back to article Techies oppose US patent reform bill

More than 430 organizations spanning all fifty US states have fired off a letter urging Senate leaders to oppose a bill that would overhaul the country's patent system. And that includes tech outfits like Qualcomm and AmberWave. Last month, after a heavy lobby from the likes of Apple, Google, Intel, and Microsoft, the US Patent …


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Of course they're opposed.

As soon as I see people with a vested interest in the current (broken) system objecting to changes, I know those changes are probably real.

So the patent agents don't like the proposed changes? Wow. What a surprise.

Paris Hilton

nobody owes patent trolls a living

"This bill contains provisions that will create uncertainty and weaken the enforceability of validly issued patents,"

If the validly issued patent is for something so obvious that it has no intellectual value, or for something where "prior art" exists, well, that is the desired result. Such patents should no longer be enforceable because they stand in the way of true innovation and they de-value real intellectual property.

And if you are a patent troll, and you've invested money in buying up patents on obvious concepts, then you deserve to loose your money.

As with stocks and bonds, investing in patents is not a sure thing.

Nobody owes multi-millionaire patent trolls a living.


No one says the US patent system is perfect...

...and we'd all like to improve it. But the changes proposed in the patent bill aren't about reform. They're tailored to benefit a small group of mostly high market-power special interests at the cost of almost everyone else, including large and small business, across every manner of industry. That's what the opposition is about. Yes, let's reform the US patent system. But, to everyone's benefit, not just to a few high market power corporations with a powerful lobby.

Before you write off the letter, take a look at who signed it and how it came together (by an email chain of friends contacting friends, and even competitors contacting competitors). All of the companies listed in the letter are doing R&D and/or selling products, and rely upon patents to protect their businesses. (We did not include any companies who are only in the business of buying and licensing patents.)

I was blown away to see the wide range of industries who are reliant upon patents. It's not often you see a letter that aligns Caterpillar with Estee Lauder, CocaCola with Silicon Valley startups, a solar energy company in Virginia with a small space technology company in Alaska.

What's even more amazing is that several of the companies listed have LOST large patent suits against them. But, they are still opposed to the Patent Act because they recognize it is devastating to the US economy.

The only scary thing that came out of pulling together this opposition letter was that the response was so strong and widespread, it raises the question of what impact the Patent Reform Act would have on world markets if enacted. At the rate companies signed up in opposition, despite the informal process, it's clear that companies representing easily 5% (perhaps 10%) of US jobs would line up in opposition. Just today, the National Venture Capital Assn. had a press conference saying the Patent Act as currently drafted would have a huge negative effect on investment.

No matter where you stand on the Act, if such a large percentage of companies and investors feel that company valuations would be undermined if the Act passes, the concern is it could trigger a collapse of US and world markets. It has taken a lot less to trigger a collapse in the past.

By all means, let's reform the patent system. For everyone, not just for a few.

You can find the letter at

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they don't need to cap lawsuit payouts... they need to get rid of all the vague patents and actually CLEAN UP the system. novel concept that... cleaning up!

but we all know what politicians won't do... clean up!


real world

Amzing the US is considereing adopting the same sort of rules as the rest of the world and the usual suspects oppose it. Says something.

Actually the whole IP thing in the US is a source of endless amazement to me, in the 19th Century the US economy was built on wholesale IP theft from otehr countries (read Europe and mostly UK), its about time this bunch of whinging crooks were brought into line.

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What scaremongering!

"...if such a large percentage of companies and investors feel that company valuations would be undermined if the Act passes, the concern is it could trigger a collapse of US and world markets...."

Utter scaremongering! As noted, the act would bring the US system more in line with the rest of the world. So when the act passes, the rest of the world will basically just yawn and go about its business. If anything, it would probably increase investement in innovative products, as there is less to worry about patent trolls coming to take their cut if you are succesful.

The US and world economy may well crash in the not too distant future, but the triggering reason will be the US subprime loan problem, which resulted from a lot of greedy and wishful thinking.

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@Jason Harvey

I so agree!

It has nothing to do with how much you have to pay for abusing some else's IP - it is about that the IP has to be real. It needs to be profitable to perform R&D and create new IP, but not to seek/buy patents on general terms, vague notions and hot air!


it wouldn't fix all problems.

From my point of view this would only fix 1 of the 2 big issues with patents.

The first issue is that patents are awarded in an inapropriate fashion, leading to absur patents that have an chilling effect on inovation, and for too long if you consider how fast technology is moving nowadays (a patent in the automotive industry that falls in the public domain probably has some usefulness left, in the IT sector most technologies 20+ years old are pretty irrelevent). This isn't fixed by this bill.

the second problem is that patent damages awarded to companis are so high right now that it is often more profitable to NOT use a patent to make a product if you think someone else will and you can sue him later. This not only has a chilling effect on inovation, as good inventions are not brought to market in a timely fashion but also this goes against the basic idea of patents as this does not protect whoever bring an innovative product to market but actually endanger him.

