informa
/
Commentary

Truthiness Confuses U.S. Patent System

Go beyond the headlines, and listen to what the parties say in patent infringement cases, and you might come to this conclusion: there's a whole lot of truthiness being bandied about.
Go beyond the headlines, and listen to what the parties say in patent infringement cases, and you might come to this conclusion: there's a whole lot of truthiness being bandied about.Truthiness is a term popularized by comedian Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report, the nightly mock pundit cable TV show on Comedy Central. Truthiness, as defined in Wikipedia, is the quality by which a person purports to know something emotionally or instinctively, without regard to evidence or to what the person might conclude from intellectual examination. Truthiness means that perception, not fact, is what's real to those advocating a position.

Isn't that the case in patent infringement suits? NTP claims its patents on wireless E-mail are novel and nonobvious, two requirements needed to get a patent. BlackBerry's operator Research In Motion says those patent claims are spurious. Is the truth with one side, and truthiness on the other?

I'm not taking sides, but Forgent Networks' contention that a company it acquired a few years back invented JPEG compression technology is irrelevant. It holds the patent to prove it despite claims from scores of others who argue they developed the technologies independently. Damn the facts on either side! Truth or truthiness, in our society a patent trumps facts. And, that's the honest truthiness.

* * *

Please read Patently Absurd, my story on patent reform. Also, click here to listen to a podcast on the Ethics Of Patent Enforcement.