Thursday, July 24, 2008

Patent attorney's WSJ letter defends current patent system

Patents Aid Innovation Most Times (Wall Street Journal, Letter to the Editor, July 21, 2008; Page A12) In "Patent Gridlock Suppresses Innovation" (Information Age, July 14), L. Gordon Crovitz asserts "that for most industries today's patent system does more harm than good." He paints with too broad a brush. The "most industries" he refers to are those heavily involved with software, e.g., Verizon, Cisco ,Google, RIM and HP, which he cites. Such companies have indeed suffered grief because of patents on software and so-called "methods of doing business," like double-clicking something to place an order. Some nonsense follows. Much of this grief has been self-inflicted - these companies holding basic tenets of the patent system in contempt. In contrast to companies heavily involved in software, those that make physical "things", e.g., pharmaceuticals, 3M, Corning, and others, see no need for drastic reform. Mr. Crovitz also laments that patent litigation costs are "huge". Others have made that observation, e.g., Wilbur and Orville Wright, Glenn Curtiss, Samuel Morse, Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Bessemer and Dr. Edwin Land, to name a few. Yet those folks and others have endured the cost because, if you've invented an industry and appropriately are making some money (not a bad thing), someone will always try to take a piece of the action. As some have said, "it's cheaper to litigate than to do basic R&D." In sum, the patent system has been and is now the greatest motivator for the development of new technology. If it is to be tinkered with, the tinkering should be limited to solving the real problem. A.L. Michaelsen Patent Attorney Hammondsport, N.Y.

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