I most certainly don’t envy the US its patent system as such, but as a European politician, I am concerned that the US seems to be ahead of us on the road towards a patent system collapse. The region that first abolishes the patent system will get a global first mover advantage.
The quite serious blog IPKat has just conducted a rather funny web poll, where one of the questions was ”Do you envy the US its patent system?”.
I most certainly don’t envy the US its patent system as such — it’s even more screwed up than the European one, which is bad as it is, and will become even worse once the European patent with unitary effect (as opposed to a Unitary Patent) becomes a reality.
But as a European politician with a responsibility for defending European interests, I am concerned that the US seems to be ahead of us on the road towards a patent system collapse.
Patents are government sponsored monopolies, and monopolies are bad for business and bad for economic growth.
The feeling I have is that the patent system in the US is so obviously absurd that more and more big companies are beginning to see it for what it really is, an obstacle to innovation and economic growth. Allegedly, Apple nowadays spends more money on patent litigation than it does on research and development. This means that the companies that are not Apple have to spend just as much to defend themselves, unless they want to get sued out of business.
The patent system in Europe is also harmful to innovation and economic growth, but the US is ahead on the collapse curve. From a regionalistic (or whatever you call it, since the EU is not a nation) perspective, this is a concern.
The region that first abolishes the patent system will get a global first mover advantage. Low levels of patent monopolies are associated with high levels of growth. This has been demonstrated again and again in history, and can be seen by comparing different regions in the world today. (Which has the highest level of economic growth, China or Europe or the US?)
But almost no politicians (except the Pirate Party) see it this way, so it is unfortunately very unlikely that the leadership required will come from the political sphere.
My guess is that the patent system in both the US and Europe will be dismantled in my lifetime (I’m 52). But if and when that happens, it will not be thanks to political leadership, but simply because the big companies that actually produce things will get fed up with spending more and more on defending themselves against ever more aggressive patent trolls.
And when it comes to patent trolls, the US, thanks to its patent system, is ahead of Europe.
More about patent trolls in The Register: Patent trolling surges, but righteous cavalry on the way
This article was originally published at Christian Engström’s blog.