After wrangling a $600-million settlement from Research in Motion in 2006, the patent-holding firm NTP filed lawsuits last week against six other big tech firms, including Apple, Motorola and Google, arguing the companies infringed on its wireless email patents. Critics say NTP is a “patent troll”—a firm that collects patents but doesn’t actually produce anything. Paul Kedrosky, a venture capitalist and blogger, argues the time has come to abolish these software and business method patents altogether.
In an editorial in the Huffington Post, he says the patents often fail the classic “criteria of being novel, useful, and non-obvious”—some covering even basic computer science concepts that have been around for 30 years. Rather than encourage innovation they have become “a quasi-legal poison pill.” This was never the intention of the U.S. Patent Act, but is a symptom of a “dangerously mutating” system, says Kedrosky. “These expanded patents . . . are 99.9 per cent nonsense.”