Sunday, May 06, 2007

Patent Developments

Occasionally, I post items related to patents...

I'm not opposed to patents. At one end of the spectrum, there are inventions that are the product of a great deal of perspiration and research, endeavors that won't be pursued without legal protections of investments required in the development of an invention. Such protections are an important part of our system.

At the other end of the spectrum are the frivolous and trivial patents of obviousness that seem sadly contrary to the original intentions of those responsible for the establishment of patents, the fostering of progress in the arts and sciences.

I believe there's an answer in there somewhere between extremes, but currently the problem seems to be a system with too much frivolous patenting of the obvious.

Recently the Supreme Court in KSR International Co. v. Teflex Inc. offered a significant patent decision:

"In a unanimous opinion, the justices ruled that the patent in question was invalid because designing a gas pedal in such a way was an 'obvious' thing to do, at least to the average gas pedal designer, and therefore not really an invention. What's more, Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the court, argued that the current patent regime threatened to stifle the sort of creativity that the Founding Fathers had originally created the system to foster. Courts, Kennedy wrote, have been upholding patents for technologies or designs that didn't need them, that would have been developed 'in the ordinary course' of events. In doing so, they have allowed bogus inventions to steal business from legitimate ones, and discouraged true innovation." (more Patently Obvious at the Boston Globe, via 3QD)

Also worth reading is a recent post, The Coming Patent Apocalypse, by machine learning researcher John Langford.


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