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The Dark Side of the Tech Patent Wars 196

Posted by Soulskill
from the is-there-a-light-side dept.
GMGruman writes "Bill Snyder warns that the tech patent wars are going nuclear, and could vaporize tech jobs in the process. He likens the situation to medicine, where so much money now goes to pay for insurance and 'defensive medicine,' rather than for actual care. In the tech world, he fears that the same will occur with patents, forcing companies to spend ever more money on patents and lawyers — and less on innovation and staff."
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The Dark Side of the Tech Patent Wars

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  • Dark side? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Vectormatic (1759674) on Friday August 19, 2011 @11:33AM (#37143122)

    is the a bright side then?

    • Came here to say THAT.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by bunratty (545641)
      The bright side is that the people who innovated to make the patents are being compensated for their efforts. This is how patents motivate people to innovate. Would you prefer if Google could use other people's innovations without compensating them?
      • Re:Dark side? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by arth1 (260657) on Friday August 19, 2011 @12:04PM (#37143532) Homepage Journal

        The bright side is that the people who innovated to make the patents are being compensated for their efforts.

        Are they, now? Please show me a list of wealthy inventors, and not just wealthy patent holders.

        • Re:Dark side? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by DragonWriter (970822) on Friday August 19, 2011 @12:18PM (#37143726)

          The bright side is that the people who innovated to make the patents are being compensated for their efforts.

          Are they, now? Please show me a list of wealthy inventors, and not just wealthy patent holders.

          GP said "the people who innovated to make the patents". That's the clever patent attorneys who made new and clever arguments as to why the invention was worthy of a patent, right? So he should be pointing you to a list of wealthy patent attorneys, not wealthy inventors.

        • by bunratty (545641)
          Why do you assume compensated means wealthy? Compensated means gainfully employed. I can show you millions.
          • Re:Dark side? (Score:4, Informative)

            by arth1 (260657) on Friday August 19, 2011 @12:31PM (#37143906) Homepage Journal

            Why do you assume compensated means wealthy? Compensated means gainfully employed. I can show you millions.

            That's not compensated. It does not adjust proportionally to the value of the inventions. Others are reaping the profits from the inventions.

            By your logic, slaves were compensated, because they received room and board.

      • Re:Dark side? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by spikenerd (642677) on Friday August 19, 2011 @12:09PM (#37143610)

        Would you prefer if Google could use other people's innovations without compensating them?

        Yes. I am an innovator. To build something truly useful, I must build upon the work of at least twelve others. If I have to pay royalties to them all, there's no way the royalties I collect will ever cover it. But I don't do it for the money. I do it because I am an innovator. I will innovate if I am compensate. I will innovate if I am not compensated. I will innovate even if I have to pay for the privilege of using my own brain. Google has demonstrated that they are (to some extent) of the same stock as me, and I think we'd all make more progress if we could pursue our passion to innovate without fear. If those who only innovate for money abandoned the game, that's okay with me--they are lousy innovators anyway.

        • Individuals like you give me hope for the future of our species and a strong desire for mod points.

          -Rick

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Wovel (964431)

          Do you spend 100s of millions of dollars on research to formulate new ideas and then bring them to market? Would you be able to afford to do that in a world where everyone freely copied your ideas and took them to market preventing you from ever recovering investment.

          Your message sounds nice, how about some concrete examples. Show off some of the inovations you are talking about. Your post is interesting philosophy. It doesn't actually say anything.

          Give us 3 examples of the significant contribution to l

          • Re:Dark side? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by cgenman (325138) on Friday August 19, 2011 @01:31PM (#37144942) Homepage

            Wouldn't it be great if most patents actually reflected 100's of millions of dollars of research?

            In the industry where I work (video games) there are patents on
            1. Playing 2 sounds at once when the player hits one button.
            2. A big arrow pointing to where the player needs to go (the "Crazy Taxi" patent).
            3. The entire idea of haptic feedback when applied to game controllers.
            4. Changing the strength of an attack based upon how many enemies are clumped in an area.
            5. Cloud-based gaming. All of it.

            And there are literally thousands more, that cover every aspect of gaming from how you can score players to how you can monitor their inputs. Most of them are good ideas. All of them are obvious (Big Arrow pointing where you need to go). None of them took any actual money to develop whatsoever. And taken as a whole, they're grossly stifling.

            If the patent system is to reach the original goal of protecting major investments in research, we need to get back to that. Because at the moment, the patent system just rewards people who file patents for anything, then sue everyone else.

          • by Halo1 (136547)

            Do you spend 100s of millions of dollars on research to formulate new ideas and then bring them to market? Would you be able to afford to do that in a world where everyone freely copied your ideas and took them to market preventing you from ever recovering investment.

