17 thoughts on “Patents, why bother?”

  1. “Would you like fries with that order?”. Patents seem like a staple upsell for law firms, a ready opportunity to take a slice of your recent funding round. Has anyone seen academic research on the monetary value of patents (value created vs money/time spent). Without hard numbers, I wonder if the odds of benefiting from patents are any better than rolling the dice in Vegas?}

  2. The patent system is outmoded. Most startups who file provisional patents can’t afford to defend them anyway, and filing a patent makes public your information.

    The only we reason we tell our clients to go for patents is if they are going for VC funding. Investors always ask if the IP is protected.}

  3. @Kevin, good point. My bias (and experience) is distinctly around software and the consumer web!}

  4. It seems that with more and more consumers becoming ‘digitally aware’ that more men and women coming out of Law Schools across the country would think that Patent Law would be a nice area to specialize in. Especially if what you say about bigger firms working with small start-ups is true.}

  5. Francine,

    Do you think that a lack of Patent protection for consumer-web ideas is a show-stopper for VCs?}

  6. During Web 1.0, patent applications remained confidential until the patent issued.

    Regarding the statement about large firms, most lawyers practice in small firms, including many large firm refugees. This country does not have a shortage of patent lawyers (though the USPTO does).}

  7. I’ve used a case-study to extend Narendra’s argument of how a patent is actually stupid, as it reveals too much information and may hurt their competitive advantage (which is what a patent is meant to protect, right?!)

    I did it on Radar Networks, the semantic web company that is meant to be in stealth mode.


    (Apologies for shameless plug)}

  8. For the past decade I have been at the forefront of my industry in terms of effective software design. My companies and I have created many inventions along the way and I frequently hear “you really are where the market is going.”

    There are several means of competing in any given market. Arming yourself with patents and lawyers is one way, but to me it feels too much like a restriction on fair trade and insecurity in yourself to continue to improve. Maybe it is different outside of software where there are end-state inventions, but software is an intellectual construct and to me, is never really “done.”

    Continually pushing the envelope to “innovate or die” is another way to compete and my preferred method. Going this way has the added benefit that your competitors don’t get an otherwise hard to get, free behind-the-scenes peak at your strategy and designs.

    Can I ward off others who claim I’ve infringed. Most definitely.

    A) I don’t do patent research so the inventions are mine (I think it would be an interesting case to argue that someone had invented the same thing as someone else, yet only the one with a patent had the right to use it).
    B) While ignorance of the law only protects from “willingly” infringed, I have the added defense of having studied (and documented in my business plans) the competitive behaviors and methods in the industry before beginning.
    C) It hasn’t happened yet, but if/when someone does come claiming infringement, I’ll have the added benefit of revenues from the invention to defend the claim.}

  9. Last year when I was working on a startup idea, I went to a IP/Patent presentation by a local law firm. They went through all the basic aspects, but the one comment that stuck out in my memory from the ‘panel of experts was’: Provisional Patent translates to ‘copy it quick’:)}

  10. I believe for a start-up, the highest value of patents is defensive, not offensive. Your competitors will be larger than you for a long, long time. Are they litigious? If so, when you hit an inflection point, they will at least threaten you if they believe they have a strong IP position (true or not). They may even try suing you. You can’t stop them. But if you have no chips, it will be much harder to dissuade them.}

  11. it seems like even if you do patent
    it’s never going to be as solid as you want since it costs so much and i guess from what i know (not much) you then open yourself up to p[eople with more money that can look at yours and expand off it and make it more or less a stronger theirs.. and i’m just down for the movement.. so it’s tricky’ but welcome to greed power life hi okay back to work everyone!}

  12. Nice article. Its sad that once you ahve a patent and have given the goverment your money to get one that they do NOTHING to help you defend or stop someone from using your same idea. I am sure the people who first formed the idea of patent protection had no intention of having attorneys spend your hundered of thousands of dollars to defend it! I think the system needs to be done over!!

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