Anonymous Coward

Darwinian Patents

Patents were meant to protect large sums invested in proving and establishing new techology (think pharma and manufactoring). How many IT patents resemble anything near that level of investment? They just don't belong in IT.

Innovation in IT gives you an edge (for a while) and that's it. An idea alone is only a small step forward as you still have to implement, market and roll it out and the prize goes to the one who gets the whole process right - not just the Johnny who has the "wouldn't it be neat if..." moment. While it is increasingly subject to a certain amount of inertia, the market moves too fast for patents to be anything other than a cynical money grab within the software sector at the very least.

Wonder if there is a patent for patent trolling??? Mwah ha ha ha ha ha.


IBM patent for exploiting a patent portfolio

In answer to your question, yes, there has been a patent filed for exploiting a patent portfolio: "System and Method for Extracting Value from a Portfolio of Assets", filed by IBM on April 3, 2007 with 89 claims. Claim 5 states "the intellectual property assets are patents." US patent serial #20070244837.

IBM very aggressively litigates IT-related patents. A notable case was against a year ago.

IBM is a prime example of a supporter of the Patent Reform Act: a high market-power IT industry company that, at least in my opinion, is not using the patent system to promote innovation.

Regarding IT patents, the current US patent system has a range of 15 factors that go into determining the size of damages awarded for patent infringement, and even then, the judge can decide if an award is inappropriate, and if it isn't, the award can be reversed. If an IT patent is not worth as much as, say, a solar energy patent, then it is entitled to smaller award.

This is not to say every court judgment is equitable. It's an imperfect system and sometimes the award is unfairly high and sometimes it is unfairly low (e.g. maybe a legitimate patent holder can't afford the legal fees to adequately prosecute the case). But the Patent Act is not about making awards more equitable, it just weakens ALL awards.

For example, if you really wanted to correct inequities in patent awards, then why not look at the last 1000 patent cases, evaluate which cases were equitable and which were inequitable, and then find patterns where certain factors were weighed inappropriately in determining the awards. THEN, pass a law that gives guidance to the courts to weigh certain factors differently in certain situations. Passing a law with armchair language that just weakens all patents is not making use of data that we have available to make an informed decision.

Remember, the people opposing the Patent "Reform" Act (don't be confused by its name) are not against Patent Reform. They are against the Act as written, not its name.

Anonymous Coward

what is a bad patent? a bad copyright? questions

like it or not, it seems you all believe that people buy patents. people buy products and services. if an inventor laid claim to some piece of that good or service, even in a best case scenario, it is an expensive and highly risky proposition to engage in litigation. that being said, in an information economy what is the proposed alternative?

no one faults ownership of real property, it has been proven that it is a key component of a vibrant and competitive marketplace. but the debate of what constitutes "innovation" in intangibles is sorely lacking. as for what the us was in the 19th century... huh? it was england that started the notion of rights and issued monopolies to the predecessors of large corporations. the us codified the rights of labors of the mind in its constitution -- the only mention of the term "right" until the bill of rights was ratified later.

whether enforceable or valid is something most ignore -- and the standard for establishing validity is but one serious and initial challenge in enforcement. but, as with allegedly bad movies, bad books and bad software -- it would interesting to see anyone point to a situation/case for which you believe innovation suffers from patents? what about the old comparison that apple had more patents and microsoft had more market share?

how about the percentage of patent litigation versus any other corporate litigation when compared with overall revenues? what about the ironic objective issue that certain patent filers (the largest in most cases) have been the same companies for many years (IBM leads with 14 years running) and never complained until access to capital was freed up such that anyone anywhere can finance what appears to be innovative and seeks some form of protection to make an investment.

or the simple fact that applicants pay for the process (the PTO actually makes money without congressional diversion of fees collected to it's general fund).

at the end of the day few if any patents have any return on investment but the body of knowledge provided by the publication and disclosure is arguably higher than any alleged "harm" on innovation.

if any of you actually manufactures anything tangible, you are to be commended. now, how many of you insist that tangible items be manufactured in your countries instead of some place like china? if you knew the hits in any business whether embodied by a patent or a copyright or some intangible, you wouldn't need a system for contesting the rights -- you would want everyone to pay you!

a real goody

US Publication


Systems and methods for generating intellectual property


A document drafting system generates a document having a required sequence, including one or more screens to receive text input; an electronic agent to review the text input, to apply one or more diagnostic rules to the text input and to generate zero or more diagnostic messages; a visualization system coupled to one screen to graphically display one or more relationships between one or more text portions in the document; and a document generator to assemble the text input into the document according to the sequence.

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