Bad patents---or bad journalism? A Coda

A bit of an unsteady trigger figger led this Kat to post the blog--"Bad patents--or bad journalism"-- without its concluding points. Readers, especially those who found this post to be of interest, are invited to read on.
1. This Kat simply does not understand what The Economist intends when it urges "greater disclosure requirements of the ownership of patent portfolios", or to what problem(s) this proposed solution is directed. Readers' insights are welcome.

2. As for instituting specialist patent trial courts, the idea is more seductive than convincing. Besides the increased public costs involved in setting up such a system (an unlikely prospect in a Tea Party-driven environment), issues such as the Constitutional status of such courts, their composition, their fields of expertise, and how each such judge, based on his/her expertise, would be assigned to cases, are all wholly unclear.

3. And while we are talking about establishing specialist patent courts, how about setting up a parallel specialist court system to hear disputes involving finanical instruments, lest a non-expert jury be charged with rendering judgment on credit default swaps, mortgage-backed securities and the like. After all, the loss to the U.S. economy due to financial shenanigans is a magnitude of two or three-digit multiples greater than losses due to a less than perfect patent system.
At the end of day, my dissatisfaction with the article is about the failure to match the complexity of the subject-matter with the limitations of the journalistic platform adopted to discuss the topic. Better to focus on one patent issue at a journalistic time than to shoot scatter-gunned in various directions. The magazine's readers deserve no less.
Bad patents---or bad journalism? A Coda Bad patents---or bad journalism? A Coda Reviewed by Neil Wilkof on Sunday, August 28, 2011 Rating: 5


  1. I read the same article, Neil, and while I agree with what you say, I still find it good that someone out there outside our little closed circle is actually THINKING about patents, what they do and how they can be improved, and is prepared to say so, no matter how simplistic it is. And overall "The Economist" is correct; the US patent system in particular is not so much broken as actively disintegrating before our very eyes, and the proposed new Act may hinder as much as help. Fresh, new, informed thinking is desperately needed.

  2. Same feelings here with The Economist: I devour every word of every issue, but tough love on its coverage of topics where (I hope) I’m an expert (not only legal -privacy, IP, computing/innovation- but also 'national', such as the troubles of Greece these days…).

    In other words, I could use your concluding lines above on many articles I have read in it over the years.

    I suppose my point is, if each one of us feels that way about the magazine in their respective fields of expertise, then maybe it is the magazine that claims to offer more than it actually delivers...

  3. Julian Sanchez brings up a key point in this discussion, which is that a good defensive patent, by definition is a bad patent.

  4. This Kat simply does not understand what The Economist intends when it urges "greater disclosure requirements of the ownership of patent portfolios", or to what problem(s) this proposed solution is directed.

    I suspect this is related to the notorious allegation, made in an NPR exposé, that certain large IP portfolio holders (such as one company whose name starts with "Intellectual" and ends with "Ventures") transfer IP assets to opaque shell companies which they use to conduct their litigation. In the Internet parlance, those shell companies are "sockpuppets" for the actual large IP holder, which, in this manner, avoids the reputational risk of being tagged as a "patent troll" as well as eventual sanctions if its litigation tactics are found to be cavalier.

    While this sort of tactics indeed offend anybody's basic sense of fairness and justice, the "Economist" does not appear to present quite the same level of indignation towards the much more widespread use of shell companies for the, in my humble opinion, vastly more nefarious intent of "tax optimisation". Indeed, occassionally it even appears to applaud it, in the name of encouraging "tax competition"...

  5. I feel a strongly worded letter coming on. Indeed, if I had a subscription, I would cancel it!


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