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A Thin Line between Love and Hate: the Dual Patent Agenda of Tech Corporations

post Tuesday November 12, 2013

Tags: aia, apple, high-tech, innovation act, ipr, microsoft, patent

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For the unsuspecting and more casual reader, it would seem, perhaps, that the large High-tech corporations would treasure patent protection above all. But in truth, and as those inside the IP business-related businesses are prone to know, giants like Apple and Microsoft actively lobby against patent protection.

The first and most notable of such instances has been the Leahy Smith America Invents Act (AIA), signed by president Obama in September 2011, which constitutes a very meaningful change to the American IPR system. Seconding this law, the rightful owner of a patent is the first one to file it (known as ‘first inventor-to-file’, or FITF), rather than the first to invent it (FTI), and has been this way since March 16, 2013. The new law also provides for a one year grace period following publishing by the investor.

A new, pending legislation is also currently being supported by the Tech giants. The ‘Innovation Act’, HR 3309, is supported by both Google and Microsoft. But if anything, the AIA and Innovation Act alike will make it harder to guarantee the standing of patent rights, rather than make IPR more powerful. Why would a firm such as Microsoft that in 2013 ranks fifth worldwide for R&D spending (Booz & Company study) – equal to about 13.3% of its revenue – want to weaken the power of IPR enforcement? It is no secret that tech giants like Microsoft defend their own patents in the best way they can, as can be said in our previous article, wherein Microsoft and Apple are currently involved in a large-scale lawsuit precisely aimed at imposing IP rights. The stories are also countless when it comes to the aggressive bidding stances such firms have taken to be the first to set hands on patents of falling firms. So when it comes to walk the talk, things do appear rather ambiguous.

The fact of the matter is innovation in the tech industry is possible the most volatile of all major industries, contingently striving on few game-breaking inventions, rather than on the multitude of frequent additions to the new iPhone version which frankly matter much less than the invention of a cell-phone. Plenty of smaller firms have the potential to innovate, firms which are altogether many more than just Google and Apple and Microsoft and Samsung. Take for instance Facebook, and how a single home-made social network grew to nurture well past the success of its predecessors. It may be hard to think of Facebook as just a meaningless start-up, but that is precisely what it was not even 10 years ago.

All taken into count, the High-tech patent ordeal is one of giants versus small, lean and mean firms. Developments of this industry are inauspicious to newcomers and small firms must fight an uphill battle against the status-quo. When even pro-innovation firms like Google support legislation that will reduce overall IP protection, one must ask oneself: "I may be able to innovate – but will I win?”

Source:  IPWatchDog

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