Feeding the sharks or fuelling the economy?
There’s been a lot of rubbish written and spoken about the ‘patent troll’ threat to the world. Truth be known, anyone who invents truly patentable subject matter should have the right to obtain the fruits of their labours. What’s so unfair about that?
Most innovation is done in the crowd, not in large companies. This is clear cut. An example of this is the increasing trend towards outsourcing innovation undertaken by large companies – many pharmaceutical companies now outsource 50% or more of their discovery and development work. (Or, more accurately, select from amongst an ever burgeoning pool of in-licensing opportunities.)
The mere fact that an entity does not (cannot?) produce and market a product themselves should not count against them.
And sure, it is incredibly difficult for companies in certain industries to secure freedom to operate for products which could conceivably infringe patents covering hundreds of components. The mere difficulty of this exercise is not enough, in my view. This is clearly an issue that can be substantially addressed by better technology and is indeed being addressed by creative business models such as those of AST and RPX.
We should analyse the factors which have created the underlying causes and seek to address them (actually we already know what they are…), if we want to turn the ‘troll problem’ into the NPE opportunity that it should be. And it really is an opportunity for all – access to innovation for large companies and a chance to monetize inventions for those unable to practice their inventions commercially.
Perhaps we should focus less on trying to bend the system (eg. patent reform) to add yet another ineffective quick fix on an already complex system, and instead look for more elegant and longer term opportunities.
(photo credit: Michael Aston)