Patent Controversies

February 27, 2015 • Volume 25, Issue 9
Does the system help or hurt innovation?
By Kenneth Jost


Smartphone behemoths Samsung and Apple are embroiled in ongoing patent lawsuits (Sage Publications Inc./O. Davis)
Smartphone behemoths Samsung and Apple are embroiled in ongoing patent lawsuits. Apple (right) alleges Samsung infringed its patented pinch-to-zoom photo-enlarging technique and rounded-corner design; Samsung (left) has filed its own patent infringement claims. Congress, meanwhile, is set to consider legislation aimed at reducing abusive patent litigation. (Sage Publications Inc./O. Davis)

The U.S. patent system — almost as old as the Constitution — has helped make the United States a worldwide leader in science and technology. Patent laws have helped spur innovations that have revolutionized medicine and transformed transportation, communication and many other aspects of daily life. Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) issues about 300,000 patents to inventors each year. But critics, including the high-tech and some other powerful industries, say that the PTO is now issuing too many dubious patents and that some patent holders are engaging in abusive litigation that actually hampers innovation. The House of Representatives passed a broad measure aimed at curbing litigation by so-called “patent trolls” in 2013, but it died in the Senate. Now, the bill is back, with some bipartisan support, but it faces questions from some Democrats and from the pharmaceutical, biotech and venture capital industries. In addition, some experts say recent court decisions and changes at the PTO may make the bill's provisions unnecessary.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Copyright and Patents
Feb. 27, 2015  Patent Controversies
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May 18, 1990  Is the U.S. Patent System Out of Date?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
Copyright and Patents
Federal Courts
Supreme Court History and Decisions