August 06, 2009

Patents; killing innovation for 100 years

Apparently a company called Techradium is suing Twitter (read about it at the Inquistr and ARN) I read it with a mixture of concern and contempt.
Concern because, even though Twitter often gives me the shits, I use it on a daily basis. It has become the ONLY way I communicate with some people and it has allowed me to meet a huge number of great people along the way.
Contempt because, as I wrote as a comment on the ARN site;
Someone has done something better in an open way, which beats what someone else
has done. That's called capitalism...if you haven't monetised your system
already and made it essential, shut up shop and move on
So with respect to Techradium, and without deepdiving into the specific Patent, I almost wish they would 'go away'. This is because I believe any company which relies on Patents to make money in their business really shouldn't exist anyway. Patents appear to me to have become something which have changed from being a protector of innovation to a killer of innovation.

From reading the technology 'press', it has become my understanding the majority of the Patents which are being granted these days, especially in the USA, appear to be for something so minor as to prevent any form of innovation from possible competitors - real, imagined or even unknown.

Specifically, with so many patents being granted or having been granted in the past, what is any company supposed to do with their start-up or R&D cash? There must be some concern among VC people that much of their investment will be spent on legal fees to search out any or all tenuous or actual patent conflicts there may be. I prefer an environment where if you create something, patent it and bring it to market, you should only be protected for the patent in the case where someone deliberately breaks your patent in a way that directly impacts your business.

In the case we are referring to today, and of course I'm not a patent lawyer, neither of the above seem to be the case. Indeed the Techradium rent a sue writes;
"It appears that Twitter's core functionality is squarely within
the technology described by TechRadium's patents."
Nothing about deliberately seeking out and reusing Techradium technology there or even Twitter directly going after Techradium's business.

It seems to me Techradium were once the popular kid in one corner of the school yard. Now some other kid has appeared in the other corner and has attracted all his fans cos he's a bit 'same but different'. And they are pissed because they've lost all their cred and want to get the other kids back. But they've moved on and its too late.

Bottom line, Techradium, enhance your service, make it more desirable to your existing and potential customers. Either that, and just like in every business - Local Coffee shop to Nortel, move on and find something your customers want to pay for.

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