I just came across an interview with Mark Cuban for the Wall Street Journal, where he voices some remarkable opinions coming from a successful entrepreneur, when moving the conversation into innovation.
Mark suggests that the patent office should be abolished! Whooooah – what’s that? Remove the patent office, you say. Then how are we going to protect our ideas?
They mustn't. The competitive advantage should be in the execution of an idea – not the idea itself.
But there must also be an incentive towards inventing and innovation. If you have a patent then you are securing future profits by protecting yourself from competitors.
I’ve tended to agree with the status quo on this one – there needs to be a financial incentive for coming up with great stuff - otherwise there might not be any great stuff. But it makes for fascinating argumentation to think what the business and innovation landscape would be like without a patent office.
The problem with patents, as Mark sees it, is that it massively hampers innovation. The reason is that the litigation culture has changed so dramatically that an entire new industry has sprung up where companies are buying patents and ”collection of patents” just for the purpose of suing – and it appears to be working because a lot of people are making a lot of money from it.
This cripples innovation at its ankles because now companies have to be way more careful and cautious not to make any patent infringements. But oftentimes companies are simply not aware that they are infringing on any patents and have invented their technology/solution independently - but now, because the litigation culture is the way it is - companies have to buy insurance as protection if they get sued, which is money that could be more wisely used elsewhere.
And it appears that this is not only a big company phenomenon – as soon as a startup gets any level of success and starts showing up on the radar, people will try and take advantage of that.
Now patents are defeating the purpose of its own creation when you make money of buying patents to sue other companies and not make money from the invention you patented for.
Maybe we should screw the status quo on this one, and abolish the patent office and let everything be free. Because when you think about it, patents are a little bit like cheating – it’s like you being the only runner on steroids in a race…