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Patent System Not Broken, Argues IBM's Chief Patent Counsel 152

Posted by Soulskill
from the which-is-good-because-being-broken-is-patented dept.
New submitter TurinX writes "Unsurprisingly, IBM's Chief Patent Counsel, Manny Schecter, thinks the patent system isn't broken. He says, 'Patent disputes like [the Apple-Samsung case] are a natural characteristic of a vigorously competitive industry. And they're nothing new: Similar skirmishes have historically occurred in areas as diverse as sewing machines, winged flight, agriculture, and telegraph technology. Each marked the emergence of incredible technological advances, and each generated similar outcries about the patent system. We are actually witnessing fewer patent suits per patent issued today than the historical average.'" Regarding software patents, he argues, "If patent litigation caused by the U.S. patent system stifled innovation, U.S. software companies would not be the most successful in the world." His recommendation is that we should be patient and "let the system work." Schecter's editorial at Wired is one of a series of expert opinions on the patent system; we've already discussed Richard Stallman's contribution.
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Patent System Not Broken, Argues IBM's Chief Patent Counsel

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  • Well.... really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:07PM (#41936389)

    The title is all you need to know...

    Patent System Not Broken, Argues IBM's Chief Patent Counsel

    Of course he will say that, his job depends on there being patents to work and litigate with.

    • by jhoegl (638955) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:09PM (#41936429)
      Agreed.
      I mean I understand the reasoning behind the patent system and the arguments for it, but it in essence creates a sanctioned Monopoly, which actually stifles innovation instead of enhancing it.
      It is a complex issue to be sure.
      • by Tough Love (215404) on Friday November 09, 2012 @09:12PM (#41938405)

        It is a complex issue to be sure.

        Not really. Software patents used to be illegal, then they were legal. That was a simple boner.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:16PM (#41936525)

      Exactly as much as opponents' relevance depends on the opposite conclusion. It's not really a helpful argument for or against something to say that people invested in one side or the other benefit from that investment if their view prevails.

      This guy would not be unemployable even with massive patent reforms. In fact, his experience in the old system would be tremendously valuable during the transition to the new system. So it's not really all that meaningful. His points have merit independent of whether he benefits financially from them being true. He's not claiming to be a neutral party.

    • by eparker05 (1738842) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:19PM (#41936561)

      Of course he will say that, his job depends on there being patents to work and litigate with.

      Yes, let's just ignore his decades of experience in patent law and years of studying patent history that comes with the territory because he has a vested interest. On the other hand, he makes some fairly good points. If we all but abolish the patent system for technology companies they would easily be overtaken by whomever has the largest manufacturing capacity. Ever wonder why Foxcon didn't just grab android and make an iPhone clone? Why be subject to Apple if there are no IP restrictions at all? People bemoan the quandary of the small innovator, and this is a legitimate concern, but it must also be weighed against the benefit patents (software and hardware) confer to large companies who must decide how much to spend on R&D.

      Stallman is an activist against tightly controlled intellectual property, copyright and otherwise. That isn't a something to hold against him, it's just a fact that one must consider when listening to his opinions and analysis. Please try to keep that in mind when reading analysis from the other side.

      • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:24PM (#41936637) Homepage Journal

        You're strawmanning the argument. Only the people on the far extreme want patents abolished. Even Stallman doesn't want that. There are a lot of us that want the system reformed and the rules on WHAT is pattentable scaled back.

        Even if patents were totally elimnated on software the idea that all of a sudden that industries would disappear is hogwash. Software is still covered by copyright and that is how it should be. However the idea that you can patent rounded corners or little details of software programs (some of which are ideas that date back to the early days) needs to go.

        • by Carnildo (712617) on Friday November 09, 2012 @07:04PM (#41937051) Homepage Journal

          However the idea that you can patent rounded corners...

          Rounded corners are (or at least, should be) a design patent [wikipedia.org], which protects the purely ornamental elements of a product's design. If those elements turn out to have practical utility, the design patent is invalidated. The classic example of a design patent is the one on the shape of the Coca-Cola bottle.

        • by MrSteveSD (801820) on Friday November 09, 2012 @09:43PM (#41938659)

          You're strawmanning the argument. Only the people on the far extreme want patents abolished.

