Fostering and protecting innovation through patents is a core American value — it’s in our Constitution. Over the years, the U.S. has created the greatest system for innovation ever known. But, like all thriving systems, the patent system needs routine tending and improvement. This is exemplified by recent concerns about alleged patent system abuse by some patent assertion entities that do not innovate or provide any products or services, but simply acquire patents for the purpose of monetizing them. This is the first of a three-part series of articles discussing certain “patent reforms” recently raised to address these concerns.
At the outset, however, it is important to proceed cautiously so that we do not harm the patent system that has brought us so far. Take smartphones, a modern marvel of innovation. What lives would have been saved if early settlers could have held in the palms of their hands maps showing their location, bad weather on the trail ahead, and where their loved ones were staying? The rate of innovation in smartphones has spoiled us — we constantly expect new features. Woe (if not whoa) to a smartphone provider that lets even a few months go by without introducing continued innovative features, and it is our great patent system that has helped fuel this innovation.