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The Technology Patent Crisis

Just as the financial markets are collapsing, Read Write Web's Alex Iskold proclaims that we have a technology patent crisis on our hands, calling today's technology intellectual property system "a failure" for being unable to cope with the speed of innovation. "We live in an age of open source ideas," Iskold says, which means that software makers copy, borrow elements from and build on each other's ideas all the time. "At first glance this may seem fine, but there are important consequences that may change the way we innovate," he says, adding: "What happens when a big company copies a startup? What happens when dozens of startups copy each other?"

Patents protect innovators by requiring that anyone who wishes to copy their invention license it and typically pay royalties on it. Patents are granted for a limited but long period of time, after which point, the invention becomes public and can be used freely by anyone. According to Iskold, "the system worked quite well when the world was slower, but the recent acceleration changed everything. With time to market being much shorter, the patent system instantly becomes ridiculous and obsolete."

For example, the average patent filed today takes between four and six years to approve-an eternity in the technology world. "Because of this gap, filing a patent appears useless," Iskold says. Meanwhile, litigating software patents in court is expensive, painfully long, and often unsuccessful. This has encouraged a copying bonanza in the software business, what Iskold calls the "Age of Shameless Stealing."

Read the whole story at Read Write Web »

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