          Europe generally does not support software patents. So being in favour of abolishing software patents is hardly extreme. I think Stallman and the EFF have given up too quickly on this issue. The patent office will never do a proper job of rejecting ridiculous software patents so it seems unlikely that reforms will make much difference. Abolition is a sensible way forward. Copyright is all that is necessary for software because the code itself specifies the solution exactly.

        • by Kirth (183) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @08:41AM (#41966101) Homepage

          Only the people on the far extreme want patents abolished.

          No. Only people on the far extreme want a patent system.

          "The granting [of] patents ‘inflames cupidity', excites fraud, stimulates men to run after schemes that may enable them to levy a tax on the public, begets disputes and quarrels betwixt inventors, provokes endless lawsuits...The principle of the law from which such consequences flow cannot be just." -- The Economist, 1851

          Wanting the government to grant monopolies on inventions (actually: much more, in the case of software even on mathematics) is an extreme position. Which was well understood in the 19th century.

      • by jedidiah (1196) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:27PM (#41936655) Homepage

        You are trying to create a false dichotomy. Of course that is bogus. We could simply reform the system. A lot of it would be nothing more than rolling back recent changes. It's like what you do when your production server starts to run amok.

        You don't shoot it, you undo recent changes.

        It's recent changes that have made our patent system mock worthy. It's not the concept in general. We just need a less permissive approach. We need to stop treating the toxic waste that is a 20 year long monopoly as if it were in fact candy.

        20 year monopoly.

        Contemplate what a 20 year technology rollback means to you personally. That's basically what you're advocating for our collective future.

        A patent lawyer defending the current patent system is much like a wannabe patent troll fighting for Apple against Samsung.

        • by kelemvor4 (1980226) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:54PM (#41936959)

          It's like what you do when your production server starts to run amok.

          You don't shoot it, you undo recent changes.

          Wrong!
          Source: http://www.tomshardware.com/news/Joshua-Lee-Campbell-Server-Shoot-Gun-alcohol,11171.html [tomshardware.com]

        • Indeed...

          We are actually witnessing fewer patent suits per patent issued today than the historical average.

          The main problem with the patent system today is not what can be patented, it's that it is *much* easier for some parties (like IBM) to file a huge volume of patents annually. As a result, even though patent examiners and the courts do not scale, due to the huge increase in patents applied for (and issued without full investigation), the load on the system is approaching unsustainable.

          http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/ido/oeip/taf/issuyear.htm [uspto.gov]
          http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/ido/oeip/taf/h_counts.htm [uspto.gov]

          There were 1013094 utility patents issued up to 1912.
          There were 3015103 utility patents issued up to 1962 -- roughly 2 million patents in 50 years.
          There were 8087094 utility patents issued up to 2012 -- roughly 5.5 million patents in 50 years.

          There were 42073 design patents issued up to 1912.
          There were 192004 design patents issued up to 1962 -- roughly 150,000 patents in 50 years
          There were 651376 design patents issued up to 2012 -- roughly 450,000 patents in 50 years

          There were 0 plant patents issued up to 1912.
          There were 2117 plant patents issued up to 1962.
          There were 22428 plant patents issued up to 2012 -- roughly 22,000 patents in 50 years.

          There were 0 statutory inventions up to 1912.
          There were 0 statutory inventions up to 1962.
          There were over 2251 statutory inventions up to 2011.

          The trend, while not horrendous, is significant. This doesn't even take into consideration patents that were reissued and so are still in the patent pool.

          The applications are even worse:
          Utility Patent Applications (e) (inventions)
          503,582 (2011)
          490,226
          456,106
          456,321
          456,154
          425,967
          390,733
          356,943
          342,441
          334,445
          326,508
          295,926
          270,187
          243,062
          215,257
          195,187 (1996)

          See any trends?

          Something I'd be interested in is the number of distinct patent applicants per year -- I have a feeling that this number is stable or shrinking, but have nothing to back that up. A list of patent holders would also be interesting -- especially to see how it compares to the applicants.

