This post posits and interest suggestion for one small step in ending the stifling round of patent trolling and patent suits that is roiling the technology economy.
I don’t know if this truly the solution, but it might be a start! The problem is, we need to rethink the process of IP protection to permit it to better address the changes in our now information-driven economy.
The purpose of IP protection laws has never been to grant economic monopoly. It was designed to (1) encourage innovation and (2) to permit inventors to benefit from the fruits of their labor (#2 really being a corollary of #1). This goal in the patent space has become distorted by patent hoarding and patent trolling, which creates functional oligopolies (and in some cases monopolies) that stifle innovation at many levels and, I believe, fundamentally handicaps our economy and our ability to competitive and innovative.
The situation in the copyright world is nearly as bad, but for different reasons and due to different root causes. The extension of copyright protection periods encourages copyright hoarding and concentrates power in larger media entities which then exert disproportionate control over the use and dissemination of creative content. Sadly, these entrenched media interests are using this concentration of control over content to cling to outdated business models and are balkanizing content in ways that create such frustration in consumers that they often resort to “piracy” to be able to consume content in the ways (time, format, device, etc.) they want. This ends up creating a positive feedback loop with the media companies, further pushing them to cling stubbornly and desperately to their outdated business models.
Unfortunately, they static, outdated laws governing IP protection not only enable but actually incentive these kinds of behavior. In reforming our IP laws, we need to look for ways to break these vicious cycles. IP laws need to both incentivize creativity and innovation and appropriately permit the creators (and those that back them) to benefit from the fruits of their labors. We cannot, however, continue to do this in a way that stymies overall innovation or permits the creation of economic (and IP) trench warfare that does little but leave scorched earth behind.