Brad Feld

Back to Blog

The Software Company Patent Machinery

Feb 01, 2008
Category Technology

I got the following note from a friend at a big software company that was founded in the mid-1990’s.

Having worked at the big companies it has always amazed me the energy that goes into creating the stack of patents.  We have lawyers who we sit down with to go over new products and releases and they generate 10s or 100s of patent filings out of which a few actual patents will end up being granted in a few years.   I have around 40 patents for what I would consider innovative work but 99% of them are just for the things anyone would have to do in order to solve the actual problem.

I find this a disgusting waste of time and energy that runs counter to the notion that patents are supposed to be used to "help promote innovation."

Another practice that I find abhorrent is the BigCo "pay for patent application" approach where BigCo pays engineers a bonus (typical $1,000 to $5,000) for each patent filing.  Not for the patents, but for the patent filing.  This obviously encourages engineers to waste a bunch of their time not innovating but instead cranking out a bunch of stupid patent filings that clog the system.

I think this should be illegal.  It’s a complete abuse of the original intent of the patent system.  At the minimum, the patent filing should have to disclose whether any fee beyond normal compensation was paid to the "inventor."  Maybe we can get the 409A and 157 accounting weenies on this – that’d slow things down.