Does the Apple-Samsung case have a silver lining? For the open source community, the large damages verdict is disturbing, but at least it is drawing public attention to some of the deep problems of our patent system. This week the New York Times ran a front page story on the jury’s verdict that said, “The case underscores how dysfunctional the patent system has become.”
The definition of “dysfunctional” is relating to “abnormal or impaired functioning.” (Merriam Webster) The word fits well here. As one expert noted in the Times story, patents “are supposed to be an incentive for innovation.” That’s not the way they’re working in the smartphone wars. Instead, entrenched players are using them to tax competitors, or even to block them from the market. To the extent patents block competitors and reduce competition, innovation is likely to suffer.