The Supreme Court is hearing an interesting case with even more interesting and far-reaching consequences, this time about so-called “Trivial Patents.” Read here:
The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of KSR International v. Teleflex, in which the limits of combination patents and so-called obvious patents are being considered. According to several wire reports, KSR argued that its design for adjustable vehicle accelerator pedals does not violate a patent held by Teleflex for a similar gizmo, because Teleflex did not legitimately invent anything when it combined two existing technologies in an obvious way, and does not, therefore, deserve the patent.
So, basically, lawyers and corporations have been making millions and probably billions of dollars by claiming patents on objects so obvious that even the Supreme Court can’t find a way to over-complicate. The law is so vague on trivial patents that it led Justice Scalia to declaim it as (hang on to your hats, folks, he’s about to curse) “gobbledygook.”
What’s interesting about this is that so far, the Supreme Court seems to be siding with the “Open Source” community, if not directly. Trivial patents mean that companies and entrepreneurs spend more time and money making sure they’re not violating someone else’s patent than in actually inventing anything. That’s not too good for the economy, now is it? Freeing up some room in the patent landscape would do wonders for innovation, online and off.
What’s even more interesting is the opposition: Big Pharma. Here is one among many old industries that has made a good living off of declaring the slightest innovation a solemn brain-trust of the company. Their direct interests are in the line-of-sight up there on the SCOTUS.
As much as I know that there are many members of the SCOTUS of whom we have good reason to be suspicious where cases involving corporations are concerned, I’m inclined to think that even this court may prove itself to be full of surprises. They’ve already ruled against the president’s interests in Guantanamo, which was the big question mark for most of us.
The case will be argued and decided by about July. Just in time for corn.
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