There was an interesting article about patents on The Financial Page of the latest issue of The New Yorker. The article's author, James Surowiecki, refers to the following recent-patent related activities by today's companies:
Priceline patented its reverse-auction method for selling cut-rate airline tickets. I.B.M. patented a method for keeping track of people waiting in line for the bathroom. Last month, Netflix, a company that runs an online DVD-rental subscription service, got a patent covering, among other things, the way its customers request titles and the way it sends out DVDs.
And eBay is now in court appealing a verdict that it infringed on a Virginia man's patent. The crime? Selling auctioned items at a fixed price.
Granted, I'm no expert in the field of intellectual property but I do have opinions on the topic of patents. Mr. Surowiecki suggests that patent laws are being abused or "bent" (hence the article title "Patent Bending").
It may be only because I'd said I'd wanted to be an inventor as a kid, and the fact that I believe my future will greatly benefit from the patents I ultimately acquire, but from my perspective Patents foster creativity and innovation.
What do you think?
Read the New Yorker article titled "Patent Bending" here.
The New Yorker cover source: The New Yorker web site.
Gizmos image source: VDMA Germany
Patent micro-detail image source: the Northwestern University patents web site.