US Patent Law: Made by Monkeys?

People I know who have an iPhone, especially those who’ve owned a Blackberry, say its email capability is klutzy. No, engineers did not screw up. Rather, it’s blamed on a feature of the current US patent system that allows patent holders and “trolls” (people who buy zillions of patents on speculation) to sue for huge damages against possible infringers. According to the NYT article, “Two Views of Innovation, Colliding in Washington“: “…although the Apple iPhone has many superior features, its email function is in most cases clunky when compared with the earlier R.I.M. BlackBerry. Industry executives say that’s because Apple has been forced to tiptoe around the patents held by NTP…although the patents have been largely invalidated by the UPSO, there are still active lawsuits NTP has brought…”

That may change with the Patent Reform Act of 2007. And though it is expected to pass, the article goes on to say that it is sure to face a bruising fight this year as legislators wrestle with how best to protect innovation. With so much at stake for individual inventors, it’s a fight that every innovative engineer will surely want to secure a ringside seat to watch.

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1 Comment

  1. John Goldsmith
    May 08, 2008 08:18

    This reminds me of the automatic washing machines of the 1960s. My father’s electrical shop sold these appliances and as a teenager I remember asking him why some makes used such complicated, unreliable and awkward-to-use technology. He replied that Bendix had all the good ways tied up in patents.

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