      • by ThatsMyNick (2004126) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:29PM (#41936693)

        Yeah, the rounded corners patent is what prevented Foxconn from simply selling iPhone clones. The rounded corners also helped the smart phone market become better, as no one before or after thought of using rounded corner without Apple telling them the world about it using their patents. Yeah, the patent system is not broken at all.

      • by TiggertheMad (556308) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:57PM (#41936989) Homepage Journal
        I once asked an IP & technology patent lawyer who was speaking at seminar what he though of software 'click through' agreements in light of all the problems that they have as a legitimate contract, and I go a half assed response about how they were legally sound because, 'everybody was using them'.

        Just because someone is an expert in a field doesn't mean that they have any useful opinions or ideas about the field.
      • by Nethemas the Great (909900) on Friday November 09, 2012 @08:01PM (#41937583)
        I believe the overarching goal should be to serve the consumer through continuous, rapid innovation in both technology and affordability. Patents provide benefit to established businesses, not start-ups, and definitely not consumers. It has been demonstrated time, and again that businesses favor competition in the court room over competition in product offerings. There is little incentive to invest in R&D. Why innovate when you can block your competition from entering the market through legal maneuvers? Businesses exist now who's sole product are licenses to cheaply conceived ideas so vaguely defined as to ensnare the blood, sweat and tears of real innovators in their net. Products are being implemented sub-optimally to avoid infringement. Good products are being blocked from entering the market. This is what's broken, this is what's flawed with the patent system. This is why its present incarnation must come to an end.
      • by foniksonik (573572) on Friday November 09, 2012 @09:21PM (#41938465) Homepage Journal

        Foxconn has no marketing expertise and no software expertise and no customer support.

      • by farble1670 (803356) on Friday November 09, 2012 @09:22PM (#41938475)

        Ever wonder why Foxcon didn't just grab android and make an iPhone clone?

        because they're not idiots and they know there's more to creating a successful product than doing a superficial copy of the iphone? because they know they'll make more money as apple's manufacturing partner than producing one more crappy iphone knockoff?

        Why be subject to Apple if there are no IP restrictions at all?

        i think you are confused about the issue. there's a difference between developing a product from scratch that has similarities to another product, and stealing IP. i think folks are upset with patents largely because of things like Apple vs. Samsung. samsung didn't steal any IP. they produced a similar product from scratch. if samsung had taken code from apple, or stolen their product design documents, etc, that'd be a different issue. but that's not what happened.

        it's like if i developed a pill to give erections from scratch in my garage, and phizer sued me saying they patented pills that give erections. while i agree phizer's formulation should be patentable, they shouldn't be able to patent the idea of a pill that gives erections (and they can't either).

      • by TheLink (130905) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @07:43AM (#41941319) Journal

        Ever wonder why Foxcon didn't just grab android and make an iPhone clone?

        Because if Foxconn did that, their whole business as a company that makes stuff for other companies is gone. Nobody will get them to make stuff for them.

        By the way there are plenty of companies in China making iphone clones: http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/10-iphone-clones-you-never-see-before/ [hongkiat.com]

        They aren't as successful as Foxconn. And even if you abolish patent law, I doubt they will be as successful either - since Copyright law would remain and they won't be able to use Apple's IOS in USA with impunity.

    • by dcollins117 (1267462) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:45PM (#41936867)

      Well, it's not broken for IBM.

      In other news, The financial system is not broken for the 1%.

    • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Friday November 09, 2012 @07:42PM (#41937425) Journal

      So, IBM is bad this year? I thought they were a good guy because of the whole SCO fiasco. Geeez.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:09PM (#41936421)

    "[Big] U.S. software companies would not be the most successful in the world."

  • by Laxori666 (748529) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:11PM (#41936443) Homepage

    "If patent litigation caused by the U.S. patent system stifled innovation, U.S. software companies would not be the most successful in the world."

    This is not an argument at all. It's possible they stifle innovation as it is now, so they would be even better off without the patent system.

    Or, another possibility: Perhaps the patent system is not stifling software companies as much as other businesses as of yet. Do you want it to become as difficult to create a new software company as it currently is to create a new company in any other industry?

