Friday November 23, 2018

Software Patents Stifle Innovation

Jonathan Rosenberg is the VP/CTO Collaboration at Cisco, SIP lead author, and a VoIP industry pioneer. He has written a blog post about the vagueness of software patents and how this has created the modern day patent troll. Patent trolls are companies that don't make a product but collect patents with the intent of using the vagueness of the descriptive language contained in the patent to "creatively" apply them to as many products as they can.

The patent trolls operate as a "protection racket" as they sue companies that make real products to collect a "tax" on their work. They often win in court because older patents are written absurdly vague so that they can apply to a myriad of products. This in turn stifles innovation as the companies have to hold off on hiring more workers to pay the patent troll for example. Mr Rosenberg suggests that software should be forbidden from having a patent. If that is too radical a change for today's society, then he suggests that only companies that actually create products based on the patent should be able to sue for damages.

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It is expensive to file patents though, and so a more recent tactic that companies are taking to defend themselves is to publish inventions on a website. Once published, an invention cannot be patented by anyone else subsequently. If a troll should have a patent which is claiming something similar to the published invention, the patent can be overturned on grounds of "prior art"--meaning it had already been invented previously, and the website serves as proof.

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