Do Technology Patents Stifle Innovation?
There’s been a lot of discussion in the technology sector about patents, patent trolls, violations by one mega-company or another. My opinion is that patents in the tech sector are both necessary and stifle innovation. Innovators and inventors must be protected and rewarded for their efforts, visions and development costs. Hardware, bio-tech, and other physical innovations seem appropriate to patent, but some software patents seem as if they’re sure to slow development of exciting new methods. As one studies what is being approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office it’s obvious that there lacks a broad vision of what constitutes an appropriate patent in the space. Factor in patent trolls and one questions from where new innovations will come. Fear of being sued is always a concern as an entrepreneur launches a new idea.
Now there’s a new problem in the space: China. The Chinese company, Huawai, held just 152 patents three years ago, but now has over 45,000! Vivek Wadhwa does a good job of presenting the problem in his Bloomberg column and in a TechCruch post. I recommend reading both.
China could game the U.S. in intellectual property.” Vivek Wadhwa
Additional perspective is presented in this New York Times post.
As U.S. companies, as well as other non-Chinese companies, face steep licensing fees for marketing their own technologies in China, one must consider what will become of the process, as well as how manufacturing needs for tech products will be met in the future. Will businesses decide that it’s too expensive to do business in this manner? I doubt it, because I believe adjustments and pivots in policy will be made to preserve the upper-hand. However some will simply feel that the costs are “immoral” and take a stand against them. Does that mean to do business elsewhere? Or to put less effort into pushing innovation as the anticipation of being “duped” by a new “patent troll”, China, charging the innovator for his or her own products adds a layer of new concerns?
The patent trolls of Silicon Valley are a blight on the technology development environment. The global patent system, as an incomplete series of reciprocity agreements, needs to be remodeled, but it’s obvious by these developments in China, as well as numerous examples in recent years within the general tech sector, that the reformation must be carefully considered and designed with the intention of protecting innovation, not stifling it.