The New York Times has a short and sharp editorial criticising the US patent system. It’s at a very high level of generality, but it does cover some of the familiar themes for criticism:

  • that the US Patent and Trademark Office is understaffed (and is therefore being overwhelmed by its workload, and letting through patents it otherwise should have weeded out)
  • the problem with obviousness — the need to draw the line “between a real innovation and an obvious concept that should be freely available as a building block for future generations of creative thinkers”, and the concomitant rise of overbroad patents (such as for business practices)
  • the rise of “patent trolls”, which it calls “profiteers” who “have turned the very purpose of patent rights — to encourage people to invent and produce — on its head, using them to tax, blackmail and even shut down productive companies unless they pay high enough ransoms”
  • “the ease with which patent holders can get an injunction”, which it can use “to shut down a thriving business” (especially, it seems, an interim injunction, which goes into effect before the case is fully heard), meaning that “many companies are quietly paying rather than fighting”

Obviously, there is a lot more detail that is unaddressed, but it is interesting to see an editorial in a mainstream publication dedicated solely to intellectual property.