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How Patent Trolls Destroy Innovation 97

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-had-an-idea-therefore-your-effort-is-mine dept.
walterbyrd sends this story from Vox: Everyone agrees that there's been an explosion of patent litigation in recent years, and that lawsuits from non-practicing entities (NPEs) — known to critics as patent trolls — are a major factor. But there's a big debate about whether trolls are creating a drag on innovation — and if so, how big the problem is. A new study (PDF) by researchers at Harvard and the University of Texas provides some insight on this question. Drawing from data on litigation, R&D spending, and patent citations, the researchers find that firms that are forced to pay NPEs (either because they lost a lawsuit or settled out of court) dramatically reduce R&D spending: losing firms spent $211 million less on R&D, on average, than firms that won a lawsuit against a troll. "After losing to NPEs, firms significantly reduce R&D spending — both projects inside the firm and acquiring innovative R&D outside the firm," the authors write. "Our evidence suggests that it really is the NPE litigation event that causes this decrease in innovation."
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How Patent Trolls Destroy Innovation

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  • Re:Cry More (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @06:52AM (#47710867)

    A good litmus test for patents would then be: If someone is infringing a patent, but has not read the patent, then the patent is probably much too broad or the invention is too simple and obvious. "First to file" vs "first to invent" becomes irrelevant if patents are required to be highly specific.

  • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @08:28AM (#47711235)

    > The original purpose of Patents to create a period of exclusivity to regain the expense of research, tooling (and other capital risks), are good.

    That benefit can often, not always, be retained by simply keeping a trade secret. The corresponding social benefit of limited patents is that they expire, and the invention is then available to the public.

    Unfortunately, the patent office, and the patent system itself, is overwhelmed by software patents. These are by their nature nebulous, aggressive, and often overlapping in complex ways. They also open the doors for, yes, patent trolls, who do no innovation and produce no actual goods or services to the general public. They exist purely as legal entities to file lawsuits based on patents they've purchased, and have no history or intention of using themselves.

    The ideal solution is to discard software patents altogether. They are a horrific drain on software design and productivity, not merely due to patent troll losses, but because they force companies to invest thousands or millions of dollars in patent suites to protect from potential patent litigation. And they directly interfere with software authors publishing their work as open source or freeware. The corporate lawyers, and the expense of patent review, cause many companies to refuse to publish even patches to open source, or freeware. There are good reasons the GPLv3 has tried to deal with software patents harshly. They've been a real problem with open source and freeware.

  • Re:who cares? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by organgtool (966989) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @11:02AM (#47712385)
    It's even worse than that. Some companies don't even want to sell their products [techcrunch.com] in the U.S. out of fear of patent litigation. I had a feeling this would eventually happen, but I didn't think it would happen this soon. The U.S. is losing ground in the tech sector and the worst part is that it's our own fault.

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