Something else that came up at BCS Edinburgh was a question about protecting intellectual property. To be honest, I can’t actually remember the question but I do remember my answer. So since this is a blog, and I don’t need a question to sound off, let me do so….
Protecting your intellectual property (IP), with a patent, is a good idea if only so someone else doesn’t claim the patent and accuse you of breaking their patent. Offset against this is the time and expense of getting the patent.
I don’t really believe that a software patent can protect your IP from the competition, it can slow down the competition, it can make things expensive for them but then, it also makes things more expensive for you and slows you down.
Certainly if you look at the “patent wars” that Google, Microsoft, Oracle and others are engaged in now its hard to see how any of these companies will really benefit. Sure the lawyers will make some money but will any of it really benefit their customers?
And there in lies the really issue with IP: the customer.
Ultimately customers still have the same needs, the same problems, the same demands. Patents only address part of the solution. If you can find another way of addressing the need the IP is meaningless.
So the solution to all of this is really: Innovation.
Seek to innovate to address the customer needs better.
Base your company on innovation and continual change, rather than patents and attempts to freeze technology at some point.
Stay ahead of those who would copy you by innovating, don’t worry about copy-cats, be onto the next thing.
The fly in the ointment here is patents: if you do do something innovative, and you don’t move to protect yourself - a defensive patent - there is a danger that someone else will. I can’t help but see all of this as a diversion from innovating and addressing customer needs.