Techdirt is reporting that Jon Dudas, head of the US Patent Office, is lamenting the continuing quality drop in patent submissions. Unfortunately, while this problem is finally getting the attention it deserves, the changes being implemented don't seem to be offering the correct solution. "When you set up a system that rewards people for not actually innovating in the market (but just speculating on paper), then of course, you're going to get more of that activity. When you set up a system that rewards those people to massive levels, well out of proportion with their contribution to any product, then of course you're going to get more of that activity. When you set up a system that gives people a full monopoly right that can be used to set up a toll booth on the natural path of innovation, then of course you're going to get more of that activity. When the cost of getting a patent is so much smaller than the potential payoff of suing others with it, then of course you're going to get more of that activity. The fact that Dudas is just noticing this now, while still pushing for changes that will make the problem worse, is a real problem. Patents were only supposed to be used in special cases. The fact that they've become the norm, rather than the exception, is a problem, and it doesn't seem like anyone is seriously looking into fixing that."
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