Are there Too Many Patents in the United States?


Are there Too Many Patents in the United States?

Anyone that has experience in the marketing, sale, and production of an invention is aware of the patent system. For many years now, there has been an ongoing debate about whether this is too many patents in America. Surprisingly, the debate can get somewhat heated depending on which industry you are referring to. That being said, there is a fair amount of evidence for there being just too many patents in existence. Consider the following points and decide for yourself:

1. Some industries just don’t need patents in their current form.

The first part of the debate many point would be anecdotal. They look at a specific industry and discuss how the cons of the patent process far outweigh the pros. One example of this would be in the pharmaceutical industry. Even under the best of circumstances, it can take a newly-invented drug at least ten years to make it through the market. Considering that most patents generally only run 20 years, it definitely can lessen the effectiveness.

2. There are issues that arise just because of the very nature of patents themselves.

Because a patent blocks competition within its scope, the influence of too many patents can give rise to a number of different phenomena. First of all, there is the problem of defensive patenting and patent trolls. To start with, defensive patenting occurs when an organization pursues a patent not for preventing copycats from stealing your idea or taking away your idea, but as a way to prevent infringement accusations when you bring your own product on the market. A patent troll is defined as an organization that tries to enforce infringement against a product that is far beyond the value of the invention.

3. More lawsuits.

With the proliferation of patents on the market today, there is also the potential for more lawsuits. Usually companies will end up suing each other. However, even in that situation it can lead to driving prices up and causing hesitation in developing new products. Of course, some industries have developed policies in order to get around this. For example, in the software production industry, many companies have elected to cross-license their portfolios with each other in order to get around this. Many software companies also sign non-assertion agreements, where they formally agree they will not sue each other. Moreover, a lot of companies get involved in this on an informal level where they simply “turn the other cheek” simply because a lawsuit would just be a mutually ensured destruction.

4. Too many patents kill the entrepreneurial, innovative spirit of our country.

The biggest problem with patents is that they essentially only allow the biggest fishes in the pond to play ball. One example of this would be Google, which spent $12 billion in 2011 in order to obtain the mobile patent arsenal of Motorola. The problem is that it makes the game quite a bit more difficult for new companies, because they often cannot start a new innovation without facing a mountain of litigation.


There is definitely a need for some type of reform in the field of patent management. Patents are definitely an important concept in many different areas, but every rose has its thorn. Could patent reform be the next change in our society on the horizon? One can only hope so, especially considering the next Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, iPhone and other important innovation will arise and make our lives that much easier. It will truly be a bright future for innovators and consumers alike if we reform the patent system.