Celebrating Patent Trolls
The topic of the month in tech is “patent trolls are evil.” They typical statement is that patent lawsuits stifle innovation and divert resources from development into defending patent suits.
I disagree – what “patent trolls” actually do is accelerate the inventing process. They allow the true innovators – the ones that invented something new and got patents – to get immediate value for the patent rights because they pay cash to the innovators when they purchase the right to sue infringers of the patents. Innovators then can invest that cash to developing now inventions. This speeds the cycle for an inventor to get to the next invention.
The people or companies that have to allocate resources to defending against patent suits are the infringers – those that do not really innovate but rather copy the inventions of others. These are free riders – the do not invest in creating new technologies but rather quickly rush a copy of new technology to the market in hopes of grabbing sales from the actual inventor. They actually reduce the incentives to innovate because the inventor makes lower profits when she has to compete against these copiers. This is the whole reason why the field of patent law exists – to protect inventors from these copiers.
By filing lawsuits against the infringers, “patent trolls” reduce this copying by non-inventors, which means that the true innovators will sell more products and make higher profits. Again, this rewards innovators and will lead to more, not less, innovation.
We should be celebrating “patent trolls” – not vilifying them.