Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Crovitz on the loose again, parroting Bessen/Meurer

PatentHawk went after Gordon Crovitz (again), although not by name, in criticizing Crovitz' piece: Why Technologists Want Fewer Patents , which piece concludes:

The Supreme Court may decide that more progress would be made with narrower definitions of what is patentable. A book on the U.S. approach to patents, "Jefferson vs. the Patent Trolls" by Jeffrey Matsuura, makes the key point that "intellectual property rights were not goals in and of themselves, but were instead a mechanism through which society attempted to facilitate creative collaboration."

Thomas Jefferson, the nation's inventor-president, would support patent reform in an era when new information technologies build on themselves. An idea, he observed, is a rare thing whose value increases as it's shared. "No one possesses the less because everyone possesses the whole of it," he wrote. "He who receives an idea from me receives it without lessening me, as he who lights his candle at mine receives light without darkening me."

One notes that Abraham Lincoln (the only president to obtain a patent) is arguably the nation's inventor president, although the more glaring error in Crovitz' article was --The Patent Office now gets some 500 million applications a year, leading to litigation costs of over $10 billion a year to define who has what rights. -- Also the idea that patents were "a mechanism through which society attempted to facilitate creative collaboration" is ludicrous, and sounds like it might have been ripped from the pages of TechDirt. The patent system is designed to foster public disclosure of information so we don't have a lot of re-inventing the wheel. Public disclosure is not a synonym of collaboration.

PatentHawk took a rip: "the crowning achievement of the WSJ article is to cast Thomas Jefferson as patent reformer."

IPBiz notes that the reference to Jefferson arises from the cite to Matsuura. Crovitz is also drawing from Bessen and Meurer.

The IAM blog also wasted no time in savaging Gordon Crovitz' piece in the WSJ:

As Gene Quinn points out on the IP Watchdog blog, Crovitz claims that: "The Patent Office now gets some 500 million applications a year, leading to litigation costs of over $10 billion a year to define who has what rights." It is absolutely unbelievable that Crovitz could have got this so wrong. How on earth any self-respecting journalist can allow such an obvious error to run in an article he or she has produced is beyond me. And what on earth were the WSJ subs up to?

You get the very strong impression that absolutely no-one did any checking here at all. I mean, even if they had got the actual filing figure of 500,000 or so applications a year right, that $10 billion litigation cost "to define who has what rights" is also a load of old rubbish. It costs nowhere near that - although Bessen and Meurer have claimed that the total costs that can be attributed to patent litigation each year in the US may come to $10 billion, if you include share price movements, the amount of time executives are out of the office and so on. What's more Crovitz also swallows whole the Bessen & Meurer line that: "Aside from the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, the cost of litigation now exceeds the profits companies generate from licensing patents." There's a red herring if ever I saw one. It is a completely arbitrary statement. As anyone could have told Crovitz if he had bothered asking, patent licensing is but one aspect of the value that patents generate.

The IAM blog did not go "back in time" on the Crovitz-BessenMeurer connection. [See
Patent quality on the rise?

See also: http://ipbiz.blogspot.com/2008/07/patent-transparency.html


Crovitz repeated many arguments from the IT side of the patent reform debate. For issues in biotech:
Falsehoods, Distortions and Outright Lies in the Gene Patenting Debate

For issues in parroting:

Lex Luther challenges Howard Berman on patent reform, HR 1908
[Someone reportedly heard Luther mutter under his breath that Berman's slavish devotion to the advancement of patent interests only of the IT industry was giving "parrots a bad name." ]

Note that even Mike at TechDirt refers to Berman as "Hollywood Howard": Irony Alert: Hollywood Howard Berman To Introduce 'Internet Freedom' Bill :

He's also sought to limit the ability for people to access publicly funded research, claiming that he didn't want the "N" in NIH to "stand for Napster."


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