《经济学人》:创智财富,专利之争更猛烈更烧钱
日期:2011-08-23 10:42

(单词翻译:单击)

Intellectual property知识产权

Inventive warfare创智财富

Battles over patents are becoming fiercer and more expensive
专利之争更猛烈,更烧钱

Aug 20th 2011 | from the print edition

THIS deal is all about patents. That was the near universal view of Google’s announcement this week that it was taking over Motorola Mobility, a maker of handsets and other devices, for a colossal $12.5 billion. Indeed, the purchase will provide Google with an awful lot of patents: around 17,000 of them issued and another 7,500 pending. They should help Google in its efforts to get more smartphones and other mobile devices running on its Android operating system. But it could also make the battles over patents nastier and more costly.

这笔交易也是彻头彻尾关于专利的。谷歌本周宣布以高达125亿美元收购手机及相关配件的制造商摩托罗拉移动部门的消息引起了全球关注。此外,此次交易将提供给谷歌大量的专利:大约17,000个已经获得专利权,另外有7,500个正在申请中。这将有助于谷歌拓展其基业以使更多地智能手机和其它移动终端使用安卓操作系统。但这也会使得专利之争更卑劣更烧钱。

A scramble for patents had already begun. In December four companies, including Microsoft and Apple, paid $450m for around 880 patents and applications owned by Novell, an ailing software firm. In July those two and four others, including Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, spent $4.5 billion on 6,000 patents owned by Nortel, a bankrupt Canadian telecoms-equipment maker. Before its latest deal, Google bought 1,000 patents from IBM. Firms are also suing each other. Apple claims its technology has been copied by Samsung and Motorola in their Android phones. Oracle is suing Google for up to $6 billion, claiming that Android infringes its patents. Microsoft is suing Motorola over Android too. Nokia recently settled a similar quarrel with Apple.

对专利权的争夺已经开始了。12月,包括微软和苹果在内的四家企业为了大约880项专利向专利所用者——一家面临窘境的软件企业——诺勒支付了4.5亿美元。7月,前述四家企业中的两家和另外四家企业——包括捷讯移动和黑莓手机制造商——为了6000项专利向一个破产的加拿大电信设备供应商北电网络支费了450亿美元。在最新的一笔交易中,谷歌从国际商业机器公司购买了1000项专利。企业间也互相控诉。苹果声称其技术被三星和摩托罗拉抄袭在其各自的安卓手机内。甲骨文诉谷歌侵害了其专利,并要求索赔高达60亿美元。微软也以安卓诉摩托罗拉。最近,诺基亚和苹果也开始了专利权的纷争。

What is going on? Some say companies are attaching more value to intellectual property. Indeed, the Google deal seems to have been priced on a cost-per-patent basis, causing the share prices of other firms with lots of patents to rise. Others, however, think the battles reflect deficiencies in the patent system forcing firms to pay vast sums to protect technologies they have developed. The answer is a bit of both.

接下来还将发生什么呢?有人说企业将继续注重知识产权的价值。此外,谷歌的收购案似乎还提高了每单个专利的平均价格,引起其它拥有大量专利权企业的股价提高。总之,其它企业考虑专利之争的缺点了——迫使企业支付大量的资金去保护自主技术。答案是各自有点。

System failure 整体失败

Kent Walker, one of Google’s senior lawyers, grouses at being forced to spend a lot of money defending the company against frivolous lawsuits by rivals. Others counter that as computing goes mobile, it favours information-technology firms that have invested in research for years and that Google was naive—or idealistic—to broaden its IT business without having a stack of patents. There is a retort to that, too: that incumbents can use patents as barriers to entry, which is why America’s antitrust regulators are showing interest in them. In April the Department of Justice demanded changes to Novell’s patent sale to protect open-source software.

