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经济学人:发明之战

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Business

商业
Intellectual property
知识产权
Inventive warfare
发明之战
Battles over patents are becoming fiercer and more expensive
专利之战,愈演愈烈,愈烈价更高
THIS deal is all about patents.
这笔交易归根结蒂就是谋求专利。
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.
这是多数人对谷歌本周宣布以125亿美元天价收购手机及其他电子产品制造商摩托罗拉这一消息的普遍看法。
Indeed, the purchase will provide Google with an awful lot of patents: around 17,000 of them issued and another 7,500 pending.
实际上,此项交易为谷歌带来数量极其庞大的专利:约1.7万项已审批,另外7500项待审批。
They should help Google in its efforts to get more smartphones and other mobile devices running on its Android operating system.
这些专利有助于谷歌获得更多运行安卓操作系统的智能手机以及其他移动设备。
But it could also make the battles over patents nastier and more costly.
但是这也会使对专利的争夺愈演愈烈,代价更高。

A scramble for patents had already begun.

专利争夺战早已打响。
In December four companies, including Microsoft and Apple, paid $450m for around 880 patents and applications owned by Novell, an ailing software firm.
早在12月,包括微软及苹果在内的四间公司就支付境况不佳的Novell4.5亿美元以购买约880项专利和应用程序。
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.
今年七月,其中的两间公司及包括黑莓厂商动态研究公司在内的另外四家公司购买加拿大倒闭的电信设备厂商Nortel的6000项专利。
Before its latest deal, Google bought 1,000 patents from IBM.
此前,谷歌就从IBM公司购买了1000项专利。
Firms are also suing each other.
同时,各公司之间也是纠纷不断。
Apple claims its technology has been copied by Samsung and Motorola in their Android phones.
苹果声称其技术已被三星及摩托罗拉在其安卓系统中盗用。
Oracle is suing Google for up to $6 billion, claiming that Android infringes its patents. Microsoft is suing Motorola over Android too.
甲骨文公司起诉谷歌公司,称安卓系统侵权,要求索赔60亿美元。
Nokia recently settled a similar quarrel with Apple.
微软公司也起诉摩托罗拉的安卓系统。诺基亚公司最近刚刚与苹果公司解决一个类似冲突。
What is going on?
这到底是怎么回事?
Some say companies are attaching more value to intellectual property.
有人说这与各公司更看重知识产权有关。
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.
实际上,谷歌这笔交易似乎就是通过每项专利的成本估算而最终定价,致使拥有专利众多的公司的股价攀升。
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.
但是,也有人认为此类争夺正反映了专利认证体系的缺陷——迫使公司大笔投入保护其开发技术。答案二者兼有。
System failure
体系缺陷
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.
谷歌的一名高级律师肯特?沃克尔就抱怨说,公司不得不花大笔钱应对竞争对手杂七杂八的诉讼。
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.
有些人则辩解称,随着移动电话的计算机化,多年投入于研发的信息技术公司会备受宠爱,而谷歌太幼稚—或者说理想化,想在没有专利储备的情况下就扩展其IT业务。
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.
对此说法也有不同意见:现有公司可利用专利作为市场准入的障碍—这就是为什么美国反垄断监管者对专利感兴趣的原因所在。
In April the Department of Justice demanded changes to Novell's patent sale to protect open-source software.
四月,美司法部要求Novell公司对专利出售细则做出变动,以保护开源软件。
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.
时至今日,IT产业的创新大多依赖于众多技术的点滴改善,这就意味着通常搞不清一项专利到底与哪些发明有关。
The open secret is that everyone infringes everyone else's patents in some way.
大家都不同程度侵犯彼此的专利,这已是心照不宣。
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.
这就无形中促使公司逐渐扩大专利组合,来增加谈判筹码,这多少有些像军备竞赛。
The legal tussles usually end in cross-licensing deals, in which small sums of money change hands.
法律纠纷通常以协议交换专利使用权而告终,只有少量现金易手。
This is considered preferable to a mutually destructive exchange of endless lawsuits.
人们普遍接受这要比彼此没完没了的诉讼,互相伤害好。
The patent battle has become more contentious than ever.
专利争夺战越来越有争议,前所未有。
One reason is the mobile phone has provided a new platform of computing that firms want to dominate.
原因之一就是移动电话提供了各公司竞相抢占的计算新平台,而各公司对此垂涎欲滴。
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.
还有,申请书在美国专利局堆积如山现在有超过1百万项待批,总共要等待约三年时间。
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.
有争议的专利获得通过,这部分得益于法庭允许某些软件及经营模式获得专利,而这些人们普遍认为没有人会申请专利。
