Monday, July 28, 2008

Are Software Patents On Shaky Ground?

For those of us who work with the US intellectual property system on a regular basis, it is pretty clear that there are some fairly serious systemic problems. Interestingly enough, it seems that the USPTO may be rethinking its position on software patents, specifically as a way to discourage the 'patent trolls'. A patent troll, I might add, is the ancient and hereditary enemy of the intellectual property gnomes.

It looks to me and some others that there may be fewer, higher quality software patents in the USPTO's future, and from my perspective this is a 'good thing' indeed. The system cannot work when choked by an undigestible mass of low quality software patents, so anything to stem the tide should be applauded. It remains to be seen, however, whether these relatively minor adjustments will be enough to save the system. Patents on gene sequences, software patents, 'futurist patents' (patents on inventions no one actually knows how to build now but may be possible later), and more all raise serious questions about how and if a rational, fair, and efficient intellectual property system can be built.

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