Google and Apple Weigh In on Patent Issues

Dennis Faas's picture

At the Stanford Summit in Palo Alto, California, IT heavyweights such as Google and Apple discussed the U.S. patent system -- and not everyone was thrilled with the its current state.

Google's head of patents, Michelle Lee, described the U.S. patent system as being "in crisis." She explained that there are too many businesses that use patents mostly as a means of making money. These businesses, called trolls, have proven profitable for many tech companies, but the large number of patents is backing up the system.

"The Patent Office is overburdened," she said. "The volume of patents going in is huge. And the quality of patents coming out -- it could be better." (Source:

Although Apple's chief patent counsel Chip Lutton agreed that the patent system is in a rut, he did not take the extreme standpoint of his Google counterpart.

"The patent system, right now, is tilting out of bounds," said Lutton. (Source:

But he continued to note that the system is "not broken" and "not in crisis." He also called the U.S. patent system the best in the world, noting that the issues are caused by the current bubble in patent volume.

To fix the bubble and prevent a crisis, Lutton suggests that the resolution must come from the courts, not the patent office. "Most patents issued are never litigated and never licensed," he said. "We need to focus on fixing the litigation system. That's most relevant." (Source:

Although Google and Apple may disagree on the severity of the issue, it's clear that the patent office is indeed being abused and needs reform.

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