Common sense analysis of this, that and the other


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  1. All types of patents (software, design & utility) deserve to be published and defended, for as long as they are fair, original and the inventor makes an effort to ‘realise’ their brainchild. Those who create ambiguous patents and make no effort to license, choosing instead to sue anyone who innocently infringes do not deserve protection.
  2. There is little difference between a patent and copyright, except that unlike patents, there is no ethical reason for the owner of copyright material to release or sell their work because patented concepts are more likely to be of benefit to the public and the economy, whilst copyright material is on the whole of entertainment value only. If an artist or photographer creates a genuine original piece of work, they have the right to choose how this is distributed, if at all. If opting for the world to enjoy their work without too many strings attached, creatives can assign their work Creative Commons status. Or, if they have a mortgage to pay, kids to feed, company to grow, the owner may carefully display copyright information on the work and profit accordingly.
  3. There is no difference between copying intellectual property without permission and stealing physical property.
  4. Defining a process (such as a software patent) is potentially more ambiguous and therefore difficult than describing a piece of mechanical machinery where the innovative aspects are easier to comprehend: “Clever! Gear A engages with pulley B to produce a stable result C!”
  5. An example of fair use of patents is the Dolby Noise Reduction system. Instead of sitting on their development that originated with technology to reduce the hiss on audio cassettes, Dolby licensed their brain child to the manufacturers of cassette decks – and in a rare example of keeping the concept alive, extended the business model to surround sound used in home and movie theatres. Another is Roland who licensed the MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) ‘standard’, such that it did in fact become a standard, doing wonders for the adoption and success of the digital music industry. What a contrast to the computer industry, where our devices are covered in ports (VGA/DE-15/D-sub, HDMI, USB, Firewire, Thunderbolt, RS232!, Ethernet etc – nightmare!)
  6. Those who look down upon patents generally oppose software patents, due to the potential ambiguity and related threats to open source innovation and sharing. This is a fair debate.
  7. There are some genuinely innovative software patents, such as Google’s Adsense – after all, if it is so obvious and you don’t like the patent, why didn’t you do it first, so you could have a yacht like Sergie’s? 😉
  8. Regarding the current (July 2012) legal battles between one gadget vendor and another, when it comes to their 10″ tablet, I support the attacking force. Why? It is obvious to anyone that the design of the tablet bezel, charging/syncing cable and some other peripherals has been blatantly copied from the company that introduced the first successful 10″ tablet. The other ongoing patent battles between the various wireless device vendors relates to point 9, below.
  9. Those in the business of technical development, or more specifically, innovation, owe it to themselves and their potential enemies/competitors to do as much pre-development intellectual property research as possible. Your local government patent and trademark database and your patent & trademark lawyers are their for a reason. Why go into battle with your head in the sand and wonder why you get a spear up your behind just when you thought everything was all peachy?
  10. I believe strongly that to file patents and trademarks should be free of charge OR that there should be government help to ensure anyone, no matter their abilities can protect their ideas. The costs associated with filing are huge. Of course, assistance should only be provided if the concept or trademark is judged to be viable, else, the system will become overloaded.

Update (5 July 2012) – Judge Posner doesn’t share my views.


Written by Oflife

July 3, 2012 at 2:20 pm

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