Unfortunately, I have no link on this one, because someone sent me a copy of an article that is either not online or only behind a paywall somewhere, but at a recent AIPLA (American Intellectual Property Law Assocation) meeting, Judge Randall Rader, the chief judge of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), which handles all patent appeals, apparently complained about “vague language” in the most recent update to patent law, the America Invents Act, to have the US Patent Office’s (USPTO) Patent and Trademark Appeal Board (PTAB) review more patents to dump bad ones. The recently proposed patent reform bill from Rep. Bob Goodlatte would expand this program. Now, anyone who recognizes the importance of getting rid of bad patents, knowing how bad patents can make the overall problem worse, should support this. But, not Judge Randall Rader. He compares it to genocide.
On one side of the PTO, he said, “You have 7,000 people giving birth to [intellectual] property rights,” while in the PTAB, there will soon be as many as 300 administrative patent judges “acting as death squads, killing property rights.”
I’m almost at a loss for words to describe just how painfully clueless this is. Frankly, a statement like this should disqualify someone from having anything to do with patents whatsoever. The purpose of patents is not to create “property rights.” That is not the end goal at all. Rather it’s to promote the progress by disseminating information. As a part of that, inventors are supposed to be given a limited amount of exclusivity, but only on things that are new and non-obvious to those skilled in the art, and only such that it creates the incentive to create that invention.
Arguing that the goal is to create property rights is just wrong. If that were the goal, we’d hand out many more property rights just for the hell of it. Why not create property rights on air? We could create so many damn property rights and, under Judge Rader’s system, this would all be good. I’d get to toll him every time he wanted to breathe, but that’s good because “property rights.” Back here in the real world, we understand that property rights, by themselves, are not a be all, end all, but a means to an end: property rights are an incredibly important tool for creating efficient transactions and markets. But not everything needs efficient transactions and markets, and when property rights are poorly defined or are setup in places where they’re not needed they can have a massive hindering effect on efficiency, markets and innovation.
That’s the very problem that so many people (though apparently not Judge Rader) are concerned about with all of these bad patents. We should be happy to get rid of them, and not because it’s “killing property rights,” but because they’re getting rid of economic inefficiencies that hold back innovation and progress.
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