    • by YodasEvilTwin (2014446) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:15PM (#41936503) Homepage
      Yep. It's not like other countries are much better with their patents, and patents in the US hold no force outside unless other countries decide to recognize them. There's no comparison.
    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:38PM (#41936805) Journal

      This is not an argument at all.

      I agree with this wholeheartedly.
      Remember when Google went on a patent buying spree? They bought Motorola to help them support Android.
      /. covered the news that Google was buying IBM patents for Android's protection from Apple & Microsoft [slashdot.org]

      It's not because Google needed the IP, it was to create a patent army to be use in future battles with tech giants.
      That sounds awfully broken to me.

    • by tsotha (720379) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:54PM (#41936955)

      This is not an argument at all. It's possible they stifle innovation as it is now, so they would be even better off without the patent system.

      Not only that, with a few exceptions large, successful software companies in the US became large and successful in the period before the patent system started collectively taking drugs.

    • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Friday November 09, 2012 @07:30PM (#41937269)

      "If patent litigation caused by the U.S. patent system stifled innovation, U.S. software companies would not be the most successful in the world."

      "If patent litigation caused by the U.S. patent system stifled innovation, U.S. software companies would not be the most successful in the world, in the field of patent litigation."

      Sounds right, to me.

    • by devent (1627873) on Friday November 09, 2012 @09:26PM (#41938507) Homepage

      Do you want it to become as difficult to create a new software company as it currently is to create a new company in any other industry?

      Short answer: Yes. Google, Amazon, Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Cisco, etc. are holding on on patents for only this reason: to make sure they hold a big chunk of the market and rise the bar to entry as high as possible.

      Why does anybody listen to "Company XXX's Chief Patent Counsel"? He or she will only say in public what benefits his or her company. The government should not listen to any company to implement politics.

    • "If patent litigation caused by the U.S. patent system stifled innovation, U.S. software companies would not be the most successful in the world."

      This is not an argument at all. It's possible they stifle innovation as it is now, so they would be even better off without the patent system.

      No, it's an argument, but it disproves their point, you see: If patent litigation caused by the U.S. patent system DIDN'T stifle innovation, U.S. software companies would not be among the most profitable companies in the world.

      It's not that US software giants wouldn't be profitable without a patent system, it's just that guys like me would be able to create new OSs, Languages, Virtual Machine tech, etc. and release them to the public without fear of any patent concerns (all examples I have actually made from scratch and not released after the fact due to patent concerns -- I use them myself, because it's only illegal if you get caught -- Yes, some software I CREATE FROM SCRATCH is illegal for ME to even use). In short: The competition would be too fierce without patents to support the flawed software model of monetization via artificial scarcity.

      Now, I make it a point not to read software patents, but I stumble across a few without even trying to be clever on any large-ish project. If you accidentally infringe a patent, doesn't that mean it's obvious? Well, yeah, but the PTO just issues patents, it's up to the expensive courts to decide if the patent is valid -- sadly, the courts sort of trust a patent to be valid if granted by the PTO, and invalidating them costs big BIG bucks.

      Think about it. If you want something done, you shop around and see who's offering that service, then they do the job, you pay them for it, and that's that -- You don't pay the mechanic for fixing your radiator each time you drive the car afterwards... With software, the work is done once before anyone (besides the publisher) even asks for it to be done, and then once the work is done and paid for artificial scarcity is employed by the Publisher via copyright and patent law in order to recoup their losses. Only then do they discover if anyone wanted the software or not.

      To me this is dumb. It's a worthless middle man inflating prices needlessly. If instead of the Publisher I worked for The Public (crowdsourcing, grants, etc), then as a developer I could do the same work for the same pay, but The Public could get the product for free afterwards (you already paid me to make it). The work is what's scare, not copies of bits -- they are in near infinite supply. I'd sell my work the same way a home builder does by saying: "I have the reputation and skill, so I'll do this work, for $PRICE, but not until we have an agreement will I do the work" -- Just like EVERY other sane market, like auto repair, etc.

      The problem, you see, is that we're not getting fairly reimbursed for the price of these temporary monopolies the public grants. It costs so little to come up with a patentable idea and get it patented that companies have patent attorneys making rounds, asking if we've ALREADY CREATED anything this week that might be patentable (that's right, the innovation happens whether or not the attorney comes round, not because they do). For giving up the right to manipulate 1's and 0's any way we choose we get increased prices due to massive litigation, and less (if any) competition from smaller software shops.

