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IP, Patent

A Smartphone Patent Thicket?

Josh Wright over at Truth on the Market discusses Professor Adam Mossoff’s recent paper on the 19th century’s Sewing Machine Patent Thicket.  I previously blogged about Professor Mossoff’s work here.

Professor Wright’s post includes comments Mossoff provided recently to the Wall Street Journal, in which he noted that “despite the litigation, the smartphone market isn’t caught in a patent thicket yet.”  Of course, the numerous graphics created by the media, such as the ones available from New York Times, Guardian, Techdirt, and Ars Technica, are meant to convince us otherwise.

In fact, Mossoff cautions that the current smartphone litigation is nothing to get excited about, noting that the sky didn’t fall in the 1850’s when production and marketing were being indefinitely held up by the sewing machine thicket.  Rather, Mossoff explains in his comments to WSJ that litigation is the typical form of communication for patent licensing, saying “Oftentimes the way a party signals to another party in one’s industry, ‘I’m serious about this–you need to speak with me,’ is by filing a lawsuit.”

It is, perhaps, quite unfortunate that litigation provides the framework for patent licensing deals in the US, particularly when prolific litigators such as Ray Niro admit to attendees at the Licensing Executives Society 2010 Annual Meeting that litigation is destructive, not constructive in nature.   That, however, may be a topic for another day …



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