Power And Dollar

The common interests of Microsoft, Pharmaceuticals and Rumsfeld

Forbes published a few articles related to patent laws that are English friendly in the last 10 weeks.  The patent universe is likely to change very soon.  And Rumsfeld probably would not like this idea. 


The legislature has been considering patent laws reforms for the past few years.  The pressure of this reform comes from major corporations, which hold a lot of patents, have been getting sued by patent trolls, or patent speculators, for royalty fees.  Additional royalty fees of course cuts into the profit margin.  However, intellectual property suits are costly to fight simply they are so difficult to understand (and thus higher legal fees).  


For some industries, intellectual property (IP) lawsuits affect the legal fees and royalty fees.  However, for some industries, these lawsuits affect their capitalization the suit hits the news.  These are the IP-centric industries, such as IT and medical industries.  


When RIM, the maker of blackberry, got sued for patent infringement, its stock price dropped to its knees.  After all, RIM has nothing but blackberry.  And even if RIM’s patent is not void, a heavy royalty fees will seriously affect its profit.  


A key element of the reform is revolved around unique concept of American patent system: first to invent versus first to file.  The congress will remove the first to invent rule and make US to be in sync with the rest of world: first to file.  In the first to file rule, one needs not be an inventor, but just to be the first to walk into the patent office to own all rights of the invention.  


The first one to be disadvantaged is obviously the legal industry.  However, not many people will feel sorry for that.  And we will skip.


A loss to one may be a gain to another.  Here are some of those:


The second to be affected (not necessarily disadvantaged) are the medical and IT industries.  A lot of drug patents are expiring, just like the copy rights of a lot of Disney characters.  For these US giant pharmaceuticals to stay afloat, they need new patents.  They either have to invent or find other people’s invention to file before the inventor does.  So, the firms that are better industrial espionage will do better.  


Some items are affecting directly the rights of the inventor: 1) Damages will be restricted as well, a classic republican cause; 2) Challenges will be for the entire life span of the patent rather than a probation period; 3) Disclosure of invention will be required prior to granting the patent. 


Who gets the benefit out of this?  Infringers.  Infringers will be able to have a cap on the compensation to the patent owners, able to challenge the patent until the patent runs out (yes, they can), able to learn the invention before it is patented and therefore free from paying royalties fees, and no injections from the inventor to stop the infringements. 


Alright, how does it relate to Rumsfeld? 


As a defense hawk, Rumesfeld is interested at slowing the China’s economic growth.  Making it cheaper for patent violation is a big favour for the medium enterprises in China.  Inventors lobby groups probably would want to get more funding from pharmaceuticals and hire Rumsfeld to be the lobbyist for a cause that its core constituents probably does not have the funding nor the votes for.


May 2, 2008 - Posted by | business, China, Current Events, economics, Investment, law, legislation, Money, politics, Regulation, wordpress-political-blogs, 中國

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