Patent System – Good or Bad for Innovation?

There has been a lot of buzz that last couple of weeks surrounding patents and the fervor and attitudes that they create within multi-billion dollar organizations. It, again, brings up a very interesting question and moral dilemma: are patents good or bad for our economy and who pays for this good/evil?

Patents originally served to shield inventors from replication, and more importantly to encourage innovation. After all, inventing something and putting thousands of hours into it is mush more inviting when you know someone can’t simply steal it.

If someone steals your product, invention, or innovation, you used your patent to attack him or her and keep your monopoly.

However, in a multi-billion dollar conglomerate economy, the same patent system the encouraged innovation, now serves more as a defense mechanism than an offense mechanism. Companies now simply purchase patent portfolios to sit on them. Not to use them, just to sit on them in order to create a mutually assured destruction scenario.

In this situation, if one company with a large portfolio sues another company with a large portfolio for infringement, the legal systems becomes a battleground and entire corporations could get sucked into defense and legal fees.

Companies are hungry for such portfolios and will pay enormous sums of money for them and even for small companies who hold valuable or powerful patents. Entire creative industries sometimes end up being swallowed by larger corporations for the sake of defense, or to keep innovation stifled.

Granted, this is the far end of the spectrum. Patents do indeed protect thousands of new innovations and products every single year that then go to enrich lives. Exactly what patents were intended to do.

What do you think of the current patent system? What have been your experiences in the system?