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Patent Offensive

I find patents fascinating. People aggressively pursue patent protection by suing erstwhile competitors for infringement. Other people collect patents like merit badges, becoming often unsung heroes of innovation. And other people help large organizations free up unused and undercapitalized patents in order to foster further innovation.

Admittedly, I find the patent system to be somewhat of a black box. Many patent infringement cases I find dubious. After all, I patented the thing that helps someone do something years ago. Overly vague and general? Perhaps. But in other cases, prior art — and where someone got their ideas — can be extremely clear.

So it's fascinating — and heartening — that the Patent Office is opening its doors a little bit. A new initiative will enable people around the world to help review patent applications online. Participants will be able to comment on applications, rate the veracity of other commenters, and otherwise contribute to the process.

I don't envy the task of wading through the inane and unhelpful comments, but it sounds like the project is heading in the right direction in terms of identity control, community ratings, and the like. While it's clear that this could help accelerate how fast patents are awarded, it'll be even more interesting to see whether accelerating the rate of patent assignment accelerates innovation in general.

Is a world with more patents a better world?

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  • Johnny Brookheart

    You seem to be under the mistaken impression that more patents will result in more innovation.

    What America needs is fewer patents, and shorter copyrights. I have no problem protecting innovation, but our current system offers too much protection to the intellectual property holder at the expense of society's innovative improvements on the patent. The original patent protection period of fifteen years was more than enough, and we should go back to it.

    The new patent review system in the US is going to be a nightmare. It will be overrun with lawyers, corporate astroturf drones, and the caliber of user who leaves comments on YouTube videos.

    What is this drivel about unsung heroes of the patent process? Useful patents are used and money is made; that's the entire reward. A patent doesn't guarantee a BoingBoing profile on a slow news day.

  • Jorge Barrera

    I say it depends. Patents are moving in many directions and one that I find disturbing is genetic/bio-organism patents. If Monsanto with support form the US multilateral trade agreements with other countries expect to receive patents on biological organisms, because they are first to describe their genetic code, I think patent are simply creating a barrier to innovation.

  • David Carlson

    Why put energy to maintain legal barriers as copyright and patents, instead of creating an own unique aura and identity in your company, that can’t be copied?
    Duplication has always existed and will always exist. We learn through copying each other, every parent knows that. Let plagiarism and copying free, everybody copy anyway. Laws that can’t be maintained undermine the belief in the society, why feed this thought? Let us use our energy to be more innovative inventing more creative solutions instead.

    And yes - more "open source" please!

  • brett

    I would have to say yes.

    The "unsung heroes of innovation" deserve more recognition than they currently get. Often selling their concepts to larger firms who take all of the credit.

    I also think it would be nice for consumer to see who really owns the patent and who licenses the patent. It may open up some eyes regarding private label and brand name prices being so vastly different.

  • Sacrum

    I think no. All my thinking is "open source" and this is better so, yes? Yes! People all around the world sharing Sacrum's thinkings and ideas make me proud.

    I send you all warmness from Germany and thank for nicely magazin.