Monday, 20 August 2012

Avoiding the negative spiral

So now Google Motorola Mobility join the patent litigation frenzy. They hadn't really been left much choice by the aggressive tactics of certain other players who think that there is a huge amount of legal fees innovation in a gesture being rotated by 45º.  Even the usual fanboi trolls on techcrunch kept quiet about that.

So just as Seth Godin is talking his usual good sense about avoiding the race to the bottom we see exactly that happening to the protection of intellectual property.

For those who have no experience of dealing with patents, the process is very long and very expensive. In order to have effective protection you need to cover at the very least in Europe and the US as well as any market in which your product can be expected to make an impact.

While some patent offices will rely on other ones for approval, each one still requires separate applications and usual local agents. But that's assuming you get as far as having some kind of acceptable filing - and that's likely to take years and many thousands of £/$/€.

You also have to go through an interminable and disconnected process of review against prior art which includes huge numbers of patent applications to which you have no access at the time of submission. And many of these are astoundingly broad and often meaningless. And the broader and more meaningless they are you can be sure that the authors are from larger corporations. Unlike startups where filing patents is an investor-driven distraction, these companies have whole departments of lawyers who are paid to argue with the examiners about minutiae which your or I would ignore as being absolutely obvious. Read some existing patents alongside the examiner's response to your own work and you'll wonder whether there are two sets of standards being applied: one for big companies and one for the rest of us.

Clearly this is not right. We need to change the whole way intelectual property is protected, streamlined for an efficient workflow, accessible to everyone, and with a minimum level of genuine originality.

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