June 2013 LSAT, Reading Comprehension, passage 3 summary

Crowdsourcing the June 2013 LSAT:  June 2013 LSAT Explanation Central | About this project This is a so-called "Comparative Reading" passage; note the two shorter passages, "Passage A" and "Passage B." My approach here is scarcely different from my general Reading Comprehension approach: I'll simply ask both speakers "Why are you wasting my time with this?" As long as I can get the basic idea from each speaker, I'll be fine.

Passage A starts off talking about the "nonobvious" requirement of patents, and quickly gets into a specific case regarding "translations" between Internet addresses and telephone numbers. I don't know what either of these terms mean yet, but the speaker obviously is here to talk about patents and the legal standards surrounding them. Who's excited?

In the second paragraph, the author expresses dismay ("unfortunately") regarding a shift in the law. Apparently, the standard for "nonobviousness" has gotten more lax, which is causing some very broad patents to be issued. At this point, I tell myself a little story to understand what "nonobviousness" might mean. Imagine if I tried to get a patent for "flight." I think the author would describe this as obvious, or overbroad. If I patent the idea of "flight," it would preclude other inventors from entering the field. The author of Passage A thinks that's a bad thing. On the other hand, if I were to invent a new jet engine that runs on Jameson Irish Whiskey, and patented that, other inventors would still be able to create useful innovations in flight. The author of Passage A would rather that I be specific instead of general. That's what he seems to mean by "nonobvious."

The third paragraph talks about what happens when too many overbroad patents are issued: Companies will stockpile patents in order to do patent war. The author thinks this is bad, but says that companies should engage in this arms race, or find themselves "defenseless."

The fourth paragraph of Passage A talks about an industry where the patent wars are "particularly ripe": software. The author cites "modular components" as a particularly difficult issue. It's hard for software makers to avoid infringing patents; even if they tried to find licenses for all patents that might be infringed by their new software program, they might not be able to do so.

Mr. Passage A, I ask you: Why are you wasting my time with this? I think Mr. Passage A would respond with something like "we have a problem with overbroad patents, particularly in software."

On to Passage B.

Passage B seems to be written by somebody inside the software business. Where Mr. Passage A might be a law professor, Mr. Passage B seems to work for some sort of organization that does advocacy for software makers. A practicing IP attorney, perhaps? Or, just a PR person. We're not sure, but at the end of paragraph one of Passage B, it's obvious that the author is on the anti-patent side of things, at least where software is concerned.

In the second paragraph, Mr. Passage B shows a realist streak. It's apparent that Mr. Passage B is anti-patent, but his head is not buried in the sand. He acknowledges that patents exist, and understands the potential for "misuse," including "the hight cost of patent litigation."

The final paragraph of Passage B says that "one defense" against patent abuse is the aggregation of a defensive portfolio of patents... Passage A recommended this strategy as well. Surprisingly, Passage B says that even open-source software makers (including the author's company) accumulate these patent portfolios. The last sentence calls this strategy "prudent" while acknowledging potential perception of hypocrisy.

Well now, wasn't that a kick? A kick in the balls, perhaps. I did not find that interesting in the slightest. Well, maybe that's a lie. The very last sentence did catch a small piece of my curiosity. The idea of an open-source software company accumulating a war chest of patents was unexpected.

Why are you wasting my time with this, Mr. Passage B? Hmmmm... seems like Passage B is saying more or less the same thing as Passage A. Biggest difference, as far as I can see, is that Passage A was more about the general problem of overbroad patents, using software as an example of the problem. Passage B was specifically about software, written by someone who works in the trenches of software patent litigation.

On to the questions!


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Crowdsourcing the June 2013 LSAT:  June 2013 LSAT Explanation Central | About this project