Why We Need An Independent Invention Defense
My partner Brad wrote an impassioned plea for an "Independent Invention Defense" for patent infringement claims. He starts his post with this observation.
Almost a third of our portfolio is under attack by patent trolls. Is it possible that one third of the engineering teams in our portfolio unethically misappropriated technology from someone else and then made that the basis of their web services? No! That's not what is happening. Our companies are driven by imaginative and innovative engineering teams that are focused on creating social value by bringing innovative new services to market. Our portfolio companies are being attacked by companies that were not even in the same market, very often by companies they did not even know existed.
We can argue about software patents or patents in general. I'm not a fan. I don't think they encourage innovation in many sectors, maybe most sectors. But I recognize that they play a role in protecting inventors from others blatantly stealing their innovations.
But anyone who has spent a significant time in technology based businesses will understand that two groups working completely independently from each other will often solve a problem similarly. One group is not copying or ripping off the other group. They are simply coming to similar conclusions about how to get something done.
In these cases, it makes no sense to protect one group from the other. Nobody has taken anyone's "intellectual property." Both groups should own their inventions outright without having to license technology from the other.
That's not how it works today and as a result, our portfolio companies and entrepreneurs and startups all over this country are paying a very high tax on innovation. Read Brad's post for more details on the costs of bad patent policy and what we should do about it.