If you have even a slight interest in technology, by now you should have heard about Apple winning their lawsuit against Samsung and getting billions of dollars in damage. And right after winning the legal battle Apple has gone to court again asking to ban sales of some Samsung devices.
Patents are good; they were introduced so someone who came out with a great idea or a product can profit from it before others replicate the same thing.
But if you look at some patents Apple own, you will notice that there are some ridiculous patents in the list. And giving out ridiculous patents left and right might actually harm innovation than encouraging it.
If you don’t know Apple is claiming infringements on seven violations of their patents. I highly encourage you to do some Google search and read them, because you might be surprised at the kind of things they have patented.
For example patent D593087 is about rounded edges. I don’t know about you but I find that it is absolutely ridiculous that they awarded a patent for that.
Lists of Samsung Devices Apple Wants To Ban
Things become even murkier when it comes to Software patents, Algorithms, Technologies, data retrieval methods etc. can be patented and many large companies are in a race to acquire these patents.
And when they see someone else using these techniques or technologies they ask for royalty payments or sue then asking for damages.
This becomes even more dangerous when it comes to patenting ideas. This is perfectly acceptable if you want to have a great idea and going to follow it up and build upon it. But the problem arises when individuals or companies file patents for ideas that they will never follow up and implement.
Filing for a patent is a relatively low cost affair so gaining patent for multiple ideas is not a hard task, especially for a relatively well funded company like Apple Inc. What companies like Apple do is sit on their patents and soon as someone starts to develop something similar to their ideas, ask for damages claiming copyright infringement.
This is really scary for start-ups and small tech businesses. As diagram software providers we use multiple technologies and develop our own solutions to various technical problems. Do we have to go through the patent system to first check whether that solution is patented? We hope not but things might come to that in the future.
A few heavily publicized cases like this can really discourage would be entrepreneurs and innovators. If people have to fear or worry about future patent battles rather than build their products then patenting will do more harm than good.
Another thing to fear is large companies with big pockets buying patents in large scales. They might be doing that to protect their products from future patent infringement cases, but it can also lead to creating a monopoly where it would seem impossible for a start-up to happen without paying royalty to some large company.
It is worth noticing that these legal battles cost millions of dollars for both parties, and also tax payer money are also spend on maintaining the courts and justices. This money can be better used to foster innovation rather than undermining it.
What all these things point out is that we need a change in the patent system, especially when it comes to patenting digital properties and ideas.
Higher fee for patenting digital products and ideas, specific time limit to implement or work on your patent, stop giving out ridiculous general for common things are few things that you can start with.
However you need funding to implement all these and you will definitely see a backlash from companies that already own massive number of patents. It will be a hard fight because to implement this you need to go against companies with big pockets, but it is something that should be done, for the sake of a better future.
Do you think the patenting system needs a change? Share your opinion in the comments for a healthy discussion.
Nishadha Silva is an online strategies working for Creately, a Microsoft Visio alternative to draw diagrams online. Visit the link to find out why drawing business and software diagrams is faster, cheaper and fun with Creately.