Reason Magazine has released a video, entitled How Patent Trolls Kill Innovation. The magazine banner states that they support “Free Minds and Free Markets” but this video relies on the same irrational, emotion driven logic as the media. I cannot point out all the errors in this video, but below I will highlight some of the major points. Before I do that , let me show some of the sleazy attempts by Reason Magazine to use emotion and hidden assumptions to advance their argument, instead of reason and logic.
Emotion and Faith
*The video starts with the hidden assumption that patents are not property rights – faith not reason.
*The video uses the phrase “patent trolls” to immediately define who is right or wrong without actually proving their case – an emotional appeal.
*The video selects a small entrepreneur to narrate their story – using the typical liberal tactic of pretending this is a fight between a small virtuous entity against a big faceless entity. The reality is that so-called “Trolls” sue large entities much more often than small businesses. Emotional appeal, not reason.
*The video uses an “expert”, Julie Samuels, from a biased source, (Mark Cuban’s lobby group) who has no qualifications in the subject. She has a degree in Journalism and Law, which means she is NOT A PATENT ATTORNEY and does not have the technical skills to understand the underlying technology of patents. Faith not reason.
The video never asks if Austin Meyer did a patent search and clearance opinion before building and selling his software. You would not build a house without doing a title search to make sure you owned the land. Given Mr. Meyer’s surprise that he was being sued for patent infringement, he almost certainly did not undertake this simple due diligence step.
Using Other Peoples’ Property
Mr. Meyer complains that he may have to pay the patent holder for the life of his product. Yes, that is what happens when you use someone else’s property. This is like a steel manufacturer complaining that they have to continue to pay for coal or pay rent for a building they do not own.
Note that the underlying technology is critical to Mr. Meyer getting paid, but he doesn’t want to pay for it.
The anti-patent crowd always complains that these suits are brought in East Texas. If someone refused to pay you rent for staying in your house, would you chose the slowest court in the country or a faster court? Federal Court for the Eastern district of Texas has been one of the fastese to bring invention squatters to justice.
The video makes the implicit assumption that non-practicing entities (NPE) are evil. However, Edison was a NPE, as was Tesla, as was almost every great inventor in the last 200 years, as our most major corporations, as most of our Universities and Government labs. Our Founders looked at the issue of requiring inventors to practice their invention in order to keep their patent and rejected it. They voted for a FREE MARKET system where people could be independent inventors, just like writers do not have to be publishers in order to obtain or keep their copyrights. This is consistent with Adam Smith’s division of labor theory.
The video takes the stand that if you buy the patent rights instead of being the inventor,this is somehow evil. First, all corporations buy their patents – often by paying wages. Corporation don’t invent so they have to buy their patents. Second, we do not argue just because you didn’t build your house you cannot rent it out .
Mr. Meyer states in the video that the technology he wants to use is old, from the 80s. If this were true, Mr. Meyer would be free to use it. But, instead, he wants the updated version of the technology that ensures he gets paid, he just doesn’t want to pay for it.
The Patent Should Not Have Issued
Neither Mr. Meyer nor the so called expert, Julie Samuels, are patent attorneys. They are NOT QUALIFIED to evaluate the scope of the claims of a patent. It is interesting how lay people (I include attorneys who are not patent attorneys in this definition) believe they can just read a patent and evaluate it, but they would never try to do the same thing with a Warranty Clause in a contract or an Indemnity Clause. No one would believe a Journalism major or an attorney (non-technical) is qualified to comment on software technology; but somehow they are qualified to comment on patents on software? This is like asking a plumber to comment on the design of a Nuclear Power Plant.
Patents and the Free Market
Patents are property rights, just like a property right in a farm. The basis for all property rights is creation. Inventions are clearly creations. Property rights are part of the free market. Those countries that are the freest economically have the strongest patents laws, are the most innovative, and have the highest standards of living. REASON MAGAZINE is pushing a point of view that is much more consistent with a Marxist’s labor theory of value than Capitalism.
REASON MAGAZINE is neither promoting REASON or FREE MARKETS in posting this video.