Thursday, April 26, 2007

Verizon/Vonage Lawsuit As A Proxy For What's Wrong With The Patent System

With the news that the federal appeals court has granted a permanent stay on enforcing the injunction placed on Vonage preventing it from signing up new customers, Tim Lee has written up a good article about how the case demonstrates many of the problems with the patent system, from software patents to obvious ideas getting patented to overly broad patents to the fact that companies are now using patents for nuclear stockpiling purposes rather than for innovation. It's an idea that we've discussed here quite a bit, and as Tim says, "Vonage's fundamental mistake was that it chose not to join this arms race. As a result, when Verizon sued, it was completely defenseless." We keep asking for people to explain to us how this is beneficial for promoting innovation, but no one seems to have a good answer. On a related note, Tim points out the latest ridiculous patent on tabbed windows, wondering "would anyone seriously claim that granting legal monopolies on the general characteristics of windowing systems is either necessary or helpful to the progress of the software industry?" Anyone?