            It's called competition. Why don't lawyers ask for patents on court strategies? After all, by not doing so their peers can steal those strategies and win cases without paying the original inventor of that strategy a single penny. And yet the entire lawyer profession hasn't imploded yet due to no one being interested anymore in helping their clients to the best of their abilities even though everyone else can look at how they argued the case.

            No two cases are identical, you say? You can't just "take an argume

            • by Halo1 (136547)

              Forgot to mention: Robert Barr was Cisco's Chief Patent Counsel at that time.

          • by trout007 (975317)

            First off the amount of money you spent on R&D has little correlation with the value of the invention. The market places more value on Snuggie for Dogs than millions in research spent on New Coke.

            Take some industries that don't have IP such as restaurants and fashion. There is lots of innovation and money being made with no laws to protect ideas. In fact it speeds up innovation since all resources are brought to bear on staying innovative and not playing the legal game.

        • by Ster (556540)

          Profession, Isaac Asimov, July 1957 [wikipedia.org]

          Full text [abelard.org] (But the design of the site... the googles do nothing!)

          -Ster

      • No, innovation happens with or without patents, especially tech patents. Innovation happens when one of two things happen.

        A) There is a problem and I want to fix it, so I fix it and then later show/sell my way of fixing it to others who are having the same problem.

        B) A company is faced with competition that they can't compete with on cost so they need to make something better.

        The thing is with patents is that you have to be so forward thinking in the concepts for any non-troll idea that unless
  • by Nidi62 (1525137)
    Mutually Assured Destruction for patent trolls? Yes, please!
    • by wren337 (182018)

      Not hardly, since so many patent trolls aren't developing anything. You can't even sue them back for violating your patents, so mutual assured destruction breaks down.

  • by BBTaeKwonDo (1540945) on Friday August 19, 2011 @11:42AM (#37143226)

    Now there's an arms race in the technology industry, with patents playing the role of ICBMs. "Patents are emerging as a new currency," Alexander I. Poltorak, chief executive of the patent licensing and enforcement firm General Patent, told the New York Times. "I've recently received several calls from financial analysts and bankers who want to know how to value patents and what does it mean."

    I think there's a lot of truth to what he's saying, but Mr. Poltorak clearly has a vested interest in a patent war, or at least fear of a patent war.

    I'm very surprised that Google would spend so much money on defensive patents for Android. Android can't be generating that much revenue, can it? I thought its selling point was that it was essentially free to carriers. The App Market can't be pulling in that much, can it? I feel like I'm missing something here.

    Karma-whoring link to print version of TFA [infoworld.com]

    • by arth1 (260657)

      I'm very surprised that Google would spend so much money on defensive patents for Android. Android can't be generating that much revenue, can it?

      As any drug peddler knows, you need to push the product before you turn the screws.

    • "I'm very surprised that Google would spend so much money on defensive patents for Android. Android can't be generating that much revenue, can it?"
      I'm not sure that's the issue. I'd be more willing to bet it is more to do with perceived future control of the platform.
      Imagine there was no android and that there were no PCs, everything done through tablets, mobile phones, set top boxes games consoles etc. Assume they are all sufficiently well integrated that it would work too. What platform do they run? Their

      • by greenbird (859670)

        I'm not sure that's the issue. I'd be more willing to bet it is more to do with perceived future control of the platform.

        No, no, no. You're missing the point entirely. Google makes money by having eyes on the internet. Doesn't matter how those eyes get there. Windows, Lunix, iOS, Android? They don't care. All of these increase the number of eyes on the internet at any given time. Google loves a competitive smart phone industry. That competitiveness drives innovation, again increasing the number of people accessing the interenet. The danger that Android averts is a locked down system like iOS. Steve Jobs controls who can acces

    • I'm very surprised that Google would spend so much money on defensive patents for Android. Android can't be generating that much revenue, can it?

      Yes, it can, even if not directly. Consider how important the mobile environment is and the disadvantages Google's profit-making operations aside from Android would be if the mobile space was a virtual iOS monopoly. Google needs Android to stop someone else (the short-term threat would be Apple) monopolizing the mobile space and being able to charge rents to onlin

    • by greenbird (859670)

      I'm very surprised that Google would spend so much money on defensive patents for Android. Android can't be generating that much revenue, can it?

