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Daily Archives: February 15, 2009

Someone needed to say it – Patents are a joke – companies are waging wars against one another over meaningless software patents. I heard last week (have not confirmed it) that IBM makes $1 Billion (thats with a “B”) a year in licensing their patents to other companies …

 

I know what you are saying, 1 Billion Dollars (pinky finger at the corner of my mouth) is not chump change. Right, but patents are no longer doing what they were meant to do, improve progress. That’s right, patents were conceived to protect companies that spent millions of dollars to invent new technologies or systems or processes – protect them from others from unduly profiting from their investment. 

Now patents are mostly used as a protective measure … “You sue me for patent infringement and I’ll sue you right back for infringing on one of my patents” – What’s worse? These patents are on technologies that require no investment to invent, just an idea. Let me say that again – You can patent an idea, a sketch, a concept, a process. Why is this bad? Because everyone and their brother has a good idea. It is not the idea that is valuable, it is the ability to execute on the idea. I’ve seen so many great ideas go absolutely nowhere, millions of dollars thrown at them and nothing – We are no longer valuing progress.

For example, Tim O’Reilly is famously credited for lambasting Amazon for their litigious patent attitudes. I recall, about 5 years ago, a small marketing company patented the ability to show one thing in flash, and print another thing (like showing an offer in the banner ad and when the user clicks ‘print’ a coupon spits out of your printer— this was a feature BUILT INTO THE FLASH PLAYER … They actually patented a feature in someone else’s software and it got through the patent office – what a joke!

It was recently announced that Apple is being sued (again) for intellectual property infringement. A scottish firm claims prior art on something they conceived years ago.  Something about how the “pinch zoom” works on photography.  My question to that company: “So if this idea was so valuable, why the hell did you do nothing with it? Why did you wait for Apple to execute on it only to sue them for the privilege?”…

I’m no patent attorney, but we MUST change our patent laws to value progress, not just ideas. I know this is not an uncommon topic, so why is nobody doing anything about it? OBAMA WHERE ARE YOU????

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