The Importance Of Intellectual Property
Patents have been making a lot of news this summer. On July 22, the National Public Radio (and Chicago Public Media) show This American Life aired an hour long special titled, “When Patents Attack!” Last week we reported on Google’s deal to purchase Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion for its patents.
Patent disputes this month spanned outside the United States and outside the realm of software and Smartphones. In the past month a German court sided with Apple in a dispute with Samsung over its Galaxy tablet computer sold throughout Europe. Taiwan’s HTC also filed a lawsuit against Apple related to a patent dispute.
A federal judge in the U.S. state of Virginia ruled that the patent held by Pfizer for the active ingredient in Viagra would be valid until 2019. Pfizer makes about $1 billion off Viagra each year in the U.S. alone. Patent reforms under the America Invents Act, are expected to pass this fall. Unfortunately, it lumps together the needs of different types of patents, and does not solve the problems that plague start-ups and entrepreneurs. Privileges to protect the expensive cost of pharmaceutical research are protected at the expense of technological innovation in software and communications.
In the pharmaceutical industry, research and development is slow and costly. It is hard to compare the type of development that brings a drug to market with the fast paced world of software development. Earlier this month, Google owned about 2,000 patents. This number is puny compared to most software and communications developers. Google admitted to purchasing Motorola, not for its 11% share of Smartphone sales, but for over 17,000 patents in its portfolio, plus 7,500 in the works.
This draws attention to the current value of patents – the more the better. Most experts argue that the bar for patents on software and business practices has been slipping. Maybe software should never merit patents. In “Intellectual Property in the 21st Century – Part II” we will look further into the patent issues related to medicine verses those faces by software developers. Take a peek the lifecycle of a drug patent and see why “patent trolls” can take advantage of start-ups infringing on vague software patents.
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