Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Two-headed Patent Hydra

MercExchange, a small Viriginia-based company went to the courts asking for a injunction against eBay which uses the "Buy It Now" feature, an innovation reportedly patented by MercExchange. However, the Federal court refused to issue an injunction. Reasoning this, the judge wrote,

'MercExchange has utilized its patents as a sword to extract money rather than as a shield to protect its right to exclude or its market share, reputation, good will, or name recognition, as MercExchange appears to possess none of these,'

The Patent problem can be seen as a two-headed monster. First, you have companies, big and small, (aka Patent Trolls) patenting just so that they can extract money or stop competition in any way they can. As a result, we have a treasure trove of patents, rarely used by mankind for any benefits. The Federal Court 's decision aganist MercExchange can be seen as an indictment against such practices. However, this alone can't solve the Patent problem.

To solve it, we must change the laws and for that we first need to find a way to curtail the lobbying machinery employed by Big corporations to keep lawmakers in check. Big companies use the absurd Patent laws to protect their Legal monopoly.

As they say, "the laws apply differently to the big, rich and powerful".

Come to think of it, what if MercExchange was a giant company that was suing a small company for Patent infringement?

Would the results have been different? I bet they would.

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