Patents Are Bad For The Economy

Posted in: Iowa City Owl Tech News
A patent is a set of rights guaranteeing an inventor the exclusive right to develop their own invention for a limited period of time. Well, that's what they're supposed to be.

Instead, patents are corporate nuclear weapons. Originally, the patent system was originally designed to protect original inventors from immediate copycats. It was a great way to encourage people to come up with good ideas - and to publish how they work, without fear of the ideas being stolen.

But now, patents don't protect the little people. They protect whoever has the most money and files first, regardless of whether or not they have or intend to use a patent. The cost to file for a patent is far beyond the means of a small company or singular inventor. With legal costs and filing fees, a minimally complex patent filing can cost well over $10,000. And if you want to be sure you win if challenged in court? Consider adding another zero to that number.

Look at it this way: I could imagine the only engine technology in the world that requires 1/10th the gasoline as any other technology. It might work, might not, but I had an idea that it might, and I patent the designs. Years later, some creative inventor builds an engine based on this technology - after coming up with it on their own. It's probably even slightly different than my designs, which I never made actually work.

Too bad for him. I own the patent. So I get to sue this inventor, who is actually creating useful products. I'll win, get loads of money, and probably put this small timer out of business.

Same thing happens in the patent world. Except huge companies, with tons of lawyers, patent thousands of ideas - or parts of ideas - without any intent to use them. They then use them as leverage to win huge settlements against anyone developing a new technology that is even remotely similar.

This kind of behaviour is distinctly anti-competitive. In fact, it's government-sponsored monopolistic. Why? Because patent's last FOR-LIKE-EVER. In most cases: 20 years or longer. In that time, nobody but the patentor could ever use that idea - even if someone comes up with the same idea independently. And most of these patents aren't held by the original idea-maker. They're bought up by big companies.

Companies use these patents against one another, to try to beat out the competition's newer and better products, by claiming they own the right to the design or concept behind it. And most companies can't fight it. Patent cases take years in court, and hundreds of thousands (millions) of dollars.

Patents create long-lasting, legally-enforceable monopolies over good ideas, regardless of whether or not those ideas are being used by the monopolizer. Patents need to expire in three years. Not twenty.
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