Patents as a product

I recently kicked off a patent project that cost the better part of $50,000. WTF.

As a VC backed startup, there is an expectation that anything cool that we come up with needs to be patented to put a check in the box with the diligence process of any financing round. I haven’t heard of many “actual cases” of a startup being able to use a patent to fight a infringement claim, or to stop anyone from infringing.

In other words, do you honestly think that the HUGE corporate competitor of yours is going to be like “hmm. This little company in Michigan has a patent on this. Tell the engineers to stop doing this and do something else.”

Patents are becoming more and more like products for tech companies. I’m not sure how I feel about the argument that software should not be able to patentable. However I am sure that our current system is broken. I would recommend immediately putting in term limits from first commercial date of a patent, and also the ability to be exempt from patent infringement under certain conditions.

Now I realize for drugs, machines, and trademarks, this system would not work. However I can tell you that for tech companies, the only people that are making money from the patents are the lawyers. Imagine if my lawyers, (which BTW are really really really smart dudes) would quit writing patents and go back to engineering. I could take my 50 large and put it towards another engineer.

My gut says that patents as we know them today aren’t going to be around in 20 years. I’m going to do what I can to help support legislation to protect innovation and fix our broken patent as a product system.