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   Patent Spam (was Re: [xml-dev] US Patent 6,687,897)

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Michael Kay wrote:

> The US Patent Office is clearly not applying stringent enough criteria.
> What I would like to know is, is it a conspiracy (protectionism for the
> US software industry, jobs for the lawyers), or is it just incompetence?

It's likely overwork.  Intellectual property is a checklist item for 
investors (especially venture capitalists), so there's enormous pressure on 
small tech startups to patent something -- *anything* -- even if there's no 
malicious intent to blackmail others with a bogus patent.  It's pathetic, 
but it's hard to blame them, since the investors hold all the cards.  When 
big, well-funded companies play the same game, though, it's reprehensible.

It seems unlikely that the staff at the USPTO can do more than give each 
application a cursory glance and make sure that all the required fields are 
filled in; it's up to the courts to figure out what the truth might be.

The problem right now is that there is a moral hazard to filing a bogus 
patent claim: you don't face any serious consequences if you lose, so why 
not take a chance?  In many ways, it's exactly analogous to spamming.  If a 
company could stand to lose millions (or more) because of a irresponsible 
patent, the system might work a little better.

All the best,



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