Breaking Patents

nullAs I have mentioned in an earlier entry, I have been attending this workshop on patents. The main objective of the workshop is to learn strategies and techniques on writing strong patents. Of course, the things that we learned were very interesting, since I have a vested interest in patents – not to write strong ones, but to learn how to break them. The entire course ran for 3.5 days and we were taught many things about patents.

First and foremost, we were taught how to analyse patents. Unsurprisingly, patents are extremely wordy and twisty so that anyone other than lawyers would immediately give up when reading them. Personally, I gave up trying to parse the sentences at first – they seemed to go on forever. However, we were broken into small groups and there were several others around. So, we worked together in trying to decipher what some of these patents actually meant. Once we managed to analyse the patent, it was far easier to understand what something actually did, or claims that it can do.

Then, we learned how to break them, defeat them and design around them. There is a very methodical process in doing this. Once we figured out how to identify the sections that needed breaking and working around, we would be able to come up with thoroughly new ideas and improve upon the existing patent. As a result, we would technically be able to patent this new solution if one did not exist already.

Finally, we learned how to predict the future. There is a very important reason for learning to do this – we wanted to make our patents more difficult to break. In order to do that, one would need to be able to predict trends and then to move our innovation up that line so that we would be able to take on any other future technologies coming our way. As a result, we should theoretically be able to write up a final patent that is strong enough to withstand attacks.

It was during this training that I realised that the only way to break a patent is through the use of FLOSS. Being free, libre and open source alone is insufficient to break a patent. One would also need to out-innovate the competition in order to stay ahead. As long as FLOSS software is one step ahead of the game, it would break the patent’s grip successfully. At one point, one of the participants actually asked the trainer what he thought about an ‘open’ society versus an ‘ip oriented’ one and his reply was pretty interesting.

He basically showed us his last slide, which said that for the next 5-10 years, patents would still play an important role. However, he is seeing a slow but steady decline in the effectiveness of the present patent system. Basically, the present patent system has been thoroughly raped and plundered. Hence, he does not think that the present patent system would survive for much longer. I found this surprising because our trainer was a guy with 400+ patents to his name and making a living off patents. One would think that he would be in support of patents.

He basically said that it was a game that needed to be played for now. But the game is almost up anyway.

PS: He is a fan of William Gibson as well. So, I like him too.

Published by

Shawn Tan

Chip Doctor, Chartered/Professional Engineer, Entrepreneur, Law Graduate.

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