Patent point II
Written by Tim Mount on 24 January 2010« Return to Reading Room
We try to explain the benefits of patents but because a patent is at every level merely a negative right, many individuals dislike them. With the slow (seeming) death of copyright, open source is being touted by many to be the future of intellectual property. The fight is on, with many (notably journalists) on the other side arguing that fruits of the intellect cannot be free to all. Someone must pay..
To blame inventors for suing infringers of their patents is at best disingenuous - that is what patents are for.
Some companies do not even invent what they sue on. This perhaps is less desirable but even in such a situation the hope would be that at some date in the past the inventor profited, if only in a much more minor way. Kodak sued Sun Microsystems for infringing Java patents that Kodak inherited from Wang Laboratories. Kodak itself is not in the software business but got 95 million dollars from Sun in a massive US patent litigation case. Wang did not see any of that, but were no doubt glad when they were bought out in the 80s after falling from a high perch, said perch held up by their intellectual property.
The value of a patent depends on the willingness and ability of the patentee to enforce it. The owner of an infringed patent who hesitates to enforce it reduces the value of the patent to zero.
It is a part of the patent system for, and in fact for it to work it is incumbent on, inventors or patent owners to enforce their infringed patents. Without this enforcement the patent system becomes worthless, and if one understands the point of the system, one must understand that the system cannot be worthless. If it becomes worthless it becomes worse than such - it becomes negative.
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