How to patent a steak…

Patents are a big deal in my industry, I spend a lot of time working with technology that is patented, I work in a business where people are paid for filing patents, many of which have actually never been used, and most of all I work in a business where massive companies fight over patents trade patents as weapons for defensive and offensive actions.

I myself have no patents. I fundamentally disagree with the way patents have been used ever since I first became aware of them, and that was a very long time after I first started reading the source code for IBM System Software. As far as I can remember, that IBM source code was copyright, but I don’t remember seeing long lists of patents and patent numbers in the source code. That was the late 1970’s.

Patent law for the nonlawyer: A guide for the engineer, technologist, and manager
Patent law for the nonlawyer: A guide for the engineer, technologist, and manager

The problem is, understanding patent law can be really difficult. Ironically, after working with IBM legal 10-years ago in negotiations with the European Commision, I went back to the IBM Poughkeepsie office and they were closing down the physical lending library and giving away all the books. I picked up a few, including this one.

However, today I heard the best example and explanation on patent law, the difficulties with it, and how absurd it can be, and how it can be abused. It was Episode #399 of the Planet Money podcast, How to patent a steak.

Author: Mark Cathcart

Formerly an Executive Director of Systems Engineering and a Senior Distinguished Engineer at Dell. Prior to that, an IBM Distinguished Engineer working for the Systems Group in NY and Austin. I'm currently "retired until further notice".

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