20 Things You Need To Know About Software Patents

On July 31, 1790, Samuel Hopkins was issued the first patent for a process of making potash, an ingredient used in fertilizer. President George Washington signed the patent.

Since that day more than 6 million patents have been issued.

I saw some potash/fertilizer the other day I need to tell you about. I don’t watch much TV, but I do enjoy the show Shark Tank. For me, it looks like a lot of fun to be on the panel. I have tremendous respect for anyone who makes enough of a success of him or her self to be in a position to invest. That’s what every entrepreneur works towards… that freedom and those choices.

That said, I saw some advice from “Shark” investor Barbara Corcoran the other day which made me cringe and I wanted to put this out there as an addendum to her advice. You see, Barbara is not in the world of software. She deals with real estate and products. In an interview with inc.com she said the following on the biggest mistakes small businesses make:

“Pissing away money on patents and PR. The right dance steps are:

1) Make the product

2) Get some sales

3) Make the big guys envy you, and only then get a patent.”

At the end of the article, I have linked to that quote (mostly so you don’t leave)

I cringed when I got to #3 because this advice could really put some technology entrepreneurs in a very bad place. #1 and #2 are smart!

Here is what I have learned going through the process of patenting multiple pieces of technology:

1) You MUST get a patent attorney. No, you cannot do this yourself. No, your wife’s friend who is an attorney cannot figure it out. Patent attorneys are highly specialized. Save up the money and find a patent attorney.

2) Not any patent attorney will do. Most of them are as worthless as the day is long when it comes to technology or software patents, but they will take your money anyway. Find a patent attorney who specializes in technology/software. If you need a recommendation, contact me.

3) Patent attorneys are Federally licensed. If you are in Florida, you don’t have to see a Florida attorney (which is unique).

4) Be prepared to write! If you think it’s as easy as bringing your idea to an attorney and having him or her write everything up, think again. No fewer than 10 pages of technical documentation, drawings and images were submitted for any of the patents I applied for. If you bring your attorney garbage, he will either produce a subpar patent or charge you a fortune… maybe both.

5) Use the patent attorney’s artists. The drawings may seem simplistic and they cost an extra $100 or so per image, but that’s another thing you should not try to do yourself unless you like rejection and wasted time.

6) Write your patent as broadly as you can. Your patent can and will get rejected and that’s OK. Go for more than you need… go big! You can scale the patent back and hone in on your final patentable piece based on feedback from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). You can’t add to elements later if they weren’t there when you started. Want to increase your odds of a patent? Go for a LOT and adjust as you get feedback.

7) You MUST have your patent idea SUBMITTED BEFORE you go to market. This is where Barbara’s advice is very dangerous. In the world of software, you cannot patent something that is being used by the public. Once it’s out, it’s “public domain” unless you have submitted your provisional patent.

8) Patent laws change daily based on court cases. Many people (including Mark Cuban) think the ability to patent technology is harmful to the evolution of technology. It is entirely possible you get rejected.

9) You can get a provisional patent, or a non provisional patent. The definition of the provisional patent is the following: Under United States patent law, a provisional application is a legal document filed in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), that establishes an early filing date, but does not mature into an issued patent unless the applicant files a regular non-provisional patent application within one year.

In short, a non-provisional is a “real patent.”

10) Getting a provisional patent in place is less expensive that a non-provisional patent. It includes a patent search and assures your place in line. You can launch your product when you have your date for your provisional patent.

11) A non-provisional patent can take up to 5 years to get approved or rejected.

12) Most software patents are rejected because they are not mechanical or they don’t have a proprietary algorithm.

13) It is absolutely possible you could be issued a patent and then lose in court if someone infringes on your patent. Having a patent and being able to enforce that patent are two completely separate things.

14) When you submit your patent, you are teaching the world how to do what it is you “invented,” accept that this has drawbacks as well.

15) To apply for a US patent can cost upwards to $20,000.

16) Once you have your US patent issued, you have 1 year of protection/time to file for any individual countries you wish to be protected in. The “Patent Cooperation Treaty” has 148 countries, which can be viewed here http://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ShowResults.jsp?treaty_id=6

17) Each country you apply for a patent in will have its own filing fee. Nothing is free in the world of IP.

18) If you are lucky enough to be granted a patent, that patent is granted for a period of 20 years… keeping in mind “granted” does not mean “protected.”

19) The big companies (Apple/Google) have departments which do nothing but file patents all year long. As always, the little guy is at a distinct disadvantage. Barbara is right that getting on the bigger companies radar may be a good thing but not in every instance. Big companies squash little companies all the time like it’s a sport.

20) You can opt to have your patent published or unpublished in the patent journal distributed worldwide. There are pros (exposure) to being published, and cons (maybe being ripped off?) by choosing to publish. That’s a choice you have to make.

So there you have it… what my experience with software patents has taught me. Barbara was not talking technology when she was quoted about patents, so be careful whom you listen to on this subject… it could cost you big if your idea is good enough.


