On Patents

Thanks, Justin, for providing me a somewhat anonymous place to rant. Today’s rant is about business methods practices. And it’s incoherent and off-the-cuff.

I’m currently a mercenary, holding a job to pay the bills ’til the startup I’m working on can break loose. The work is fun, although I’m enjoying it less than I expected to (and there’s a rant on software processes), and sometimes challenging, but the business practices often make me cringe.

I have overheard several conversations about how the company shouldn’t put its patent into a place where it can be challenged because it would lose it. In essence “play nice to the big guys so we can keep the little guys out.”

I hear talk about keeping pending patents under wraps. Excuse me? Isn’t this why we have patents? To promote the free exchange of information?

I see a company with a several “biz-dev” people for every technical person, all running around trying to create friction within the process so that money can be derived from the friction. Leeches on the energy from the friction in information flow.

Now I don’t blame this company in particular, I blame a ridiculous intellectual property process which is geared towards concentrating economic power in the hands of the non-innovators. Microsoft is whining that they should have government funded software development efforts, that the GPL is evil because it prevents Microsoft from incorporating third party efforts into their software without compensation to the original authors, but that Microsoft will be enforcing patents against small developers or developers that they don’t like.

The worst part is that it’s not like any particular company is better or worse on this matter. Sure, the company that’s currently paying me has a worse public image than one high profile one that previously did, but both have equally ludicrous and broad software patents which should not have been granted.

I don’t know how we’re going to tear down the patent system, but we must. We have to stop the idea that invention is a limited resource, that the first person there gets an effective lifetime monopoly even if others are only a few days behind, or thought the idea was better served as a free idea.

And we have to be thinking of ways, personally, that we can make steps towards revamping the nature of the economy so that the producers, and not the parasitic leeches who create friction between innovators, can be rewarded.

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