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How Patent Trolls Destroy Innovation 97

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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  • by StormReaver ( 59959 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @08:31AM (#47711251)

    You can only patent an idea that's not obvious and novel....

    That's how it should be, but it's not what has actually been happening for the last few decades. The patent office has been spewing out patent approval for the most obvious and commonly used ideas at a rate unparalleled in modern history.

    And Congress and the Courts have been complicit in making patent defense so expensive that only the richest companies and individuals can even consider mounting a defense. They have also tilted the courtroom so far in favor of the trivially obvious patent troll that everyone else must simply cave in to the patent offensive, even when the patent wouldn't have a chance in Hell of being upheld in court.

  • by organgtool ( 966989 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @10:48AM (#47712285)

    Well yes and no, patent protects innovation because you have a monopoly on your idea.

    While I agree with most of what you have said, I have to make a pedantic statement about a common mistake that you have made that infuriates me - you can not patent an idea! You may patent an implementation of an idea, otherwise known as an invention, but you are not supposed to be able to patent the underlying idea.

    You're never forced to patent your idea tho (see Coca-Cola, never patented, receipt never given).

    This is true, although you've used a bad example since recipes are not eligible to be patented. But otherwise, you are correct - unpatented ideas can be protected as trade secrets.

"Yeah, but you're taking the universe out of context."