Document Management Software for Small and Medium Sized Businesses: Betting on the Future

What are the fundamental characteristics that small and medium sized businesses look for in document management software? It should be safe, efficient, easy to use and multi-purpose, whilst being able to give you a quick return on the investment. However, above all else, the most important feature should be its ability to be adapted to the specific needs of each individual company.

In general, the technological profile of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) is lower than those of larger sized companies, where the document management system is a basic tool. For SMEs, this technology continues to be ‘widely unknown’, even though it promises great returns in profits.

The figures prove this to be a reality. A study conducted by the Gartner Group shows that documents consume up to 60% of office work time for employees, and also represent up to 45% of manual labor. Clearly, the time spent on these routine and mundane tasks makes it impossible for workers to dedicate themselves toward generating profit.

Small businesses tend to be less enthusiastic when adopting document management software, because they view it as a cost rather than an investment. In addition, the socio-economic situation leads these entrepreneurs to think more about tomorrow and less about the long-term future. Medium sized companies tend to have an I.T. department which has a more global view, and performs the role of an internal systems consultant, serving the needs of each business unit centrally. Therefore, these personnel members are the ideal persons to consult with during the process of implementing a new document management technology.

Innovate or lose

Given the current crisis, it is necessary for companies to innovate. An effective way of achieving this is through expert guidance, which will provide a perspective for the short to medium future. Most importantly, it will show the company that thanks to a document management system, the company┬┤s resources can be used in a correct way.

For their part, document technology software enterprises should make it their mission to show SMEs the way forward by helping them to perceive document management not as an obstacle, a potential technological problem, or as a training problem for personnel. Instead, it should be viewed as a business development opportunity.

Each company has its own perception of what would be the ideal document management tool, considering their respective needs. For this reason it is absolutely essential for document management software providers to adapt their systems to the profile of each company.

All in All

Evidently, it is imperative that the company rethink what their real needs are, in order to determine what would be the appropriate document management system for them. In other words, we must define the needs of each organization at a specific time, whilst at the same time considering future projections.

Using a perspective outlook and involving all business processes with their corresponding departments in mind is the key to determining what technology is right for each company. That is, viewing it as an overall concept and integrating the company┬┤s personnel in the software implementation process will assure its success.

Having examined the technological offers of companies providing document management software, we recommend that both parties be flexible, to make way for innovation and improvisation during the implementation process. Sometimes, you need other tools than management might have in mind.

Resolve needs with effective solutions

Choosing the correct and a complete document management solution will be an optimal advantage for the entire organization. Solution providers must have a global vision of the market situation and the specific needs of each company. Moreover, small and medium sized companies lack in-house expert advice, which means that providers must be able to offer these companies only what they need, combined with technical support and maintenance adapted to their requirements.

One option that is becoming an alternative to the economic crisis for SMEs, is the unification of managed communication services. In fact, a study by consulting firm IDC forecasts the market to be aimed at unified communications and collaboration (U.C.C.). During the 2010-2015 period, the figures reveal a trend that will be implemented by small and medium sized businesses: outsourcing solutions relating to unified and collaborative communications as a service, rather than managing them in-house, thereby reducing the cost of managing and maintaining the network. In addition, document management technology is adapting to this new paradigm and document management software manufacturers will begin to offer their systems and document management software as ‘cloud’ services.

Search Engine Technologies, Software, and Metrics

You know, it all starts out with that URL, really. That’s where the SEO starts; it starts with the URL, because of the fact that it’s imprinted on HTML code from the get-go. Remember that this is what search engines like Google do. They download HTML code, and then they run their proprietary formulas of billions of variables over all of the code. You can sort of deduce on your own, what you’d do with a linear formulaic expression that would analyze HTML code. You’d basically start with the, well, basics. When you look at something, you look at the size of that something first. If you’re filling your webpage or your website with a bunch of dynamic data, then that will be noticed, right off the bat. You’ll be seeing a lot of call instructions and URLs that link to Java applets and the like, instead of the quantity of text that you see on the screen. Remember that these search engines, for the most anyway (there are experimental technologies that are trying to do just this, with photo analysis sort of systems), are not actually looking at the screen; they’re looking at the code.

So, straight away, right there, you can tell the true SEO specialist from the bedroom bunker solider (you know, the kind of SEO officer that’s basically set up bases from his laptop, at his mother’s house). If the SEO guy’s telling you that “this doesn’t look good,” you can tell him to basically shove it, because search engines don’t care about “look.” They care about code. Okay, back to the “basics:” how do you quantify things, when you first are introduced to an idea. You basically take its dimensions. So, again, straight away, if you’re plugging a bunch of call instructions (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because the actual page is cached via the search engine anyway), in order to populate your page dynamically, then that will be evident, because the first thing that a web search engine string will do, is quantify what all is there. It’s a completely systematic and hierarchical thing, that sometimes seems relational, in the data sort of way, but it isn’t. Even if it was relational, remember that in the end, software is zero-sum. It’s always going to be a zero-sum situation, which is why it makes the matter of evaluating software so simple and straight forward; it either works or it doesn’t.