谷歌的一个资深律师肯特沃克尔抱怨针对不必要的法律诉讼,将花去更多的资金捍卫其企业权利。其它的反对声音认为随着计算机的移动性能提升,这将有助于那些投资于研究多年的信息技术企业的发展,并使得没有大量专利权的谷歌在拓展IT业务时显得缺乏经验和空想主义。这里也有反驳他们的意见:行业主导者可以像跨越障碍一样使用专利,这也是为什么美国反垄断监管机构对专利之争很感兴趣的原因。四月,司法部为了开源软件,要求诺勒改变专利权销售政策。

Nowadays, innovations in IT usually rely on many small improvements involving numerous technologies, which means it is not always clear precisely which inventions a patent covers. The open secret is that everyone infringes everyone else’s patents in some way. This creates an incentive for firms to build up their patent portfolios to strengthen their position in negotiations, leading to what some liken to an arms race. The legal tussles usually end in cross-licensing deals, in which small sums of money change hands. This is considered preferable to a mutually destructive exchange of endless lawsuits.

现在,IT创新通常基于很小但包含大量技术的改善,这意味着这些专利权不总是恰如其分的明确,所以大量的创新总是被同一个专利涉及。公开的秘密是每一个人都在以某种方式侵害每一个人的专利权。这形成了企业建立他们自己的专利资产组合的激励——类似于军备竞赛——使得其在谈判中取得有利地位。这种合法的争议通常以相互授权的方式结束,其中还有少量资金的转手。这比相互毁灭性无休止法律诉讼更可取。

The patent battle has become more contentious than ever. One reason is the mobile phone has provided a new platform of computing that firms want to dominate. Also, such a backlog of applications built up at America’s patent office (now more than 1m, with a waiting time of around three years) that standards slipped. Dubious patents were granted, helped in part by court rulings that allowed patents to stand on some software and “business methods” that many thought no one could lay claim to. In Europe and Japan, where patentability standards are higher, this is less of a problem.

专利之争也逐渐变得更具争议。其中之一的理由是手机提供了一个崭新的被各个企业虎视眈眈的计算机平台。此外,在美国专利办公室内,积压的申请(大约100万件,积压了大约三年)将在新标准下逐渐获得通过。得力于允许某些软件和商业模式取得专利的法庭裁决,不靠谱的专利还在增长。许多人认为这类不应该获得专利。在专利的标准更高的欧洲和日本,很少类似问题的发生。

Making things even more troublesome is that as lawsuits became particularly lucrative some companies entered the fray to feed off them. Non-practicing entities (NPEs), which have intellectual property but no actual products, include such august bodies as the Harvard Medical School. But some NPEs are derided as “trolls” because their sole purpose seems to be to exploit the legal system by demanding licensing fees from companies, sometimes for questionable patents. Over the past 15 years, the median award to NPEs of damages for patent infringement has doubled while that for other firms has declined

制造东西甚至变得更棘手的原因在于随着法律诉讼变得相对的有利可图,企业进入了专利争夺战场去喂饱讼棍。不实施专利的实体(NPEs)——只有知识产权但无实际生产——包含了这些德高望重的实体比如哈佛医学院。由于他们的核心理念是利用从企业之处收取高昂的许可费法律,很多NPEs被嘲笑为“姜太公钓鱼”。某些专利甚至还有问题。在过去的15年,同意支付给NPEs的侵犯专利权的损害赔偿金的中间值翻了一倍,与此同时给其它企业的赔偿却在降低。

注:Troll v. fish by drawing bait along in the water 用带有鱼饵的曳绳钓鱼[perhaps related to French troller to quest]

Court rulings in America have begun to clip the trolls’ beards by making it harder to win injunctions and by strengthening the criteria for whether an invention is truly “non-obvious”. Microsoft has seen the number of suits filed in the famously plaintiff-friendly district court of Eastern Texas fall from 17 in 2007 to just two so far this year, says Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel. However, as big companies have improved their defences, the trolls have changed their tactics and are now going after start-ups.

