GTAN|Education: Patents Are Evil and Other Myths

March 13, 2019 / Source: GTAN

On March 5, before the GTAN|RAW meeting, GTAN hosted ‘Software Patents Are Evil – And Other Myths About The Patent System’ presented by Jason Hynes, Bereskin & Parr. Jason is a Patent Agent in US and Canada and a Trademark Agent in Canada.

To begin the discussion, Jason asked the question: are patents a good thing? In the Pharmaceutical industry, patents have proven to be beneficial; however, the data is inconclusive in the software industry. Even with this uncertainty, Jason confirmed the patent system promotes innovation in all industries.

A patent is a deal between an inventor and the government. Patents must have public disclosure and a limited monopoly of 20 years therefore they are often criticized for being limited by scope and place (country specific).

Today, terms surrounding patents use the same language as the original U.S. Patent Act written in 1793 by the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. This act was created in a time when software was unimaginable, so how well do these terms work today? Many have thought to change the language in the act but it has been deemed too controversial to change. These muddy terms have led many people to believe the myth that patents are unnecessary.

These are the top ten reasons software patents are incorrectly labelled as evil:

  • Patents cover concepts that are way too broad
  • It’s almost impossible to know if you infringe because there are too many to search
  • Claims are too indefinite
  • Copyright provides enough protection so software patents are redundant
  • Disclosure for software is not a fair deal
  • Patent examiners are often too slow and not qualified
  • Patents are often too expensive to enforce
  • Patent trolls are taking uncertain patents and aggressively extorting the market
  • Software patents last too long
  • There is nothing physical/too abstract

Jason quickly deemed this as nonsense and counters this with one question: If software patents are so bad then why aren’t more software patents killing the software industry? He added that a software patent may be worth nothing — until they are worth everything.

Software patents are growing at the same rapid pace as the industry, and investors want protection. In addition, software patents force the next company to do something different and creates a system of evolutionary pressures: instead of making the same thing with a race to the bottom to drive cost down, they are forced to be innovative. While individual companies may suffer, the public will benefit.

Do you have a fresh, new idea and are looking for investors? The next GTAN|RAW event is on Tuesday April 2, 2019. Learn more about pitching at GTAN|RAW here.