Thursday, March 04, 2010

our faltering, disjointed patent system, and how to begin fixing it

John Gruber, of Daring Fireball, waxes long and eloquently about the Apple-HTC lawsuit, quoting Tim Bray at length, and interspersing those passages with his own comments.

My take on the situation is that Apple had to sue somebody, or risk seeing the legitimacy of their patents evaporate for failure to defend them, but even that is evidence of a broken patent system which substitutes litigation for respect.

As previously stated, I believe the protection of the rights of the inventor to be only one of two important principles behind the patent system, the other being the maximization of the rate of accumulation of knowledge and technique in the public domain, for free use by all. Clearly, we have recently erred in the direction of protecting the inventor, providing protection even for creations that should not have been patentable in the first place.

One way to quickly roll this situation back, without having to first wade through the messy detail, would be to shorten the term of all patents, both going forward and retroactively.

I propose ten years from the date of priority be made the expiration date for all protections relating to the ownership of an invention, and that only the right of creative attribution should persist beyond that term, with limits on awards for successful false claim suits.

Combining this with higher standards for the issuing of patents going forward would at least insure that the situation is simplified and dramatically improved over the next ten years.

If this proposal gains traction, you can expect the pharmaceutical industry to cry foul, and I suppose for them you might choose to start the ten year period at some later point, perhaps the date when a new drug is deemed safe for use and no longer experimental.

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