The Twelfth Post

Patents, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), are “exclusive right[s] granted for an invention –a product or process that provides a new way of doing something, or that offers a new technical solution to a problem.  Patents are important for many reasons.  Patents are important to grant socially because they encourage innovation, which in turn enhances the quality of human life.  Patents are also crucial ethically because a patent provides protection to the owner of the invention.  This protection is significant because it gives credit to the owner and allows the owner to be financially compensated for the use of the product protected by the patent. Patents are also relevant for moral reasons.  If there were no patents, people would take advantage of someone’s hard work.   This is slightly different than ethically important because it does not relate just to the monetary gain of the patent.


No, patents should not be granted for all.  The best example for patents not being granted for all is the company VirnetX.  In the article “Jury: Apple must pay $626 million to patent troll VirnetX”, it states that VirnetX “has no products and makes it money solely through patent litigation.”  This is outrageous.  A company has no products, yet it makes tons of money through patents.  This is where patents are not necessary to have a company. It is a waste of time for everyone.  Apple has to waste time and money in fighting lawsuits, and VirtnetX gets all the reward.  Yes, Apple should not be infringing on VirnetX’s patents, but VirtnetX should be using their patents to create products and not just getting money from them through litigation.

Patents do both promotion and hindering of innovation.  If patents are available to everyone, it makes it possible for people to understand how certain technology works and expand on this.  However, if people patent ideas and never actually carryout those ideas, then this hinders innovation because it is just an idea. Someone can have a very detailed idea, but if there isn’t any implementation of it, then a competitor won’t necessarily want to create a product that is similar to risk infringement.

As discussed in the article “Analysis: Microsoft’s software patent flip-flop”, there is trouble with patents on software.  In a 1991 memo, Bill Gates explains how if big companies took advantage of patents related to software, then there would be “a complete standstill” in the tech industry.  This memo was before Microsoft was a dominant tech company, but it really explains the troubled situation around patents relating to software.  I believe that there should be patents on software, but to a certain extent.  In Gates’ memo, he continues on, saying that if a large company patents something “obvious related to interface, object orientation, algorithm, application extension or other crucial technique” then “they have a 17-year right to take as much of [Microsoft’s] profit as they want.”  This is where the line should be drawn.  A company should not be able to patent a software if it already infringes on software being produced.

Patent trolls are examples that there are problems with the patent system.  As stated before, this is not beneficial for anyone to go through all the litigation.  Tesla might have been a bit extreme in publishing all their patents for free, but it is a better idea that all the litigation goes through.




Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at


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