Semiconductor IP News and Trends Blog
Eternal Vigilance Needed for IP Laws
The semiconductor IP community may lose the freedom to innovate if they are not vigilant toward upcoming changes in local and global patent laws.
Tomorrow, US Citizens will be observing Independence Day, our so called “Fourth-of-July” celebration. Since the earliest days of the republic, many have recognized the wisdom in the expression, “price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”
One of the foundations of this great nation has been the Rule of Law. That rule has been sorely tested in recent years, in part due to steady advances in science and technology, plus the rise of the global economy, and the emergence of massively wealth corporate entities.
A recent article in the Financial Times highlights one of the more contemporary challenges to the rule of law. Andre Geim, one of the discoverers of graphene, recalls what happened back in 2004 when he tried to patent his discovery. He was approached by a representative from a multinational electronics company with the following put-down:
“If after 10 years we find graphene is really as good as it promises, we will put a hundred patent lawyers on it to write a hundred patents a day, and you will spend the rest of your life … suing us.”
As Geim notes, the cruel but accurate advice contradicts the popular belief that patents protect original ideas and brings wealth to inventors.
There are many forces trying to reshape today’s patent and intellectual property (IP) laws – from governments and corporations to global conglomerates. The overwhelming number of lawsuits in the mobile phone space is but one example of these forces at work.
Semiconductor IP designers and vendors are acutely sensitive to changes in patent and IP laws, since the entire chip industry is built upon the concept of reuse and incorporation of third-party IP. The software community has a similar sensitivity.
Constant vigilance by a knowledgeable and concerned electronics community will be needed to ensure that upcoming changes to patent and IP laws don’t stifle innovation in favor of select governments, corporations, institutions, conglomerates or other large and (usually wealthy) bodies.