Abi (abigailb) wrote,


Ignoring the issue of the morality or utility of software and design patents (I don't much like them, professionally or ideologically), isn't there a deep malaise in a legal system where big companies sue each other so much?

The point of having codified laws and writing all these patents down clearly and getting an office to approve them is so that it should then be obvious to all parties involved what actions are prohibited and what aren't. There will always be some fuzziness over shades of meaning or edge cases that weren't thought of, or genuine disagreements about meaning. And there will always be people dishonestly trying it on, and having to be squashed legally.

But this big patent apocalypse that's going on, isn't it completely unprecedented for as many big companies in an industry to be suing each other? Neither Samsung nor Apple are at SCO Group levels of unreasonableness - they're sensible people, and for them to be contesting this means their lawyers reckon they've got a chance. Which means that these state-granted monopolies on products that are becoming increasingly important in the world economy really are that ambiguous. And it's not just Apple vs Samsung - how many tech companies are suing each other right now in patent suits? How many are about to? If there were this many disputes about real property rights, then the law would be clarified pretty damn clearly, either by statute, or by a precedent. But here there's no commonality. "infringing" has to be carefully evaluated for each individual claim. This could be perhaps managed when you had one or two or three patents per product, but it simply doesn't scale.

Computer-related patents were dysfunctional, I knew that, as they could be used for nefarious ends, and were often granted for ridiculously trivial things. But I see now they have failed to even be clear law. If Samsung's legal department can't tell whether they've trod on someone else's patents, what hope the independent developer?


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