      As long as consumers allow the worthless middlemen Publishers to leach money out of the software economy (in order support the middlemen's very existence) we will need strong Patent and Copyright laws to enforce ARTIFICIAL SCARCITY. Without these strong restrictions upon them the people would be free from the oppressive and abusive market that the "US Software Companies" created, and NO, these companies wouldn't be nearly as profitable... THAT'S A GOOD THING. For the most part, it doesn't take a huge company to make the innovations in SOFTWARE that we're seeing. D/L a free compiler and away you go!

      Anyone arguing that the patent system isn't broken in regards to software patents is LYING.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:13PM (#41936475)

    Hen house "perfectly secure", proclaims fox.

  • Fluff patents (Score:5, Insightful)

    by camperdave (969942) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:16PM (#41936521) Journal
    I'm sorry, but when you can patent swinging side to side (US6368227) or teasing your cat with a laser pointer (US5443036), and the infamous rounded corners; it just proves that the system is broken. Whether it is broken beyond repair, needs a serious overhaul, or just needs a bit of tweaking, is up in the air.
    • by freeze128 (544774) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:22PM (#41936601)
      yeah, I don't think rounded corners on the icons counts as an "incredible technological advance".
    • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:39PM (#41936809) Homepage Journal

      US6368227 [google.com]

      What.
      The.
      Fuck.

    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:56PM (#41936971)
      I think a reasonable counterpoint is that you'll have abuses both ways no matter what. A few ridiculous abuses don't prove the whole system is broken. You have counterexamples that would suggest it's not strong enough: look at the iphone clones from china, or any app store being full of ripoffs of popular games.

      Looking at the shitty minecraft clones cashing on on the app store, I almost would cheer Notch on if he had patented "a program where blocks can be moved around to build structures" or something similar.

      Either way, you'll get greedy people doing things as they shouldn't no matter what you do.
      • by Tough Love (215404) on Friday November 09, 2012 @09:31PM (#41938537)

        A few ridiculous abuses don't prove the whole system is broken.

        No, the whole system being broken and acting as a brake on technogical evolution proves the whole system is broken.

      • by farble1670 (803356) on Friday November 09, 2012 @09:43PM (#41938661)

        look at the iphone clones from china

        well here in the US where apple lives, i've never seen an iphone clone. or maybe we should look at apple's financial troubles to see how those clones are hurting them ... oh wait.

        Looking at the shitty minecraft clones cashing on on the app store, I almost would cheer Notch on if he had patented "a program where blocks can be moved around to build structures" or something similar.

        you are making the terribly naive assumption that the best implementation will own the patent. how would you like it if one of those shitty minecraft clones owned the patent, and kept you from having a copy of the real minecraft?

        that's the crux of the problem. minecraft doesn't win by having the patent for block-building games. they win by being the best block building game. if you give them a piece of paper that says they still get all there money and they don't have to be the best to get it, they won't. that's competition 101.

    • by WGFCrafty (1062506) on Friday November 09, 2012 @10:57PM (#41939243)
      wow, there are a few. it is not just.moving a laser pointer, it's for potentially creating a device that moves a laser pointer. I personally think not controlling it by hand is potentially dangerous:

      Referenced by Citing PatentFiling dateIssue dateOriginal AssigneeTitleUS6505576Mar 15, 2001Jan 14, 2003Barbara NathansonPet toyUS6557495Jul 5, 2001May 6, 2003Laser pet toyUS6651591Dec 9, 2002Nov 25, 2003Automatic laser pet toy and exerciserUS6701872Oct 30, 2002Mar 9, 2004Method and apparatus for automatically exercising a curious animalUS7066780Mar 25, 2004Jun 27, 2006Pet entertainment device
  • by Baloroth (2370816) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:16PM (#41936523)

    Of course there are fewer suits per patent, because there are literally 5 times the number of patent applications as there were 30 years ago. That means nothing. Deceitful bastard of a lawyer... but I repeat myself.

