Question: What do software application developer-programmers and chefs have in common? Answer: They both spend all day long trying to create new things and have nightmares about the fact that their creations might too closely resemble the work of some other creative genius in the past.
Except it doesn’t quite work like that.
Chefs are generally allowed to ‘reinterpret and reinvent’ recipes and concepts for presenting food that are inspired by other cooks, cuisines and cultures. As long as one restaurant or eaterie doesn’t copycat emulate another in exact name or concept, it’s generally okay — although both US and international law has been traditionally cloudy in this area and it hasn’t stopped some restaurateurs filing a few lawsuits.
You can’t copy an omelette
Nobody ever got massively sued for making an omelette – it’s eggs and butter with some optional ham and cheese. But the same rule does not exactly apply to the software application development business, where programmers also concoct recipes (combine software code and platforms) and present a finished product with a look and feel (design a graphical user interface) that they hope users will adopt. Developers, it seems, need to be a whole lot more careful about what they develop and be wary of potential patent infringements.
This difficult (if not unfortunate) truth has driven the development of what has been called Intellectual Property (IP) patent visualization. This has also been called patinformatics, “[The] science of analyzing patent information to discover relationships and trends that would be difficult to see when working with patent documents on a one-and-one basis.”
A new breed of vendors has sprung up to serve developers with this kind of IP know-how… and among them is PatSnap, a firm that describes itself as a specialist in analyzing tech trends and competitor intelligence.
“The problem is that IP and patent data is relatively inaccessible to most software developers due to a number of reasons: the language used by patents is mainly legal jargon to almost anyone who is not a lawyer; patents are stored in a variety of formats, languages & places and new patents number in the millions each year, making it difficult to navigate the innovation landscape; plus, it can take months for a request on the analysis of IP data to be pulled together by a law firm at a high price,” said Ray Chohan, SVP, corporate strategy at PatSnap.
A brief history of litigation
PatSnap has created a cloud platform that incorporates over 120 million patents, chemical data, patent valuation, licensing and litigation data, image and chemical formula search and trademark recognition to create what it claims is a comprehensive R&D dataset. Software developers are supposedly able to bypass the hassle of manually extracting IP information about their potential competitors’ technologies and view litigation history for certain technologies or companies.
On the question of whether or not the software is in fact a platform as opposed to a mere product, PatSnap says that users can build queries, competitor analyses, collaborative workspaces for development teams, update notifications for when a specific company files a new patent application, 3D tech landscape maps and other ‘on top of’ functions — hence the justifcation of the term platform.