“One Click Shopping” – ah, the good old days

As I’ve gone down the route to starting my company, I’ve had to anchor around how I’m different than the other thousand companies trying to do online community engagement. The key is in our unique algorithm to drive incentives and accountability.  However, once we gain some traction, it will be obvious why that is better than what exists today, and so we fully expect other companies to quickly copy our use-cases.

While imitation may be the highest form of flattery, flattery doesn’t get you funded – VCs want barriers to entry.  So like any good entrepreneur, I’ve chatted with a few attorneys about filing a patent – I mean if amazon can patent “one click shopping”, surely my idea should be patentable.  “Not so” say the patent attorneys.  Apparently, the trend now is to issue patents for physical things – if you can code it into a physical box – you have a chance, but if it’s just a business model or software, be prepared for an uphill battle.

After being told this twice in under a week (with almost frighteningly similar analogies to “if you can’t kick it, you can’t patent it”), I did a bit of research and learned a little of what is going on.  Apparently this was all started by the Bilski case, and has since started a change in attitude by the patent office and even a public outcry for reduction in software patents.  There is a great thread on slashdot for more info, but the key point is – if you’re starting a software business and IP protection is a barrier to entry you assume available to you – you might want to think again.

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