    And of course I don't need to address the "if it wasn't a good idea, we wouldn't be succeeding", around here, do I? So damned fallacious. It's like saying being fat isn't bad for you because people now live longer than they did 100 years ago. A does not follow from B.

  • by crakbone (860662) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:21PM (#41936595)
    "We are actually witnessing fewer patent suits per patent issued today than the historical average." And we have more people settling out of court so they don't have the expense because is actually cheaper to "license" the patent that to try to fight it for 8 years against a patent troll. Or the fact we now have tens of million patents each year for stuff as inane as a square with rounded corners. And that if we actually tried to fight in court would have the courts stuffed for the next 300 years for just this years patents.
    • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:42PM (#41936839) Homepage Journal

      And that if we actually tried to fight in court would have the courts stuffed for the next 300 years for just this years patents.

      Exactly why it should be fought. Every. Single. Time.

      Same goes for traffic tickets, bullshit criminal charges, et. al. Fill the courts with so many people fighting stupid laws they can't get anything else done, and reform will have to happen.

      • by farble1670 (803356) on Friday November 09, 2012 @10:03PM (#41938815)

        Same goes for traffic tickets

        you had me until this. sure municipalities use traffic tickets to boost income, but traffic laws are there for a reason and for the most part aren't bullshit and keep people safe (speed limit, come to full stop at stop sign, use your signal, ...). municipalities are preying on your inability to follow simple rules. here's the secret to beating them: follow the rules.

  • No way! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nedlohs (1335013) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:22PM (#41936607)

    Next you'll be telling that accountants don't think the tax system needs simplifying.

  • Winged flight? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Carnildo (712617) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:24PM (#41936625) Homepage Journal

    ...a natural characteristic of a vigorously competitive industry. And they're nothing new: Similar skirmishes have historically occurred in areas as diverse as...winged flight,

    You mean the skirmishes that left Europe doing all the innovating in winged flight for 20 years [wikipedia.org]? The ones that resulted in the US entering World War I with airplanes that weren't much better than the Flyer III?

  • by hsmith (818216) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:24PM (#41936635)
    for your health. More at 11.

    What a crock of shit. Of couse a man who gets paid $1000/hr doesn't think the system is flawed.
  • by 3seas (184403) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:27PM (#41936661) Journal
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:28PM (#41936671)

    The navigation on IBM.com violates US patent #7353460 "Web site navigation under a hierarchical menu structure" as well as US patent # 5251294 "Accessing, assembling, and using bodies of information"

  • Yes it is broken (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuperCharlie (1068072) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:28PM (#41936673)
    When patent trolls lay in wait for a successful business and then litigate them into submission, the system is broken. When companies amass patents simply for use as leverage and profit from other companies, the system is broken. When it is necessary to pay thousands of dollars to lawyers, researchers and fees thereby removing the system from the average garage inventor, the system is broken. And finally, when patents become so universal to every breath, every step, every device, and every thought we may have now or in the future, the freaking system is broken. In fact, it is hard to think of ways the system is actually not broken, come to think of it.
  • by Empiric (675968) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:29PM (#41936681) Homepage

    "Patent disputes like [the Apple-Samsung case] are a natural characteristic of a vigorously competitive industry."

    And that only companies on a scale like Apple, Samsung, and... IBM can be competitive in any patent-portfolio showdown, is not.

    Though, he seems to like using terms that can't actually fail to be the case, given how he uses them. Yes, there is "industry". Yes, it is "competitive"--increasingly within an oligopoly.

    The next one is better, though.

    "If patent litigation caused by the U.S. patent system stifled innovation, U.S. software companies would not be the most successful in the world."

    a) The broad software industry did not reach the point it is at with such patent battles being mainstream, and...

    b) If we had a single software company in the U.S., that is "most successful" compared to its equivalent in each other country, is that satisfactory, in reality, as opposed to per how his sentence is phrased?

    Unfortunately, per usual, the worst enemy of free-market capitalism, is capitalists, as it's almost always to a large company's net advantage to have a general impediment applied to everyone--which will cost them, but also eliminate the smaller competition via those costs. The cost of lawyers, handily, being among such general impediments.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:29PM (#41936689) Homepage

    I'm sorry. But no. All of these "on a computer" and "over the internet" patents have got to go. And making a product design so simple that its design is completely utilitarian does not a design patent make.

