A long drive down from Seattle to Portland today and in bad weather which made it more of an endurance test than anything else. I'm taking part in the third Supporting Agile Adoption workshop tomorrow and I think I, along with Bjarte Bogsnes of Beyond Budgeting fame have been invited to provide a wider perspective. More on that as the event unfolds over the weekend. Before leaving I had a meeting with out patent lawyer in Seattle. We have a couple of new ideas, or possibly developments of our existing patents and this sort of stuff is better sorted out face to face.
Having gone through the patent process three times in my life, twice with IBM and once as Cognitive Edge I'm starting to get used to the arcane principles on which patents are based. I won't bore you with the details but it is esoteric to say the least and you need professional assistance to get the conceptualisation and drafting right. The meeting over I have a difficult task over the Christmas break that will involve locking myself away for a day to get my head around it.
Driving down to Portland as sunshine turned to overcast skies and then rain I reflected on the whole issue which presents some real dilemmas for society. I don't claim to have a solution, but I do have some observations:
Now I am not sure what the solution is to all of that, and I doubt anything will change. So speed of exploitation of an idea is probably the best protection for any small company. The problem is that a free for all is unconstrained and results in rewards for the exploiters not the creators. The current patent system is so constrained that invention is difficult or impossible to protect. Complexity would argue for lighter constraints.
Personally, if I had the power, I would put a simple international agreement in place that allows people to register an idea or plans that satisfy certain criteria – one current criterial works here, namely you have to describe something to the level of detail that someone else could copy it. Then we need progressive protection which falls if you don't do anything with the idea over a reasonable timescale. It needs to be a lot simpler.