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August 24, 2005
Lord Save Us From Patent Reform
...or so prays Robert X. Cringely's latest column. In it he paints a bleak picture of everyone's favorite sock puppet Orrin Hatch using a last-minute "hearing" to push through a piece of highly favoritist legislation. Fortunately, it seems like Hatch didn't quite succeed, yet.
Unfortunately, Cringely's attempt to discuss IP law is overgeneralized to the point of wrongness (patents don't protect ideas, they protect inventions). His basic thrust - you and I aren't being helped by attempts to reform patents - seems correct. He asserts that the majority of patents are issued to "smaller companies" (here he means smaller than Microsoft, which is a pretty big list) and individual. Is that true? Given the patenting engines run by IBM, HP, MSFT and not to mention the pharma/bio companies it seems like this may no longer be true. Cringely admits that he knows a number of individual inventors so this may just be his personal experience bias.
He also notes that the switch to first-to-file isn't really the problem with the US patent system, and goes on to list a number of problems implicit in the proposed "reform." Regardless of the details I think there is general agreement outside of the big patent-holding companies that this is a bad bill. Let's just hope Congress can actually manage to focus on the real problems with patents and not be distracted by this kind of boondoggle.
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