Intellectual Property: The Patents

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Intellectual Property: The Patents


While an ethical analysis in intellectual property may not be as interesting as the ethical analysis in human genetics, such as in human cloning, patents are the most relevant in the area of high technology, which is the most important industry in the Silicon Valley and arguably, becoming one of the most powerful engines in the growth of the U.S. economy. In fact, intellectual property, a once very sleepy and very boring subject, is one of the hottest topics of conversations today in the high technology industry.


The growing importance of patents has fueled the tremendous growth of new patents being issued annually in the past several years and currently accelerating even faster. Many concerns have been raised about new patent ideas such as new business methods and other abstract concepts. Two examples of these business method patents are the “One-Click” checkout and payment Internet technology patented by, an Internet commerce company, and the “Reverse Auction” Internet technology patented by, an Internet based travel agent. Many argue that business methods are discoveries and not true inventions. “We discover what before existed, though to us unknown; we invent what did not exist before.”1

Patents have become one of the greatest competitive assets to ensure the future of the business and as business tools to map trends and convergences, innovates new strategies and capabilities of partners and competitors, and improve all business units in the corporation. Patents have become critical in determining the winners and losers in business competition.

Business Issues

Patents have also become strategic assets and competitive weapon of enormous value. Patents have become the bargaining chips for companies in negotiations with other companies to gain competitive advantage by gaining access to needed technologies by cross-licensing its patents with partners and competitors.

As businesses began to discover, the power of patents can no longer be ignored in business competitions as the importance of new ideas and innovations have overshadowed market position and tangible assets such as real estate and raw materials to achieve competitive goals. Patents have become critical in the business battlefield ­­— the “smart bombs” of tomorrow’s business wars2 — in addition to the traditional sales increase to expand market share. Patents are the tools that every company needs in the business battlefield to capture and defend its market share, stay ahead of the competition, increase revenues, and to be successful in their respective business segments.
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