Joff Wild

Gordon Crovitz used to be publisher of The Wall Street Journal, executive vice president of Dow Jones and president of its Consumer Media Group. He is now a columnist on the newspaper. His name is next to an appalling piece of writing that, I fear, was actually published in the WSJ today.

As Gene Quinn points out on the IP Watchdog blog, Crovitz claims that: "The Patent Office now gets some 500 million applications a year, leading to litigation costs of over $10 billion a year to define who has what rights." It is absolutely unbelievable that Crovitz could have got this so wrong. How on earth any self-respecting journalist can allow such an obvious error to run in an article he or she has produced is beyond me. And what on earth were the WSJ subs up to?

You get the very strong impression that absolutely no-one did any checking here at all. I mean, even if they had got the actual filing figure of 500,000 or so applications a year right, that $10 billion litigation cost "to define who has what rights" is also a load of old rubbish. It costs nowhere near that - although Bessen and Meurer have claimed that the total costs that can be attributed to patent litigation each year in the US may come to $10 billion, if you include share price movements, the amount of time executives are out of the office and so on. What's more Crovitz also swallows whole the Bessen & Meurer line that: "Aside from the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, the cost of litigation now exceeds the profits companies generate from licensing patents." There's a red herring if ever I saw one. It is a completely arbitrary statement. As anyone could have told Crovitz if he had bothered asking, patent licensing is but one aspect of the value that patents generate.  

What's more "IBM lawyer" (!!) David Kappos is reported to have claimed that IBM is no longer as interested in patenting as it once was - even though last year it received a record amount of US patent grants and actually issued a press release about it. Did Crovitz not bother asking about that? The list goes on and on.

I have written that IP owners and other members of the IP community need to engage with the press if they want issues to be reported accurately and with some sense of balance. But sometimes you just have to hold your hands up and say a journalist is out of his depth and has no business covering IP. Judging by this article, Crovitz is one such. It is a disgrace that the WSJ let his piece run.