The man in charge of the United States Patent and Trademark Office has a simple message for those who complain that the current patent system is broken: “Give it a rest already. Give the [American Invents Act] a chance to work. Give it a chance to get started.”
David Kappos offered the somewhat petulant defense during his Tuesday morning address at the Center for American Progress, going on to say that “innovation continues at an absolutely breakneck pace,” and that, “in a system like ours in which innovation is happening faster than people can keep up, it cannot be said that the patent system is broken.” Answering accusations that the amount of lawsuits surrounding patents and infringement of intellectual property as it relates to emerging technologies is a sign of a sickly system unprepared to deal with the intricacies of new technological advancements, Kappos took the opposite tack, arguing that the number of lawsuits is actually a sign that the system is working: “The explosion of litigation we are seeing is a reflection of how the patent system wires us for innovation… It’s natural and reasonable that innovators would seek to protect their breakthroughs using the patent system,” he said.
Continuing, Kappos said that the US patent system “is the envy of the world,” if one that’s facing an uncertain future. “Do we demand today’s innovation on the cheap via a weaker patent system that excludes subject matter, or do we moderate today’s consumption with a strong patent system so [that] our children enjoy greater innovations?” he asked, pushing further back against critics by telling them to get their facts straight. “To those commenting on the smartphone patent war with categorical statements that blame the so-called broken system on bad software patents, what I say is: get the facts. The facts don’t support your position.”
Tough talk, undoubtedly, if not entirely unexpectedly from the man in charge of the department being criticized. The question is, however, or not he’s actually correct in what he’s saying. You don’t have to go that far online to find people who’ll argue passionately that the US patent system is killing innovation, after all, and it’s not just Internet commenters who feel that way; Google, Cisco and Intel have previously made their feelings on the subject clear in a letter to the President, remember.
The trap that Kappos seems to be falling into is going from a place of “I think the system works” to one of “I think the system is above criticism in any form,” which is blatantly ridiculous. It’s one thing to say that you’re confident in your organization, but another – and a far more dangerous thing – to try to close down dissent with such patronizing comments as “give it a rest” or “get the facts.” While Kappos undoubtedly intended his comments to be the final word on the discussion, his tone is likely to just upset critics even more.