Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Federal Circuit Chief Judge Rader Speech - Patent Law and Litigation Abuse

Federal Circuit Chief Judge Rader seems to relish poking the anti-patent crowd in the eye. On November 1, 2013, Judge Rader gave a speech Patent Law and Litigation Abuse in Plano, Texas.

Here's a passage from his speech:

"As an illustration of the crisis of confidence in the benefits of Patent Law, I wished to just discuss one unsubstantiated charge against the merits of this system of Constitutional dimension. Academics often charge the Patent system with creating a so-called "tragedy of the anti-commons." This academic canard suggests that a "thicket" of patents can actually inhibit innovation; that the administrative burdens of enforcing patents can multiply to frustrate the goal of the Act. Thus, the law of innovation supposedly works against itself. In an age of empirical research to verify every legal hypothesis, I would urge you and any policymaker to reject this academic supposition – whether it comes from a high court or any other source – until and unless it is verified by empirical data. By the way, the only studies on this topic that I have seen could not verify this guess but generally confirmed the opposite – that patents spur innovation.

May I offer a common sense rebuttal to this academic hypothesis? [Hold up my smart phone] This smart phone resides in the technological space most occupied by patents, perhaps in the history of patent law dating back to 1624. With design patents as part of the equation, this device probably includes easily more than a thousand active patents. If you count expired patents in this technology back to the advent of the computer age, this device would implicate tens of thousands of patents. If ever the administrative burdens of a concentration of patents would inhibit innovation, this technology would be the place to observe that encumbrance. Now you tell me: is this technology experiencing sluggish and encumbered innovation? I doubt that I could keep track of the pace of innovation in this technology if I devoted my full time to the project.
No doubt a study would show that the disclosure benefits of patents bring the entire world into the innovation circle that drives smart phone technology forward faster than any of us can fathom. I am afraid the “tragedy of the anti-commons” has its own tragedy: it simply is academic nonsense. The patent system does not inhibit

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