The world needs patents: Uniloc founder

The world needs patents: Uniloc founder

Summary: Patents don't stifle innovation; they work to protect the innovators and original inventors who have their own skin in the game. That's the word from inventor and Uniloc founder Ric Richardson, who can't fathom a world without patent protections.

TOPICS: Legal, Microsoft

Patents don't stifle innovation; they work to protect the innovators and original inventors who have their own skin in the game. That's the word from inventor and Uniloc founder Ric Richardson, who can't fathom a world without patent protections.

Richardson is no stranger to the benefit of filing a patent. In mid-2009, the Australian inventor won US$388 million in damages from Microsoft, after the company was found to be using his ideas without his knowledge or consent. It was because he obtained solid advice from legally minded colleagues that he was able to secure his patent-infringement win.

However, while the patent system worked in his favour, there are many who think it's outdated and stifles innovation.

Richardson disagreed today at an IP Australia forum with the notion that patents, particularly those on software, stymie innovation, adding that big companies aren't all out to squash and steal from the "little guys". Instead, he said that big companies are looking at prominent patent filings as part of their acquisition strategies.

"I personally don't see a lot of small guys getting quashed by big guys, because, in the end, if you do have a patent that protects what you're doing, [corporations] actually value that.

"If you actually have something that's unique, and you stop and say, 'OK, has anyone done this?' and subsequently protect it, that makes you a valuable target, rather than a target to be squashed," Richardson said.

The Uniloc founder added that by removing patents, particularly from the software space, the effect would be tantamount to encouraging intellectual property theft. He added that without software patents, only the biggest players would benefit from original ideas, rather than the person who had conceived the idea in the first place.

"What you say about [patents] stymieing innovation is wrong in my mind. You have great ideas in software development, and you should benefit from coming up with a great idea. To go and say everything should be free and it's only the guy that can go the fastest ... [that] will get to market is the one that should benefit from it is to encourage stealing.

"That's encouraging [companies] to employ people in software companies to just take home whatever they're generating every day, and bring it to repository and sell it as quickly as possible. That's the reality of it," Richardson said.

Richardson added that if he had it his way, he'd teach every IT student in Australia how to patent their own inventions, so that inventors are protected when they put their own skin in the game. Short of that, he said that new inventors just need to get someone to give them great advice. Without it, you can get burned, but it's not the end of the world.

"[To maintain your copyright] you just need to not be a nong, and [instead] get the right advice at the beginning of the process. Everything's fair in love and war. People make decisions that aren't fair, and then you learn from that, so that the next time you'll bring a lawyer in, like I did. It ended up being the most valuable thing the company ever did," he said.

Topics: Legal, Microsoft

Luke Hopewell

About Luke Hopewell

A fresh recruit onto the tech journalism battlefield, Luke Hopewell is eager to see some action. After a tour of duty in the belly of the Telstra beast, he is keen to report big stories on the enterprise beat. Drawing on past experience in radio, print and magazine, he plans to ask all the tough questions you want answered.

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  • The problem with the patent system is the fraud written into it, which means that more that 95% of inventors rights are lost due to bureaucracy and expenses. Patent system (designed to encourage inventors?!) kills most inventions & also the odd inventor.

    - IF - we wish to encourage inventors to solve the planets problems, we need a system which says 'You invented that? Great. Tell us all about it, & pay us one dollar (peppercorn, etc) then we don't want to see you back here till you've got it into the market. We will hold your rights until you do'

    But then again, maybe the planet has no problems?

    Stuart Saunders
    reform at iproag dot org
    Intellectual Property Rightful Owners Action Group
    "Patent troll is a term used for a person or company who buys and enforces patents against one or more alleged infringers in a manner considered aggressive or opportunistic with no intention to manufacture or market the patented invention."

    There is a difference between protecting your idea which was stolen from you (Uniloc vs Microsoft) and abusing the ownership of general patent and sue everybody who has a smaller law department then you do (Uniloc vs other 120+ IT companies).

    Just because something was stolen from you, it does not give you right to start stealing from others, does it. Problem is that patent law allows it, that is why it is broken. It allows more harm than good.
  • From personal experience, patents saved us. We developed a very unique software which thanks to a couple of smart friends encouraged us to patent the process. The day before we released the software commercially, we had a large organisation send us cease and desist letter. Our patent lawyers had a chat with them and the big company backed off.

    Now we are seeing other software vendors blatantly ripping off our ideas based on our success - which we will protect ourselves in the near future. Without patents our millions of dollars in blood, sweat and tears would have gone down the drains.

    I don't condone patent trolls or organisations who stifle innovation. At this point in time - patents, copyrights and trademarks are all that stand protecting small innovators against their competition.
    Azizi Khan
  • The patent "system" is so expensive to access, so slow to endure in fast markets and so expensive to defend that it skews patent ownership towards large corporations with the resources to undertake the process. I don't think Mr. Richardson 's experience is typical, and regardless of his volume in its defense it is still broken. The system fails to protect inventors, encourages corporate sharking and is a loved by the legal profession for its income generating qualities. The "system" is flooded by thousands of non-innovative try-on patent applications funded by corporations attempting to corner everything and anything they can.
  • let's play a game of rock, papers, scissors, but instead of rock we have Uniloc's vested interest and in place of scissors we have the absolute degradation of the patent system as a corporate capitalist tool to stiffen innovation and earn a quick buck through litigation.
  • "Stifle" ^ Spellchecker? Microsoft owns the patent on that? Oh well.