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The Patent Pledge

Written By: admin - May• 23•12

I realized recently that we may be able to solve part of the patent problem without waiting for the government.

I’ve never been 100% sure whether patents help or hinder technological progress. When I was a kid I thought they helped. I thought they protected inventors from having their ideas stolen by big companies. Maybe that was truer in the past, when more things were physical. But regardless of whether patents are in general a good thing, there do seem to be bad ways of using them. And since bad uses of patents seem to be increasing, there is an increasing call for patent reform.

The problem with patent reform is that it has to go through the government. That tends to be slow. But recently I realized we can also attack the problem downstream. As well as pinching off the stream of patents at the point where they’re issued, we may in some cases be able to pinch it off at the point where they’re used.

One way of using patents that clearly does not encourage innovation is when established companies with bad products use patents to suppress small competitors with good products. This is the type of abuse we may be able to decrease without having to go through the government.

The way to do it is to get the companies that are above pulling this sort of trick to pledge publicly not to. Then the ones that won’t make such a pledge will be very conspicuous. Potential employees won’t want to work for them. And investors, too, will be able to see that they’re the sort of company that competes by litigation rather than by making good products.

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