Patent auctions pose threat to intellectual property

In April, guests of patent consulting firm Ocean Tomo will gather for a patent auction of about 400 patents pertaining to semiconductors, RFID, wireless communications and other high-tech industries. Talk about unwelcome news for an industry experiencing an increasing number of demands for royalty payments and the brouhaha surrounding the potential for BlackBerry service to be shut down in the U.S. because NTP claims RIM is infringing on patents.

The reality I continue to hear from legal experts is that the U.S. patent system is broken. The overburdened patent office is under-funded and under-staffed while the high-tech industry is buzzing along, filing more and more complex patents. It is impossible under today's system for any company to investigate every patent claim, leaving the door open for patent "trolls" that only exist to buy up loads of patents to just extract license payments or file patent-infringement lawsuits. It will literally take an act of Congress to change the way the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is funded and how patents are accepted and litigated. In fact, a number of high-tech companies are lobbying Congress for this very change.

To read more about Ocean Tomo's patent auction:
- check out this piece from CNET