Vonage losing it’s patent case against Verizon today says a lot more about the sorry state of the patent system than it does about Vonage. I haven’t looked into the exact claims in this case, but there are two things that cannot be ignored. The first is that Verizon did not do this because they were looking to enforce their rights as the patent holder. They did it to drive Vonage, as a competitor, out of business.
The second problem is that there are too many things being patented that are either obvious, are void because they really infringe on prior art.
The last problem, simply put, is because not everything should be patentable. It seems that just because someone does something first, that does not mean they should hold the rights to it. If I come up with a program or process all on my own without being aware of someone else doing it already, that makes me stupid for repeating work, not an infringer.
The bottom line is that this patent explosion is stifling innovation. Vonage has a new, exciting business. The business itself is most likely not based entirely on these patents, yet they stand to lose millions on it. While I do have sympathy for legitimate patent holders on what are actually new inventions (and not just ideas but proceses using existing tools), the system is being abused. The patent holders just sit back waiting: if the company is profitable or a competitor making inroads, they pounce. That just stifles creativity and is rife with abuse. Until this patent problem is worked out, I expect innovation to take a nosedive. Who wants to work hard to create a new company only to have it pulled out from under them once they are successful by some obscure patent troll?