I’m always discouraged by my friendly neighbourhood patent attorney from revealing details of any intellectual property I’ve created before the related patent has been granted in every major country.So I tell him, get real. The whole patents thing is a take-on, hence this website. Most people can’t afford to apply for a patent, still less to defend it in the courts, if it were ever granted. (To his credit, my patent attorney only became one when he came second in the It’s-A-Knock-Out to be Europe’s first astronaut, so he has a very different internal model of risk than his profession would approve of).There’s an argument that runs “if we don’t allow people a period of monopoly, a clear run at exploiting their idea, then why should anyone bother to invent anything?”. It seems to me that this misses the point about inventiveness entirely. People who can invent new things are pretty well compelled to do so. They will invent in any case. Even the threat of being humiliated for having “lost out on a vast fortune” wouldn’t be enough to stop them. The inventor is always going to be at least one stage ahead of any copyists.If anything is stifling invention, it’s the legal process surrounding it. The people who own and run the legal business don’t really have a clue about invention: it’s just not what they do. To suggest that inventors and small companies somehow benefit from patent protection is disingenuous nonsense: they can’t afford it and the scrabble to sign up big partner companies who can help with the costs, forces people into making bad deals. The current charge for a lawyer who knows anything about IP is way over £300 per hour. That’s for someone who can understand something which is carefully explained to him, not some super genius.
Even big companies often choose not to patent ideas in favour of selling know-how based products and avoiding publishing anything via the patent process.
I guess I’m saying that we need to apply some serious creativity to reform the system -it’s now just too feeble, costly and slow. Given that no law lords read this site, the chances of that happening are, however, slim : (
There have recently been moves towards using government prizes instead of patents to help promote innovation.