Patents- the only way to win is not to play

In the software industry, our employers sometimes ask us to patent stuff.  The usual claim is that it is for “defensive purposes” in case your company gets sued.  Of course, as loyal employees, we want our company to safe from greedy lawyers seeking bogus patent infringements, so we blindly believe, agree, and patent like mad.

This is a fallacy, of course, and all of us at the rank-and-file levels of our companies should resist patenting anything.

The problem is that eventually patents are used for offensive purposes rather than defensive purposes.  It’s just a matter of when it economically makes sense to use the patent.  Eventually, your company will struggle financially, and eventually an energetic young lawyer will come to the senior management with a solution to the shareholders’ woes –  enforcement of patents.  This has happened too many times to count.  It is the inevitability of patents.

So, if you are a technologist, don’t file software patents.  Software patents are for lawyers that like to destroy other businesses for their own personal gain.  The USPO is not capable of differentiating a worthy software patent from mathematically impossible one. Your company may try to bribe you with incentives to get you to “help”.  Your company will claim that the patents are only for “protection”.  It’s not your company’s fault.  All successful companies need lawyers, and lawyers tell them to do this.  The company always starts out with the best of intentions.  But, mark my words, if the patent proves useful monetarily, your patent will someday be used to tear apart someone else’s hard work.

Until the law changes, the only way to win is to not play.

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