Saturday, June 20, 2015

A libertarian case for patent reform

How to Fix Patents: Economic liberty requires patent reform - Derek Satya Khanna, Lincoln Labs:

"Patent policy is increasingly failing in its constitutionally enumerated purpose of 'promoting
the progress of the sciences and useful arts' as a result of patent trolling and an epidemic of
granting low-quality patents. For conservatives and libertarians, this should be striking, as the
Copyright/Patent Clause is the only clause in the Constitution that provides a specific purpose for
granting the government that power.If this clause means anything, it certainly doesn’t
mean to 'reduce the progress of the sciences and useful arts,' which is the unfortunate result of
how today’s patent policies are affecting several important sectors of the economy. Patent trolling,
created and exacerbated by modern patent policy including low-quality patents, is increasingly
stifling competition, stopping legitimate innovations created independently, and raising barriers to entry
for new market entrants.

"Restoring constitutional principles for patents by implementing free market oriented policies
will jumpstart the U.S. economy and is well past due. The solution to patent trolling is not merely
addressing trolling behavior, but also fixing the underlying problem of low-quality patents.

"In this report, we present a number of suggestions for practical reform to patent policy consistent
with the original public meaning of the Patent Clause, which will foster more innovation,
entrepreneurship, and economic growth. Patents are one of the primary ways the federal government
regulates innovation and technology throughout the economy, and today it more closely resembles
cronyism rather than sensible policy.

"When government and big business team up, they often rig the game to keep out the competition,
and the case is no different with modern patent regulation. Recently, several conservative organizations — many of whom receive funding from industries with vested interests—have tried to preempt any form of patent reform by arguing how patent reform would violate their 'property rights.'

"Nothing could be further from the truth: janitors do not have 'property' in how to clean a building; Apple does not have 'property' in rounded rectangles and 'slide to unlock'; Amazon does not have 'property' in one-click checkout; Priceline does not have 'property' in the concept of reverse auctions; Microsoft does not have 'property' in squiggly lines when you mistype a word; Smuckers doesn’t have 'property' in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, anymore than a known patent troll has a 'property' in the entire practice of podcasting; certainly no one ought to have 'property' in the concept of the hyperlink; and we should probably all agree that no one ought to have 'property”' in the idea of exercising a cat by using a laser pointer.

"Unforunately, they have — or in some cases had, and in these cases should never have had — monopolies through patents granted by a government regulator, the United States Patent Office."

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