Don’t Copy

Article from Issue 144/2012

Patent law is a very imperfect tool for establishing moral culpability. Whether you favor patents or not, it is important to face the fact that patent law is a construct of the business world. Patents protect opportunities for patent holders and restrict opportunities for others – all for some supposedly greater purpose, we are told, but in any case, none of this ever has the clarity that will allow you to point your finger at a violator as you would at someone who stole your car. So I don’t have a lot of faith in patents, but I still have a feeling you’ll do better in life if you come up with your own solutions.

I guess I haven’t written one of these welcome columns since the Apple vs. Samsung verdict, which seems so long ago now and will be even farther in the past when you read this message. I don’t really want to relive the whole range of comments that have appeared so far on the verdict. In fact, I have been amazed at how little all the “authorities” seem to know – especially the ones who seem convinced that a few patents are going to bring down Android. Is there a lesson in all this? A huge team of lawyers billing US$ 200 to US$ 800 per hour erected weeks of elegant arguments – investing thousands of hours – and a jury thought about the whole thing for 21 hours and 37 minutes. The 109 pages of jury instructions supposedly invited them to consider more than 700 questions, which means they read, discussed, considered, and reached consensus on 33 points per hour or one point approximately every 33 seconds.

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