Yesterday, i found out that the US Patent and Trade Office is planning on opening a satellite office in Silicon Valley. Some folks were rather excited by this. The goal is to make "Patents easier to acquire and to foster innovation". i am of the strong opinion that it will do quite the opposite.
This morning, i tweeted the somewhat hyperbolic:
And while i'm well aware of the difference between determining the success of businesses based on digital economies vs. the horrific loss of life brought by a savage dictator, nearly any other analogy i wanted to come up with would have also worked and been equally terrible.
The fact is that small businesses and entrepreneurs hate software patents. They're destroying billions of dollars of innovation every year by various Non Practicing Entities (trolls) suing the crap out of small businesses and entrepreneurs who dare consider creating something has a component that vaguely resembles something the troll might own a patent on. They have labs created to chase the highly profitable dollars brought by discovering the potential issue and then threatening the small business or entrepreneur in court. Patents have become a very effective way to prevent competition, stifle new products, or exhort value from other companies. This costs jobs, destroys businesses and the lives of folks who were trying to bring their idea to market.
While these patent claims sometimes are proven to be baseless or invalid, not every company has the coffers of Oracle, Google, HTC or other large companies in order to bring this to trial.
Silicon Valley needs less patents, not more. By creating a PTO office in Santa Clara, you're basically feeding arms into that particular arms race. All you're doing is saving the large companies the cost of air-fare if they need to make a personal appeal. i'm not sure how many companies pay someone to sit around the PTO waiting to submit their application rather than just mail it in or post it to the site, but for those that might, i'm sure they'll welcome the convenience.
The patent cases will still be challenged by ghost offices in Texas (because that's where patent holders tend to win most often), baseless patents will still be granted, and the only ones getting ahead are the lawyers.