Jun 212012

“Several cracks have appeared in patent systems worldwide,” wrote Claude Baudoin in his Cutter IT Journal Call for Papers on IP, Innovation, and Collaboration. At the heart of the issue, he says, is the argument that the patent system discourages collaborative innovation among partners, and that in some domains this is hurting scientific, technical, economic and societal progress. (If you’re curious about some examples of  such partnerships, check out Claude’s recent blog post.)

Do you agree that the patent system is crumbling? Disagree? Have you had success — or failure — with IP sharing in cases where you’ve collaborated with a partner? How do you protect sensitive information while jointly innovating?

The September 2012 issue of Cutter IT Journal invites you to tell your stories and offer your opinions on the uneasy relationship between IP and innovation, and offer suggestions for how to overcome this potential obstacle to innovation. Submit an abstract for consideration by July 6. Accepted articles are due August 10. You can read the complete call for papers and editorial guidelines at the Cutter IT Journal website.



  One Response to “Is the Patent System Discouraging Collaborative Innovation?”

  1. The ugly truth is that very few “inventions” are worthy of protection. These days, novel creations are made possible only because of the prior decades of work by others. Further, there is stiff competition to invent on the same subject matter.

    In Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers, he describes the single greatest fear of an entrepreneur — that someone else is going to beat her to market. Gladwell goes on to report that the great inventions of the industrial era all had competitive, simultaneous discoveries by others, but we only remember the winners.

    A very little digging will show that scientists feel the same way. For example, one ABD professor of mine failed three times to complete his doctoral thesis because he had been trumped by others on the same subject.

    The vast majority of patents cannot withstand the tests of novelty (absence of prior art), let alone non-obviousness. Having examined dozens of patents in my own field and found none that pass the test, this is certainly been my experience.

    Digging deep into the why, it’s pretty obvious. No examiner charged with a broad swath of ever deepening technology, can possibly know enough to rule correctly, let alone do so in the hour+ that each patent is given.

    So, why doesn’t PTO open the process to crowd-sourcing commentary on patent applications? With a few controls to minimize the spam, the work of the patent examiner would be as judge, not assessor. As it should be,

    One post-script. The patent system has developed into an iron triangle. Many people choose jobs as patent examiner to put themselves through law school, to become highly compensated patent attorneys, who then rely on the very same convoluted and broken system to rack up fees for the ever increasing number of senseless patent applications. Smells like an iron triangle that should be broken.

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