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Intellectual property has become one of the issues, which are relevant because of the industrial and technical progress. Numerous companies invent different equipment and software in order to assist the overall progress and assure their sustainability through considerable customers’ interest. However, gradually, it has become evident that intellectual inventions require support of the law because of the cases of their theft. Since one associates technological inventions with large financial revenues, companies hope that patent protection is one of the most efficient ways of defending their intellectual rights. However, there are critics of the patent system, which claim that the introduction of this system and its focusing on the protection of intellectual rights harm the technological progress in general. They state that the overall advancement of this sphere has become slower because of numerous lawsuits and legal battles between companies. This paper investigates the benefits and drawbacks of the patent technology by means of analyzing theoretical assumptions of those who support or oppose it. Moreover, it analyzes various examples of the conflicts involving patent-related lawsuits characterizing the current situation regarding this issue in the world. The suggested evidence allows stating that despite patent system is useful because it protects the intellectual rights of inventors, it may also restrain the technical progress in case ones initiate the lawsuits for profit.
The Drawbacks of the Patent System
Despite the aim of patent system creation was to protect the intellectual rights of the inventors, it is evident that it has specific drawbacks. One of the aspects, which results in the negative view towards patents, is the right of the patent holders for restricting scientific investigations directed towards their developments. The representatives of science claim that scientific researchers have never got sued for patent issues because pure science’s purpose is increasing of the knowledge base (Haspel). However, in the sphere of business involving conglomerates as Google, Apple Inc. or Samsung Electronics Co., the patent issue is important because of its possibility of bringing revenues in the form of financial compensations. One of the examples of the lawsuits involving these conglomerates is Intellectual Ventures v. Google started in 2014. The initiator of the process claimed that after acquiring Motorola Mobility, Google’s Android operating system obtained software features, which Intellectual Ventures initially developed (“Intellectual Ventures”). Similarly, in 2001, Samsung Electronics Co. attempted to sue Apple Inc. for infringing mobile software patents. As a result, the Korean conglomerate tried to ban the import of the production of Apple Inc. such as iPhones, iPads and iPods (Decker). Therefore, patent-wars have become one of the most relevant issues associated with science in the sphere of digital technologies. In this respect, the reporters claim that patent system has turned from playing mostly positive role into having mostly negative one. For example, Patel claims, “small mobile app developers have been targeted with spurious lawsuits from companies that make nothing.” Moreover, others indicate that modern patent system in the US is too expensive, which does not justify the presented level of protection. As a result, scholars conclude that “the problems that the data do reveal may have less to do with patents than with commercial concerns, scientific competition, and frictions in sharing physical materials” (Lei, Rakhi, and Wright). Therefore, the original benefits from the patent system have taken the minor role because of lawsuits initiated for getting financial revenues and restraining the progress of the competitors. Without any doubt, such tendencies restrain innovations leaving compaies without major financial shares in the perspective and restraining economic progress of the countries.
In order to illustrate the actual state of things in the sphere of patent protection, one has to analyze several typical examples related to this issue. Thus, “Amazon.com sued Barnes & Noble.com in 1999 alleging infringement of its business method patent by allowing its customers to make repeat purchases in a similar way to the one, which the patent describes” (“Amazon.com”). Basically, the actual issue of the problem was that Barnes & Noble.com changed the structure of their website allowing the customers to buy goods in a single click instead of two. Despite the company won that case, it refused to return a single-click-buy button on its website. From the presented example, one can see that the cause for the lawsuit was far from the protection of especially important intellectual data issues. Instead, commercial motives mostly drove the Amazon.com, and it was just attempting to restrain the progress of its competitor.
One more sphere of a controversial patent issues related lawsuit is the software industry, which has its specific features involving difficulties in defending the intellectual rights of the inventors. Thus, Goldman claims that software has short innovation cycles as well as a perspective of being produced without any patent incentive, and, consequently, one patents it at too high level of abstraction. As a result, the courts reject several lawsuits because their relation to the protection of intellectual property is too vague and unclear. For example, the Supreme Court rejected the aspects of the patent perspective discussed in the Bilski v. Kappos case because of the dispute about the abstract idea of hedging a commodity risk (Sausner). Therefore, one may abuse even the technology of the protection of the intellectual property. Thus, the first requires accurate consideration of the details of the cases.
