As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, so do the number of patents that cover every aspect of making, using, and selling these innovations. In 1996, to compound the rapid change of technology, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that business methods are also patentable. Hence in the current environment, scores of patents, assigned to many different parties, may cover a single electronic device or software--making it increasingly impossible to manufacture an electronic device without receiving a cease and desist letter or other notice from a patentee demanding a large royalty or threatening an injunction. Companies, particularly those in the high technology sector, have been asserting for some time now that they are under constant threat of lawsuits that threaten to shut them down. As a result, numerous radical changes to the U.S. Patent Act and patent practice before the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office have been proposed. Certain proposed changes, however, are meeting with resistance because of a reliance on long term patent protection and exclusivity of patent rights by different industries. Notwithstanding, certain foreign governments have already enacted provisions making it possible to obtain a compulsory patent license in the event that a patentee is not practicing his invention or is simply refusing to license the rights to his invention for a reasonable royalty fee.
Carol M. Nielsen & Michael R. Samardzija,
Compulsory Patent Licensing: Is It a Viable Solution in the United States,
Mich. Telecomm. & Tech. L. Rev.
Available at: http://repository.law.umich.edu/mttlr/vol13/iss2/9