Apple Joins IBM, Microsoft in Patent Reform Lobby Group

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Apple is taking a bigger role in pushing for patent reform in the United States by teaming up with IBM, Microsoft, and other companies as part of the Partnership for American Innovation. The organization's goal is to lobby the Federal government to adopt the changes it wants to improve the country's patent system.

Apple teams up with other companies to push for patent troll controlsApple teams up with other companies to push for patent troll controls

Along with Apple, IBM and Microsoft, the group includes DuPont, Ford, GE, and Pfizer. David Kappos, former director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, is senior advisor to the group.

The PAI's goal is to push for patent system changes based on facts instead of emotion. The organization said in a statement,

PAI members represent a diverse cross section of the economy; they have different business models, use their patent portfolios in very different ways, and are frequently competitors. Together, these companies invest more than $40 billion every year in research and development and depend on the patent system to safeguard those investments. PAI-supported R&D supports over 1.2 million jobs and has created iconic products and services that consumers depend on — everything from the light bulb to the iPhone.

The PAI said it is committed to pushing for a patent system that protects high-quality innovation, is respected globally, and is properly funded.

Apple's involvement with the group isn't a big surprise considering the ongoing patent-related legal battles it has been dealing with. Aside from the high profile infringement fight with Samsung, Apple faces an ongoing stream of lawsuits from companies that do nothing more than collect patents and then sue to generate revenue. Those companies, also known as patent trolls, put a substantial strain on the legal system, cost millions of dollars in litigation fees, and devalue the patent system as a whole because many of the patents they hold are of questionable value.

The iPhone and iPad maker has gone so far as to team up with rivals Google and Samsung in Europe to push for patent reform to help cut back on patent troll lawsuits, too. Along with 16 other companies, they sent a letter to the European Union urging for changes to block patent trolls from filing frivolous suits as a way to essentially extort money from businesses.

Back in the U.S., Apple and the other companies in the PAI are concerned that the efforts Congress is making to change patent laws may be moving too quickly and in a direction that will make them ineffectual. Their hope is that through the PAI they will be able to help guide the reform process in a direction they feel is more appropriate, and better protects legitimate patent holders.

"As director of the USPTO, I saw firsthand the significant role the patent system plays in encouraging inventors, promoting investment in innovation, and creating jobs," Mr. Kappos said. "Now is not the time to gamble with America's innovation engine — once patent protections are eliminated, they cannot be restored."

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The current state of the patent system in the U.S. has made for an environment where it's far to easy for patent trolls to bully companies into licensing payments that may not be appropriate, but are less expensive than drawn out litigation. It's clear there needs to be some chance, so hopefully the Partnership for American Innovation will work for good and not evil.

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This could be partially fixed by requiring a “first used in commerce” date to make the patent valid, similar to what trademarks have.  Also change the first-used filing limitation so it can’t be extended for up to 36 months.  Should be 12 months tops; either you’re gonna use the property or you’re not.

It’d take a lot of squatters & trolls out of the picture, and it’d cut down on the number of companies that “innovate” by trying to patent whatever sticks.

Will see whether any of this ever happens. smile


Two suggestions to eliminate the trolls:
Make patents non transferable. Company X owns a patent. Company X goes out of business: the patents become public property. Same with Inventor Y. He dies then the patents are publc.
Second: In patent cases, and possibly others, make it loser pays all legal expenses for both parties.

These two changes would, without any other change to the patent system, cut the number of patent trolls significantly.

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