It is good that congress is finally looking at the problem of Patent Trolls, who are notorious for shaking down companies for fees that are just under the cost of litigation. Patent trolls are known especially for pursuing the small fish first and building up a legal warchest of money that allows them to pursue larger and larger targets.
But congress shouldn’t just be looking at patent trolls, they should be looking at the food that makes patent trolls, too. That food comes in several flavors:
- Patents that are “softwared” versions of something else. If the process exists already in the real world, commonly used or not, an implementation into software isn’t something original, especially if the end result is a process that duplicates the steps of a real world process. Europe has already figured this one out – why can’t we?
- Patents that are modest extensions onto something else. Patenting a the behavior of a list on a computer display that provides a “bounce” feedback when you reach the bottom, aka List scrolling and document translation, scaling, and rotation on a touch-screen display. The implementation is modestly original, but not really notable – and its effect, is similar to reaching the edge of anything in software.
- Patents that are incredibly broad. What is a process that is incredibly broad and applicable to just about anything? Not a process, an idea.
Patent abuse happens for several reasons, but it is systematically allowed because the USPTO rubberstamps just about anything. Our legal venues are packed because of poor governmental management.