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Patents The Courts Apple

Why Juries Have No Place In the Patent System 387

New submitter Isara writes "GigaOm's Jeff John Roberts has a compelling writeup about patent trials and how juries are detrimental to justice in such cases. Roberts uses the recent Apple-Samsung trial as the backdrop for his article; although the trial lasted three weeks, during which hundreds of documents were presented and the finer points of U.S. patent law were discussed, the jury only took 2-3 days to deliberate. 'Patents are as complex as other industrial policies like subsidies or regulatory regimes. When disputes arise, they should be put before an expert tribunal rather than a jury that is easily swayed by schoolyard "copycat" narratives.'"
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Why Juries Have No Place In the Patent System

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  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @03:54PM (#41155119) Homepage Journal

    In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

    - Amendment VII, The Constitution of the United States of America

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @03:56PM (#41155157)

    And according to Steve Jobs Apple 'unashamedly' copies others, but will get in a hissy fit if anyone else does it to them.

  • by baldrad ( 1882464 ) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @04:01PM (#41155251)
    The problem is, that the jury admitted to skipping entire parts of the case and just awarding apple money. Not just that, but some features that apple has patented were not even apple innovations. So whether Samsung did copy or not, Apple was awarded money for things it copied. It isn't the fact that people are pro Samsung or pro Apple, it is that Apple was awarded a giant sum of money due to a broken system and an uneducated jury when it comes to patents.
  • Re:Or you know... (Score:5, Informative)

    by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @04:05PM (#41155347) Homepage Journal

    The problem is the agenda of the debate is constantly controlled. Plus, you would need to discuss it in the mass media, which takes the corporate side in each and every debate.

    The first time I have EVER heard patents brought up in the MSM was on CNN last weekend, and the spokemodel (oh sorry, anchor woman) talked like patents were God's gift to the earth.

  • Re:Ugh... (Score:5, Informative)

    by HapSlappy_2222 ( 1089149 ) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @04:19PM (#41155641)
    Challenge accepted. [] [] [] []
    I didn't really even cherry pick; I just did a Google search for "innovation in countries without patent laws" and a whole slew of studies came up.

    It appears that many of the studies have shown that heavy patents don't necessarily increase innovation, but rather direct the types of innovations that are made within an industry (perhaps: innovate for a long term lock-in, not for shorter term or wide-spread improvements).

    /shrug I think patents have their place, but I can't fathom a reason why a company would need more than a decade of locked-in profits after a product is released to market. I can maybe see the case for the very, very expensive and time consuming process of drug manufacturing, but in those types of special cases, shouldn't the patent be proportionate to the time invested, and not a broad "You just won the cancer game for the next 63 years!" certificate?
  • by sir_eccles ( 1235902 ) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @04:24PM (#41155737)

    The advantage in the UK of course is a specialized Patent Court with Judges and no juries. These Judges are patent specialists spending their time only looking at Patent cases. They are a very sharp bunch. I recall one incident in which the Judge suspended a complex case so he could go and learn some pretty high level biochemistry from the head of biochemistry at Cambridge.

  • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @04:31PM (#41155881) Homepage

    In fact, the judge had to have the jury correct their verdict since, in at least 2 cases, they decided to award Apple damages even after they said that Samsung didn't infringe in that instance.

  • Re:flamebait? (Score:5, Informative)

    by DL117 ( 2138600 ) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @04:33PM (#41155923) Homepage

    Guilty? Innocent? Prosecution? Defense?

    "Guilt" and "Innocence" are criminal concepts. In a civil case, like this one, the jury finds "for" one party or the other. Guilty or not guilty are not concepts that exist here

    There also is no prosecution. That term refers to a state prosecutor in a criminal case. There is a plaintiff and his/her/it's attorney.

  • by gander666 ( 723553 ) * on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @04:36PM (#41155985) Homepage

    Well, I am going to blow out my moderations for this story.

    What you say is fine in theory. Patent examiners are well suited to examine, and determine validity. But, they are so swamped at this point, there are far more patents to process than they can reasonably work through.

    A former colleague worked at the USPTO, as an examiner, and he explained what happens. When you apply for a patent you are obligated to include the prior art that you found. In theory, they (the examiner) is also supposed to conduct a search for prior art, and to use that in their review process. But, one side effect of their being so overloaded is that this becomes a cursory search (if at all), and thus they rely on the submitted by the filer prior art declarations.

    And here is how you game the system. A company tells their people to not be too diligent in their vetting and searching. Thus major prior art is not stated, and the patent moves forward, because the examiner believes that it is novel, given what he has in front of him.

    Back in the old days, (mid 1990's) I worked at a company that made chip building systems. We filed lots of patents. We deserved to file for them, as we spent beaucoup bucks developing techniques to apply to chip inspection and measurement. We always were sent back to revisit the prior art by the patent examiners. My last job? Some of the stupidest business process patents sailed through, although an afternoon searching on Google would have found reams of invalidating prior art.

    If you want to fix the patent system, we need to treble the number of examiners. Alas, the congress critters seem intent to not increase the funding to get to a healthy state.

  • Re:flamebait? (Score:5, Informative)

    by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @04:43PM (#41156147)

    A jury system is a "check" on the power of the government to enforce unjust laws. Basically weakens the ability of the government to just toss people into jail without opposition. (Unless they call it "indefinite detainment" under the NDAA.)

  • by Brannon ( 221550 ) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @05:00PM (#41156467)

    But it isn't.

    Also, Apple doesn't make coats out of puppies.

  • Re:Ugh... (Score:4, Informative)

    by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @05:32PM (#41157141)

    Even for the wealthy, this isn't a question of what you can afford, it's a question of how much you can profit from it. The rich won't hold on to a patent if it will cost them more money than they can gain to do so.

    This was the specific part of your comment I was responding to and my response can be summed up like this. The rich might not hold onto patents that aren't profitable, but they will hold on to patents that will profitable tomorrow, which is something the poor (or merely less rich) won't be able to do. Imagine you've invented a fabulous device that will, without a doubt, make billions of dollars, lets say a battery powered single stage to orbit rocket. You know others are working on similar designs so you rush out to patent it, even though the battery tech isn't there yet to actually make your design work. You're confident that the batteries will be available in 10 years though.

    If you're rich, or a large corporation, you can pay your renewal fees, eat the cost and in 10 years you will utterly dominate the market. You'll make 10000x the cost that those patent renewal fees ran you. If you're poor however, you're left with only a few choices. You can sell your patent to someone who can afford the upfront costs of the renewal fees. You can partner with someone, who will undoubtedly demand the lions share of your profits because without their money will will get next to nothing. Either way, you're buying the cheap, leaky boots. Either way, you won't see a fraction the profit off your invention that you would if you had the money to pay for the patent renewals.

  • by denzacar ( 181829 ) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @06:43PM (#41158103) Journal

    How could one person force 11 other people to vote his way? And what "send a message" are you talking about? A message about what?

    Or in the Apple-Samsung case, simply by claiming to be an expert on patents, prior art AND jury duty because he filed a patent himself and was on juries three times already.
    Also, there were NINE jurors, not twelve.

    As for sending the message... Well, besides the "Velvin Hogan is Batman" (4th jury duty? What is he, a professional juror?) there's that literal quote of his...

    "We wanted to make sure the message we sent was not just a slap on the wrist," Hogan said. "We wanted to make sure it was sufficiently high to be painful, but not unreasonable."

    Which is kind of an issue, since that is EXACTLY what the jury was instructed NOT to do. []

    There. Now you know.

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"