Matt Buchanan, at Promote the Progress, has written about an op-ed piece in today’s edition of the Wall Street Journal. You can view the article here (subscription required).

The piece is labeled with the very unoriginal title “Patently Absurd” – just like a lot of other tired articles – and appears to be another in a long line of Blackberry addict-induced hysteria over the threatened loss of their favorite gadget. Matt takes issue with the fact that the Editors have determined the source of the problem – the lawyers.

How they get to that conclusion I’ll leave to others but it is surprising that they claim that the rise in patent applications has “less to due with genuine innovation than it does with innovative lawyers filing a patent on anything that moves.” I think a lot of technology companies would take issue with that statement. The article does make a good point that it is easier to get a patent issued than to get one invalidated due to the the higher standard of clear and convincing evidence.

There’s really nothing new in the reports of patent anarchy, all decrying that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issues too many “unworthy” patents, which then fall into the hands of the evil Patent Trolls. Legislators and lobbyists for the high-tech industry define the patent troll as an individual or company holding a patent without any designs on marketing an idea. They wait for another company to make a product and then hit them with a patent infringement suit.

But it’s never that simple, is it? Large companies receive far more patents than they utilize in products (IBM received 2,941 patents last year) and they often license others. No one ever mentions how large companies use patents as a hammer to prevent start-up ventures (David’s to their Goliath) from ever breaking into a market.

Critics claim that overpatenting creates a drag on innovation, which sounds reasonable, but it would seem that one person’s overpatenting is another’s claim to rightful ownership. While the ongoing BlackBerry battle between Research In Motion and NTP Inc. has produced calls for a reform of the patent laws, you have to be careful what you wish for.

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