Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Patents and Trolls

This is a bit of a rant.

I am very, very tired of our current patent system. You can't copyright an idea as opposed to a story, so why can you patent an idea as opposed to a specific method? Of course, patents are quite different.

Patent trolls are the big issue right now. The latest one is taking aim at Facebook and Zynga and claiming to basically own the idea of using in-game currency or virtual currency to buy in-game items. It's a shell company.

So. Here are my suggestions for patent reform:

1. In order to file for infringement, a company must demonstrate that they have the direct intention to use the patent themselves. No more patent sitting. You don't have to be using it today, but you have to be able to point to what your R&D department is doing to support using it tomorrow.

2. Infringement suits can only be filed within a reasonable time of the start date of the infringement. No pulling out twelve year old patents and trying to use them to extort money out of people. Let's make it a year. You snooze, you lose.

3. Reforming the idea of obvious to catch up with today's technology. Touch screens are obvious. In-game transactions in video games are obvious. Things that are too basic to be patented have changed a lot since the law was written. If it is impossible to conduct a particular kind of business without it, then it can't be patented. We have, after all, anti-trust laws in this country. Let's stop people using patents to get around them.