Posner on Patents

Our patent law is by and large judge created and thus it is judges rather than legislators who are responsible for most of the dysfunction in patent law. It was judges who expanded (or endorsed) patents to cover business methods, software and animals. It was judges who weakened the obviousness, enablement and possession requirements. Finally, it was judges who interpreted vague patents broadly, thereby midwifing fearsome patent trolls.

Fortunately, judges also have the power to reform patent law which is why Judge Posner’s recent suggestion that he may dismiss with prejudice the Apple v. Google/Motorola  suit over smartphone patents is potentially ground breaking.

We don’t yet have a full ruling but in early rulings Posner referred to claims made by Apple and Motorola as “silly” and “ridiculous.” Most importantly, Posner has said:

“injunctive relief would impose costs disproportionate to the harm to the patentee and the benefit of the alleged infringement to the alleged infringer and would be contrary to the public interest….”

which I read as saying that Posner is tired of the patent system being used by big business as a cudgel against competitive innovation.

Posner is a founder of the law and economics movement and one of the most influential judges in America. Indeed, as I have said before, Posner is the only person in the world who deserves a Nobel prize in economics and a seat on the Supreme Court so this ruling will be closely followed.


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