The Benefits of the Patent System
Characterizing the patent system, one should not forget about its actual benefit, which allowed numerous companies and scientists to protect their inventions from unauthorized copying. Thus, the enterprises, which specialize on patent protection, claim that “patenting allows … to prevent others from making, using or selling your invention throughout the United States without your consent” (“Benefits of a patent”). Moreover, they claim that a patent allows earning monetary remuneration in case of its selling to another party or licensing a patent to one or more parties for a percentage of the price of the sales (“Benefits of a patent”). Among other issues, experts name preventing theft, higher profit margins, reduce of competition, and expand of the market share (Yang). Furthermore, one of the actual examples when patent protection system defends scientific companies is the lawsuit defending open-source software. Thus, Red Hat and Novell companies, specializing in the creation of open-source software, won a lawsuit, which IP Innovation, L.L.C. initiated. Despite the latter company stated that the plaintiffs copied its “user interface with multiple workspaces for sharing display system objects”, the jury rejected this claim (Tiller). This decision serves now as precedent, which protects small open-source software developing companies from the perspective of having patent wars with their bigger counterparts. Furthermore, there is an example of positive benefits from the CLS Bank v. Alice Corp case initiated in 2012 on the basis of the claim of database structure patent infringement (Crouch). Its positive impact on the software developing technology was that, in most cases, computers cannot transform an abstract idea into a patentable one. As a result, patent developers got more freedom in their creative decisions and practical solutions. One can find similaar claims in the Nokia v. HTC case of 2012 where Nokia attempted to sue HTC for the design of audiovisual software element (“German Court”). In this case, the positive outcome was that one allowed the software developers to use software design and architecture elements in more creative ways without fear of suiting. Consequently, these examples approve that the actual validity of patents in the sphere of software protects the interests of the creators of particular technology.
The analysis of patent-related cases and the opinions of stakeholders revealed the opposing sides of the issue. Thus, the critics of the patent system claim that it has specific drawbacks including lawsuits initiated for getting financial revenues and software patenting problems. Thus, large industrial conglomerates tend to use patent laws in order to sue their counterparts. The analysis of the examples of such lawsuits revealed that the companies abuse the right for protection of the intellectual property with the aim of creating legal pressure on the competitors. Thus, in the case involving Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com, the cause for the lawsuit was a one-click shopping button on the website, which has no actual scientific value. One argues that such cases may restrain the actual scientific potential of the companies when making them to direct their efforts towards lawsuits instead of the development of innovations. As a result, the enterprises have fewer revenues and pay lower taxes. This has the negative impact on the countries’ economies. Moreover, the critiques claim that it is difficult to trace the validity of software patenting because of its limited lifecycle in terms of innovation and abstraction.
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Despite the analyzed drawbacks, experts approve that when one applies patenting towards the sphere of science, it functions properly. For example, the analysis of the Red Hat and Novell v. IP Innovation, L.L.C., CLS Bank v. Alice Corp, and Nokia v. HTC cases demonstrates that individuals should not utilize the patent technology towards software regarding specific elements of design or architecture. The reason for this is the fact that such lawsuits severely restrain the creative process of programming, and design-making companies become busy with participating in patent wars instead of continuing productive activity. Therefore, the principles of software patenting require special fixes related to the sphere of commerce, which would allow companies operating freely without the need for useless patent wars.
Summarizing the presented information, the paper concludes that despite the actual efficacy of the patent protection system, one may abuse it when involving the commercial interests of the companies. Thus, conglomerates as Google, Apple Inc., and others have started patent wars, which scientists mostly associate with enormous financial revenues rather than intellectual value of their inventions. Moreover, the analysis of the issue revealed one more difficulty relating to the patent problem, which is the complication of software patenting. The major causes for this are limited lifecycle of any software innovation, its constant updating as well as extremely abstract nature of the aspects of the technology whereas patenting should base on concrete concepts. Apart from it, one states that the technology of patenting is effective when related to open-source software. Thus, the analysis of one of the cases led to the conclusion that patenting protects the one-source inventions and assures their legal existence. Thus, despite principles of patenting have specific drawbacks, they are effective when applied towards the protection of scientific and not commercial interests. As a result, the patent system in the US should be enhanced in order to be more applicable towards the software industry and profit-directed lawsuits.
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