Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Bruce Sewell, general counsel of Intel Corporation, says the patent system is broken, limiting research and tying up money and other resources in lawsuits.
"The U.S. patent system is beginning to show its age; outpaced by the swift evolution of technology and commerce, it increasingly favors speculators over innovators, impeding innovation and economic growth," he writes.
Read the full article here.
The increasingly litigious nature of the patent world is also having its impacts on college campuses, where researchers lack the patent law expertise needed to protect their intellectual property. Sometimes, when research leads to valuable new technologies, inventors find themselves fighting for their intellectual property rights in court, often against their own universities.
See IP Advocate's case study section for examples of how questionable university technology transfer tactics rob America's brightest researchers of the rights to their own work, often by dragging them into court where they are outmatched in expertise and legal funding.
Sewell notes that the number of patent lawsuits has nationwide nearly tripled between 1991 and 2004 and that the number grew nearly 20 percent between 2001 and 2005. Further, he notes that until 1990, only one patent damages award exceeded $100 million, while in the last five years at least four topped $500 million and one exceeded $1.5 billion.
"Unfortunately, under current law, parties that want to innovate in areas covered by questionable patents have only two options, both of them bad: an ineffective, rarely used re-examination process, or litigation -- the average cost of which is, by some estimates, $4.5 million. This impedes innovation, as the FTC noted: 'One firm's questionable patent may lead its competitor to forgo R&D in the areas that the patent improperly covers,'" Sewell went on to say.
Sewell calls on Congress to pass bipartisan patent "reform" to "improve the process for granting patents, and rebalance court rules and procedures to ensure fair treatment when patents wind up in litigation."