If three technologists could tell the U.S. government what to do one of the first items would be to fix the patent system. Nothing drew the ire at a Wharton Technology Conference faster than an intellectual property (IP) question. To wit: Tom Malloy, chief software architect Adobe Systems, says it's clear that the state of IP law is a mess. "The current state of the IP system is probably broken," says Malloy. "And the level of review is woefully inadequate given the number of software trolls." Dr. Bernard Meyerson, vice president strategic alliance and chief technologist for IBM's systems and technology group, says the only reason Big Blue files so many patents every year is to thwart trolls. "IBM produces 3,600 patents a year because you have to cover everything including how to clip your fingernails," says Meyerson. Paul Mankiewich, Alcatel-Lucent's North American CTO, agrees something needs to be done about IP law, but there are no easy fixes. However, he noted the costs are real. Mankiewich said 30 percent of the costs of a 3G phone are due to IP attorney fees. "There is no clear solution and nobody has an idea about how to fix it," says Mankiewich, who noted that patent disputes go beyond trolls. He should know. Alcatel-Lucent won a $1.5 billion IP suit against Microsoft on Thursday.
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