Short Patent Satire

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This is a creative story that attempts to ridicule certain patents. Edit it mercilessly as you would any other FDL-licensed text. Originally written in November 2008 by Dara Adib.

One day in 2007, Mr. Joe entered his conference room. He read the sign that introduced consumers to his company: "IP Licensing, LLC. We support the advancement of the science of genetics. Owning over 40,000 patents, we define innovation."

Mr. Joe recalled the past 15 years of work. He thought his work was greatly rewarding. As IP Licensing's vice president of intellectual property affairs, he had to make sure the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) would accept patents the company filed.

The process was repetitive and cyclical. He had a team of researchers that would read science fiction (occasionally a science journal, too) and go around asking children random questions. Each researcher would make a list of their technical findings. Their boss, Mr. Joe, would hand the lists to his secretary, who would type up the lists and award points to the researcher with the longest list. At the end of the year, the researcher with the highest number of points would win an undisclosed amount of money.

Mr. Joe would electronically send these lists to a team of legal experts, in charge of drafting patent applications. Their job was distressing - English got translated into Patentese. Generally speaking, Patentese sounds a lot like vague and clouded English written with ten times the number of words. It is usually undecipherable except by a highly-paid lawyer. The legal experts at IP Licensing would increase the word-count of the patent application and obfuscate as much as possible.

The final products would be sent to Mr. Joe, who would send the applications to another department that would repeat the process. Eventually, the patent application would be sent to the USPTO, which under constant pressure, would approve the applications after frustration with comprehending Patentese and checking for prior art. This process was very tedious, and billions of dollars were effectively spent for research and development. It certainly paid off, as IP Licensing had eliminated all of the competition.

Mr. Joe had a special tactic for this purpose. Out of the company's portfolio of thousands of patents, a legal expert would find a handful of patents the competitor "stole" (technically "infringed upon"). The competitor could either go to court where it would face IP Licensing's army of legal experts, pay licensing fees that would bankrupt any company, or leave the area of competition. Most companies wisely chose the third option, and adapted their field to be distinct from IP Licensing's. Without any competition, IP Licensing's road to success was left unobstructed and the money could start flowing in.

With thousands of patents on basically anything imaginable, it was easy to go around to individuals and corporations alike and demand large sums of money. Whereas the competitor could leave the field of work, these guilty parties had only two options: licensing or a loss in court that would result in double the sum plus legal fees worthy of an army. Few went through the court path, and IP Licensing was exponentially increasing its profits. IP Licensing's stock value had also increased exponentially, and Mr. Joe had become the second-richest person in the world, after his CEO.

In essence, Mr. Joe could out-think the competition. Already, the US government had decided to turn its eye away from the company, fearing that openly criticizing it in any way would result in yet another court case won by IP Licensing between IP Licensing and the People of the United States of America. Mr. Joe was only scared that another Communist might criticize IP Licensing.

To allay his fears, Mr. Joe had started a billion dollar campaign to educate the public about the benefit society gets from extending intellectual property rights. After all, who doesn't want to compensate authors and inventors for their natural rights. On one end the campaign focused on educational institutions, with the belief in mind that children educated to be pro-IP (that is, to be in support of intellectual property rights) would influence their parents and vote for pro-IP politicians when they turned 18. The other end of the campaign focused on establishing a fear of intellectual property pirates. In essence the message was, not supporting intellectual property is equivalent to piracy which is in turn equivalent to stealing. As their campaign ad went: "You wouldn't steal a car. You wouldn't steal a handbag. You wouldnt steal a mobile phone. You wouldn't steal intellectual property. Supporting anti-intellectual Communists is stealing ... Stealing is against the law ... Piracy: It's a crime."

With the original phase of the company finished, Mr. Joe signed Order 0066.

Mr. Doe arrived home after a long and grueling day at work. The phone range twice and Mr. Doe picked up. The automated speaker began to introduce itself.

"I am calling on behalf of I-P Licensing, L-L-C. IP Licensing is a family-owned company that supports the advancement of the science of genetics through the development of intellectual property. Owning over 40,000 patents, we define innovation."

Mr. Doe recalled the ads he had seen on his television from IP Licensing and was grateful to receive a phone call. After all, it isn't very often that one receives a call from a leading intellectual. The speaker continued.

"We would like to notify that you infringe on a number of our patents. We kindly offer to license our patents."

Mr. Doe panicked at the word "infringe" and a million thoughts passed through his mind. "Patents? Infringement? Infringement? ... Infringement. It's a crime." In his mind he started thinking logically. "Patents" = "Innovation" and "Infringement" = "Stealing" = "Piracy". Therefore infringement on patents must be stealing innovation, a crime equivalent to attacking ships on the high seas and kidnapping or murdering the people on them. Mr. Doe remained silent for a long time, and the automated voice stopped talking.

Mr. Doe calmly asked "What are my options?"

The automated voice answered "People have to play by the rules. Companies spend billions on R&D. We kindly offer licensing as an acceptable option. Court is another option, but you will lose ownership of the infringing material and pay extensive fees."

Mr. Doe kept his senses, remembering the story of the company that had challenged IP Licensing. The company had gone bankrupt and its CEO was spending a decade in federal prison on charges of money laundering.

He calmly asked "What is the patent on?"

The automated voice answered "As part of our sponsorship of extensive research on the science of genetics, we have patented the organic code CTGACCTA to compensate for the cost of feeding our researchers and their families."

Mr. Doe was confused at what he had to do with committing a crime, but the voice sounded reasonable.

He calmly stated "Sounds reasonable. But I have never used that code. You must have been mistaken. I have not committed stealing. I'm not even involved in the field of genetics."

As per standard monotonous protocol, the automated voice answered "Our evidence of your infringement is certain. You must prove your innocence. Acts of infringement include, but are not limited to: protein synthesis of several proteins, the use of several enzymes, the creation of several strands of tRNA and mRNA, as well as other processes depending on the previously mentioned acts of infringement."

Mr. Doe was completely baffled. He looked up "tRNA," "mRNA," and "protein synthesis" in an encyclopedia. It sounded like the foreign language class he had flunked in college, with many references to the creation of "amino acids" and "organic catalysts."

Becoming frustrated, he told the voice as frankly as possible "I never created any cells. I don't know what you are talking about."

The same monotonous voice answered "Your use of the word 'cells' proves your guilt. You actually commit over 2 billion acts of infringement daily, and multiple actions which result in extensive damages to I-P Licensing, L-L-C. Settle or see you in court. Thank you for speaking with an IP Licensing representative. I-P Licensing, giving you freedom with choices. Have a nice day."

Mr. Doe stood by his phone uncertain what to do.

In another world, Mr. Joe smiled and threw a chair in celebration.