I exclude Taiwan here, where they work to higher standards. So yeah, let someone else make our tat.
Mine's the one with the German camera in the pocket.
Mine's the one with the German camera in the pocket.
No doubt made in China, but assembled in Germany ;-)
On a serious note, if you pay £1.99 for a camera from china and £500 for "German" or "UK" product (i.e.put in a box in a warehouse in Slough), of course the Chinese one will be shit, the old adage, you get what you pay for come into play.
if Chinese products were so shit, you wouldn't be able to write on this forum as they make so much of the worlds comms kit now.
Quid pro quo on patents
Country A should not recognize any patents from any company located in Country B, so long as Country B does not have reasonable patent law. China completely ignores western patents in their country, so theirs should be ignored here.
Just one problem with that, the US does not have a reasonable patent law. Oh hang on...
On the bright side, if China were to get as stupid as the US, it might force the US to rethink its daft system.
Already the case
You have demonstrated a staggering lack of understanding of how the world works. I'd expect a 10-year-old to know better.
Chinese patents only apply in China. EU patents only apply in the EU. US patents only apply in the US. China is not a member of the EU, nor of the US. In that situation, what exactly do you want to change?
Of course, certain people and corporations are lobbying the US and EU governments to bully other countries into modifying their patent systems to suit those people and corporations. Unfortunately the interests of those people and corporations do not coincide with the interests of the rest of society. In fact, they are almost diametrically opposed in this case.
This is true for the most part, except where you also file an application under the International Patent Cooperation Treaty, which, if granted, allows for patents to be recognised in participating countries. There's around 140 countries in the treaty at the moment and China's one of them. By the same treaty, China can't ignore Western patents in their country, not a little and not completely.
... a PCT "International" patent application does not turn into an "International" Patent. You need to prosecute it to grant separately in each country where you want protection, ending up with a bundle of independent national patents. The main benefit of a PCT application is to keep your options open at relatively low cost before committing to the expense of those individual national applications.
Many recent patents are only of real value to lawyers. They often patent the bleedin' obvious[*] and serve only to generate litigation because several others have also independently arrived at the same solution.
Perhaps if patent offices were a bit more rigorous in their procedures and raised the bar then patents might still be useful. However, the original purpose of a patent to encourage innovation has now ended up doing the exact opposite, where innovation is being stifled due to the threat of expensive litigation. As an individual, a patent does not protect me against large companies choosing to ignore my patent because I couldn't afford to take them to court.
[*] If you pose a technical problem to a bunch of engineers and they all independently and swiftly come up with the same solution then it's obvious. There is some merit in the argument that asking the question in the first place is the non-obvious bit, but not in most cases.
Actually examing patents would require hiring a lot more people who are a lot more competent. This would cost a fortune in addition to reducing revenue as more patents would be rejected. Patents are just another tax for the government like oil royalities and they aren't going to touch the golden goose.
Greater processing efficiency too.
From personal experience: European and US patent office are now taking 5+ years to process applications (from non-massive patenting companies). China: 2 years tops, with no significant difference in review quality (consider that as good or bad as you wish!).
So its not just external manufacturing moving to China, but also external patents.
Check your history
The term "patent troll" is nearly two decades old, so I would not call it recent.
Patents are what established companies do instead of innovation. They let other people do the research, development and take the risk of setting up for mass production. When someone starts to see return on their investment, they rent their patents to a litigation specialist to sue the inventor back into poverty. (Suing directly is a bad idea. They would would be hit with a counter suit, forced to settle and cross license. The patents are almost certainly invalid. Going through a shell insulates the troll from the legal costs of failure.)
From the point of view of a government, patents are a zero sum deal. Any taxes they earn from patent trolls are taxes they lose from technology companies. From the point of view of consumers, patent lawyers put up the cost of products without contributing anything.
If you are thinking about entering the patent business yourself, the minimum cost for defending a patent used to be £100,000. These days you would need to bully tens times that out of ignorant manufacturers before you have a big enough war chest to attack someone with a clue. PS - buying patents is expensive. Please convince your employer to buy them until he goes bankrupt then pick up the patents in a fire sale. Please to do not ask the government to waste taxpayers' money on patents.
The only thing that is recent about patent trolls is that now many consumers are sufficiently aware of the damage they do that they are lobbying their governments in big enough numbers to matter. Perhaps this will result in another round of taxpayer funded adverts telling us how wonderful patents are.
...but we must remember the original reason for the patent system in the first place. Because without the ability to protect against copycats, inventors wouldn't have the motivation to invent. The last thing an inventor wants is to pour their heart, soul, and life savings into something truly special...only for someone else to take one of the new items in question, take it apart to learn how it's made, and then go ahead and build their own copy (without all the R&D expense).
Re: Point taken...
"...but we must remember the original reason for the patent system in the first place."
But at this point, how does that help us apart from giving people a reason to justify having a patent system and uphold the status quo? Which doesn't really help us, of course.
Reminding people of the supposed original reason for patents, which probably isn't quite what you're claiming, is a bit like someone reminding people what Jesus stood for during the Inquisition.
"Because without the ability to protect against copycats, inventors wouldn't have the motivation to invent."
*Some* inventors wouldn't have the motivation. Others would just get on and do it anyway.
"The last thing an inventor wants is to pour their heart, soul, and life savings into something truly special...only for someone else to take one of the new items in question, take it apart to learn how it's made, and then go ahead and build their own copy (without all the R&D expense)."
