Roland Dürre
Tuesday January 26th, 2010

“Patents Are In Vain?” or “Be evil!”

Schikanone I have now been nursing an idea for some time. It is a wonderful technological idea. It might revolutionize the IT world.

I would like to register my idea as a patent. Naturally, I consulted an expert. Mind you, I did not just ask some Jack or John, no: I asked a really competent expert.
The result was a disappointment to say the least. My idea can probably not be patented,

🙂 regardless of it being a really wonderful and totally ingenious idea.

In return, I learned a lot about patent law and its application.
I also learned that there is a tendency towards big companies to ignore the law on purpose. For the gentlemen who make decisions in concerns, it is no reason not to go ahead with a procedure if this same interesting procedure or technological principle has been handed in for licensing as a patent or has already been patented.
Firstly, who can say if the patent will be licensed? And secondly: it is very expensive to file a lawsuit against a big enterprise. And it is even more expensive to win said lawsuit. Consequently, many big companies assume that it is still less expensive to violate a patent than simply to pay the licence fee. Except if the owner of the patent is just as powerful. Be evil!

Even lawless behaviour, however, is an instigation for new business ideas. Currently, some firms, pushed by venture capital, are founded for the sole purpose of buying up patents that are probably not utilized by the big companies quite according to the law. These firms are specialized on filing lawsuits against those big companies. That is the only thing they are capable of. And the only objective is to make money. You could call them a kind of innovative demand note club!

They pay as little as they can get away with to the owners of the patents. Often, those owners do not have a chance of getting what is lawfully theirs. And so they have bent to the inevitable: rather than being left with nothing at all, they sell their patent at a cheap price to a “troll”. That is what the patent lawyers call these firms.
In my personal opinion, such enterprises have forfeited their right to do business. Just like some “financial services”.

Basically, enterprises are supposed to offer products and services that promote the public good. Even the Bavarian Constitution says so. Unfortunately, nobody seems to be very interested in this any more, either.
Now, isn’t this again a rather perverse story? One might easily despair. And I already wonder if there will not be a company with the motto “Don’t be evil!” and still behave according to the motto “Be evil!” when it comes to patents. Simply because everyone does it anyway and the economic situation demands it. We are quite familiar with this. It is the standard justification for everything you do.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

5 Kommentare zu ““Patents Are In Vain?” or “Be evil!””

  1. Enno (Tuesday January 26th, 2010)

    Welche Firmen haben Ihrer Meinung nach das Recht zu wirtschaften ihrer Meinung nach verwirkt? Jene, die Patente klauen, oder diejenigen Trolle, die das Patentrecht mit Klagen durchsetzen? Oder beide?
    Das wurde nicht ganz klar.

  2. rd (Tuesday January 26th, 2010)

    Hi Enno!

    Ich persönlich finde beides verwerflich. Ob man so etwas verbieten soll, da bin ich nicht so sicher. Mir wäre immer lieber, wenn es einen “Anstand” gebe, dem zu folge man so etwas nicht macht und auch nicht unterstützt. Das könnte man dann auch “ethisches Verhalten” nennen 🙂 .

    Besonders bin ich dagegen, dass die Möglichkeit Gewinn zu machen, alles rechtfertigt. Ich meine, jedes Geschäft wie auch jedes Unternehmen sollte auch eine Sinngebung jenseits des “Gewinn machen” haben. Und diese Sinngebung sollte das Handeln des Unternehmens und den Spaß am Arbeiten deutlich mehr bestimmen als das Streben nach Profit.

    RMD

  3. Chris Wood (Tuesday January 26th, 2010)

    I also had difficulty understanding this posting, particularly the following sentence: “Und ich bin gespannt, ob bei Patenten auch das Unternehmen, das als Motto “Don’t be evil!” hat, zum “Be evil greift!”.
    It seems to me that Trolls are OK. They help the inventors to get something for their ideas, and help to restrict the patent infringers. This is similar to the American system whereby lawyers often take on damages cases for a proportion of the damages, rather than fixed fees. The firms who infringe are evil. They waste resources (such as brainpower), on totally unproductive court cases, as well as discouraging useful inventions.
    There are other worse problems with patents. Some herbal remedies used in poor countries for centuries are investigated by rich companies who then patent the active ingredient. The poor country may then have to pay to use the herbs (can a lawyer correct me if this is wrong). Nearer to my speciality, IBM patented a way to program a problem, which was how any half-experienced programmer would have done it. Perhaps the system now copes better with software.
    The general problem could probably best be attacked through punitive compensation. The judges and juries would need considerable flexibility in deciding whether the infringement was probably due to an innocent mistake, or just evil. Of course such flexibility goes against the German principle of “Rechts Sicherheit” (certainty of the law).

  4. rd (Tuesday January 26th, 2010)

    Hi Chris – ich fürchte, Du wirst noch zum “Piraten” 🙂

    Roland

  5. Enno (Tuesday January 26th, 2010)

    Die Trolle halte ich nicht für verwerflich. Wie Chris sagte, ermöglichen sie einerseits dem Erfinder, ein Entgelt für seine Erfindung zu sichern und schrecken andererseits davon ab, Patente zu klauen.
    Damit liesse sich eigentlich sogar hoffen, dass die Trolle mehr und effizienter werden, damit sich ein Gleichgewicht zu Gunsten der Erfinder einstellt.

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