I’m Old. Sometimes that gets in the way, but mostly it affords me insight and the ability to be pragmatic about some of what happens in front of me while younger eyes might lose track of reality.
Last week, Microsoft founder and gazillionaire Paul Allen filed a lawsuit against . . . well, yikes, against almost everybody. And the lawsuit goes way too far, as do most lawsuits over software patents. But the reaction to that suit has been off the mark. Almost universally, that reaction has been not to the merit of the lawsuit but to Paul Allen’s new career as a patent troll . . . and to how evil a place patent trolls occupy in the business world.
I’m on the record as believing that many lawyers do more harm than good, and that they add nothing the the GNP while lining their pockets with others’ money. And oh boy will Paul Allen’s attorneys make a bundle playing with this one. But I’m also on the record as saying that there’s nothing wrong with defending a patent.
So where’s the disconnect? How do we align software patents owned through purchase (not invention) by one of the wealthiest men in the world and also encourage restraint on a group of people who make their living by being the opposite of restrained in a business environment where things are changing so quickly that it seems like you’d better sue someone before they sue you?
We take a step back. We change the patent system. We make it harder to file lawsuits and impose large fines on those who file suits found to be without merit.
Which . . . uggh . . . means I just suggested creating more oversight and rules.
More than anything, I’m suggesting that we need for cooler heads to prevail. We need more experience and less “innovation”.
Come back tomorrow to see what I mean by that. But in the meantime, cut Paul Allen a break. His lawyers may have reached too far, but in the system we have now defending his intellectual property was the right thing to do.