U.S. Issues Record Number of Patents in 2006

Electronics companies propelled the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to issue an average of 476 American patents a day throughout 2006. IFI Claims Patent Services notes that 173,772 corporate patents were issued in 2006, an all-time record and a 20.8% increase over 2005. IBM lead the pack for the 14th year in a row, receiving a record 3,621 patents. IBM, Samsung, Canon, Matsushita and Hewlett-Packard all received over 2,000 patents each, which prior to 2006, only IBM has achieved. The patent office said it received 440,000 applications, examined 332,000 of them and accepted 54%, a particularly record low clearance rate.

Thanks to constant innovation, electronics patents traditionally have a short lifespan, which results in companies continually filing for and receiving new ones. Earlier this week, the Public Patent Foundation discovered that software patents are a growing sector of intellectual property claims. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded 40,964 software patents, an increase of 36% from 2005. The Public Patent Foundation, an organization that tries to invalidate patents and lobby for patent reform, claims software patents often cover trivial technologies and stunt innovation.

News source: CBC News

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Some companies are filing patents on anything just for the sake of it. Patenting something such as a hyperlink or way of organising music on an mp3 player should be banned. Cisco's dispute over the iPhone name is a blatent attempt to extract money out of Apple, Cisco have had the name for 7 years and haven't used it yet as soon as Apple decide to make use of the name Cisco suddenly get upset.

Tomo said,
...Cisco's dispute over the iPhone name is a blatent attempt to extract money out of Apple, Cisco have had the name for 7 years and haven't used it yet as soon as Apple decide to make use of the name Cisco suddenly get upset.

Apple stupidly came up with the name of a product already available to the public

So how are Cisco not using the name?

Is it quote 'constant innovation' or greed ? Will the fact that all these patents have been issued restrict further innovation by your average Joe?

Actually, all these patents do serve a useful purpose:

Firstly, they provide innovative companies with a good source of income, e.g. IBM spends billions of dollars on R&D each year, and gets far more back in returns from their patents. This is much the same with other companies. It seems only fair that productive innovation should be rewarded and protected.

Bear in mind that the patent process is fairly strict in what can be granted a patent, and considers all forms of prior art, feasibility of implementation, non-triviality etc., so most patent applications that are general enough to cause unfair restriction on other companies for common procedures are rejected. Especially in software, it is not uncommon to see a list of 20 patents filed for different aspects of a single invention, because of the highly specific nature that is required.

Secondly, they do encourage further innovation by others. Without the multitude of patents dished out, companies would be inclined to use existing ideas created by others for their own gain. This would reduce their need to come up with fresh, new ideas of their own, and consumers would be left with a smaller choice of products and services. Of course, there are exceptions to this - the open source community freely shares ideas, and this collaboration is highly productive. But when considering large companies, their motivation for innovation (ooh, that's a nice phrase... :P) is mainly competitive, rather than collaborative, so this is where patents have their role.

Not that I can see. It's sort of like winning the lottery when a big corporation uses your vaguely worded excessively verbose "innovation." You don't even have to sell a product based on your "innovation" before letting loose the lawyers.