America: Where Innovation Goes to Die

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Plain and simple, the patent system in the United States is a nightmare. You can hardly so much as sneeze anymore without some idiot troll accusing you of infringing upon his patent for violently expiring air through all facial cavities at once. For a country where so many of the subscribers to capitalism cling to the refrain of, "free market this, free marke that," that prevalent mantra is not reflected in America's patent system.

There's no place where this pestilent phenomenon is more evident than in the technology industry. Don't believe it? Just go to WPN's page with patent-related stories (there's so many we actually have two) and count how many times "lawsuit" is mentioned in the headlines; I'll all but guarantee that 95% of the stories are about legal issues. It's jaw-dropping for observers but, worse, it's stifling and prohibitive to inventors. Similar to you no longer being able to sneeze without forking over royalty fees to the patent owner, trying to come up with new software innovations is tantamount to putting a colorful bullseye on your chest and then handing out throwing knives to patent trolls, blindfolds not included.

It shouldn't be this way, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation isn't going to wait around any longer for change. The group has taken it upon themselves to initiate that very change and is calling on internet users, technology companies, inventors, lawyers, and academics to assist the EFF in pushing for a meaningful reform to America's malignant patent system.

"The software patent system is broken," said EFF Staff Attorney Julie Samuels. "Patents are supposed to help promote new inventions and ideas, but software patents are chronically misused to limit competition, quash new tools and products, and shake down companies big and small."

To get the ball rolling, the EFF has launched, a site dedicated to promoting the proposed changes the organization believes need to happen in order to reform the patent system. Through seven different reforms that target everything from never-ending lifespan on patents to the limitations on what patent trolls can rightfully claim, the goal is to create a patent system that stimulates creation instead of squashing it.

"The U.S. Patent Office is overwhelmed and underfunded, and issues questionable patents every day – patents that hurt innovators and consumers alike," said EFF Activism Director Rainey Reitman. "It's time for the technology community to work together to create a blueprint for reforming the broken software patent system."

Ultimately, the EFF plans to take the result of this open source collaboration on patent reform to the nation's capital and show lawmakers exactly why this system is double-plus ungood and anticompetitive. If you feel like you've got a dog in this fight, considering giving the EFF a hand.

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