We are getting tired of all the whining we have done about patent trolls, and have decided to do something about it.
We are calling our effort Project Troglodyte (we chose the name because we like it). The purpose of Project Troglodyte is to hunt for bad patents and to show what went wrong. See the web page. We’ve done three sample analyses already (CleanTech 1, Driverless vehicles 2, Driverless vehicles1).
A key focus (though not the only one) are patents that would be easy for a patent troll to abuse. Sometimes a patent that initially looks bad turns out to be harmless on closer analysis; we will also include such cases.
We are not ideologically opposed to some kind of patent system as such, although we see serious flaws in the current system. What we are against are entities who abuse those flaws and provide no added value to society. We don’t really care who owns any given patent or what they might be doing with it right now; we are simply interested in the potential for misuse, should the patent fall into the wrong hands.
We are partly inspired by the Patent Busting Project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). That project identifies patents which are being misused in courts, and tries to invalidate those patents (for example by finding prior art). The EFF has very strong views against most patents, particularly software patents (see Patent Fail: In Defence of Innovation). We don’t necessarily agree with everything there.
However, we agree with this part: “The US Patent Office, overwhelmed and underfunded, issues questionable patents every day. “Patent trolls” buy too many of these patents and then misuse the patent system to shake down companies big and small.” We’ve made some pretty strong statements of our own on this (see Trolling on the human rights; SMOS: The kiss of death of IPR; SMOS: Another view).
We want to take the EFF’s idea one step further: we scan for patents that have not YET caused problems, but have potential to do so in the future. We have chosen a few basic criteria:
1. Technologies that will be crucial in the near future.
2. Technologies that are potentially vulnerable to single patents.
3. Technologies that we understand at least somewhat.
4. Sometimes technologies we are just interested in.
We are doing this because we feel strongly about the issue of patent misuse, and want to see innovation that enables a better future. Between us we have quite a lot of experience in creating inventions, protecting them and analyzing patents. We feel that this project is a way to put that experience to good use. (For more details, see the About Us page). We are open to all and any suggestions on how to make this project more effective.
We have started off the project with three patent analyses, release simultaneously:
CleanTech 1. Transmitting pollution information over an integrated wireless network. “This is really no different from saying ‘If my invention sees a problem, it solves it'”.
Driverless vehicles 2. Diagnosis and repair for autonomous vehicles. “Effectively they attempt to patent the exact thing every good driver does.”
Driverless vehicles1. Traffic signal mapping and detection. “This is solid engineering but I didn’t get the “hey this is clever” reaction which is a sort of indicator for inventiveness.”