通过让其很难赢得禁止令和加强是否发明确实“非显而易见”的标准,美国法庭的裁决开始剪掉“姜太公胡须”。微软的总顾问巴瑞德斯密斯说微软最近的几例诉讼在对原告极其友好的东德克萨斯州地方法庭失败了。不管怎样,随着大企业逐渐改变他们的“防御工事”,姜太公们也在改变他们的策略手段,并且现在热衷于欺负新出道的公司。

New legislation could change things. David Kappos, director of America’s patent office, says the America Invents Act could amount to “the most sweeping reforms to the US patent system in 175 years.” It is expected to be passed this autumn, Barack Obama has indicated that he will sign it, and big IT and drug companies support it. But many entrepreneurs and venture capitalists do not, arguing that it does not fix any of the system’s big problems and risks creating new ones.

新的立法或将改变现状。美国专利办公室的主管大卫卡珀斯说:“美国发明法案将成为175年来对美国专利系统最彻底的改革。”该法案或将在今年秋天颁布——巴拉克•奥巴马已经表示他将签署法案,此为大的IT和医药企业均支持这一法案。但是许多企业主和风险投资却不同意,争论的焦点在于这不适合所有的系统的大问题并且创造了新的风险。

The most contentious point is a change to determine who is the rightful inventor. Instead of being the “first to invent”, the successful applicant would be the “first to file”, the standard used worldwide. Harmonising America’s rules with those in other countries would be a step towards greater co-operation and efficiency in patent examinations globally. Big companies like the proposal because it gives them more legal certainty that someone will not appear claiming they came up with the idea first. But inventors like Steve Perlman, the founder of WebTV and other firms, argue that it forces companies to file for patents before their inventions are fully developed. That, says Mr Perlman, would lead to yet more incremental improvements rather than big innovative steps and put a toll on America’s competitiveness.

最有争议的地方在于决定谁是真正的发明者的改变。与“发明在先”相反,成功申请的标准将采用世界广泛使用的“申请在先”。美国的法则与其它国家的趋同是全球范围内共同合作和有效审查专利的重要步骤。大企业喜欢这个提案因为该法案赋予他们更多的法律的确定性。此处的确定性就是某人不再出庭作证其第一个想出了这个方案。但是发明者——比如网络电视和其它企业的创始人史蒂文珀尔曼——认为法案将迫使企业在他们的发明还没得到完整发展之前就开始申请专利。珀尔曼先生认为那还将引起小修小补式的而不是巨大革新的跨越,并且为美国竞争力敲响了丧钟。

For the moment, though, companies are amassing ever larger arsenals of patents. Google, for one, was hit by eight lawsuits in April alone—more than in the first five years of its 13-year existence, says Mr Walker. “See how far we have strayed from the notion of innovation, that we need to acquire patents to fend off potential suits,” he says of the firm’s overall strategy. “That money could have been spent on engineers, to much more productive use.”

目前,企业正在积累专利的军火库。沃克先生说,其中一个例子是仅4月谷歌就被8个官司缠身——大大超过有13年历史的谷歌最早五年的总和。“看看我们在发明这个概念的迷途中走了多远。之所以迷途是我们需要获取专利的目的是为了抵御潜在法律诉讼,”他就企业的全局策略谈论,“钱就花在刀刃上,集中于生产性的花费。”

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重点单词
  • intellectualn. 知识份子,凭理智做事者 adj. 智力的,聪明的
  • dominatev. 支配,占优势,俯视
  • strategyn. 战略,策略
  • destructiveadj. 破坏性的,有害的
  • legaladj. 法律的,合法的,法定的
  • questionableadj. 可疑的,可置疑的
  • inventionn. 发明,发明物,虚构,虚构物
  • inventvt. 发明,创造,捏造
  • proposaln. 求婚,提议,建议
  • exploitvt. 剥削,利用,开拓,开采,开发 n. 功绩,勋绩,