Jamie Surowiecki, who writes “The Financial Page” column for The New Yorker, is absolutely my favorite business writer. This week’s installment is no exception, as he writes about a topic that really gets the legal geek in me going: the ever-expanding scope of patent law that threatens innovation in almost every field of endeavor. To wit:
American corporations have thrived on innovative ideas and new business methods, without owning them, for two centuries. In the past decade, the balance has been upset. The scope of patents has been expanded, copyrights have been extended, trademarks have been subjected to bizarre interpretations.
Specifically, he’s writing about “business-process patents” that cover the very idea of, say “one-click purchasing” on a web site. Not the code that makes this happen, just the idea of doing it. Read the article to see where this is getting us, and to see how persuasive Surowiecki is in cutting through to the absurdity of the issue.