Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 23rd Mar 2012 15:09 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless I'm currently reading Jerry Kaplan's excellent book "Startup: a Silicon Valley adventure". In this book, Kaplan, founder and CEO of GO Corp., details the founding, financing and eventual demise of his highly innovative company, including the development and workings of their product. What's so surprising about this book is just how timeless it really is - the names and products may have changed, but the business practices and company attitudes surely haven't.
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2006-01-25's just not as impressive to me as the people in the trenches - like Kaplan or the thousands of academic researchers - actually coming up with these ideas.

Coming up with ideas is quite easy - it is a purely mental exercise. In no way am I trying to minimize the importance of them, but an idea in isolation is no more than a mental construct, it has little or no value until you do something constructive with it.

Taking an idea to market involves a whole lot of work beyond the idea itself. Ideas can be judged on their merit to a degree - but there is a process involved with turning one into a product. That process and how well you do it is arguably much more important that the idea itself as far as market success goes.

The irony with Apple, imo, is that they seem to see themselves as an idea company. Even their slogan, "Think Different", conveys this notion. They put a huge emphasis on intellectual property - they obviously look upon their IP as a key to their success and protect it jealously. I say it is an irony because while this may have been true in the past - it really doesn't matter much anymore and I don't know why they bother other than to maintain that "image"...

The Apple of today absolutely excels in crowded markets - markets where there are many companies executing on the same ideas. The point is if everyone is executing on what is basically the same idea - then the idea no longer really matters...

Almost all of the markets their products are in are extremely competitive, and yet they continue to perform above expectations in most of them - totally dominating in many. They are rarely if ever first to market with anything - but their entry into a market (once they get around to it) has a tendency to transform it completely. They seem to have a knack for this... They never appear to be competing with other companies - they always force other companies to compete on their terms.

Innovation and execution is virtually EVERYTHING for Apple - they just seem to like to maintain the image of having thought of everything first. I'm not saying that they never come up with original ideas (they do) - it's just that the ideas are not at all that important to their success.

On a personal note - I also find your viewpoint on this surprising. I know from past experience both of us are opposed to software patents. In practice patents create an artificial market value for ideas. Ideas without patents have relatively little monetary value, because without the legal construct of a patent an idea is free to anyone who sees or hears it. I oppose patents (especially in software) because I believe that ideas should be free - the way to monetize an idea is to implement it better than everyone else (quality, innovation, execution, etc.).

I don't quite understand how you can place so much value in ideas and still be opposed to patents - it seems like two diametrically opposed positions. That isn't meant to be critical, I'm just curious how you rationalize that.

Reply Parent Score: 5

Thom_Holwerda Member since:

I don't quite understand how you can place so much value in ideas and still be opposed to patents - it seems like two diametrically opposed positions. That isn't meant to be critical, I'm just curious how you rationalize that.

Finding ideas more important personally does not mean I automatically approve of protecting them. Note that I'm not criticising Apple for taking other people's ideas - heck, I think it's great! That's how ideas are supposed to work - heck, it's how mankind progresses the fastest. Especially in a world as frantic and fast as the technology world, protecting ideas with patents is not just monumentally stupid, it's diametrically opposed to the industry itself. Patents were thought up in a world of relatively slow, mechanical development - not the fast-paced world of tech.

Every night a new, better, faster, and more fucntional CM9 build shows up. Patents are just incompatible with that.

Edited 2012-03-23 21:29 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 3

galvanash Member since:

Fair enough... Read my other post (I replied to myself). I'm curious what you think about that type of approach.

Reply Parent Score: 2

galvanash Member since:

To add to this, I don't think I have ever really posted what I think the solution to the patent problem should be - and my previous post might by misleading.

It don't believe ideas should be free in an absolute sense. There is definitely a need for some way to monetize them on their own - because they are often valuable.

My approach to patents would be simple. If you come up with an idea for something, you are free to "patent it", but a patent would be a very different thing from what it is now:

1. A patent would not disclose the idea at all initially. What it would do is create a binding legal construct that would allow you to negotiate its use with companies who might want to purchase it.

2. A company who chooses to negotiate with a patent holder is essentially barred from using or disclosing the details of the patent with any 3rd party. If proof of such 3rd party disclosure is found - the patent holder can sue for damages. In essence it becomes an NDA but with much stronger penalties and government oversight and such negotiations are required to be recorded as part of the patent record.

3. As a patent holder, it is your responsibility to keep the idea secret from anyone you are not on record negotiating with. If someone else uses your idea and there is no documented negotiation tying them to your patent it is assumed that the idea was independent and your patent has no power over that implementation. If there IS a documented negotiation the government has power to investigate whether the party your negotiated with and the 3rd party has dealings - if so see 2.

4. Until purchase terms are agreed on and settled, companies can not execute on an idea in a patent, again with the penalty of severe damages if they violate this trust.

5. Once a patent is "sold", regardless of terms, it becomes null and void and all legal ramifications of violating the terms fall under existing contract law. The patent is simply a protection during negotiation.

6. You cannot resell a patent - it becomes null and void once sold. Part of the process of selling it is at the time of the sale it becomes public record so that those wishing to patent an idea in the future can determine whether or not their idea is actually unique.

7. It is up to the buyer to determine whether a patent is actually unique during negotiation. Once terms are reached and the patent goes on record as sold, the seller is legally protected from any and all legal recourse concerning originality. I.e. buyer beware.

There is of course a lot to work out, but that is the basic framework. How is this different form existing law?

1. If you have an idea and you choose to productize it yourself (as in a company that makes products comes up with the idea) patent protection simply does not apply at all. Patents are a way to create a marketplace for ideas, not a way to protect products from competitors.

2. Once the ideas in a patent are sold, it is completely up to the buyer to decide how and if they want to disclose that idea. The idea itself is no longer protected legally - only the terms of the sale are protected (and only under contract law).

3. This form of patent offers no legal protection at all in the market place. It is simply meant as a way to protect inventors, not manufacturers.

Anyway, something like this would be immensely better imo.

Edited 2012-03-23 22:00 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2