Photo by Marco Pakoeningrat
Many of us may have questioned if the patent system is as fair as we would hope. We may speculate that in patent disputes the courts will likely side with large corporations even if they are obviously the guilty party. This pessimism does have some merit. The most obvious concern is that larger corporations have a large legal staff that can easily attack the credibility of a small inventor or find a loophole in the arguments they provide.
Many have also raised the argument that courts will side with larger corporations because it is for the greater good. They can produce products on an infinitely larger scale so they will have more of a benefit to new entrepreneurs.
Well, the recent ruling against Apple may put some of these concerns to rest. A jury in Tyler, Texas has decided that Apple infringed on three of the patents of David Gelertner. The Yale computer science professor says he would have been willing to share the ideas with Apple for no monetary cost. All he wanted was a little credit for his ideas, but a jury decided the infringement on his patent rights entitled him to $625 million.
This new settlement should hopefully give us the message that there is some justice in the patent system. If the underdog can support his stance and verify his professional credibility in court, he can protect his patent rights under the U.S. intellectual property rights law.
In the international environment, things can be more complex. Other countries may have their own laws and it is difficult to know when protection will be granted. In some countries, a patent must meet certain standards of originality and provide an obvious benefit to customers before it can be protected. This is not a bad thing. In the U.S. too many silly ideas end up being protected and many people waste taxpayer time and money fighting them.
Unfortunately, there is still the attitude that courts do not favor individual inventors. I must confess that I hold this skepticism myself, both in the U.S. and abroad.
However, cases like David Gelertner’s may tell us that these attitudes are incorrect. The reason patents have been created was not to protect the big business but the integrity of innovation. Regardless of whether or not courts may want to favor corporations, they need to recognize that innovation is the forefront of business and its integrity must be preserved at all costs.