SmoothSpan Blog

For Executives, Entrepreneurs, and other Digerati who need to know about SaaS and Web 2.0.

Software Patents Should Be Abolished

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 12, 2010

Still think patents are about protecting the little guy?

The USPTO now takes an average of 6 years to grant a patent (hat tip to Techmeme).  In the long run, you’ll likely get your patent since almost anything is patentable these days, however outlandish it may be.  But in the long run, we’re all dead, and six years is forever to a small innovator hoping the patent will protect it from some big interloper.  OTOH, the asymmetrical nature of costs for plaintiffs (lower costs) versus defendants (very high costs) makes it easy to stop innovation dead in its tracks with a few overly broad patents in the hands of unscrupulous patent trolls.

Software patents should be abolished.  They’ve gotten to be a travesty of what they pretend to be, and much as we might like to try to protect the “little guy” innovator, they do no good for that purpose at all.  Largely, they fatten the pocketbooks of patent trolls and tax innovation to death.  If not abolished, then at the very least they should be “use it or lose it.”  If they’re not part of an ongoing business of some minimum scale (small enough for the little guy but large enough not to be abused), they go to the public domain.  Given that it takes 6 years to get the silly patent in the first place, the minimum scale ought to be at least half a million dollars in revenue for the preceeding 12 months.  If you can’t get it to half a million in revenue after 6 years, it’s dead, Jim.

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2 Responses to “Software Patents Should Be Abolished”

  1. schlafly said

    Software patents will not be abolished any time soon. The Supreme Court just had a chance to do that in the Bilski case, and it did not. As long as big companies like IBM and Microsoft say that software patents are essential, they will remain.

  2. smoothspan said

    The Supreme Court, or any other arm of government won’t lead the charge. They just don’t get it. If they did, we wouldn’t have the problems of trolls and overly broad patents being issued.

    This is something the industry has to get behind, and even a lot of the larger companies in the category of the IBM’s and Microsoft’s are getting tired of it.

    Despite how much money is associated with High Tech, we are pathetic lobbyists. But this is an issue worth getting mobilized over. Do I think High Tech will get mobilized? Skeptical. But at some point, if it continues to deteriorate as it has, we had better.

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