    Companies suing each other into oblivion is no way for competition to reign. It's supposed to be about marketing, customer service and product quality... isn't it?

  • Broken (Score:4, Insightful)

    by robmv (855035) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:31PM (#41936717)

    US patent system is broken because only big companies can afford that kind of litigation. Small companies only have the option to be bought by someone big enough before they are attacked by patent trolls or competitors that don't want a new actor in their area. But it is understandable that Big IBM want the current state because it is in favor of them, that doesn't means the system is right

  • by iive (721743) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:33PM (#41936737)

    "If patent litigation caused by the U.S. patent system stifled innovation, U.S. software companies would not be the most successful in the world."

    He is right. Patent litigation doesn't stifle innovation, it stifles competition.
    And IBM know that because they've stomped enough businesses back in the days when they were the big evil monopoly.

    Innovation happens as byproduct on working on a given problem. It will happen despite somebody having patented portion or the whole of it. However the patent may prevent the innovative company from selling its product or increase the cost. The innovation then could be bought or outright stolen. Then the big and successful patent holders would become bigger and even more successful.

  • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:34PM (#41936755)

    We are actually witnessing fewer patent suits per patent issued today than the historical average.

    Yeah, you may want to go ahead check the totals on that one instead of the marginal rate, since that's where the costs come from.

  • by Githaron (2462596) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:34PM (#41936763)

    Each marked the emergence of incredible technological advances, and each generated similar outcries about the patent system.

    So he is arguing that because the system has been around a long time it must good? Why can't the same statement be used to claim that the patent system as been broken for a long time and we just haven't gotten around to fixing it?

    • by oxdas (2447598) on Friday November 09, 2012 @07:27PM (#41937235)

      Except that the system hasn't been around for a long time. The USPTO only began widely issuing "software patents" since 1993 and the appointment of Bruce Lehman (an IP lobbyist) to head the USPTO. Before that, the stance of the USPTO was that software was not patentable and fought very hard against such patents in the courts. The change in leadership and direction at the USPTO, along with the Supremes taking a 20 year hiatus from hearing software patent cases, allowed the Federal Circuit to make software patents legal and the concept of what is patentable has expanded greatly ever since.

  • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:46PM (#41936869)

    "If patent litigation caused by the U.S. patent system stifled innovation, U.S. software companies would not be the most successful in the world."

    That doesn't make any sense to me. It doesn't consider that many other factors may be involved. It doesn't even consider the fact that a 'better' patent system may allow for more innovation. The fact that U.S. software companies are supposedly the most successful in the world doesn't mean that there isn't room for improvement.

  • Put Up or Shut Up (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tgeek (941867) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:46PM (#41936871)
    If Mr. Schechter really wants us to believe the patent system isn't broken, then why doesn't he step aside from IBM and maybe handle a few pro bono cases for small inventors. Then he can come back here and tell us all what a wonderful patent system we enjoy!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:47PM (#41936877)

    As someone actively attempting to game the system, having spent over a month working on something that would be called a patent troll, I can guarantee you the patent system is ridiculous and should be abolished entirely. The things I've seen just in research alone for my own attempt. Pages of the purest garbage language you've ever seen, descriptions of things take one sentence strung out by lawyers into PHD like thesis on how to do everything from give someone a gift via the internet to how the internet itself works.

    Questions like, how do I read a QR code if the camera can't get a good picture? With patented answers that are literally along the lines of "move the damned camera". And for those arguing against the entire abolishment of patents, I doubt you have more qualification of informed and important opinion than the entire St. Louis Federal Bank: http://bit.ly/S6aNCp

    There's no real question that the entire US patent system is in desperate need of major changes. The only thing remaining is to expose it as such to the right people. Probably to the US public in general, enough that the general average corruptness, laziness, and ignorance of Congress can be overcome.

