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Monsanto v. Google on Patent Reform

March 5, 2009

In this post, Monsanto's General Counsel disagrees with Google's Head of Patents and General Counsel, who had complained about the risks companies like Google face from huge damage awards in patent lawsuits.

I am so tired of patent lawyers and companies with vested interests making the tired old argument that we should not "weaken" patent protection because it's needed to promote and protect innovation--without ever once even alluding to the fact that these purported benefits have an accompanying cost, much less demonstrating that the cost is worth the benefit received. (See my There's No Such Thing as a Free Patent; What are the Costs of the Patent System?)

I'd much prefer simple, honest calls for protectionism: Monsanto wants patent protection to remain strong, because they think it benefits their own company--regardless of the overall effects or costs on other companies or the economy as a whole. Fine, an honest plea for redistribution of wealth.

Note how Monsant just brushes off Google's costs and fears:

"I respectfully disagree with the recent blog post by Google's Head of Patents and General Counsel, commenting on the perceived risks from damage awards in patent cases. Monsanto has faced billion dollar damage claims as a wrongly sued patent defendant and also knows the true benefits from avoiding the encouragement of willful infringement based on a smaller party's calculated gain in the face of limited risk of a meaningful award of damages if infringement is established. With full knowledge of all these issues and our substantial alignment with Google and the information technology industry over the legitimate need to curtail patent trolls and a myriad of other concerns - we encourage thoughtful reform."

Amazing that he just says he "disagrees" with Google's perception of risks from high damage awards in patent cases--even as it admits Monsanto has faced billion dollar damage claims in wrongful patent suits. Does it occur to this gentleman that perhaps not every company is comfortable facing the risk of wrongful billion dollar patent claims?

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