Starting a business is risky business.
Maintaining a business is expensive. Bringing innovative technology to market can bankrupt a company before they ever get off the ground. The problem is this: patents on intellectual are crippling the benefits of a free market economy. The stakes are high if a company unknowingly brings to market a technology that is patented. This risk essentially chokes innovation and diminishes the chances of the quintessential small business actually making its way into the limelight.
Intellectual property law protects the rights to property that is intangible, like technology. However, the law does not protect something as simple as an idea. The idea must be presented in a tangible way so that a person can perceive it. In other words, the idea or concept that is protected under intellectual property law must have been put into physical form at some point for it to warrant protection.
To put forth the resources that would transform an intangible item, such as intellectual property, into a tangible item, like a handheld computing device, a company would spend a significant amount of time and money. Before making the decision to invest all those resources into their next big idea, a company would do well to research whether someone else already had that next big idea and also had the wherewithal to patent it. Herein lays the problem. There are thousands upon thousands of intellectual property patents. The resources needed to comb through those patents would most likely deplete research and development assets that a company would otherwise use to put its ideas to work. But, if the company fails to do the research on patents and brings their technology to market, they run the risk of being slammed with a lawsuit by a conglomerate with all the resources to run this little company’s face right into the ground.
Bringing new ideas to market is already wrought with risks. Small businesses, and even not-so-small businesses, must overcome the usual obstacles such as human resources, technological resources, and financial resources. Adding the fear of litigation to the long list of hazards in the business industry brings many innovations to a cold, dead stop. Not only is this detrimental to the economy both locally and globally, but it trickles down to the consumer in a very real way – less choices for higher prices.
Intellectual property laws are aimed at protecting a patent owner from idea theft, so to speak. It’s my opinion that the law’s intent was to keep large businesses from stepping all over the college kids that dream up the innovative technology that keeps driving business forward. Instead, the laws are working to stifle innovation. High-profile law suits, such as the recent case involving Apple and Samsung, only work toward lessening the consumer’s choice and driving prices higher. It seems the unwanted byproduct of intellectual property law is the creation of monopolies on things such as smartphones and tablets. The fact is that some conglomerates go out of their way to purchase other companies simply for control of their patents and the potential income to be made when litigation over intellectual property ensues. Unfortunately, such lawsuits are inevitable and the cycle continues. The resolution is to reform the patent laws.