Every now and again I am warned about sharing my ideas. I am sure many of you are too. The fear is that someone will steal your idea and run off and make millions.
It’s this fear that fuels the Patent Protection Industry and potentially restricts innovation.
Every day there are thousands of Patents being registered in order to protect ideas. Just recently we have heard that IBM are passing “giving” Google over 200 of their patents in a deal (as covered by Bill Slawski IMB Assigns Patent Filings to Google). This is being seen as a part of a strategy that many large companies adopt (not just Google) to build-up their Patents Portfolio.
What is the Point to Software Patent Protection?
In these days of exponential advancements and innovation, are patents not being outdated by the speed of creation before they come into legal being? and is it a potentially restrictive practice to innovation and advancement?
Is the purpose of a Patent to scare off anyone else from creating something, and therefore prevent competition from the outset?
When you build up a patent portfolio, are you also secretly hoping that someone does infringe something and create a product that the whole world uses, just so that you can step in and claim the rights to the original idea?
A Patent takes over a year to protect. In that time innovations can come and go. If you add to this the time it takes to develop a product and it’s life cycle, you could be looking at least 5-10 years. A lot happens in 5-10 years.
With the speed of advancements continuing to increase, a lot more will happen in the next 5 years than did in the last 10.
Can Patents Restrict Innovation?
I am quite possibly being naive but it seems to me that the people writing the patents can not possibly account for every variation in a future idea and so may blanket out an entire industry from ever developing.
Innovations these days can be so complex that a person can create something with no knowledge that there is a patent pending that unwittingly has it covered.
So I am left to wonder what is the intention of those patents who file patents?
Brand Identity, Copyrights, and Trademarks I get. They are things that have been done and have a future to be established. Patents in physical products like a new improved design for a pair of scissors I also get. But the patent for a concept not yet materialised, especially in the software, science and technology fields I really struggle with.
I just can’t help but think that somewhere in a laboratory (maybe many) there are solutions to Aids and Cancer, that will never see the light of day because a drug company has it covered by a patent they bought, and they are making just way too much money from selling their drugs.
My Advice to Innovators of Software – Just Go Ahead Anyway
The thing about creative innovation is that you will always evolve uniqueness and originality.
Even if my/your ideas get covered by some loose patent, by the time any legalities kick in, we are intelligent and creative enough to innovate them further, side step the legal letter of the law, and move onwards and upwards.