Saturday, April 21, 2007

Are "vanity patents" harmless?

Just-n-examiner has a post titled "Vanity Patents," which touches on the theme of Lemley's "rational ignorance." Included is the text:

Now, let me pose a question. Is there really anyone out there who seriously worries about being sued for exercising their cat with a laser pointer? For using a stick to play fetch with their dog? Do you warn your children not to swing sideways on a swing, for fear of violating intellectual property laws? I assume not.

So why is everyone so outraged by these patents having been issued??? As Lemley says in his article, doesn't it make more sense to concentrate the examining resources of the Office on important (however you want to define that) applications?

If you agree with Lemley (and his theory does make sense, at least on a certain level), then 'vanity patents' (which I define as patents for which there is absolutely no chance of ever be asserted) should be at the very bottom of the list of 'important' patent applications, and consequently (according to the theory) are not worth the expenditure of lots of Office resources in their examination.

IPBiz asks: is Hogan's patent, now asserted against Thomson, a vanity patent in the eyes of just-n-examiner? Is BlackLight's patent, which might never be infringed, harmless if the patent induces investors to invest money in it?

Of criticisms of "rational ignorance," see


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