Patent Battles: The Shackles of Creativity

Patent litigation and the battles between super companies have plagued the innovation market for years. In recent months the likes of Google, Apple, Samsung, and Facebook have been subject to childish flings – fighting for the ‘rights’ to own their own intellectual property. US_patents_1790-2008

Nevertheless the ongoing battles between the tech giants has caused riffs between communities, users and lawyers. Patents have existed since 500BC when Greek in the city of Sybaris:

“Encouragement was held out to all who should discover any new refinement in luxury, the profits arising from which were secured to the inventor by patent for the space of a year.”

Yet I believe the original intentions and use for patents have been clouded and twisted by companies for financial gain. Today the worry is not merely that a design or invention could be stolen or reused but that market share and profit margins are threatened by similar products. The implementation of patent laws have changed in the last millennium since the Greeks first thought of the idea, at the time no market or competition existed between commercial companies and the frequency of patent applicants would undoubtedly be lower than it is today. Patents today are filed more commonly, financial law and intellectual property solicitors are becoming lucrative business – it seems that everyday a new claim has been made against another company claiming to have “infringed” a patent.

Only this week has Google sued BT over suspected patent infringements – and the laughing matter is, they aren’t even Google’s patents. Their acquisition of Motorola in 2011 led to them gaining nearly 17,000 awarded patents and 7,500 pending patents filed by the start up company. This is a prime example of legal dominance and interference in a market, Google has sought to claim infringement on patents relating to file sharing over the Internet. Ironically again Motorola bought these 4 patents in question from IBM and Fujitisu. Google acquired Motorola for $12.5bn back in 2011 and swiftly after BT issued a patent infringement claim against Google in the Delware lawsuit. Tit-for-tat lawsuits such as these have been seen as tactical play for dominance by large technology companies. Their main goal to claim market share and profit margins. Its obvious when only 5,462 were filed at the height of the technology boom in 2000, but more than 14,200 were submitted last year alone.

Apple and Samsung have been locked in a “patent – war” since the release of the Galaxy S in 2010. Late Co-founder Steve Jobs was prolific for design and perfection his creations and epitome of the “liberal arts” and “humanities” Apple stood for. Yet his outrage at the lookalike release of the Galaxy S fell on deaf ears in the Samsung executive offices and Apples patent case with Samsung continues to this date. As well as the later case against Google for the infringement of Android, Apple would tear the supply chain between Samsung as Apples main iPhone chip supplier. These battles haven’t gone unnoticed by the consumers who buy the end products:

Despite attempts at reform, the patent system is such a mess that the only way to save it is to destroy it

Neither party in these cases can possibly benefit from the financial cost and implications evolved. Which is why patents wars such as these can only be out down to pure greed and scare tactics. Patents battles are only providing a negative outlook on the technology industry, Apple itself once seen as a rebel in the industry, with its radial designs and ideas, has become and enforcer of legal garb. Future start-up company’s and inventors will look twice before developing any product in the future and possibly not at all. This is why patents and their misuse are shackling the creativity of inventors and like minded people. Such a thing should not be accepted in the 21st century, with the resemblance of institutional bullying. Patents exist to protect ideas, forcing others to provide new theories and answers to life long problems. Companies should focus on improving a more open society and nurturing new inventions. Yet their inherent opposite has occurred and without and serious consultation regarding the use of patents we risk alienating new technologies.


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