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US patent chief calls system 'envy of the world'

20 Nov 2012

The director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office said in a recent keynote speech that the US patent system is "the envy of the world".

David Kappos heralded the US patent systems as a driver of technological innovation, pointing to the US smartphone industry's constant improvements as proof of his assertion.

The director's strong words come in spite of continued criticism of the current patent system.

"To those reporting and commenting on the smartphone patent wars as if to suggest that the system is broken: let's move beyond flippant rhetoric and instead engage in thoughtful discussion," Kappos said during his keynote address at the Center for American Progress.

In his speech Kappos took issue with those that argue the current patent system doesn't work when it comes to the technology industry. He specifically called out those that say the continued patent legal battles are stifling innovation.

"The fact is, the explosion of innovation - and follow-on litigation - that we see across consumer electronics hardware and software is a direct reflection of how our patent system wires us for innovation," continued Kappos.

"It's both natural and reasonable that in a fast-growing, competitive market, innovators would seek to protect their breakthroughs using our patent system. While our IP system is not perfect, it is the envy of the world. It's the strongest in the world, by far."

Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Julie Samuels dismissed Kapos' claims, arguing the continued patent litigation in the technology sector is hampering innovation.

"We've actually seen no proof that patents, specifically those covering software, have benefited innovation in the tech industry. If anything, the opposite appears to be true," Samuels told V3.

"More specifically, the rash of litigation cannot be seen as proof of innovation, but as a drain of resources, both financial and in people hours that could otherwise be used to further create and innovate. And it's not just the cost of litigation. The thicket of software patents creates nearly insurmountable barriers of entry for smaller innovators."

In the smartphone sector, Samsung and Apple have been locked in multiple patent infringement cases over the course of 2012. Motorola and Apple have also been battling in court over patents since early this year.

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James Dohnert

James is a freelance writer and editor. In addition to ClickZ, his work has appeared in publications like V3, The Commonwealth Club,, and Shonen Jump magazine. He studied Journalism at Weber State University.

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