Friday, October 21, 2005

Does the patent problem of software companies come from a lack of patent tradition?

Philip S. Johnson of J&J on complaints from software people about patents: "They don't have a tradition of working in a patented area."

Elsewhere in the Philadelphia Inquirer article:

The law now grants the patent to the first inventor. The proposed bill would grant the patent to the first-to-file. Kelly says that provision would penalize the more disorganized individual inventor in favor of corporations, which support their innovators with attorneys and secretaries.

"If we do things to discourage the independent inventor, then we strike at the very heart of what this nation is about," said Kelly. "Virtually every important invention you can think of was created by people working on their own in garages, basements and attics."

Herbert Wamsley, executive director of the Intellectual Property Owners Association, a trade group for large corporate inventors, argues the other side.

"We do support first-to-file," he said. "It simplifies patent law and reduces uncertainty. And it will have the effect of paving the way for more harmonization with the patent laws in other countries." The United States, he said, is the only nation granting patents to the first-to-invent.

One provision in the proposed bill would direct more resources to the patent office, so examiners could conduct more thorough patent reviews, Wamsley said. His members are not satisfied with the quality of patent review. When reviews are incomplete, they are more easily challenged in court, causing uncertainty and delay.


A partner in Freedom Wireless, the Arizona company that won the $128 million lawsuit against Boston Communications, says he's no troll.

"The cause of the lawsuit is not that we are patent trolls," said Larry Day, according to the Wall Street Journal. "The cause of the lawsuit is that these defendants used our patented technology to make over $1.5 billion in revenue."

Two other Freedom partners had held an unused patent involving prepaid cell-phone minutes that the jury found similar to technology used by Boston Communications.

The biggest complaints on patent trolls come from software firms. That's partly because one high-tech device such as a BlackBerry might contain technology based on dozens of patents. A suit challenging one patent could halt production on an entire device.

Software firms are pushing for stronger measures to deter what they describe as speculative lawsuits.


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