In Defense of a Global Patent System

Michael Vizard

Partially in response to the latest manifestation of patent litigation that is now threatening to derail sales of Microsoft Word, the Deputy General Counsel for Microsoft is calling for the creation of a global patent system.

In a blog post, Microsoft corporate vice president Horacio Gutierrez says that at a time when products and technologies are routinely sold around the globe, the shortcomings of patent offices in hundreds of countries are retarding technology development and unnecessarily driving up costs.

This argument is not much different than the rationale for creating a Commerce Department in the Federal Government to make sure that business is not hampered by conflicting regulations from across 50 different states. The difference now is that instead of 50 different states, we have hundreds of countries.

Of course, many people will see the emergence of a global patent system as an infringement of their national sovereignty. And given the source of the proposal, many people will view the concept of a global patent system as a veiled attempt by Microsoft to weaken patent claims. But in all honesty, Microsoft has a much to lose as it does to gain. While it is often the defendant in patent dispute cases, it is not above using its own patent portfolio to try to intimidate others, particularly the open source community.

The simple fact of the matter is that managing the patent process in the 21st century is beyond the resources of any one country. Most of the processes that are used in most patent offices around the world are antiquated. What's needed is a global approach that not only better serves the people who provide the innovations, but also mitigates the threat that "patent trolls" represent to the system.

A global patent system is not going to eliminate all patent problems. But it would be by definition more efficient that than the mess we have today. Set up correctly under the auspices of an international body, no country's current patent system would be dominate. In addition, a certain amount of care would need to taken in terms of managing how open source innovations are recognized and valued.

Finally, this international organization would also have to reconcile some the differences that exist in terms of how patents are valued on the one hand, and copyrights on another.

Like it or not, the economy has gone global. We can't continue to collectively manage our approach to recognizing the value of intellectual capital using disjointed systems that hark back to a time when the number of patents be applied for were measured in tens instead of thousands. It's time for a much needed change not only here in the U.S., but everywhere -- all at once.

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Sep 8, 2009 2:52 AM Vic Kley Vic Kley  says:

The great problem with a global patent system rather then a global standard is very, very simple.  A patent is the grant of a legal right- and must necessarily be tied to a legal system with means for legal action. At the same time its social purpose is to encourage innovation and constructive change so that it must support the legal rights of the small, young and weak against the old, wealthy and powerful.

There is no legal system internationally that meets the criteria. No international method for the weak and poor to enforce their rights, no international plaintiffs attorneys willing to work a case of merit on contingency.

So will MS, and others harping on the global patent create a fund to provide for the weak and small?

Or can we instead agree on a criteria for patents which permits each patent holder to enforce in the country of his choice under the legal system of that country?

Can we agree that challenges before issuance will be funded by the strong when made against the weak so that large entities can't just ride roughshod over new technology?

What about government subsidized companies like Fraunhofer who try with some success to use entire resources of the German Reich to crush their competition?  Will we see an equal playing field under global patents?

Sep 8, 2009 4:18 AM staff1 staff1  says:

Gutierrez works for crooks. Their intent is not to fix the patent system, but to kill it or pervert it so only they will benefit from it.

Patent reform is a fraud on America...

Please see for a different/opposing view on patent reform.

Sep 8, 2009 10:16 AM Stan E. Delo Stan E. Delo  says: in response to Vic Kley

Very well said Vic, and thanks for taking the time to do so... I find the whole prospect of a global patent system to be completely ludicrous short of working toward that end for about 10 or 20 years, but only if there is a consensus of opinion that one is actually needed or will be allowed jurisdiction in what... say 140 different countries? Ha!! Like a snowball's chance in Hell methinks.

What is really rich and revealing is that this concept is being posited by a very high-priced Patent Attorney, who apparently doesn't appreciate that legal systems in most other countries are radically different than in places like the USA or Britain, or a few other countries in Europe where the legal system is Sorta the same but not quite.

What would I have to do if I was accused of infringing a patent in Whereizitstan, of course being filed in their language. Go over there to face Their Kangaroo Kourt? I have a very bad feeling about this concept, as well as what you would have to do and spend if someone it Abstainia was blatantly infringing on your patents, and making tons of money at it. I tend to think it a way for MS and others to divert attention from what they have done and are trying to do here in the US.

Stan E. Delo

Port Townsend, WA


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