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In the light of the ongoing patent war – most prominently the series of Apple v. Samsung lawsuits – in the smartphone and tablet computer industry (see also “The Power of Patents“), the current patent system has garnered harsh criticism. In a lenghty piece in the New York Times, Charles Duhigg and Steve Lohr criticize that “[i]n the smartphone industry alone, according to a Stanford University analysis, as much as $20 billion was spent on patent litigation and patent purchases in the last two years” and summarize the situation as follows:
[M]any people argue that the nation’s patent rules, intended for a mechanical world, are inadequate in today’s digital marketplace. Unlike patents for new drug formulas, patents on software often effectively grant ownership of concepts, rather than tangible creations. Today, the patent office routinely approves patents that describe vague algorithms or business methods, like a software system for calculating online prices, without patent examiners demanding specifics about how those calculations occur or how the software operates.
On his blog, economist and US Court of Appeals judge Richard A. Posner takes the same line, expressing concerns that “both patent and copyright protection, though particularly the former, may be excessive”: Read the rest of this entry »