One of my favorite Star Trek scenes is from Star Trek 4, where Scottie tries talking to the computer. In this classic scene, one of the basic Star Trek futurisms is on display as he tries to get the computer to respond to him verbally. Who actually knew that IBM was going to come up with Watson super-computer that could answer questions and win Jeopardy a couple years ago?
All I’m saying is that patents on feature functionality were all thought of by either Star Wars or Star Trek in the 60’s and 70’s. I’m quite dissatisfied with the current number of lawsuits happening in the mobile phone space. Let’s face it, I don’t think Apple, Samsung, Motorola, Google, etc. should be able to patent some of the things they have. If Apple didn’t buy Siri, someone else was going to have a device that verbally responded to verbal questions within the next 2 years anyway. I mean, it was in Star Trek, right. This is not a new thought – it’s 50 years old. In general, I also don’t think you should be able to patent some sorts of design. Innovation is one thing, design is another, so unless it’s outright “plagiarism,” it’s a no-go for me. The idea that part of what Samsung is paying Apple for is a set of application icons with rounded corners is a small bit stupid to me.
At the end of the day, what I’m really fearful of is that patent wars could escalate from mobile devices over to HR software. Think about it if someone decided to patent the next great performance review. This is something that we’ve all been complaining about for years, but nobody in the industry can figure out how to make performance evaluations more effective. Here’s how I see a Performance Review patent playing out:
- Software company A patents Performance Review innovation
- Other software companies B & C try to copy the innovation
- Software company A shuts down B & C
- Market adoption for the great innovation is minimized since it’s centered on one vendor
- 5 years later, we’re all doing performance the same old way again, no innovation picked up
I’m all for giving some company a head start, I generally think they will get that head start anyway since it takes a year+ for other companies to figure out what is going on, make any coding change in the application, and roll it out. What I ultimately want though, is widespread and mass adoption if there are any great innovations. If major innovations are locked on one vendor for 7 years, the market is basically screwed in my opinion. I’m not talking about one vendor having a competitive, that happens for the first few years anyway. I’m saying that if the next great thing happens, the only way the market picks it up is if that innovation can diaspora out to all vendors.