Patent disputes are in the tech news all the time, but last week when Google and Microsoft got into a heated public debate, it drew a lot of attention and discussion around the nature of patents.
Mark Cuban, (entrepreneur, VC, Dallas Mavs owner, blogger, Landmark Theatres owner, Magnolia Pictures owner, HDNet chairman, etc.) posted some thoughts on on patent law on his blog BlogMaverick. His solution to patent law is basically summed up in two steps:
1. End all software patents
2. End all process patents
"It is easy to complain," he writes. "Much harder to come up with solutions. Many won’t like what I propose, but who wants to make lawyers happy anyway?"
He proposes that copyrights are enough to protect software, and the benefit of creating a new process is creating the idea and using it in a business to your advantage. " Afraid that some big company might steal the idea ? That is life," he says. "When you run with the elephants there are the quick and the dead. That is a challenge every small company faces."
He goes on to list benefits of eliminating process and software, such as: reducing courtroom costs, improving the efficiency of the patent office, ending "the ridiculousness current patent arms race," saving jobs, etc.
Naturally, Cuban's comments are drawing plenty of discussion in the industry. He's been actively engaged in the discussion in the comments on his blog post, and has responded to a couple people on Twitter:
@mcuban Vc money would evaporate if SaaS startups were not protectable and copyright litigation is way more expensive to fight..
@TheKevinDent No it wouldnt. Good companies would still draw money. Have em call me.
@mcuban I could send you about a dozen start-ups that got tossed when the goodbye of "great idea/product, but it is not protect-able"
@Cisco_Mobile Dozens of ways to protect ideas. Execute on the idea. Run a great company. Wont matter what big guys do. Ideas are cheap.
Larry Dignan at ZDNet says that despite all the "whining," any reform on software patents is unlikely. "Nothing is going to happen. Congress is a mess. Patents will always take a back seat to things like making interest payments, debt downgrades, elections and an economy that is sucking wind," he says. "As a result, the thermo nuclear patent game will continue. Companies can whine about lawsuits and sky-high bids for patent portfolios all they want. Their time may be better spent acquiring patents."
In the meantime, the public "whining" will likely go on. It's quite interesting to see how the big players have taken to not only public means of dispute, but their own PR vehicles (like the Official Google blog).