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Dealing With Mad Patent Disease

Publication Date: 
April 20, 2009
Source: 
Electronic Engineering Times
Author: 
Rick Merritt

Professor Mark A. Lemley is quoted in Electronic Engineering Times from his article in the Michigan State Law Review commenting on the patent reform bill that is currently working its way through Congress:

Mark Lemley, a professor at Stanford Law School, characterizes the problem crisply. "Both researchers and companies in component industries simply ignore patents," Lemley stated in an article published last year in the Michigan State Law Review.

...

In his article, Lemley of Stanford sketched out several big leaps he believes it would take to get back to a system where engineers proactively read, license and use patents.

First, the patent office would need to process and publish applications much more quickly so they are commercially relevant. To do that, applicants would probably have to accept strict limits on the number of claims and continuations they can file.

A recent court decision has cleared the way for the patent office to do just that, but the move has been a controversial proposal.

First, the patent office would need to process and publish applications much more quickly so they are commercially relevant. To do that, applicants would probably have to accept strict limits on the number of claims and continuations they can file.

A recent court decision has cleared the way for the patent office to do just that, but the move has been a controversial proposal.

In addition, Lemley said, applicants might have to agree to a simplified challenge process that establishes the scope of their patent rights early on. And they should be required to publish terms of licensing for their technology, he added.

Finally, the Stanford professor suggests the law grant a kind of immunity against infringement to companies already using patented technology if they developed it independently. Such companies might still owe a reasonable royalty, he added.

But such steps are "radical, and it seems unlikely that they will happen," Lemley concluded in his article.

If engineers raise a strong voice on such measures, it could make a difference. There's a broad consensus emerging that patent madness has gotten out of hand, and a growing group of people wants a system in which individual patents have real value again for owners and users alike.