I’m just going to be blunt: Our patent system sucks. It’s terrible to deal with, protects ridiculous things, and encourages frivolous litigation. It’s about as popular as a leper in a nudist colony.
For 10 years, patent reform has had the backing of major corporations who, like everyone else, are sick of patent trolls and costly defensive IP purchases. Nobody—not consumer groups, business, or inventors—believes this system works. Despite all of this, Congress managed to punt on real change. “It took 10 years to work out a deal that changed almost nothing,” says Jason Schultz, director of the Samuelson Law Clinic at UC Berkeley, speaking about the America Invents Act (AIA), the reform that finally crawled its way into law this year.
The administration claimed it to be a job creation bill, which is true, if your job is patent attorney. “[The idea] that patents create jobs is ridiculous,” says Schultz. “There’s growing evidence that too many patents actually hurts the economy.”
The AIA demonstrates how profoundly broken American legislation is. It makes small procedural changes, like awarding patents to the first to file or disclose, instead of the first to invent (which can be hard to establish legally). That won’t prevent patent litigation, but it may make it go more smoothly—like treating a broken leg with Vicodin.
AIA does nothing to hamper notorious patent trolls like Nathan Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures. It doesn’t address the low quality of many patents, the snail’s pace of the patent office, or the ultimate problem: There’s just too many of them being filed.
Instead, look for more patent fights putting new technologies out of business, limiting existing technologies, and diverting billions of dollars from people who actually build stuff to people who file paperwork, and then spend the next 50 years collecting interest and playing golf. Thanks, Congress!