Despite the impressive pace of modern invention, a certain “patent thicket” effect that may be impeding what has become an increasingly difficult road to the commercialization of new technologies. Specifically, as new technologies build upon old technologies, they necessarily become increasingly complex, and as a result, are often subject to the protection of multiple patents, covering both the new cumulative technologies as well as old foundational technologies. The difficulties of acquiring licenses (e.g. hold-out problems) for all such patents has the potential to stifle the development and commercialization of these new technologies. As such, patent pooling, once condemned as facilitating antitrust violations in past eras, has been reintroduced as a practice that, if properly structured, has potentially strong pro-competitive benefits. Patent pooling has the potential to reduce the level of research and invention in new technologies that can compete with an incumbent standard. Recent patent jurisprudence and lenient federal antitrust agency of recent patent pooling proposals seem to create an environment that encourages the resurgence of patent pooling.
Daniel Lin, Research Versus Development: Patent Pooling, Innovation and Standardization in the Software Industry, 1 J. Marshall Rev. Intell. Prop. L. 274 (2002)