In Europe and Japan, where patentability standards are higher, this is less of a problem.
在专利标准较高的欧洲和日本,就没有此类问题。
Making things even more troublesome is that as lawsuits became particuarly lucrative some companies entered the fray to feed off them.
更麻烦的是诉讼特别有利可图,一些公司因此加入到混战当中,以此为业。
Non-practicing entities, which have intellectual property but no actual products, include such august bodies as the Harvard Medical School.
非执业实体机构有知识产权,但是没有实际产品,哈佛医学院这类众相追捧的机构就属此列。
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.
但是有些非职业实体机构因为其唯一目的就是利用法律体系,从使用公司收取专利费,而被贬称为诱饵公司。
Over the past 15 years, the median award to NPEs of damages for patent infringement has doubled while that for other firms has declined.
过去15年里,裁决非职业实体机构侵权赔偿损失的平均赔偿数额增加一倍,而对其他公司的裁决减少。
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.
美国法院裁决已设法防止诱饵公司钻空子,使诱饵公司更难获得禁令并就一项发明是否真的非显而易知性强化评判标准。
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.
在以偏向于原告而出名的德克萨斯州东部的地方法院,对微软提起的诉讼从2007年的17件降至今年的仅2件,微软法律总顾问布拉德?史密斯说。但是,随着大公司胜诉增加,诱饵公司也一改策略,开始觊觎初创公司。
New legislation could change things.
新法案有望扭转乾坤。
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.
美国专利局局长大卫?卡波斯说,美国发明法有望彻底改变美国175年历史的专利体系。
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.
该方案预计会在今年秋季通过,巴拉克?奥巴马已表示他会签署通过该方案,而且大型IT公司和制药企业也对该法案给予支持。
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.
但是许多企业家和风险投资人却对此嗤之以鼻,认为这不会解决这一体系的大问题,而有制造新问题的风险。
The most contentious point is a change to determine who is the rightful inventor.
最有争议的一点是决定合法发明人的定义产生了变化。
Instead of being the first to invent, the successful applicant would be the first to file, the standard used worldwide.
美国采用世界通行的标准,法律认可的发明人不再是首位发明人,而是首位成功注册人。
Harmonising America's rules with those in other countries would be a step towards greater co-operation and efficiency in patent examinations globally.
美国的规则与其他国家一致,是为全球专利检验加大合作与提高效率迈出的一步。
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.
大公司喜欢这一提议,因为在法律上他们有更大的胜算,确信有些人不会出庭宣称自己首先想出创意。
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.
但是WebTV及多家公司的创始人史蒂夫?帕尔曼这样的投资人辩称,这会迫使公司在发明完全开发出之前就注册专利。
That, says Mr Perlman, would lead to yet more incremental improvements rather than big innovative steps and put a toll on America's competitiveness.
帕尔曼先生说,那会更多地导致创新渐进增长,而非跨越式创新发展,托美国的竞争力的后腿。
For the moment, though, companies are amassing ever larger arsenals of patents.
尽管如此,现在各公司增加的专利储备越来越多。
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.
就拿谷歌来说,四月就接受了八起诉讼—比其成立13年历史中中前五年的接受诉讼都多,沃克尔说。
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.
来看看我们到底已偏离创新概念多远了。我们需要以获得专利来防范诉讼,他谈到公司的总体战略时说。
That money could have been spent on engineers, to much more productive use.
那些钱本可以花在工程师身上,用在刀刃上。

重点单词   查看全部解释    
certainty ['sə:tnti]

想一想再看

n. 确定,确实的事情

联想记忆
potential [pə'tenʃəl]

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adj. 可能的,潜在的
n. 潜力,潜能

 
idealistic [ai,diə'listik,-kəl]

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adj. 唯心论的;唯心主义者的;理想主义的;空想家的

 
determine [di'tə:min]

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v. 决定,决心,确定,测定

联想记忆
reflect [ri'flekt]

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v. 反映,反射,归咎

联想记忆
oracle ['ɔ:rəkl]

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n. 神谕,神谕处,预言

联想记忆
legal ['li:gəl]

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adj. 法律的,合法的,法定的

联想记忆
innovation [.inəu'veiʃən]

想一想再看

n. 创新,革新

联想记忆
efficiency [i'fiʃənsi]

想一想再看

n. 效率,功率

联想记忆
preferable ['prefərəbl]

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adj. 更好的,更合意的

 


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