Chip Lutton, Apple (AAPL) chief patent counsel, said at a conference at Stanford University that the United States patent system is not broken and he's not sure there's a crisis. He said there is, however, a "bubble market" in patents.
Lutton said much of the problem is that too many people are getting small, low-quality patents, and there's no system for establishing their value. That often leads to patent cases where one party seeks an unnecessary injunction, potentially causing economic damage and feeding the bubble market in patents. (from utilitybelt)
In contrast, Google's Michelle Lee, associate general counsel and head of patents, raised the "patent quality" argument (And the quality of patents coming out — it could be better.' ), saying she believes there is a patent crisis. The cases can easily cost between $2 million and $5 million to defend, she said. Lee said an overburdened federal patent office has trouble improving the patent process, because it doesn't have time to thoroughly evaluate applications.
IPBiz wishes Google's Lee would identify some of the low quality patents and the prior art invalidating them. Even the NAS/STEP report noted that there is no empirical evidence of a systematic lack of quality at the USPTO. Dragging up NTP v. RIM, which should have settled early-on, is tiresome.
PCWorld covered different aspects of the conference:
Another looming issue for startups is international patents. Hayes of Fenwick & West said if a startup has limited funds for getting patents outside the U.S., it should seek them in China, India, and Europe, in that order.
Despite China's lawless reputation, it isn't a waste of time to get patents there, Google's Lee said. The country's patent system is changing fast and rapidly approaching European standards. And as more innovation happens within China, the country will have more incentive to protect intellectual property, she said.
Google knows something about Chinese intellectual property law firsthand. In April, Chinese portal Sohu.com Inc. threatened to sue Google for copying part of a dictionary of Chinese words and names developed by Sohu. Google apologized for copying it, saying it was done inadvertently.