      This lack of understanding is exactly why we're in this patent mess in the first place. Google makes money by having eyes on the internet. Anything they do that increases the number of eyes on the internet makes Google money. Google makes money despite giving SO MUCH of what they have created (innovated) for free. Actually they pay money for people to use what they have created, bandwidth, servers, support systems, etc... Google is the perfect example of using the free market to make money rather than relyi

  • by RichMan (8097) on Friday August 19, 2011 @11:46AM (#37143280)

    From a systems perspective the system is designed to requrie a lawyer. And the lawyers are in control of that requirement.
    Until negative feedback can be applied somehow this system is just going to keep on requireing more lawyers.

  • by TheSpoom (715771) <slashdot@ u b e r m00.net> on Friday August 19, 2011 @11:46AM (#37143282) Homepage Journal

    This is what happens when businesses and government consider "intellectual property" to be a great base for an economy.

    • by Herkum01 (592704)

      This is what happens when LAWYERS put themselves up as middlemen for everything in the economy.

    • by kellyb9 (954229)

      This is what happens when businesses and government consider "intellectual property" to be a great base for an economy.

      Why wouldn't they think that? Seems like there's a lot of people making a lot of money in litigation.

    • This is really a small part of a huge problem in America, and the rest of the world. Although I can see the case for patents, the system has become so corrupted, that it no longer serves its original purpose. It is now a tool to stifle innovation, restrict competition, and funnel wealth to the wealthiest. Companies have to put more and more resources are being put into non-productive purposes. Instead of hiring 1000 more people, they have to hire 50 lawyers to fight patent suits. America is turning into a c
  • by unity100 (970058) on Friday August 19, 2011 @11:53AM (#37143360) Homepage Journal
    No different than feudalism. Most of the lords' resources and time were being spent on undoing other lords or defending their rights. And people got shafted during the process.

    Patents are no different than intellectual feudalism. Claim a piece of land, and you can just suck blood off of anyone who enters on it to do anything on it by extorting money.

    patent holders are the lords, and lawyers are their enforcers. all hail new intellectual feudal overlords.
  • Patents are supposed to foster and support innovation. Everybody knows that.
    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Patients can and do support innovation. The thing is that like everything else they can abused and some patients should never have been awarded.
      Software and process patients didn't exist for the a long time. That changed in the 1990s and that is when things got nuts. Before then you used copyright to protect software which to me is logical.
      You can look at software patients from two sides.
      Take VisiCalc for instance. It was the first spreadsheet for microcomputers and some say the first at all. Had their been

      • by trout007 (975317)

        You are confusing your magical utopia where everything works perfectly according to you and the real world.

      • by Wovel (964431)

        Having used all these products. You just made a very strong case for Software Patents.

      • There is nothing intellectually different between a physical item and virtual item (hardware vs. software). A difference is trying to be manufactured for the sake of legal leverage against laws written back in the time when everything was "physical". The exact same bullsh*t is taking place in the physical world with regards to patents as there is in the virtual one. It is a grave societal injustice that we have to waste our resources inventing new solutions to old and solved prerequisites before we can g
      • Patients can and do support innovation.

        No, they don't.

        At least, that's what the evidence seems to say. Here's some reading on the matter:

        http://www.dklevine.com/general/intellectual/against.htm [dklevine.com]

  • to use atomics here, its punishable by planetary annihilation. Besides, theres the spice melange to consider, and so long as the houses remain to gather it in service to CHOAM...

    what...theres a good parallel here.
  • Look, just because one of the world's most powerful companies tried to create new mobile products, and wound up having to pay $12.5 billion to be allowed the privilege is no reason to overreact. You see, $12.5 billion barriers to entry are good for innovation. Massive government fiat barriers to entry encourage entrenched incumbency, and entrenched incumbents are very inventive. Just look at the iPod and iPhone. Both of those devices are being produced by a company that is now the entrenched incumbent in th

  • by geekmux (1040042) on Friday August 19, 2011 @12:04PM (#37143544)

    "Bill Snyder warns that the tech patent wars are going nuclear, and could vaporize tech jobs in the process.

    Uh, "could" vaporize? Outsourcing has likely vaporized far more US tech jobs than any patent ever will.

    • Outsourcing killed manufacturing jobs while leaving engineers relatively unscathed. However, the patent bubble WILL cost engineers their jobs. I'm not trying to be condescending or start a pissing contest on the importance of manufacturing jobs versus engineering jobs, I just think it's important to make the distinction so that the issue can be planned accordingly.
  • ...forcing companies to spend ever more money on patents and lawyers

    Not to mention the amount spent on lobbyists and politicians to NOT fix the problem.

