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A problem with a patent case

February 28, 2007

Re "Patently wrong," editorial, Feb. 24

While The Times' editorial makes several valid points regarding the U.S. patent system, it overlooks an important issue that is certain to be raised by Microsoft in its appeal. Under the long-standing legal doctrine known as "latches," a plaintiff cannot sit on its patent rights in hopes of maximizing a damage award against a defendant. If Alcatel-Lucent did indeed make a decision to bide its time and assert its patent rights only after the technology had become highly successful, then that tactic would be a basis for setting aside the damage award. Although the patent system may be justifiably criticized for certain shortcomings, the unfair actions of a patent owner is not one of them.


Alexandria, Va.

The writer is an attorney.


The editorial claims that "manufacturers can't be sure that they've obtained all the necessary licenses before bringing a product to market." Not so. Computer-assisted searches make it easy to find all relevant prior art and to license the patent. On the other hand, it is easier for greedy corporations to steal someone's intellectual property, if they can get away with it.



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