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Patent Disputes

December 15, 2006 • Volume 16, Issue 44
Does the system help or hurt innovation?
By Kenneth Jost

Introduction

To settle a patent dispute that almost shut down BlackBerry wireless e-mail service this year, the manufacturer paid $612 million to a company claiming the popular device infringed five of its patents.  (AFP/Getty Images/Paul J. Richards)
To settle a patent dispute that almost shut down BlackBerry wireless e-mail service this year, the manufacturer paid $612 million to a company claiming the popular device infringed five of its patents. (AFP/Getty Images/Paul J. Richards)

The U.S. patent system is designed to encourage technological innovation by granting inventors an exclusive right to profit from their discoveries. In recent years, however, many critics have complained that the system is actually impeding innovation. Critics say a hugely overburdened Patent and Trademark Office approves many dubious patents, some of which are used by so-called patent “trolls” to force companies using the patented devices into unjustified financial settlements. Meanwhile, a special federal appeals court created to handle patent cases is accused of misapplying the law and rewarding sometimes-abusive litigation. The Supreme Court is considering a case to tighten the standards for issuing patents, while Congress has been considering other proposed reforms. But the bills stalled because of a stalemate between high-tech industries supporting the measures and the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, which say the current system is working well to promote technological progress.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Copyright and Patents
Dec. 07, 2012  3D Printing
Dec. 15, 2006  Patent Disputes
Sep. 29, 2000  Copyright and the Internet
Nov. 08, 1996  Clashing Over Copyright
May 18, 1990  Is the U.S. Patent System Out of Date?
May 13, 1988  Artists' Rights and Copyrights
Nov. 14, 1975  Copyright Law Revision
May 25, 1945  Patent Reform
Jul. 17, 1941  Foreign Control of American Patents
Jun. 06, 1938  Patent Monopolies and Patent Laws
Apr. 01, 1925  The American vs. Foreign Patent Systems
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Copyright and Patents
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