“time to fix patents”: tweeting, retweeting and propagating

The headline is interesting. Check. The source is well respected. Check. Tweet.

The other week an IP partner at a Canadian corporate law firm tweeted an Economist article entitled “Time to Fix Patents”. The problem though is that if you actually read the article some of the discussion was interesting, some arguments were flimsy and, most importantly, it likely takes a position contrary to some of the above firm’s clients. Is this a problem or is all fine in the world?

I know the boilerplate is out there; “tweets are my own” or “retweets do not imply endorsements”. Does this language absolve one of any responsibility for what they propagate, tweet or retweet? What this does talk to is a diminished attention to information, maybe even diminished comprehension of information?

They say content is king. Everyone wants to be seen as propagating content. It is a marketers dream. It may though be noise, it may be misleading or it may be dangerous. Let’s look at the example at hand.

First, the article does raise some interesting points. There are though numerous places where the arguments are weak. Firstly, the quoted $200 million license number seems high. I have personally been in the semiconductor patent/license industry for years and I have not heard of companies in this situation. Yes there are licenses along the way, but that number really needs some substance behind it.  Identifying the chip is a start.  Is it a DRAM a CPU?

The next paragraph then presents a huge savings number if pharma patents were not in practice (I think a correct paraphrasing) . It is then stated “The expense would be worth it if patents brought innovation and prosperity. They don’t.” OK, but who did the research on these drugs? Would that research have been done without a patent system?

The unexploited patent discussion also needs more detail and support. I am not sure how one came to the quoted numbers. Was there an algorithm that did not actually compare the Claimed subject matter to existing products, which is the true test of whether something is used.

Finally, there is a discussion towards the end about undeserved patents. It is stated that Apple should not be granted patents on rectangular tablets with rounded corners. This sure sounds like a design patent. If it is a utility patent a reference would be helpful. I would also like to see the Claims to know what is really protected.

In the end the above partner decided the article was appropriate for propagating. Was it appropriate? On the surface I would say the answer is no. On the other hand, if one dug into it, read the article and provided comment it is worth tweeting. There is plenty of room for discussion around patent protection. However, I do not think it does anyone justice to propagate generalized arguments in such a detailed, case specific topic.  One needs to actually read content and help people understand it. If we do this we can intelligently consume content. Today’s practice of blind propagation based on the popularity of the source only benefits the source. It certainly does not help those that need the content in their decision-making.