Most folks — myself included — are pretty tired of all these patent lawsuit shenanigans going around the mobile circuit. However, the widespread legal maneuvering is largely considered a necessary evil, as the properties these companies try to protect are important for future stability in a volatile business environment. Yes, there will always be patent trolls, but there will also always be legitimate disputes over misappropriated IP.
Unfortunately, Judge Richard Posner, who recently tossed out a contentious patent lawsuit between Apple and Motorola, doesn’t see it that way. In an interview with Reuters, he said that, aside from Big Pharma, most industries likely don’t need patent protection at all. Further, he likens the rampant patent disputes in consumer electronics to a Darwinian, tooth-and-nail fight for life (as if, somehow, that’s a bad thing):
It’s a constant struggle for survival. As in any jungle, the animals will use all the means at their disposal, all their teeth and claws that are permitted by the ecosystem.”
In fact, most of the 73-year-old Posner’s comments seem to put him wildly out of touch with the modern technological climate. He even told Reuters, “I’m not actually that interested in becoming part of the smartphone generation.” He is, however, interested in making far-sweeping statements and weighty rulings regarding the merits of how active members of that generation — and the companies working behind it — do business. Somehow, that seems wrong.
But he’s not all wrong.
As Ars Technica explains, Posner believes that
The benefit companies get from being first to market would exist even if software patents didn’t. Smartphones are particularly problematic because they have thousands of patented components and features, he said.
I agree that the current patent system is broken and more intricate and specific than necessary. The problem is that — at the same time — it’s also too general, allowing companies to protect basic, common-sense developments in the same way that they secure legitimate, unique product advancements.
Still, Posner is obliged to enforce and uphold the laws as they are established. If he doesn’t agree with a given case, that’s his privilege. If, on the other hand, he doesn’t believe in the laws behind that case, he might not be the best person to preside over it.
Maybe it’s time for the old Judge to retire.