No, the last thing they want is to put in all the effort, get a patent, and then be told that their hard work will never see the light of day in a product because an existing producer has a bunch of patents which apply to their work. And then see everyone copy it after they've agreed to a pretty unsatisfactory "cross-licensing" agreement.
Patents worse than useless in that situation
5 years + lots of money to get your patent granted. Two years to get a hearing in court to get an injunction against a copycat. All that time the hypothetical copycat is earning cash to defend himself while you are throwing it at patent lawyers and earning nothing at all.
In the real world, innovators create products that give them an income. When they can show that income, they can sell the company to a venture capitalist (venture capital equals buying a cash cow). At about the same time, a copycat will see an opportunity. Armed with that capital, the innovator can create a second generation product and release it to market at about the same time as the copycat is ready with a first generation product. This can work for a few generations. After five or six years, the patent trolls will be armed with the debris from bankrupt innovators who gave their money to patent lawyers.
Difficult in practice.
Apparently, one of the top ten lies told to venture capitalists by startups (though the lie is sometimes told out of ignorance) is: "We have applied for patents on our main inventions, which will protect our intellectual property." Startups pitching for venture capital are advised to mention their patent situation, just so the VCs know that they are aware of it, but not dwell on it, or appear naive or deceptive by making out that it will actually protect their intellectual property. Because chances are that they will have neither the time nor resources to pursue anyone with deep enough pockets to make it worthwhile.
But what happens...
...if the copycat is savvy enough to realize what you're doing and try to LEAPFROG you. IOW, while you work on the second generation, he finds a way to go straight to the THIRD generation?
Remembering Kaiser Wilhelm
Who, if memory serves, first used the phrase "yellow peril". His level of enlightened rationalism was on a par with many of the commentators in these forums to whom a single mention of China is like waiving a red rag to a bull.
Briefly most comments on China are complete bollocks. To whit :
1. A mate of mine was smart enough to go from university in Australia to Stanford around 40 years ago. One of their main text books, on telecommunications, was written by a bloke in Shanghai.
2. China's industrial infrastructure did not land on the planet fully formed 12 years ago.
3. Watch for the next space launch timed for back-slapping on National Day 1st October being their first steps to building their own space station.
What's next? Stealing from USA the record for Nobel prizes in science. The last thing that will be is a surprise.
We are all doomed
"No one should be in any doubt that patents are a key part - if not the key part - of any strategy to gain or hold market share in tech industry"
and it used to be innovation & engineering quality that was important.
You want patent protection and strong, monetarized "Intellectual Property?"
Be careful what you wish for, western devils.
"you have to wonder what exactly US and European firms are going to be doing."
The ones still doing anything will be doing what the rest already were, nothing!
Their owners only see the bottom line and if it costs x pence less to manufacture overseas, then that's what they'll do.
As for patents, that means spending money on R&D and where's the profit margin in that.....
This is what you get when you're lead by beancounters.
Would be nice if all 400,000 patents were found by doing original research.
Their rocket system used to explode all the time until one hapless idiot USA employe became too trusting and now china has the info the USA employee was found to have.
It will happen like that again and I bet the info they stole became their own patent.
WHICH IS FALSE but just stolen technology.
Those 400,00 I bet were not just stolen byut given away and made USA turn and look away so that banks can be happy with stock traders
you've been drinking presumably?
Any organization (even a country) that gets into the business of producing lots and lots of patents invariably produces patents on very obvious things.
Patents are just a bad idea in an industry where innovation is so ubiquitous, easy and cheap (unlike say drug companies which have to spend many millions testing each proposed new drug). In the tech industry's most innovative years (up to about 1995) relatively little patenting went on. So companies built on each others ideas rather than trying hold each other back by legal means.
Also, don't get fixated on the *number* of patents. Only a tiny proportion of patents have any value at all. Companies are increasingly pumping up their numbers by filing more worthless patents because big numbers impress naive investors (and naive journalists!)
Maybe when the US and Europe pay more for obvious patents to Asia than they get, companies will start lobbying for a revision of the international patent system.
But by that time it may be too late: The Asian economies might veto such changes when they are no longer in their favour.
So I would say: Do it now. You will regret it otherwise.
Patents have been misused in America for a long time, probably for the whole history of patents.
You just need to look at the patents for TV, radio and even the original triode valve that started all electronics. All these involved scams, scandals, deception and possibly fraud, both nationally and internationally. Some of them caused suicide, lasted for many decades and involved the companies and gifted individuals in large costs and also caused technology to stagnate. Patents are good for some but disastrous for others.
A guy in China
I've been in China a while now. What makes this country so "productive" compared to England and other western countries boils down to quite a simple opinion I hold.
Here, people are not frightened to go out on a limb and start a business, naturally, many will fail but by sheer weight of numbers a lot grow to be very successful. People here (the ones who work) generally don't slack, they push and push and push. There are few obstacles in place other than dealing with peoples "attitudes".
Sometimes my mind boggles and when going back to the UK for Chinese new year, pace of life is sure going to be a brand new culture shock!
That's a relief
I was concerned that our economy was going to be entirely wiped out by millions of highly trained Chinese engineers backed by 100millions cheap workers.
Now that they have decided to follow us into legal armagedon we are perfectly safe.
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