Judge Posner Questions The Need For Software Patents
Judge Richard Posner recently dismissed the Apple patent infringement case against Motorola and now he’s speaking out publicly about the ridiculousness of software patents.
In a recent interview with Reuters judge Posner said the smartphone industry specifically is suffering from a “proliferation of patents” that are not necessary. In his argument the judge says unlike pharmaceutical company’s who spend hundreds of millions of dollars to develop new drugs, software code is relatively easy to write and costs very little to develop.
As Judge Posner says:
“It’s not clear that we really need patents in most industries.”
The judge’s sentiment is shared by many industry experts who call the “sea of lawsuits” a technological distraction. Others have noted that many patents border on ridiculous. For example company’s will apply for and receive a patent like Apple’s which allows a phone number from any website to be automatically turned into a link which can than be tapped and auto-dialed from a phone. In another case Nokia filed a patent for a yet to be created system that will allow for “automatic updates to social networks from a phone.”
While some patents are more thorough and complex, many of the industry’s patents are simple ideas that a firm happens to patent before its competition, patents that then lead to multi-million dollar lawsuits.
As Posner puts it, patents have become a type of “competitive weapon” which has led to a “constant struggle for survival” against company’s like Apple who with $110 billion cash on hand has no problem hiring teams of lawyers to sue every competitor who threatens their mobile business.
In the meantime Judge Posner says he had no choice but to throw out the Apple vs. Motorola patent lawsuit because he wouldn’t kill an entire phone based on patents covering minor features such as smooth streaming video.
Perhaps before his death Steve Jobs shouldn’t have told Apple executives to go “thermonuclear” on Google in regards to the Google Android operating system. Ever since that comment Google has purchased Motorola Mobility thus acquiring thousands of patents, Microsoft has bought hundreds of millions of dollars worth of mobile patents and in essence a “cold war” of sorts has led to the equivalent of the Cuban missile crisis within the technology industry.