The fundamental purpose of the patent system is to get the inventor’s secret information into the hands of the public. The theory is that the public will design around the invention and develop new solutions. This is how the patent system is supposed to help innovation.
Posts Categorized: Patents in Business
In a previous post, I laid out my three layers of patents. The first layer covers the fundamental mechanics of a business’s technology. The third layer covers broad applications of the technology, and the second layer covers the tools that bridge the gap.
Some software ideas suffer from a unique problem: detectability. When an embodiment of an idea is expressed in a language that is compiled and distributed as executable code, how can that idea be detected? If it cannot be detected, there is no way to know if someone infringes.
There are many ways patents may be used. In some cases, patents merely buttress a resume, an advertising brochure, or a marketing message. These patents sometimes can also deter other competitors from entering the market and act as a deterrent effect.
My personal experience in industry leads me to believe that intellectual property, and patents in particular, are widely misunderstood if they are understood at all.
The engineers tend to know that patents are a great achievement that go on the resume, but cannot articulate which ideas are patentable, especially with regard to what is not obvious and unique. Often, the gifted engineer might think that his elegant solution to a complex problem is ‘obvious’ after he created it, but he does not realize what a breakthrough it truly is.
The business managers, and even some of them assigned to the patent review committees, sometimes do not fully appreciate the business uses for patents. Because they don’t know how to use them, they cannot identify or classify an innovative idea. I witnessed several of my own inventions go down the drain by untrained and uninformed patent reviewers who didn’t know what to make of the ideas.
As part of my practice, I spend a great deal of time educating my clients so that they can make good business decisions and identify and describe the best inventions to protect their business.
Whether a patent is “obvious” is a legal definition, based on the state of the art at the time of the invention.
Remember back when the net was young and e-commerce was in its infancy. Buying something on line was a tedious task, where page after page of questions needed to be answered perfectly before a sale could be finalized. There were repeated concerns about sending credit card numbers over the internet that sent doubts in the minds of buyers, and the complexities at that time were a big impediment to e-commerce in general.