  • by BeanThere (28381) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:48PM (#41936887)

    He wouldn't see it as 'broken' because from his perspective it's 'working as designed' - to make sociopathic scumbag lawyers like him rich and to allow big companies to use patent cross-licensing and ring-fencing to destroy potential upstart competitors. A more important question would be if the patent system was immoral, and it is. It's effectively the initiation of violence against, and theft of property of, 'second inventors', for merely using their minds to create something. Those of who aren't lacking a conscience find the software patent system morally repugnant, and all software developers with a moral conscience should reject the software patent system as a matter of principle.

  • by ibsteve2u (1184603) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:48PM (#41936891)
    Lawyer argues court is better.
  • by epine (68316) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:48PM (#41936893)

    Did someone tell this guy that an asshat was the cure for baldness?

    We are actually witnessing fewer patent suits per patent issued today than the historical average.

    With the number of patents issues and the escalating cost of justice, for this to not be true would pretty much double-down on the trillion dollar a year fiscal cliff.

    Sorry dude, we invaded Iraq. There just aren't enough litigation dollars free for the taking, so either the ALP (average litigation price) or the ALR (average litigation rate) has to go down. Teach a lawyer to fish, he buys himself a drift net. If the net is to heavy with fish to pull into the boat, he doesn't fish with a smaller net, he makes the holes bigger. Whales, we call them. The whales eat the small fish, and we eat the whales.

  • by Crypto Gnome (651401) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:49PM (#41936897) Homepage Journal
    "The Rich Are Getting Richer" argument is not semantically equivalent to "The System Is Working".

    Although it may be equivalent to "The System Is Working AS DESIGNED".
  • by some old guy (674482) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:50PM (#41936907)

    In other words, "Software businesses should continue to pay people like me princely salaries year after year to litigate absurd claims, instead of being able to invest that money in research."

    It's not just the patent system that's broken. Software patent law is nothing more than binary ambulance chasing.

  • by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Friday November 09, 2012 @07:12PM (#41937127) Homepage
    It's like a pedo saying sex with minors isn't a bad thing. Of course he'd say that.
  • by hugg (22953) on Friday November 09, 2012 @07:16PM (#41937149)

    "Economists also tell us that 75 percent of a company’s value is attributable to its intellectual property (IP) — and that IP-intensive industries contribute $5 trillion per year to the U.S. economy. These industries account for about 35 percent of gross domestic product and 40 million jobs, including 28 percent of the jobs in the United States."

    The report linked in the article discusses copyright, trademark, and patent-intensive industries. Patent-intensive industries are the *lowest* employer of the three, around 4 million as opposed to the 40 million jobs cited. It's misleading to lump all three industries together.

    The same report lists another interesting metric, which is percentage of self-employed workers for each industry. Patent-intensive industries have the lowest number of self-employed workers, at 2.2% (vs 16% for copyright-intensive industries). This indicates to me that patent-intensive industries do not support capital-poor startups very well.

    Of course I would expect counsel for the top patent recipient in the U.S. for two decades running to have differing opinions from my own.

    Source: http://www.uspto.gov/news/publications/IP_Report_March_2012.pdf

  • Patents server large crony cartels like IBM and the lawyer class quite well - just the rest of us get screwed.

  • by sootman (158191) on Friday November 09, 2012 @08:06PM (#41937641) Homepage Journal

    "Patent System Not Broken, Argues IBM's Chief Patent Counsel"

    "Moore's Law Is Becoming Irrelevant, Says ARM's Boss"

    Can we have a checkbox to hide "Corporate head makes self-serving statement" stories? They're depressing as hell.

  • by vanyel (28049) * on Friday November 09, 2012 @10:16PM (#41938927) Journal

    ...it's always been broken doesn't mean it's not broken now. If it is used to block competition that is not actually stealing real, non-trivial, IP, it's broken.

  • by gelfling (6534) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @12:14AM (#41939673) Homepage Journal

    Pedophiles don't think there's a child molestation 'problem' in America either.

  • by boorack (1345877) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @12:30AM (#41939763)
    Crooks defending a broken system they themselves designed and lobbied hard for. News at 11. Thus these silly argument aren't even wrong. These arguments are corrupt and should be dismissed as such. Having said that, I see more and more corporate parrots repeating this crap as pressure on fixing this (broken) system mounts. Expect more of them joining this chorus of lies and deceptions and more corporate money thrown at Congress to make sure US broken patent system won't go away.

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