Since the dot-com bubble in the late 90s, the laws around the various patents, copyrights, and regulations that technology companies need to be aware of are becoming increasingly complicated to understand.
Not only is this causing major concerns and legal problems for many tech companies; some have even started exploiting the situation for their own benefit.
Who owns what?
These days, if one entrepreneur from America has an idea that they think is totally original, some “random dude” in Chile might already have thought of and patented it. The entrepreneur from America might very well have a much better plan for executing the idea and making the world a better place with it, but that’s not of any relevance as long as the person in Chile owns the patent for it.
A lot of business owners are starting to get confused about who owns what. An imaginary anecdote might be helpful for explaining how this causes problems:
Per Arne is a man with an idea. He lives in the city of Stavanger, Norway, and he dreams of starting his own company. He believes that he has invented a revolutionary new technology for cutting slices of brunost (“brown cheese”). Excitedly, he goes about making the first prototype – and it works splendidly! No longer does he get way too thick pieces of brunost that make him nauseous; nor do big lumps of the slices stick to the cutting tool after he has used it. The process now flows quite smoothly, just like with a hot knife cutting through butter.
There is one problem, though. Per Arne has heard from friends that he should consult a lawyer to find out whether anyone else has thought of this invention before and patented it. So he tries Googling for an advokat Stavanger (this means “lawyer” in Stavanger, and it’s probably what Per Arne in this case would search for) who can help him get clear on whether anyone owns any copyrights for this brunost cutting tool. This way, he won’t run into difficulties later down the line, spending lots of time resources to develop an idea that’s not originally his own.
High tech scarecrows
Per Arne finds a lawyer who can help him, but the news are not good. The lawyer tells him that there might exist a company that has copyrights to a similar cutting tool like the one he has just invented. The lawyer also tells him that this is a big international company that he’s been having trouble with in the past.
The issue is that this international company uses lawyers to scare off competitors. Whenever a small company or entrepreneur tries to take on the challenge of gaining a patent on something that is similar to what this big company has “secured,” they usually don’t have the resources to win. An apt name for the strategy these big companies use is “high tech scarecrows.”
Unfortunately, it seems that more and more tech giants are using lawyers to scare competitors from entering the market. Per Arne’s brunost cutting dream is thereby crushed, and so are the dreams of many other budding entrepreneurs.