Patents – the new concept car

Business by on June 22, 2005 at 2:32 pm

Patents today are being increasingly utilized by large companies to stake claims to ideas, concepts and future technology. Much like concept cars, the technology implied by patents is frequently never implemented or not even practical. For large software and Internet companies, laying claim to these ideas is a necessity - just in case their future development takes them down that path.

Much has been made of the implications of Google’s recent patent application and its impact on SEO techniques. I can see thousands of amateur (and expert) SEO teams scurrying around trying to comply with all of these ‘new’ techniques. Much of the patent talks about techniques for using link velocity and domain ownership information to identify ‘spam’ websites. So how much of this has been implemented?

Well, the patent application was released to the public on March 31, 2005, and applied for on December 31, 2003. The process for submitting this application would have had to begun at least a month (if not much longer) in advance. Google officially became a domain registrar on January 30, 2005. Google’s primary goal was to access the domain registry information to detect spam websites. Many of the techniques cited in the patent application are only possible with this data. In fact, Google can only know if these techniques are viable once they have access to the data.

It is possible that Google may have found other means to access the data prior to becoming a registrar, and they may have done the testing necessary and implementation prior to submitting the patent. I think it is far more likely that Google realized the importance of intellectual property in search (remember their several hundred million dollar settlement to Yahoo for violating their Overture patents) and has since been staking patent claims on any idea that might be usable.

So what does this imply for innovation? Certainly patents on ideas that are never implemented clog the patent office and stifle innovation.


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