I, Patent Troll

In the dot-com days, my work led to three, count 'em, three patent applications. In all cases, I'd signed over the IP rights to the company. Both companies went bankrupt before the patents went through, leaving me to understand that the IP is now the property of creditors, who were free to auction it off or use it to create their own chimerical success story or, most likely, throw the CD in the bottom-drawer and wait for it to oxidize.

Anyway, I'm kind of jealous that I don't have a patent. My brother has a great one -- you know when they use a cotton swab on your laptop at the airport? Thank Steve O'Brien.

So I've been thinking that, in my copious spare time, I should get myself a patent. Sure, if they go through on the first pass (doubtful), it'll cost around \$1,000 in filing fees. But, hey, which would give me more pleasure, a patent or two-thirds of a cheap HDTV? Of course, I could spend thousands of dollars on a patent attorney, but while I'm sure there are good patent attorneys that are worth every penny, I strongly suspect that a cheap patent attorney is like a cheap tax-preparer: you still do the same amount of work explaining and checking as you'd do if you file yourself. (That was certainly my experience previously.)

The nice thing about patents is that the full text of granted patents are available. It's not that hard to parse out the specialized syntax and, while it's unquestionable that I could misuse a term of art, the patent office has given patents to combovers ; is it really likely to ding me on my sloppiness with the word "whereby"?

Coming up with patentable ideas is easy. (30-second pause.) Automatic ranking of dart-throwing skill by means of a neural net. A lava-escape device consisting of a highly heat-resistant snowboard. A means of swinging from a substantially horizontal tree branch. (Oops)

Of course, I'll probably never spend the time to actually write a patent, but if I do, I'll blog the process here.