Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Our patent system is failing us...

It's become extremely apparent that our patent system has been hijacked by corporations. The patent system was intended to give the creators of their inventions the chance to profit from them for a predetermined period of time while licensing it out to others and preventing the creator from taking the invention with them in death. That giant sentence aside, the patent system as it stands now has been hijacked as a weapon by corporations against corporations (and people in certain instances).

Most of this hijacking is by tech companies patenting existing technology or obvious things. One just has to look at the recent lawsuits between Apple vs Samsung and HTC, Microsoft's shady mafia cut dealings, the absurdly abstract software patents of Apple, among others.

Of all these, Apple has to be the worst with Microsoft a close second. Apple has been on the warpath now that Android has eclipsed its market share in the smartphone arena. Apple and many others on the lawsuit wagon can't directly target Google with the exception of Oracle, so they hit the cell phone manufacturers. Apple started with HTC and moved on to Samsung. The problem is the fact that many of these disputes won't even be valid by the time the perceived patents are granted.

One of the biggest problems with patents in general is the time it takes to approve them. This is why you frequently see patent pending on products or why the patent number is usually in the millions these days. At the rate computer technology moves these days, most of the things we use are considered public domain long before the patent is even granted. Even worse, the patent office seems to have to real cataloging because they have granted already existing patents again.

What all this amounts to is corporations are suing each other to prevent losses on technology they don't even have patents to. Some of it has been played off as other arenas such as trade dress and outright theft, but the end result is still the same: corporations waging legal war to be top dog. Apple of all of them is the worst. For all of their advancement in the field of operating systems and the way we use our technology, they continue use underpowered hardware to create huge profit margins while suing their competitors to maintain their lead. They're anti-competitive, dirty, and by using these patent suits, driving technology in reverse by slowing down what could be great hardware.

However, let's not forget Microsoft. The software giant has learned from its previous mistakes in the 80s and 90s by no longer be overt about things. Recently, Microsoft has taken to making deals with Android phone manufacturers. By taking a small cut of the money sold on each handset, they won't sue for their patents. This isn't licensing, this is mafia style extortion. We've never, as a public, even been privy to what these patents are. Barnes and Noble however, are going to go ahead and fight it.

This madness needs to stop. The recent auction of Nortel's patents to a consortium of Microsoft, Apple, and others whom competed against Google for them showed that they are out to pummel the search engine giant. The patents are the guns and the judges are the generals. We are in need of dire patent reform and soon. Because eventually, innovation will be crushed and these corporations will have so much power from patents, legal loopholes, and mergers that the people will no longer have any recourse. Once you only have a couple of choices for the things you like, you're forced into purchasing from a business you had taken a stand against. Let's hope something gets done in favor of the consumer for once.

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