<My-Opinion Disclaimer="This is just my personal opinion and has nothing to do with what my employer does or states. If you want to blame somebody, blame me.">
I just saw an article on patents. The key messages were...
- "... that patents alone will not make a society an innovation leader." Point taken, fully agreee.
- "The number of patents is no measurement for the success a nation has in the effort to become an innovation leader." Well, this depends very much on the process. If getting a patent is a s easy as filling in an online form...Point taken, fully agree.
- "Only the Europeans still do extensive research on patents while others just approve as they are coming". No expert on this but I had an interesting conversation with a guy from the Munich office of the Deutsches Patentamt (sie http://www.dpma.de). It was very interesting to see his point of view. But I will come back on that later on.
- "Audi said in an advertisement that they filed more patents while developing the A8 than the NASA on the whole time of their existence. But this is false since not the NASA but the sub-ordinate corporations filed the patents". While I see the first part of this sentence as an example for the public believe that patents equal technical innovation, my feeling is that in the second the author himself fall victim to what he wanted to show the world
Anyway. Patents... while there had been a strong discussion here in Germany on software patents. Most of it was biased by some guys with a strong opinion and nothing to loose.
As always I am a friend of looking at other industries and how they are doing. It seems that patents are a burden to most industries because they have been misused (at least it seems to me that way).
I heard this notion of a "trival patent" and this is really what all the industries are exhausted with. So most industries founded (explicit or implicit) a patent pool of trivial patents. For example somebody has a patent on using a copper spring to contact and transport electrical energy and so information coded into signals. If the owner - and frankly I don't know who that is - would enforce this patent against its competitor... you can imagine. So the companies made pools. All of them happily aquire patents and let them flow into the pool and use all of them. Peace. Silence.
Why doing something like this? (Because enforcing a trivial patent might not be easy and lead to a withdrawel of the patent itself (while being an exhaustive process)). The thing is that even if you are not able to enforce the patent against somebody else at least nobody else can enforce it against you. A real pitty is if you develop something and miss to patent it yourself but somebody else does and charge you for using. See the logic behind it?
If you work hard and spent quite a buck on discovering something or you have the sparking idea which is really new having this patented is somehow different. A good example is MP3 which is for sure not a trivial thing to discover (or maybe I am dumb and just don't get it).
Where is the line between trivial and "real" patent? This is hard to tell but at least we all know a trivial one when we see it. So there must be a way to define one.
To wrap it up: No way without patents in some form, maybe we should rethink the form. The whole notion of this open business stuff does not work without it.
Oh, by the way: I was working for a Max-Planck-Institute (long, long time ago) and my group designed an instrument to measure heights in a tank filled with boiling explosive dissolver. As far as I know this happened to become a patent...