Thoughts on Intellectual Property

November 11, 2009 by
Filed under: General, Personal 

A few days ago I watched a show on swedish television where two doctors in IP and creativity went visiting badly running companies and helping them get creativity back in to the company, and hence making the badly running companies back in game. The methods they used seemed fairly straight forward and I can’t really say much about them, except it seemed to be how it should be done. Bring in the people who matters, talk things over, get ideas for new business areas, get ideas on how to improve efficiency in the employees work, how to run the company, new retailable products and services, and so forth. All this is just perfect, however, there was one comment on a subject that struck me hard.

They where complaining that Sweden is one of the countries putting the most money into research and development, yet we get the least IP out of it, and for some reason they could not understand why. I work with development, and to some extent research and I’m not the least bit shocked about this. Lack of cooperation, simple as that. Humans are in a sense made to cooperate, to work as a team and to throw ideas back and forth, especially in this day when the mass of information is simply impossible to keep tabs on. There are probably more research and development papers published every day than I could read in an entire lifetime and I will never be able to read more than a small bit of everything out there in my specific area of expertise, and not even there will I be able to read everything. The problem stems, in my humble opinion, from all the IP lawyers and lobbyists getting their messages across all too well.

Let me give an example of what I mean, for the last 3-4 years, I’ve worked on 4 different projects at 4 companies. At every single one of them, we have all been brought to a big meeting with the entire project/department/company where some “IP department” representative or lawyer has stood up and told us, whenever you get an idea:

  1. Shut up about it, don’t talk to anyone.
  2. Send an e-mail (or preferably sealed envelope or actually come talk to them in person) about the idea to the IP people.
  3. They’ll discuss the idea with you, then wait for half a year or so.
  4. If the idea is patentable, wait another 2-3 years for the patent to go through.
  5. Now you can implement and start talking about the patent, and hopefully cash in on all the suckers who re-created your patent while you where biding your time.

I hope you can see the problem here. The whole idea is so completely remote from how creativity for most of us normal people work that it’s not even funny. For my own part, the best and most inventive days I’ve had, has been with friends. During my education, for example, we went out by the sea and talked mostly crap, but this is where and when we cross-breeded our ideas about cool things and how you could do them. How does a submarine work, what/how do you make it (sub)merge, how could you make it autonomous, how do you navigate, how does INS systems work, and so forth. Or whats the cheapest and simplest way to crossbreed a bicycle with a floating device so that you can bike around on water.

Not being able to talk to fellow colleagues about ideas and solutions to problems is probably among the biggest speedbumps in the entire system imho. One of the reasons I believe Google (for example) has been so successful is that the level of trust bestowed on their employees, and the level of openness within the company. People dare talk to eachother without the imminent threat of being fired or scalded for talking about the wrong thing, with the wrong person (this is actually not unheard of, where I am right now). Correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s one of the impressions I have gotten, without ever being a google  employee myself.

Finally, don’t get me wrong on this subject. To live in a world, you have to adapt to the world. I’m not about to go divulge ideas and patentable IP on a whim that I hear about while at work. It is a fine line to cross between understanding and sympathizing with an ideology/theory and actually trying to live like an idealist, and it’s not one I would cross at this point of my life.

If/when I do get ideas on my own however, I would most likely not even consider the possibility of patenting it. I’d rather publish it openly so that it could benefit the world rather than try to suck the living bone marrow out of my victims. As a final thought, has anyone considered making an open source/open media “prior arts database” to, which would gather data and ideas on prior arts to patents, hence rendering current/future patents unusable?


One Comment on Thoughts on Intellectual Property

  1. shawn on Sat, 13th Feb 2010 12:44
  2. I have a website idea and have been brainstorming and organizing the overrall layout. To what degree must a website have patents? I always thought it was open game since the functionality of most websites are pretty universal outside the name of the URL. If i plan on running a sql database, does the way the information is accessed need to be patented? would that be considered the source code? Do the icons and symbols we employ subject to patent laws? I think that the more similar websites there are, the better it is for business. Seems to get people talking and comparing similar websites, but the same service provided. Do I have the internet all wrong?

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