Patent Law: The New Cold War

On the frontlines of the costliest battle in the high-tech world.

Nor did it do anything to stop the continued flood of new patents streaming out of the agency: Last year the office set a new record by granting nearly 250,000.

There's also a newer, even more unsettling problem: The big companies that once complained about trolls are now treating them like role models.

According to The New York Times, last year was the first in which Apple and Google spent more on patent lawsuits and acquisitions than they did on research and development for new products. In August, Apple won a $1 billion patent-infringement judgment against competitor Samsung.

Craig Hockenberry's Iconfactory had to cough up a patent settlement to patent-troll Lodsys: "Everybody focuses on the percentage of money that was spent to license the patent. To me, that's actually less damaging than what's done to your spirit."
Courtesy of Craig Hockenberry
Craig Hockenberry's Iconfactory had to cough up a patent settlement to patent-troll Lodsys: "Everybody focuses on the percentage of money that was spent to license the patent. To me, that's actually less damaging than what's done to your spirit."
Mark Lemley, director of the Law, Science & Technology program at Stanford University, found that 150 people claimed to be the inventor of wi-fi.
Courtesy of Mark Lemley
Mark Lemley, director of the Law, Science & Technology program at Stanford University, found that 150 people claimed to be the inventor of wi-fi.

Nest may have deeper pockets than most, but they still aren't as deep as Honeywell's. In early October, Nest announced that six of Honeywell's seven patents had been rejected in re-examination by the patent office. Yet Honeywell has so far refused to budge.

Which means that, ultimately, Nest may be the next to learn the most important rule of modern invention: that the best weapon against someone else's patents is a stockpile of your own.

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2 comments
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

What makes things even worse is that items that should be copyrighted are now given patents ... specifically software ...

 

The patent system has been forced to do something that is not appropriate,

Guest
Guest

This article demonstrates ignorance and/or a gross misunderstanding of the patent system.  For example:

1) You can't renew a patent.  You can pay maintenance fees to keep your patent from lapsing, but there's no renewal.  All patents die at the end of the patent term.

2) "150 patents on wifi"  You don't patent wi-fi.  You patent aspects of wi-fi.  For example, it might be a wi-fi router that may be cheaper.  Or maybe it's a signal transmission method that is more secure.  It is incorrect to imply that the 150 patents are on the same invention, simply because there's 150 that deal with  wi-fi.

3)"[U]se them to make something."  This, above all, shows an ignorance of the very basic concept behind patents.  Patents don't allow the patent owner to make anything.  It allows the patent owner to exclude others from making your patented invention.  For example, just because you have a patent on a four wheeled vehicle does not mean you can make the four wheeled vehicle.  Someone may have a patent on a three wheeled vehicle, which you would infringe by making the four wheeled vehicle.  Instead, it means that someone who wants to make a four wheel vehicle will have to get a license from you.  (Yes, I realize this is an absurdly simplistic example, but you get my point).

 
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