  • by methano (519830) on Friday August 19, 2011 @12:09PM (#37143604)
    The USA is run by lawyers, MBAs and marketing people. The fix we're in is exactly what you would expect, given who is in charge. From now on, I'm only voting for scientists and engineers. Liberal ones only, of course.
  • this is how everyone makes blu ray players or apple breaks into the cell phone market. you pool your patents into a consortium, cross license and for every device you sell you pay a fee back into the consortium that gets paid to all the members. just like the wifi consortium

    a lot of these lawsuits have nothing to do with networking but with things like memory management and camera software. if apple or HTC doesn't want to pay kodak they should just write their own algorithms

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      if apple or HTC doesn't want to pay kodak they should just write their own algorithms

      So what happens when they do write their own algorithm and then some troll climbs out from under the bridge and says 'no, that's no good, I patented adding numbers together on a computer, you owe me a bazillion dollars'?

      • by Urkki (668283)

        if apple or HTC doesn't want to pay kodak they should just write their own algorithms

        So what happens when they do write their own algorithm and then some troll climbs out from under the bridge and says 'no, that's no good, I patented adding numbers together on a computer, you owe me a bazillion dollars'?

        Now that's just unfair example. I think there's prior art on that from the '60's. The troll would need to innovate to get a patent, he'd need to patent something like "adding numbers together on a mobile computer". It's not like you can patent just anything, you have at least combine words in a new way...

  • To be clear, take it for what it's worth but the malpractice data is sourced from Stanford which relies on opinions and research from the Hoover Institution (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoover_Institution) a Conservative and Libertarian think tank. If ideology filled rhetoric is to be propagated, it should at least be identified. Similarly, I feel that Bill Snyder is tainting his perspective with a Conservative anti-small business, pro-corporate ideology. Patent law exists to protect smaller businesses
  • If medical malpractice insurance is the author's example of Armageddon, then things could certainly be worse.

    According to mymedicalmalpracticeinsurance.com [mymedicalm...urance.com], malpractice liability insurance for a general surgeon in Texas is in the neighborhood of $50-60K per year. That is a very small percentage of the total income from all of the surgeries done by that surgeon. Other types of physicians have different rates, but they all amount to a similar small percentage compared to the total fees for services rende
  • Wow, what a visionary. Other predictions include: the world economy may start to show signs of weakness,the Middle East will become an area of political unrest, and computers will become commonplace.

    These and other predictions can be found in 'The Big Book of Things That Are Already Happening'.

    This might have been noteworthy years ago, but this is pretty commonplace in the here and now.

  • by trout007 (975317) on Friday August 19, 2011 @12:49PM (#37144212)

    The whole concept of property is the ownership of a particular scarce resource such as land or object. The main word is scarce. It is something that your use precludes me using it. If you eat my cake I can't eat it. If you build a something on my land I can't build in it's place.

    Ideas are not scarce. In fact they are the exact opposite. Ideas can be copied infinitely without destroying any copies.

    The phrase "Intellectual Property" is an attempt to claim an idea is property which it can never be.

    You have to recognize patents for what the are. Government granted monopolies on ideas. They should be eliminated. Great ideas have a natural monopoly based on how much of a technological leap they are because it takes the competition time and money to catch up.

  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Friday August 19, 2011 @12:50PM (#37144230)

    If we didn't have patents, few companies would innovate and there would be little reason to spend the tons of money to develop the infrastructure and retail cell phone handsets.

    After all, we have all those nice sturdy 5 pount black MaBell rotary dial phones. What else do we NEED!

    People who might be bitching about losing a job (at HP, RIMM for instance or MotoM) merely decided to work for a company that decided to follow rather than diligently keep up or LEAD. In some cases they seem to have ignored the factual information coming from both engineers and the marketplace on both hardware speed and ecosystem, in the case of HP.

    These things are NOT the fault of the patent system. They are the fault of top management and key engineering decisions.

    • I wasn't lack of patents that held progress back, Bell had a government-granted MONOPOLY on the taxpayer-funded phone system, to the point where phones had to be rented from Bell itself. Then when 3rd party phones started becoming available, Bell argued they shouldn't be allowed to connect because it might damage the phone network. The telecom space was not free-market by any stretch.

  • Patently Assured Destruction
  • "The Dark Side of the Tech Patent Wars"

    Isn't that like writing

    "The Dark Side of Adolph Hitler"?

  • If you think iguide has to many ad's now just wait for the google iguide HD with 30% more space for ad's only on digital cable

  • Between the best minds in the US being sucked up by the parasites in Wall Street and massive numbers increase in the number of law students (*) it really does look like the Empire is in the middle of its last greed-fuelled explosion, close to the point of spectacularly imploding in upon itself. Only the decay will likely be slower more insidious than that.

    Time to move to Brazil.

    (*) http://blueprintprep.com/lsatblog/law-school-admissions/big-law-we-have-a-problem/ [blueprintprep.com]

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