Last night during an Internet Week event at General Assembly, investors Fred Wilson, David Lee, and Chris Dixon took the stage to talk about a range of topics related to startups, including one that’s been a source of angst for many a startup: patents.
It’s a topic that Wilson has discussed before on his blog (most recently in this post titled Enough is Enough, and he didn’t mince his words:
“The basic problem with patents is that you’re trying to assign property rights to something that doesn’t deserve property rights. The fact that these property rights end up in the hands of financial owners as opposed to the original inventors just exacerbates the problem. The basic problem is that Chris [Dixon] and a bunch of engineers can be sitting at Hunch designing some amazing new feature and somebody unbeknownst to them has a patent on this feature and never actually implemented it and can now screw them over… It’s just not right, it shouldn’t exist.”
Lee then followed up by briefly discussing the distinction between a patent and a copyright. Dixonexpanded on more issues with the patent system, including the fact that many of the assigned patents are blatantly obvious. Check out the video for the full discussion (it’s around four minutes long).