Patent och smarta telefoner

Svenska Dagbladet rapporterar idag att ett utslag i en amerikansk domstol innebär att Samsungs smarta telefon Galaxy Nexus, inte längre kan säljas i landet efter att man förlorat en patenttvist mot Apple. I samma tidning kunde man förra hösten läsa om hur Samsung försökte stoppa försäljningen av iPhones i Frankrike och Italien.

Den politiskt intresserade ställer sig rimligen frågan om patenträtten fungerar som det är tänkt. Leder denna typ av aktioner, med alla kostnader det medför, till ökad innovation? Det är teoretiskt möjligt att Apple inte tagit fram iPhone 4S om det varit tillåtet för Samsung att ta fram Galaxy Nexus, men det krävs en rätt väl genomförd empirisk studie för att man ska tro det.

En hög innovationstakt är det som ytterst låter oss leva gott, och förbättra våra omständigheter. Vi får inte låta patent och liknande system vara ett hinder, som primärt leder till minskad innovation då juridiska kostnader gör produkter ohållbara, och mindre aktörer obetydliga.

Andra intressanta bloggar om: politik, ekonomi, patent, innovation

On Trolls

One of Alex Tabarrok’s recipies for the innovation renaissance is patent reform. Felix Salmon has an excellent example of how harmful current legislation is.

RIM had discovered prior art for all of the patents that NTP was suing over — but that didn’t really help them at all. The problem was that the patents had already been awarded to NTP, which meant that NTP was within its rights to sue RIM for as long as it held those patents. Once RIM found out what NTP was up to, it could and did challenge the patents at the U.S. Patent Office, which has a procedure for such things. But the U.S. Patent Office is an entirely separate entity from the U.S. District Court, where judge James Spencer made it very clear that his job was to rule only on whether RIM was violating NTP’s patents, and not on whether NTP’s patents were properly granted. Had RIM not settled the case, the court could and probably would have shut down the entire BlackBerry service.

Even if law suits are based on bogus patents, it may still be better for the victim to settle. Surely, it’s difficult to argue that this protects innovation.

While reform is needed, there is a lot to improve on regarding the implementation of current law. To be efficient, patent offices need to both work quickly and have sufficient knowledge to avoid awarding patents to what is really prior art. Those two goals conflict, and it’s not clear how the trade-off should be made. And reform itself is difficult, both because of the global nature of the problem, and because of regulatory capture. But until it can be achieved we will suffer from reduced growth and innovation.

Andra intressanta bloggar om: politik, patent, tillväxt, ekonomi

Launching The Innovation Renaissance, Alex Tabarrok

Launching The Innovation Renaissance is a new Kindle Single, in which Alex Tabarrok points to the fundamental importance of innovation in improving our lives and creating economic opportunities and growth. The format, shorter than a traditional book but longer than a magazine article, is appealing and the whole text can be read in a few hours.

I agree whole-heartedly with Steven Landsburg’s review of the book. A key passage:

Those of us who write about economics know that the search for perfect real-world examples can be excruciating. Readers crave them, but most of the time a given example ends up illustrating a point that’s close to, but not exactly, what the writer is trying to get at — and so ends up muddying the waters. Tabarrok’s got an amazing knack for finding exactly the right examples, so that we’re simultaneously enthralled by his storytelling and clued in to exactly what he wants us to understand.

His recommended policies — patent reform, prize funds, better education through better teachers, trade schools instead of colleges for many students, liberalized immigration policies for skilled workers, globalization — are all backed by formidable intellectual consensus. Among people who know what they’re talking about, almost none of this stuff is controversial. For the public at large, this book will explain why.

A comment on patent reform: One of Tabarrok’s points is that as markets become more integrated and global, and as poor countries are growing richer, the time needed to recover the costs of development shrinks, and thus patents ought to be shortened. It is a good point, but it is not obvious that policy will move in that direction. Regulatory capture is a problem, and as markets grow, the incentives for rent-seeking in this area grow with them.

I hope the book is widely read. You do not need a Kindle to enjoy it.

Andra intressanta bloggar om: politik, ekonomi, innovation, patent, upphovsrätt, böcker