Brad Feld

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Wikipedia for Patents

Jul 06, 2006
Category Technology

John Funk, an entrepreneur (I’m an investor in John’s newest company – Evergreen IP) and friend has a innovative proposal up concerning changing the rules on the current patent system.  I’ve been on both sides of the patent aisle with John – we like to joke that early on in our relationship John’s company sued one of my companies (and then my company sued John’s company back) for patent infringement (the companies settled several years later for a cross license and $1 – much to the delight of the lawyers who got all the bucks.)  Fortunately we got past all that crap and have developed a nice friendship.

John’s proposal is straightforward – let’s change the rules so patent applications get published after six months and – before the patent is granted – there is an open debate using a Wikipedia (or Digg-like) system that helps surface all the prior art and blow up stupid patents for obviousness and prior art.  This would be a real debate – online and out in the open – that the patentee would be able to engage in.

While I’m sure all the patent lawyers in the world would groan at this, it’s certainly better for them than my proposal, which is to simply do away with software patents altogether.  We certainly have the technology to implement this – say – in 24 hours.  I wonder who will try to patent that?