Reality Check

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The perspective granted by Web analytics tools can be both a blessing and a curse. I’m intelligent and insightful, you know, and I get link love from highly respected bloggers; sure, I’m no A-lister, but I’m generally pretty happy with what I write here, you know? A (small|select) group of people is interested in what I have to say, and that makes me feel good.

So what is it that draws people to this blog, you ask, over all the others out there? Well, yesterday MyBlogLog provided the answer to that question:

seamonkeyrodeo top outgoing links

Yes, my parents are very proud.

Lunchtime IP Musings: one down, 3,808 to go?

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Slashdot today informs me that Microsoft has “retracted their recent controversial patent application”.

[Hands up, everybody who read that sentence and thought “wait, which recent controversial patent application? I’ve lost track…is that the RSS thing or one of the other ones?” ]

So no, it wasn’t the RSS thing, and to be blunt, neither you nor I really care all that much about the specifics of the retracted application, so just follow the link if you’re really all that curious. I’ll still be here when you get back.

Putting aside the contents of the application, then, what strikes me as interesting about this is that the statement regarding the retraction (which came from a member of Microsoft’s research group) contained the phrase “[T]he patent application was a mistake and one that should not have happened.”

As with Microsoft’s game show patent, this makes me suspect that there’s a division of the company that does nothing but walk around the conference rooms, transcribing anything that wasn’t erased from each whiteboard directly on to a patent application.

You see, it’s a bit of a trick to accidentally file for a patent; this doesn’t seem like a “mistake” to me as much as a mis-alignment between Microsoft’s corporate view of research and IP and the view of (at least some of) those doing the research, and that’s pretty scary. Either those doing the work are divorced from the patent application process, or the process though which research/development and legal communicate undervalues or discourages messages like “these new features are direct responses to features available in software that we compete with.”

Microsoft published 3,808 other patent applications in 2005 and 2006 — was this an isolated case, or are there other “accidental” applications still queued up for approval? How much will it cost to fix it if “accidental” patents are granted?

As with the tootsie pop question, I suspect that the world may never know.

Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

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Man, oh, man — I can’t wait for this to hit Slashdot.

January 18, 2007 was apparently intellectual-property-a-go-go day for the USPTO: it brings us published patent applications from Microsoft (#20070016532 – Digital application operating according to aggregation of plurality of licenses) and IBM (#20070016531 – System, method and program product to determine resolution when software installed on a computer is not property licensed).

Applications for software patents, on software that’s essentially Digital Rights Management tools…mmmm, delicious. And to make it even sweeter, they’re coming from IBM (year after year the world’s most prolific patent filer) and Microsoft (a company that’s making a serious IP push, tentatively in the #18 slot for patent applications filed in 2005…up from #29 in 2004).

If only they had worked out a way to attach lawsuits against somebody’s 90 year old grandmother in Oklahoma to the applications, this could have been the Slashdotter’s nightmare of US intellectual property law. Oh, well. Maybe next time.

My VRM Honeymoon

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A week off the grid does a body (and mind) good. Mona just took her first extended trip since Gwen’s birth (740 days ago, as it happens), so Gwen and I had our first week alone together. Very, very good.

While I’ve been off the grid for the whole week, I have had a few minutes here and there to think, and since very few of you read this seeking insight about my home life I’ll pass along a few of those thoughts.

I realized that I’m really enjoying my VRM honeymoon. You see, I started thinking about what Doc Searls now calls “vendor relationship management” a couple of years ago, after Doc posted some first thoughts on the topic. I can’t say that it’s been top of mind for me during that whole time, but it’s refused to go away. Then, a month or so ago, Doc kicked off ProjectVRM and I suddenly had a place to dump all stuff that’s been rolling around my head, to read more about what others are thinking, and start collaborating. And that makes for a pretty nice honeymoon.

You see, there will come a time when my backlog of thinking will no longer be sufficient to keep me making progress, and I’ll have to deal with time conflicts between VRM and everything else in my life. There will come a time when the groups working on VRM decide to go in a direction that irritates me, or feels inconsistent with my beliefs about or structural vision of VRM — though that direction may well be right.

There will come a time, in short, when the raw pleasure of sorting through an interesting and challenging problem will be mixed with the inevitable work required to create anything of value — sometimes frustrating, occasionally tedious, often difficult work.

As with the end of any honeymoon, what comes of that frustrating, tedious, difficult work will likely be even better than the honeymoon itself, and I’m even looking forward to it in a masochistic sort of way, but…well, it’s still nice to have the honeymoon, you know?