This doesn’t just matter to lawyers. Engineering teams, developers, and inventors care too: companies that fight patent aggression are finding they’re more attractive to talent, particularly software engineers.
Many software developers are instinctively opposed to patents: software engineers generally dislike patents, and believe in the open source community and collaboration unhindered by patents. Given my company’s commitment to open source development, many of our employees feel the same way. Often, companies struggle to convince their engineers to file patents, because the inventors worry the patents could fall into the wrong hands. An engineer whose patent is used in a frivolous patent suit risks harming his or her reputation.
In an increasingly competitive market for talent, employees are selective and choose employers based on a variety of factors, including philosophical alignment. One thing we’ve found that makes us an attractive employer is our membership in the LOT Network. If their patents fall into the hands of a patent assertion entity, the other members of the community get a free license to those patents. The licensed patents can then no longer be used against any company in the network. Because many of the world’s top patent holders are members, the LOT Network protects those in the group from over 1.4 million patents. As more companies join, those protections increase.
Companies that participate in organizations like the LOT (License-on-Transfer) Network can assure their engineers their patents won’t be used to harm innovation. Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about. In a world where competition is stiff and the pressure to innovate is intense, taking a stand against patent aggression and engaging in good corporate citizenship is an investment. It pays returns not just to the bottom line, but to our company’s ability to hire and keep the best talent on the market.
—By David Perry, senior patent lawyer at Red Hat, which IBM recently announced its intention to acquire in a $34 billion deal