Technology

State-sponsored patent entities threaten innovation

The popular mind connects the idea of patents with specific inventions: the telephone, the light bulb and the proverbial better mousetrap.

In reality, patent law is much more complex. The current information-driven economy has revealed shortcomings in the way patent law addresses innovations involving software and the information technology processes. To extend the mousetrap analogy, the way today’s technology patent process works it’s as if you can merely describe the process of baiting, trapping and killing the ordinary household rodent and gain the leverage to sue for patent infringement anyone who actually designs and builds any new mousetrap.

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Innovation act will crack down on patent trolls

The bipartisan Innovation Act introduced last week by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) is a strong response to the economic burden of patent trolls. This bill, which has both bipartisan and bicameral support, will reduce the unfair advantages and incentives that patent trolls rely on. It will also strengthen the patent system while making patent litigation more efficient, transparent, and balanced. The end result will be a boost for businesses across the country, and ultimately our economy.

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Future of communication is about more than phones

It may sound like something remarkable happened in the House of Representatives on Wednesday morning when the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held its hearing on “The Evolution of Wired Communications Networks.”

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First rule of patents: Do no harm to consumers

With the introduction of Rep. Goodlatte’s (R-Va.) patent reform bill today, the march for patent reform is moving forward. But a small, though growing, chorus is trying to halt this march under the guiding light that changes to the patent system should “do no harm.” As owners of patents, they parrot the meme that change might negatively impact their possessions and even their property rights.

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To treat innovation ills, remove funding roadblocks

Scientific enterprise faces its greatest challenge in decades. The effects of the federal shutdown, combined with budget cuts implemented this year as a result of sequestration, pose a significant barrier to healthcare innovation in both the public and private sectors.

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Cybernomics 101

Over the last few months there’s been tremendous speculation in the media surrounding leaks from the National Security Agency (NSA) and the ongoing commentary this continues to receive around the globe. Much of what we are reading is the stuff of spy novels, and in some cases media reports pursue headlines without understanding the substance of the content contained within the classified documents that they are reviewing.

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New USPTO director in for a bumpy ride

The leadership of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has been in a state of flux for many months.  This is unfortunate because innovation is one of the key drivers of the U.S. economy.  For example, in 1975 intellectual property and other intangible assets accounted for only 17 percent of the market value of the S&P 500.  Today, such value exceeds 80 percent. A study by the Department of Commerce revealed that in 2010 more than 27 percent of all jobs in the U.S. were (directly or indirectly) attributable to IP-intensive industries. IP industries have also been a leader in our economic recovery.   From 2010 to 2011, IP-intensive industries had a 1.6 percent increase in employment as compared to 1 percent for other industries. Clearly, intellectual property is a huge contributor to the U.S. economy and sustained economic growth.

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Stop trolls from slowing the growth of start-ups

Trolls are companies or individuals that do not develop or make anything, but use their patent ownership to demand money from others. From research to anecdotes, abundant evidence demonstrates the negative impact of patent trolls on individual companies and on America’s economy as a whole.

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An urgent national threat -- from space

In the acclaimed special-effects thriller Gravity, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play two astronauts stranded in the void of space after a cloud of debris from a Russian satellite collides with their shuttle.

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Glass ceiling in Silicon Valley

As a female startup owner, you’re used to spending hours juggling between your work and family responsibilities. Everyone tells you “ If you're really serious about building a startup, move to Silicon Valley.” You drop everything and follow your friend and family’s advice. "Why not?" You think. Silicon Valley is the place to be when it comes to entrepreneurial spirit and ideas.For a while I used to think that being at Silicon Valley signified a world of marvelous people working on their laptops at hipster coffee shops while developing the next great thing.   But then ... reality knocks at your door. You look around and find social and economic obstacles everywhere. The romantic view of the open-minded and liberal community of entrepreneurs unexpectedly fades away.  Your first thoughts: Oh My! This is a man’s, man’s world! The point is: There is a strong gender gap in the tech industry. Women are overwhelming underrepresented. And this is not as obvious as it may sound when it comes to Silicon Valley, and its implications should not be dismissed lightly.

Although the tech sector prides itself for being progressive and inclusive, it has done very little to address gender inequality, especially in terms of promoting women’s participation in high-level positions, and directing investment to female-owned startups (through gender-specific incubators, venture capital, and so on). And that is a controversial topic indeed. But if we want to move forward as a diverse and inclusive society, we need to spark this debate somewhere. 

To begin with, let’s start first by addressing stereotypes. Unfortunately, they are  the dominant lens through which others may judge us. From a female perspective, the male-geek stereotype is very alive and strong in the tech industry. Page, Karp, Dorsey, and Zuckerberg all typify the male-geek who hacked their way through to the top. Whether we blame the stereotype of anti-social and lonely hacker to a false construct of the media or Hollywood, it has certainly laid a particular foundation for the young generation: The ambitious, anti-political, fearless male entrepreneur.

This stereotype has certainly reinforced a culture of the powerful adolescent male whose computer knowledge is what sets his apart. Is this purely a marketing stratagem? Yes, it could be. But the real problem lies in the fact that those stereotypes have prescribed rigid roles to the young entrepreneur, and have interfered with women's ability to partake in that industry with confidence. I have been to meetings where I was frequently confronted with question of “don’t you code? It’s going to be hard to convince investors of how good your idea is” or “let’s have dinner instead” when I wanted to pitch my idea. The assumption is that investors are seeking the socially awkward, edgy young male genius. In this world, women have very little room to show their aptitudes.

These stereotypes are also reinforced by the dominant-male investment culture. While there are female organized incubators here and there, and crowd-funding efforts to fuel women’s startups, they are not sufficient. In most cases, female entrepreneurs rarely reach a round of venture capital. Silicon Valley lacks the organizational infrastructure to ensure women get the resources necessary (e.g., advice, networks, conferences, and finance) in order to break into the exclusive club of Angels and VCs.

Unfortunately, the investment landscape is composed of a small and wealthy community. These investors share information with each other. They advise each other on how to spend their money. Plus, their “big bucks” circulate from the hands of a few, and often come back to the same small group. These are people who frequented the same universities, coffee shops, and bars. It’s a private club virtually impossible to penetrate, and extremely intimidating for outsiders. Investment flows to the hands of the same men. To break down this vicious cycle, there is a strong need to diversify the investment portfolio everywhere in America and take into account a cross-gender perspective that places women front and center in this industry. 

Dantas is the founder of Notelr, a start-up online business focused on helping people improve their writing and web presentations.


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