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Patent Protection vs Prevention - Where Falls the Line of Intellectual Property?

  1. Sep 8, 2010 #1
    This from another thread (according to PF's rules, the quoted part belongs in that thread, but the follow-on part belongs in its own, separate thread):


    mheslep, yours is a very good reminder that market economies will render whatever new technologies at least as expensive as any technologies currently on the market, unless the availability of those technologies are rendered public, vs proprietary (patented).

    I'm sorry to break the news, folks, but while the patent system does protect investors, it also hampers progress.[/quote]

    Let's consider the following hypothetical (but not far from the truth) situation: Company A receives 50% of its income from government projects, but a full 25% of its income from patents based upon research obtained during those government projects simply fills its private coffers. They call it a "bonus" while the government (aka the taxpayers) relenquishes any and all patent rights and income to be derived thereof.

    Fair? Not to me, particularly when patent rights are almost always compounded, thereby filling private coffers to the tune of trillions while taxpayers continue to foot the bill for the same.

    Up for discussion. There's got to be a better way, folks. A way to protect intellectual rights while preserving the rights of those of us who've paid, often massively, for the results of the research they've produced.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 8, 2010 #2


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    Did the person making such a statment provide any evidence to support that assertion. There are millions of patents - many of which have expired.

    If government funding is used to develop a technology, the government agency the licenses that technology - for a fee.

    Companies may also choose to keep their IP proprietary as trade secrets. I have seen a lot of technology not disclosed in patents.

    Some examples -
    http://www.ornl.gov/adm/partnerships/ [Broken]
    https://inlportal.inl.gov/portal/server.pt/community/technology_transfer/269 [Broken]

    I review a lot of patents for certain technology. Part of that is to collect the basis for technology in order to assess how it performs. With respect to design, the challenge is to find a new (and preferably better) way of doing something that has not already been thought of - hence the challenge.

    Also, one can certainly challenge any claim of any patent against the three criteria: 1) useful, 2) new and 3) non-obvious.

    This is related but a bit OT.

    Innovation Crisis: Job Creation Stalled by Patent Backlog, Says Pat Choate
    http://finance.yahoo.com/tech-ticker/article/535400/Innovation-Crisis%3A-Job-Creation-Stalled-by-Patent-Backlog%2C-Says-Pat-Choate [Broken]

    Experienced patent agents make very good money.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  4. Sep 8, 2010 #3
    let's not forget that patents are very temporary. when they expire, that knowledge becomes free public property.

    but copyright... now there's an abuse.
  5. Sep 9, 2010 #4


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    In general I like the idea of patents: share your idea with the world in exchange for an exclusive period. It reduces the use of trade secrets and encourages R&D.

    But the strong trend to grant patents on material that clearly fails the non-obviousness test hurts everyone! Further, the uncertainties of the current patent system increase costs: just because you invent something doesn't mean there aren't undiscovered patents on it.

    So I'll throw my two cents in for "good idea, but deeply flawed implementation".
  6. Sep 9, 2010 #5
    Thanks for the quote, Astronuc. :)

    This is exactly why I said there's got to be "a way to protect intellectual rights while preserving the rights of those of us who've paid, often massively, for the results of the research they've produced."

    The thing is, a lot of those ideas were paid for by US tax dollars, through U.S. government contracts, but they're being held unused in patent office warehouses.

    I agree with your commnt, CRGreathouse, about it being a "good idea, but deeply flawed implementation."

    Frankly, I seriously doubt the patent system can be fixed without blowing up the apple cart. There may be ways to improve it, though. I know a small bit about patent law, but not enough to make recommendations as to how we might go about accomplishing the following:

    1. Returning patents achieved with public funds to the public domain.

    2. Preventing the issuance of patents to ideas which clearly do not meet requirements.

    I'm there are other flaws in the system, but here are two, for starters.
  7. Sep 9, 2010 #6


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    Please provide the evidence to support such a claim. What is 'a lot'?

    Patents by IBM, GE, Westinghouse, GM, Ford, etc to name a few, are developed in various fields, some of which may include government contract work. Many patents filed for nuclear and power system technology in the US today come from foreign corporations: AREVA, Toshiba, Mitsubishi, Hitachi, KAERI, . . . . They didn't use US taxpayer money.

    I also gave examples of various technology transfer programs through which the government effectively sells the technology that is developed either solely by the government institutions or cost shares in partnerships.

    Patents generally expire in 17 years, or after 1995, 20 years - and that is a long time in the technology cycle - and there can be a brief extention in some cases.
    Ref: Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Term_of_patent_in_the_United_States
    1. 2701 Patent Term (R-2); - 2700 Patent Terms and Extensions
    2. 35 U.S.C. § 154(a)(2)
    3. 35 U.S.C. § 154(c)
    4. 35 U.S.C. § 365(c)


    I think one has to separate the patent process from government sponsored research.
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