Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Way Better Patents' 2013 New Year's Resolutions

Level the Playing Field

Way Better Patents believes that the key to improving the patent system is to make information about patents more accessible, easier to understand, and more transparent.  Patents shouldn't be the domain of patent attorneys, agents, and patent examiners alone but should be accessible by inventors, investors, entrepreneurs, and anyone seeking to find solutions to science and technology problems or to get ideas on how to make new things.

This year we are going to recommit ourselves to our mission of fighting information poverty one app at a time.  We have several new tools on that should make navigating the patentsphere easier.  We will also use The Inkling to call out some of the patent issues that drive us nuts.

So here are our resolutions for 2013.

Patents and Patent Numbers - Call out every publication we find that either rants about the patent system being broken, a patent lawsuit or publishes a market moving article on the impact of patents but doesn't explain the inventions that are covered or provide the patent numbers.  People aren't stupid.  They can understand complex inventions.  If you want the patent system to work, the public needs to know more than somebody lost a patent suit today and has to pay someone else a lot of money.

We're coming after you bloggers and journalists - you can't say the patent system is broken if you don't explain the patents that broke it.  (We're not sure it's broke, the system needs more attention to information transparency and shrinking asymmetric information advantage held by the patent cognoscenti.)

(Here's our post on the Marvell v. Carnegie Mellon University patent suit, for example.)

Eschew Patent Obfuscation - Make it harder for the patentsphere to hide behind overly broad language, cumbersome explanations of inventions, and goofy terminology designed to cover up the real scope of inventions.  We will publish information about patents that use finely honed patent argot to attempt to hide in plain sight when we find them.

We understand that things that are new require a new vocabulary and new ways of explaining new inventions but writing patents in mind-numbing jargon so your patent will cover every possible invention for the next 20 years isn't helping.  We'll continue to collect our favorite patent -speak and share it so that everyone will know that pushing the Buy With One Click button on a website, usually Amazon's, is using a single action ordering system.

Challenge Patent Urban Legend - There are lots of patent urban legends that take hold and seem to live forever whether or not they are factual.

Here are a few of our favorites:
  • Intellectual Ventures owns 40,000 patents or maybe 30,000 or maybe a million, who knows.  IBM owns more and doesn't hide them.
  • There are 250,000 patents covering smartphones - maybe if you count every claim on every possible patent.
  • Patents are for patent attorneys only - they are just to hard for the rest of us.
  • Improving the driving experience for electric vehicles justifies a green technology designation.  Same for doors and bolts on wind turbines and tents for SUVs. (But congratulations to the patent group at GE for writing compelling justifications on why the doors and bolts count.  They are to be commended.)
  • Patent trolls are ruining innovation - It's a symptom of information problems.  These guys are enforcing patents that have been in the public domain for an average of eight years, why can't experienced patent holding practicing entities find them first?  And enough with the "academic studies" that have holes so big you can drive a truck through them.  (And if RPX is so convinced that their data shows that the patent trolls are ruining innovation, they should release the raw data that supports it and not just to the version homogenized by academics doing studies.)

Call Out More Interesting New Patents and The Their Innovation Continuums - While incremental invention may be the norm, there are many novel and disruptive inventions out there.  What's interesting about these is that they tend to take longer to prosecute and there tends to be a lot of doubters on whether the new stuff will actually do what the inventors say.   We will bring you more this year along with the timelines and analysis to support them.

For example, Inventor Lee Lisheng Huang's US Patent 8037602 for a method of making energy efficient cookware.  The patent, granted under the USPTO Green Tech Pilot Program, uses, "a pattern of fins forming heat exchange channels. The fins can effectively increase surface area and the channels can guide thermal energy to the perimeter of the cookware base while the fins absorb the thermal energy. The channel fins can improve energy transfer while providing even distribution throughout the cooking surface."  As Mr. Huang so aptly put, this is one of the most basic inventions - a pot over a fire made more energy efficient cutting the amount of energy used in commercial (and residential kitchens).  No wind turbines, no solar panels, no electric motors, just an elegant invention for making kitchens more energy efficient. The Turbopot.

More information access is the key to leveling the patent playing field.  Way Better Patents will make it easier to find and easier to understand in 2013.  The bottom line is that looking for patents and understanding what's going on shouldn't be this hard.  We'll do our best to make it easier.

Have a Novel and Inventive New Year.