Innovation is not threatened by patent “trolls,” says a Virginia IP attorney, but by half-truths about the failure of the patent system spread by businesses looking to defend their turf.
The publisher of IP Watchdog, one of the most widely read blogs in the patent field, went from watchdog to bulldog this week, taking on businesses and lawmakers who falsely deride the patent system.
Gene Quinn, a seasoned patent attorney, says that the patent system is not dysfunctional. It’s many of the most established technology companies looking to stay on top who are.
Silicon Valley’s Anti-Patent Propaganda: Success at What Cost? is required reading for everyone affected by IP, especially those who believe that patent enforcement is ruining innovation and destroying the economy. Patent holders, small and large, NPE and operating company will find the article revealing if not relevant.
Motown Comes to the Valley
Whether we wish to believe it or not Silicon Valley is knee-deep in mature businesses. It is vaguely reminiscent of Detroit’s golden age, when new ideas in the automobile industry and real competition were considered a nuisance. Don’t let the overstuffed patent portfolios of many technology companies fool you: These are not patent friendly businesses and won’t be until they figure out, as Microsoft and Philips have, how to profit from good patents. One wonders if some Silicon Valley tech companies have become too big not to fail?
“This [rhetoric about the failing patent system and rampant litigation] has led the media, the public and members of Congress to incorrectly believe that there is a ‘patent troll problem,’ which has influenced decision-makers all the way from Capitol Hill to the United States Supreme Court, who increasingly seems to be deciding patent cases with one eye firmly on what is a completely non-existent problem…”
“So how has such a factually baseless narrative been able to dominate the discussion? This propaganda was promoted by some of the elite Silicon Valley companies over the years, with Google leading the charge. But Google is a high-tech company. Why would they want to damage the patent system by spreading half-truths and reckless misrepresentations?…”
“Despite what some have been lead to believe, Google is a company that was founded on strong patent protection, having filed two patent applications prior to even obtaining the domain name Google.com. These patents related to Google’s proprietary page rank algorithm. The Google search algorithms, protected by patents, were how Google moved from fledgling start-up to eventually dominate the likes of Yahoo! and Microsoft.
“Simply stated, like virtually every other Silicon Valley start-up Google relied on the exclusive rights provided by patents and now that they are dominant they would prefer the patent system to evaporate so that the next round of dorm-room start-ups won’t be able to challenge Google in the same way that Google supplanted Yahoo! and Microsoft.
“The truth is Google is just one groundbreaking algorithm away from becoming old news.”
Sharing the Blame
Quinn says there is plenty of blame to go around:
“To a large extent Apple, Microsoft and many other Silicon Valley innovators went along with the anti-patent rhetoric perfected by the Google machine because they were facing what they called a ‘patent troll problem.’ This caused even innovation based leaders to throw in with Google and others in an attempt to vilify innovators and a patent system run amok. Such a myopic strategy risked the innovative future of these companies by putting their own patent portfolios in grave jeopardy in order to address the problems they were having with a relatively small number of truly bad actors who were clearly abusing the litigation process.”
“The quickest way to get less innovation is to destroy the patent system. This should be self-evident to everyone, but sadly there are many intellectually challenged individuals who refuse to believe this objective truth. If patents inhibit innovation then why don’t countries without a patent system have run away innovation? If patents get in the way of innovation why do countries with the strongest patent rights have the most innovation?”
Whether you agree or not with Gene Quinn he is a leading IP voice, unafraid to call it as he sees it in “Silicon Valley’s Anti-Patent Propaganda: Success at What Cost?”
Quinn’s strong words remind us that we live in a still great country with an active if imperfect legal system and a free press that, like patents, sometimes must be used to be fully appreciated.
Image source: ipwatchdog.com