I don’t read patents

big red stop button for a robot, i think from bosch

A friend recently overheard someone taking trash about how big companies were kowtowing to them because of a patent they had – and the friend asked me about it.

Without knowing anything about the patent, it certainly does sound plausible someone would cut deals over an awarded patent – once a patent is awarded it’s hard to get rid of.

But I couldn’t be of more help to them, because I couldn’t read the patent. As a working engineer (and, briefly, former IP lead for an AI company) I’ve had to adopt a strict policy to not read patents.

The reason is simple – if you as an engineer look at a patent and decide that it doesn’t apply to you, and a court later decides that you’re wrong, the act of looking at the patent will be considered to be evidence of willful patent infringement and will result in treble damages.

In case you’re wondering, this isn’t just me – most IP guys will tell you, if you are an engineer do NOT look at patents prior to doing your work – do what you need to do, apply for patent protection for what you’re doing that you think is new, useful and non-obvious, and let the lawyers sort out the rest – if it ever comes up, which usually it won’t.

Not everyone agrees and it really applies less to indie developers and open source projects than it does to people working at big companies with deep pockets likely to get sued.

Unfortunately I work at a big company with deep pockets likely to get sued, so I don’t look at patents. Don’t send them to me, don’t tell me about them, and if, God forbid, you think I or someone I know is violating a patent you hold, I’ll find the number of our legal counsel, and they’ll assign someone to evaluate the claim who specializes in that kind of thing.

Hate the damn things.

-the Centaur

Pictured: a big red stop button for a robot, I think from one at Bosch.