Friday, September 09, 2011

patent wars: a new hope


Although my main portfolio was Energy, I also happened to be the patent economist when I was at the White House, and back in 2006, I remember discussing the idea of modeling patent wars with the chief economist at the FTC. This summer, the idea seems to have gone mainstream. The idea is that patents are no longer used to protect innovation in the tech industry, their main use in fact is to use as ammunition in legal battles.

HTC just retaliated in its patent war against Apple who was suing HTC because the HTC tablet looks like an iPad. HTC retaliated by saying the iPad looks like something from the movie 2001, hence prior art. They also just acquired some patents from google to counter sue Apple for patent infringement. The whole patent war issue seems to have gone mainstream this summer, with several multi-billion dollar acquisitions of companies not for technology, but only for patents to be used as ammunition; ostensibly defensively, like some kind of patent WMD. You sue me, I sue you back.

This American Life / Planet Money had a nice show about it, which pointed out amongst other things that the great "innovator" Nathan Myhrvold's new idea lab has not many any money from any of its inventions. It in fact makes all its money from sueing people using patents it acquires.

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