Hmm, seems the progress.org article to which I referred here has been deleted. To add to the misery this happened before the Wayback Machine got ahold of it. As luck would have it, Disqus retained my comment. Perhaps Disqus isn’t as horrible as I thought. Certainly my opinion of them went up 10 points today. Here is my comment, without the commented-upon item for context, but at least available for your possible enjoyment:
This sounds like a case of “Google exceptionalism.” Power corrupts, but Google follows a rule that says “don’t be evil.”
“Inventors often need investors.” And so the argument goes that a more profitable and expensive patent results in favorable terms to the inventor. My argument is that if terms favorable to the inventor were somehow to emerge, it would be because investors need inventors. By need, I mean need, not want, or benefit from. Profit motive is motive, but need is mandate. So excuse me if I don’t believe profit is likely to cancel out need when it comes to terms of a deal. Investors, (almost) by definition, are people with economic surplus. Sure there are pathways that lead from there to need. In theory. You know, if it weren’t for the “glass floor.”
Perhaps Google will not in fact troll the patent portfolio that apparently it is aggressively accumulating. Perhaps they will mine it instead. They already own machine readability of the entirety of human writings.
A patent is a disclosure. The social bargain (in theory) is that the entity awarded a patent gets a no-trespassing sign, and the public gets a technology that they don’t get to participate in actively (unless that’s OK with the patent holder) but at least they get to understand what it is and what is its theory of operation. Patents were invented (according to things I’ve been told) as a less antisocial alternative to trade secrets. If how technologies work is a secret then most of us may as well be cargo cultists. So, patents, like court records, land titles, the academic literature and many other things are part of the public record. Now it has emerged that machine readability and searchability (“datafication” as the “Big Data” types buzz) confers decisive advantages when it comes to leveraging data. So it is we have all seen ads from Intelius-like companies hawking peeks at “the public record” for $35 a pop or whatever it is. And other companies offering a one-day pass on a pdf file.
A non-trivial part of applying for a patent is the “patent search,” or the due diligence necessary to confirm that your “invention” passes the patent office’s “novelty” requirement. I would suggest that datafication of existing patents might have more to do with future patents than with existing patents. Perhaps Google wants to be the worlds patent attorney, as well as the world’s librarian.