Patents considered harmful…

In the wake of the HP’s acquisition of Palm, Technologizer ran a story about some Palm patents showing Palm gizmos that could have happened. Except that they didn’t.

Something bothers me about all these patents: the majority of them describe items that couldn’t possibly have been built at the time the patent was granted. Video-conferencing on a Palm Pilot? Seriously?

To me, this begs the question of whether it is sufficient to describe something to be able to patent it, irrespective of whether you have the technical capability to built it. If so, then StarTrek writers probably have patents on a number of useful technologies.

If you don’t have a safeguard against “innovation” that is little more than a wild idea about something that might exist some day, then you open the doors for patent trolls, since they don’t need to ability to build the stuff, only the ability to talk about it.

Any engineer will tell you: anybody can have a good idea. It’s building it that is hard. I believe that patents were intended to promote real innovation, not just random ideas.