Patent Trolls, Gnomes, and Unicorns

By food stamp

This weekend my radio dial serendipitously came across this amazing podcast on This American Life. Broadly, Ira Glass looks at some of the absurdities of U.S. patent laws and rights; specifically how venture capitalists buy up patents without developing the ideas commercially and then wait until someone else develops the technology and then sues them, essentially becoming a “patent troll” (something similar to what “sample trolls” have done to hip hop artists). This effectively runs against the grain of the idea behind all intellectual property rights: encouraging creativity and competition that ultimately benefits consumers/society while giving authors/inventors financial compensation so that they can continue to innovate.

Specifically, this podcast examines the complexities of software patents, which many open source software engineers, as well as organizations such as the Free Software Foundation, oppose (i.e. or this great piece on throwing away software patents). Because open source programmers fear the proprietary and innovation stifling of patents, some are advocating for Defensive Patent Licensing (DPL) as an alternative. While there are not a ton of great resources out there dealing with patent like there are for other forms of IP, I’ve found IPWatchdog to be a great source for patent information. If you find the This American Life podcast intriguing, then you will want to watch Patent Absurdity and get your knowledge up.


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