list of trends. In the past year we've covered a number of patent disputes including the Word-blocking patent against Microsoft and VoloMedia's patent on podcasting. Union Square Ventures' Brad Burnham wrote an excellent piece today on independent invention and how patent reform can minimize trolls.When we wrote our year end posts for 2009, we should've added patent trolling to our
Said Burnham, "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 being attacked by companies that were not even in the same market, very often by companies they did not even know existed."
What's this? How can you be accused of stealing another's intellectual property when you didn't even know the company or patent existed? Independent invention is the idea that a group of software engineers can build a technology similar to one that has already been patented with no prior knowledge of the patent. For example, take the lingering case of the iPhone fart app disputes. Burnham argues that with an independent invention defense, patent holders would have to prove that startups had some prior knowledge of their technology before pursuing action. He argues that this would decrease patent abuse and place the burden of proof on those that are more likely to abuse IP law. In your opinion do you think Burnham's vision of patent reform is a sound one? Why or why not?