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Innovation can breathe again: Patent filings decline

U.S. patent filings are down, which may mean that innovation can go "up" again.

For those of us who believe that patents stifle innovation, this week brings good news: patent filings are down, as PatentlyO reports. After years of steadily increasing, U.S. patent filings have dropped, perhaps reflecting the bad economy.

Or perhaps an increase in common sense? Nah....

U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (via PatentlyO)

While the PatentlyO blog suggests this is a "crisis," I'm with TechDirt: the only crisis is that it has taken so long for patent filings to decline:

Considering the large number of bad patents that got through over the years, and the resulting flood of applications from others hoping to strike it rich by gaining monopolies on obvious ideas, it should be seen as a good thing that applications are finally dropping.

If anything, we should be wondering why they're not dropping more. Patents were supposed to be given out in the rarest of circumstances, when other incentives weren't enough. Somewhere along the way, those who controlled the patent system seemed to forget this and lose their way.

Let's hope it continues. Patents have their role in the intellectual property regime, but their impact on the software industry is controversial at best, and destructive at worst.

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.