Slate on RIM-NTP and Software Patents

8 Feb ’06

Tim Wu has a piece on Slate that digs into the archaeology of the RIM-NTP litigation and looks at software patents generally. It’s certainly opinionated (it is Slate, after all), and often more than a little inflammatory, but it’s also quite funny (“The company RIM is itself a special kind of tech outsider, known in the business as a “Canadian.” “). Gist:

About the best that might be said of trolls like NTP is that they’ve inspired a serious patent-reform debate. A growing crowd—including major firms like Amazon, IBM, Intel, Yahoo!, and Microsoft, and academics like Mark Lemley, Douglas Lichtman, Bhaven Sampat, Arti Rai, and others—now advocate some form of major patent reform. They want to fix the PTO to ensure that only the best, truly novel inventions get a patent, and they want to change aspects of patent procedure that currently make harassing litigation too easy. Ex-FCC-chairman Reed Hundt, for example, proposes reducing the number of patents by 90 percent and handing over a lot more money to those overworked patent examiners.

But for reasons both political and theoretical, the more important answer may be to face the software-patent problem head-on, as some groups have been urging for years. It may be better to recognize software patents as an unfortunate economic experiment and to either abolish software patents altogether or place stringent limits on their assignment.

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