Full-time developers, how do you deal with IP?

Discussion in 'iOS Programming' started by Bernard SG, Nov 30, 2011.

  1. Bernard SG macrumors 65816

    Bernard SG

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2010
    #1
    Sorry if the question has been asked before, but I'm curious to know if you guys take any steps to make sure your project doesn't infringe on some existing software patent and if yes, what steps exactly.
    In the same vein, do you "patent the hell out of" your stuff?
     
  2. RonC macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2007
    Location:
    Chicago-area
    #2
    DISCLAIMER: This is my opinion and is not legal advice. Consult an attorney for legal advice.

    Short answer:
    Don't bother looking for or patenting your stuff - it isn't worth it on either side of the equation.

    Long answer:
    A couple of lessons that I've learned along the years as an engineer building software stuff, with 30 patents to show for it:

    a) You're better off not looking for patents you may be infringing - if you happen upon something now and use it later, that's willful infringement. Willful infringement = treble (3X) damages; accidentally infringing is better. [This was the advice of our IP counsel.]

    b) Given that you're not intending to infringe on someone else's patents, just build what you think you need. It is the patent owner's problem to PROVE that you are infringing. They can start with a C&D, they can start by requesting licensing fees, or they can start by suing you, but it's always their move first.

    c) Shipping your product gives you right-to-use if you shipped your product prior to the priority date of the patent, and can also be used as prior art to blow up a patent if someone asserts it against you.

    d) Finally, since you're building software, you can always design around the patents if they don't represent a fundamental aspect of your application.

    As for patenting your own stuff, it's a really ***** expensive proposition. If you have something where you believe you can gain a business advantage greater than the $5K you'll need to put into the initial patent application, the 5 year wait for your application to ultimately be rejected, and the fight with the patent office and more $'s for that fight, then start by hiring a competent patent attorney to write up your application.

    Having patents is cool, but it's not necessarily a money-making endeavor. And everything I said above about you as the potential infringer applies equally to you as the potential infringee - you have to PROVE that the alleged infringing product infringes one of your claims.

    Bottom line: unless you've got something that other people will want to pay money for OR that you can use to keep your competitors out, don't bother with patents.
     
  3. balamw Moderator

    balamw

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2005
    Location:
    New England
    #3
    All in all a good summary of the patent situation IMHO, IANAL and all that. Mine are all on the hardware side of life....

    The only caveat I'd add is that you can start the patent process for as little as a few hundred bucks and essentially DIY for the first step (nolo offers software to lead you through the process if you haven't done it before).

    You can file for a provisional patent application, which essentially only buys you 1 year to see if the idea really has legs and is worth spending the $5-$15K required to file the utility application.

    http://nolonow.nolo.com/noe/popup/provisional_patent_application_guide.pdf

    B
     
  4. 1458279 Suspended

    1458279

    Joined:
    May 1, 2010
    Location:
    California
    #4
    You can do what Tesla did. He got patents on his work. The US Supreme Court even upheld his claim... Problem is he was already dead by then. And most think of Edison when they think light bulb and A/C power or Marconi and radio.

    Patents aren't the end-all answer.
     

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