Bezos: Governments Should Kill Patent Wars

| News

Patent lawsuits are filling court dockets, big name companies like Apple and Samsung are catching headlines with their cases, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos thinks it's time for governments to step in and put an end to the patent wars. The current patent system, he said, is choking innovation instead of promoting it.

"Patents are supposed to encourage innovation and we're starting to be in a world where they might start to stifle innovation," Mr. Bezos told Metro. "Governments may need to look at the patent system and see if those laws need to be modified because I don't think some of these battles are healthy for society."

Bezos: It's time for governments to stop the patent warsBezos: It's time for governments to stop the patent wars

Much of the news surrounding the current state of patent litigation surrounds Google's Android operating system, which is used on a long list of smartphones and tablets competing against Apple's iPhone and iPad powerhouse. Amazon's own Kindle Fire ebook reader and tablet even runs on a customized version of Android.

With Apple targeting companies like Samsung, Motorola Mobility and HTC with lawsuits alleging their Android devices infringe on its patents, Mr. Bezos is likely thinking that his company can't be too far behind.

Apple's highest profile patent fight so far has been with Samsung. Both companies have accused each other of using patented technology without licensing, and Apple also claimed Samsung blatantly copied its iPad when designing the Galaxy tablet line.

Apple won a major courtroom victory in August when a jury ruled that Samsung infringed on a long list of the company's patents and hit Samsung with over US$1 billion in damages. Unless governments intervene companies can expect to face more rulings like that, Mr. Bezos surmises, and ultimately innovation will suffer.

Losing that innovation would be a serious blow to companies and consumers, especially now, he thinks. "I love technology, I love invention, I like rapid change, and really it's the golden age of wireless devices and mobile devices," he said.



Step 1) Only people not companies can patent something.
Step 2) Patents non transferable. You invent something you get to use the patent, defend the patent, do whatever you want with the patent. Somebody else buys your company and they get a cabinet full of worthless paper. The patents revert to public domain. Same thing if the patent holder dies. No more patent trolls.
Step 3)??


Step 3.  The new kings of patent law become the patent engineer/lawyers who hold the patents.  The large corporations will hire them at extravagant cost, pay even more to steal them from other companies, and fully fund the litigation for them. 
Step 4.  The more things change the more they stay the same. 

Also, just as a matter of public policy, you probably don’t want to incentivize the death of patent holders.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Interestingly, two key patents on K-cups (for Keurig coffee machines) just ran out. Cartridge coffee is an $8B, yes billion, dollar per year industry. Retail price was approaching $1/cup when the patents ran out. Green Mountain (owner of Keurig) owned those patents and basically owned that market.

Did the founders really anticipate that patent protection would secure dominant market share in an $8B/year business? There is no way the “investment” in a cup with filter design cost anything with 5 zeroes of that. This is not software, either.

The kind of patent reform that I favor requires the applicant to state the value of the invention and pay a percentage up front (say 1%) to secure it. Once the patentee makes that value in revenues, the patent expires. So, if you think you have a $1B invention, you pay a filing fee of $10M. At any time, your competitors can hand you checks totaling $1B minus any revenues you’ve attributed to the patent, and your monopoly is over. Now just think of all the revenue that could be raised from Apple protecting its smartphone racket!! This would make Obama proud.


{quote]Also, just as a matter of public policy, you probably don’t want to incentivize the death of patent holders.

OK That’s a good point.


Bezos wasn’t squawking about patents not being good for innovation when Amazon was able to patent clicking a mouse to buy stuff, aka One-Click™. Given the different profit vs. revenue breakdowns of Amazon and Apple it’s not surprising he’s a convert to “Patents are bad, mmmmmkay?”

Requiring inventors to paying a percentage up front is a great way to insure that only rich people can profit from patents.

Better to concentrate on the parts of the system that are actually broken. Two suggestions: better front-end policing by the patent office to limit obtaining bogus patents for stuff with prior art and things that are obvious AND automatic licensing for patents held by companies that do not produce any item for sale or that do not utilize their own patents in any item for sale.

De-incentive trolling by setting the automatic royalty rights to a pretty low pre-set level, say one tenth of one percent of the sale price of any item utilizing that patent. And, once you’ve taken that automatic license money, you’re barred from suing anyone else even if you then produce your own product. If you never take the money, and you produce your own product, then you have the right to go to court and ask for realistic damages that may be trebled.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Actually. jfbiii, a Nobel Laureate (econ, 2007) thinks your front-loading solution is, to quote the great Joe Biden, malarky. See the NY Times today.

Considering getting a patent approved costs a typical “small” inventor $10K - $20K, it already precludes many less of the less affluent. Set a base $5M patent limit, and let the rich people and companies self-impose additional taxes if they think their inventions are special enough. The further you can move patent disputes away from negotiation and litigation and the closer you can move them to predictable dollar amounts, the better you’ll solve this problem.


I wonder what the GOP would think of this: asking the government to come in and decide things that private industry can handle.  (The fact is, the only winners in this game are the lawyers.)

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@1stplacemacuser: Government issues the patents. Government provides the venues (courts) where these company battle over monopoly rights granted by the government. There is no hypocrisy in a party that allegedly favors small government reforming the process so that private players aren’t using as much government granted leverage to shake each other down.


Nobel Prize or not, that idea is a bad one.


Nobel Prize or not, that idea is a bad one.

Who’s Nobel Prize?

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

See my link above. There is a Nobel Prize winner (Econ, 2007) who wrote in the NYT the other day that jfbiii’s idea of tightening up the application process is a loser idea. He suggests getting rid of software patents entirely.

BTW, geoduck, your idea of patents expiring with the death of the patent holder is quite similar to what we have done with copyright. It was once “death + 25 years”, but has been extended to “death + life of the universe”. The old regime was probably the reason they killed Walt Disney.


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