So What’s the State of the Patent System?

By  |  Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 8:38 am

T-PollI’m not going to ask you to render a verdict in yesterday’s court case that involved a Texas judge telling Microsoft it’s not allowed to sell Word anymore because it violates a Canadian company’s XML-creation patents. Judgments on particular cases are most pertinent when they’re made by people who have read all the evidence in question and have an in-depth knowledge of patent law…which most of us haven’t done and don’t possess. We civilians are, however, allowed to have gut reactions to the the condition of the U.S. patent system, and whether pricey, long-running court battles (like the Word case and this one and this one) help or hurt the cause of innovation in this country. So that’s the topic of today’s T-Poll.


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5 Comments For This Post

  1. David Worthington Says:

    The USPTO has made software patents difficult to obtain due to court cases including Bilski, KRS and Nuijten. They are one of the most difficult.

    The problem is/was a loophole that says while a programming algorithm may preexist as a statement of math, part of it can be patented if it is tied to a process or machine.

  2. william Says:

    I don’t know about the patent system as a whole, but software patents have caused more harm than good. Way too many silly patents have been granted, when prior art exists, when the “invention” is nothing more than an obvious extension of current art, and when the “invention” is ridiculously broad. Great for lawyers, though 🙂

  3. Steven Fisher Says:

    “Pretty bad shape” seems to cover it in my mind.

    There’s no doubt it’s a mess, but the fundamentals seem reasonable. And I can’t vote to disallow software patents, because while it’s almost always abused, there’s definitely real innovations out there that should be protected for a short time.

  4. Mike Cerm Says:

    The patent system (copyright, too) exists to protect innovation, and make it safe for creators to profit from their creations… in theory. In practice, the way they currently operate, the patent and copyright systems stand in the way of innovation, and seem to do more harm than good.

    You can’t bring a new product to market anymore without getting hit with a patent lawsuit, usually by a squatting firm that never intended to actually market their ideas. The claims may be incredibly vague, barely applicable, or possibly only apply to a small part of a larger innovation (such as XML support in Word), but the lawsuits cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and are incredibly discouraging to innovation.

    (I don’t know the specific merits of the case in question, and intend my comment to apply to the system in general. However, I definitely have a problem with a legal system that allows a Canadian company to sue a Washington-based company, in Texas.)

  5. Dale B. Halling Says:

    Historically, the USA has had the strongest patent laws protecting inventors from intellectual property thieves. The US has been the most innovative country in the history of the world. Countries with weak or non-existent patent laws have been some of the least innovate. The empirical evidence supports a strong patent system if you desire innovation and economic growth. When the USA does not protect its innovators, it results in economic decline such as we are experiencing today – see

    The main factors hurting innovation in the US today are: 1) a weak patent system, 2) Sarbanes Oxley, and 3) FASB rule on stock options – for more see