An interesting story today from The Telegraph introduces inventor and small business owner Michael Wilcox. After spending £150,000 to develop his printing technology, Wilcox burned his patent in protest, expressing his frustration over failed attempts to negotiate license agreements with larger companies in the industry. Wilcox told the paper that, because companies no longer feared consequences of using his patented technology without authorization, they lacked motivation to even discuss what a fair royalty would be.
Technology broker Kim Howat paints a pessimistic picture for small and mid-size businesses in the UK, saying:
Patenting without a realistic threat of prosecution is a toothless tiger. I have come to the view that the only reason an SME should seek a patent is to create something that can be traded – hopefully to an entity who can afford to sue those who infringe it – unless the SME has deep pockets and limitless stamina.
In other words, patents are worthless in the hands of inventors, startups and other small companies who originally invested in the technology. To be of any use, the SME is forced to give them up, necessarily sacrificing some of the value to incentivize the acquirer. While this may be the state of things in the UK today, recall that the changes introduced by the America Invents Act–limiting patent owner options for venue and case management, introducing new USPTO procedures to delay issuance and enforcement of patents, and expanding the prior user defense to allow companies to keep technology secret while still evading patent liability–attempts to shift power away from patent owners, in favor of large operators accused of utilizing patented technology of others.
In other words, the interests promoting AIA want to create the exact environment that UK small businesses are already facing. This only increases the role of patent licensing specialists, who could be one of the trading partners Howat refers to above. Meanwhile, Wilcox explains the practical effect of his experiences, saying that remaining innovations in his pipeline will soon be scrapped:
I have four to five other projects but they will just go in the bin. There is no way I am spending any more money on them when I know they will just be taken.
But those pro-AIA interests want you to believe that patent licensing entities, rather than themselves, who are stifling innovation. Read the full article: Inventor fury as patents prove too costly to defend.