Thursday, 4 January 2007

So patents are evil are they?

Scarcely a week goes by without some story emerging of a failed technology company pressing to extract money from others on the grounds of their "infringed intellectual property". The latest example being: Company Gets Patent On Digital Downloads; Sues Everyone. I often take a look at the actual patent issued in these cases, after all most of our investees are looking to make money from their IP. Although the blogosphere generally treats such stories with loud cries that amount to patents being evil, as someone who backs entrepreneurs, inventors and tiny start-up companies I can see the benefits of having a strong patent system. When you look closely you often find that there is a nugget of truth in the claimants case: after all, how do you tell the difference between an inventor/start-up which has been trampled on by it's competitors paying no attention to its genuine innovations, or a "patent troll". However, in this case I have to say the claim 1 seems outrageous to me as I seem to recall that such things were being widely discussed before the September 2001 filing date:

1. A system for managing and marketing digital media content supplied by a plurality of media content suppliers to a plurality of consumers, the system comprising: a processor operable to combine media assets supplied by the media content suppliers and metadata to create a media content offering for use by the consumers said processor having a private service interface adapted to permit the media content suppliers to directly access the system to administer the media content offering; a database for storing the media content offering; a file repository for storing media content associated with the media content offering; and a server adapted to distribute media content stored in said file repository.
A quick check on Wikipedia suggests that "The big record companies were apprehensive to license their catalogs to outside companies and refused the late 90's requests of, Cductive and eMusic (then called Goodnoise) to sell digital song downloads.".