Posner on Patents

July 7th, 2012 at 10:32 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The US judge who tossed out one of the biggest court cases in Apple’s smartphone technology battle is questioning whether should cover software or most other industries at all.

, a prolific jurist who sits on the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, told Reuters this week that the technology industry’s high profits and volatility made patent litigation attractive for companies looking to wound competitors.

“It’s a constant struggle for survival,” he said in his courthouse chambers, which have a sparkling view of Monroe Harbor on Lake Michigan. “As in any jungle, the animals will use all the means at their disposal, all their teeth and claws that are permitted by the ecosystem.”

Posner, 73, was appointed as a federal appeals court judge by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 and has written dozens of books, including one about economics and intellectual property law.

Posner is arguably the most cited legal scholar on the 20th century.

Patents for software now seem to be used mainly to block innovation, rather than to protect it.

11 Responses to “Posner on Patents”

  1. thor42 (971 comments) says:

    I agree. Copyright is more than enough protection for software. It does not need patents as well.

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  2. Mike Readman (369 comments) says:

    Get rid of all patents, copyrights and trademarks. They’re a load of crap!

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  3. thedavincimode (8,131 comments) says:

    Interesting perspective Mike.

    Have you ever invested thousands of hours/dollars producing something that you would prefer simply wasn’t copied overnight by someone else. If you have and it was, did that inspire you to do it all over again to come up with something else?

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  4. Mike Readman (369 comments) says:



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  5. dog_eat_dog (1,030 comments) says:

    thedavincimode – it depends if your thousand dollar investment is supported by a patent that isn’t worded so broadly that almost every device for the last decade would somehow infringe on it, and those who approved it didn’t ignore prior art when granting it. Unfortunately that seems to be how patents work these days.

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  6. thedavincimode (8,131 comments) says:


    If that’s what is happening then that is very silly indeed. Does it happen here?

    I would have expected that this sort of issue would be addressed in the global copyright protocol if there are overseas “offenders”, but your Comment suggests not. Would I be right in assuming that you are channelling the US in this regard?

    I think I’ll go and patent something with a door knob or a wheel on it now.

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  7. holysheet (1,614 comments) says:

    I can assume from his comment above, that mike is a ‘red’ man. Never owned anything in his life but wants to have every thing for free. I have numerous trademarks. These are to protect my intellectual property (my ideas) from being abused. I once had a legal battle with a much bigger company who wanted one of my trademarks. In the end I sold the rights to that TM for a 6 figure sum plus costs, and got a new name for the same product.
    So I am all for this form of protection

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  8. dc (176 comments) says:

    Posner is also noted for openly mocking Apple’s argument that “a tap is a zero-length swipe” which would contravene their risible “slide to unlock” patent. #BoycotApple

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  9. slijmbal (1,270 comments) says:

    The issue in software patents is that they give some ludicrous patents that are self evident and obvious and no advancement. The best example is amazon’s one click checkout patent. Europe kicked it out but NZ (and the US) allowed it.

    The swipe to unlock patent is similar – it’s so bleeding obvious to a software developer.

    If the patents were actually some sort of advancement great – but they’re so often not.

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  10. dime (13,006 comments) says:

    Apple is out of control. They seem to think they invented everything.

    Microsoft just played it smart. They do deals and clip the ticket. $10 or most android handsets sold.

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  11. Bazar (42 comments) says:

    The problem with patents are that they are too easily granted, and too easily abused.

    The problems with patents are numerious.

    The scope is easily abused.
    The amazon’s “one click to buy” patent for example.
    And you can extend that patent simply by combining an obvious solution with a new technology.
    “one click to buy over a handheld device”, would then cover any website designed for a smartphone or tablet for 20 years onwards.

    Want to patent the doorknob with a new technology
    “A method for unlocking a device or application via rotation of the device”. Should you patent that, and tilt to unlock becomes a new way for unlocking phones, you just hit the jackpot.

    Then there are how you get stuck dealing with patents.
    Should your competitor have a legitmiate patent that you are forced to licence to continue selling yout device, the courts expect you to licence the patent at a resoanble price.

    US they can just deny any licencing rights or create an extortionate pricing scheme, to effectively shut your product down.
    As is the case with apple vs samsung, and apple vs google.

    There is also the fact that you are not required to announce any patents you are attempting to, or have acquired, so you can encourage companies to start using your idea, then years later when its become a standard, or key to their product line, come out and demand royalties, backdated. Or just threaten to shutdown their product line.

    As is the case with PC memory manufacture Rambus. Who with other memory manufactures created a new memory standard for production RD-RAM. But while the spesfications were being drawn up, they were without telling the consortium, secretly being patentning the ideas.
    Years later as RD ram is being produced for the new pentium 4’s, and is reaching a defacto standard, they pull the rug out and demand massive royalties from all the producers of RD ram.

    Copyright works, although i have large issues with the duration granted.
    Trademarks work, and have large restrictions to them. (can’t copyright existing meanings, have to defend any use of the trademark or forfit the rights)
    Patents don’t work. While i believe there are some things that may warrant patents in software, the current system of granting any stupid idea a patent as long as its provided a new scope () is broken.

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