$11.4 billion wasted on software patent litigation...and counting

Software patents are a blight on the industry. It's time to move on.

$11.4 billion is wasted each year on software patent litigation, according to the End Software Patents coalition. How did it get to the $11.4 billion figure?

  • Dan Ravicher of the Public Patent Foundation estimates that 55 software patent suits are filed every week.
  • The American Intellectual Property Lawyer's Association states that a single mid-sized patent suit costs $4 million to litigate.

That's a lot of billable hours. However, it's perhaps not surprising given that patent swine like Global Holdings illegitimately attempt to extort patent royalties from unsuspecting enterprises:

Software patent infringement lawsuits are increasingly targeted against non-software companies in the general business sector. For example, a company named Global Patent Holdings, LLC is currently seeking settlements between $7 and $15 million from companies such as the Green Bay Packers, OfficeMax, Caterpillar, Kraft Foods, ADT Security Services, AutoNation, Tire Kingdom, and Boca Raton Resort and Club. In each case, the dispute is over the design of the company's website.

According to End Software Patents 2008 report, there are at least 50 non-software companies that have been accused of infringing a software patent. This is just silly. It becomes even worse when one considers that the US Patent & Trademark Office is so backlogged that it can't realistically even respond to a fraction of the ill-conceived patent applications that are being foisted on it.

There is no compelling legal or economic reason to continue to perpetuate the error that is the software patent. It's an attempt to kluge the physical world onto the digital world, and it doesn't work. End Software Patents. Now.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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