Semiconductor IP News and Trends Blog
Moore’s Law Meets Death Star
Will the rapid growth of the patent-troll business model end technical innovation as we know it?
This may seem a gloomy way to start the new year. But several studies and articles that appeared in late December 2012 support the notion that patent trolls (IP) – not engineers pushing toward lower process nodes – will end technical innovation.
Consider a Wired article that highlighted a recent paper by two Boston University law professors. Their paper showed that patent claims by non-practicing entities or patent trolls cost U.S. companies $29 billion in 2011. That amount would pay for a lot of innovation-rich R&D!
Many economists associate falling productivity levels and rising economic inequality with evidence that the rate of technological progress is slowing. One explanation is that technology is not stagnating. Rather, monopoly interests are preventing innovation.
A recent Financial Times article suggests that the world of science fiction anticipated this paradigm. In “Star Wars,” the evil Sith controlled the Trade Federation, a galactic cartel that held a monopoly on all resources and technology. With this control, the Sith built the Death Star to prevent any dissension.
Yet others believe a slowdown in technical innovation is inevitable. In a Wall Street Journal article, Gordon Smith seems to invoke the “only once” reasoning in which, once achieved, a game-changing technology will never appear again. Also, he cites the usual causes for the decline in innovation (e.g., an aging workforce population and decreasing education attainment).
Why does innovation seem to be in decline? Will the new business model be one of non-practicing (non-technical) entities controlling the world’s technical intellectual property (IP)? How will it affect innovation and the design of semiconductor IP? More importantly, what can be done to maintain a healthy rate of innovation in the semiconductor/EDA/IP industries? I’d like to read your thoughts. Please share them with me and the other readers.