Enterprise 2.0 Technology Patenting


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Recently I came across an extremely interesting article in InformationWeek called Mad Rush For Enterprise 2.0 Patents by Alexander Wolfe with an in-depth overview of the latest patents issued to software developers in the Enterprise 2.0 field.

As a passionate participant in this evolving market, I was more than intrigued to learn about the recent developments here and simple couldnt refrain from expressing my opinion.

Frankly speaking, I could hardly get my way through the patent descriptions. I totally agree with Alexander that the “patent-lawyer-ese” language used in the patents descriptions is a bit hard to follow and produces rather more questions than answers. However, my general impression can be better described as astonishment and incomprehension.

My key finding is that the Big Boys patents described in the article could be divided into two parts. First, the green button patents for some insignificant features. Second, extremely generic patents that cover functionality already present in some way in existing Enterprise 2.0 solutions. While the first group is not so important for market development, the second one could pose a real threat to the competitive environment and lead to serious misunderstandings in the future.

Product development requires continuous tracking of technology improvements in the industry. At Bitrix, we carefully follow other intranet products functions & features. This is not understandable, as it let us stay tuned to what is happening in the industry, evaluate the trends and provide our customers with solutions better reflecting current market demand. And, of course, it is essential to know where the competition is in order to stay a step ahead of them.

I admit my “patent-lawyer-ese” is not good enough to understand the real meaning of the technologies described in the reviewed patents and requires a specilized dictionary. But I cannot stop thinking that the patents actually disguise the commonly adopted practices already presented in existing products or something that general that can be applied to virtually any technology to be developed in the future.

A good example is the Vyews patent application entitled System and method for a collaborative web-based multimedia layered platform with recording and selective playback of content, which “illustrates an example of synchronizing and annotation of a drawing in a shared space through various input devices in accordance with an embodiment of the invention”. If you are lucky to make it through this description unharmed, you could easily come to the conclusion that it can be applied to virtually any multimedia feature in intranet portals.

Another example is OpenTexts LivePlaces patented technology that is nothing more than rich user profiles floridly named “peripheral vision”, i.e. a central status repository showing everything in one’s collaborative workspace.

Modern patenting reminds me of marking off squares on the surface of the moon and putting flags on them to show who can own what plots some hundred years after. Any motivation for any organization to build a spaceship and technologies for colonizing the moon?

Well, yes, we live in a cruel world. The world where greed is good, greed works. A world that legalizes the ownership of future development by entities that have have pushy lawyers on hand and can afford investing money in the future patent wars. I doubt these patents are for actual product development but rather for increasing stock value and safeguarding patent security.

I absolutely agree with Alexanders response to one of the patents: You be the judge of whether this stuff is obvious from prior art. That’s not really the point. (Because while it might be a point of law, it’s not always an impediment to obtaining a patent, and only comes out, if at all, in the litigation wash afterwards.). I am not a GNU fan, but I believe the modern patenting approach should definitely change, giving future development a fair chance and protecting software developers.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Denis Zenkin
Denis Zenkin has 15+ years' experience in high-tech marketing. He currently leads global marketing at Bitrix, Inc. – a multi-national developer of Enterprise 2. and website management solutions with a special focus on SMB. Denis is a frequent speaker at industry-specific events covering social-enabled intranet technologies, and regularly publishes articles on E2. adoption practices.


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