What does IP mean in Digital medium


From my understanding of Paul Graham's Article http://paulgraham.com/msftpatent.html, IP doesn't have much affect on digital products/services. For example, youtube, tinyurl, groupon, kickstarter all have been copied. Does it not infringe IP. Can you give examples where an IP is infringed & where it is not

Is it True?

Patents are even less of a worry for free software. Even Microsoft is constrained by public opinion. Can you imagine the stink it would raise if Microsoft tried to shut down an open-source project for patent infringement? I've never heard of any company, big or small, trying to shut down an open-source project over a patent.
How is it done?
However, if you're worried about ideas being taken out of circulation by being patented, the thing to do is publish every idea you have as soon as you have it. No one can patent an idea that has already been published by someone else.
why he feels Server-Based Applications won't have a problem.
And if you want to start a startup and are worried about getting caught in a web of patents, build a server-based application. That kind of project is far too messy and hands-on for anyone to get very far into it in a corporate R&D department.

Patent Intellectual Property

asked Jan 1 '11 at 04:23
Manish Nair
8 points
  • I like Steve Blanks little overview of IP as a good beginners introduction to which kinds of IP there is: http://steveblank.com/2009/12/10/someone-stole-my-startup-idea-%E2%80%93-part-3-the-best-defense-is-a-good-strategy/Jesper Mortensen 12 years ago
  • Thank you Jesper on the article. One of the comments on that article asks how a patent could be applied to a lean startups. can you clarify on that. – Manish Nair 12 years ago
  • Can you explain this part on the article -- " The details have to allow others to duplicate your invention from your description and has to the “best mode” in describing critical techniques/technologies." – Manish Nair 12 years ago

2 Answers


Digital IP is important but more for a defensive position rather than an offensive position. With the rapid advances that come out of the web, it's more about time to market then your rich IP portfolio.

Digital IP is still worth something since method patents are enforced all the time. For example. Amazon's 1-click purchase has been patented. eHarmony's match method has also been patented. Both of these "digital" patents are valuable and can be enforced. Would the fact that they both exist prevent you from doing a shopping site or a dating site. Probably not since the concept of shopping and dating cannot be patented.

answered Jan 1 '11 at 12:24
Jarie Bolander
11,421 points
  • Thank you for giving examples. Can you recommend a book/article which explains this in-depth with more examples. – Manish Nair 12 years ago
  • I see a number of bookmarking sites booming after the news of future sell off/shut down of delicious. I think they would be having more/less the same features. how does IP apply here. – Manish Nair 12 years ago
  • @Manish Nair. I don't know of an article or book off hand. You might try searching for intellectual property infringement or something like that. – Jarie Bolander 12 years ago
  • Thank you Jarie. – Manish Nair 12 years ago


In response to "I've never heard of any company, big or small, trying to shut down an open-source project over a patent."

Patently untrue. See DeCSS court case and rtmpdump family of tools(there was an attempt at litigation).

As far as spin off sites, you can't patent streaming video hosting, but you could patent a delivery vehicle to ensure advertising is rendered or some such thing. Personally I am against IP in most cases. Copyright on training books with extremely high prices for example and China not respecting copyright law so their students have more "free" training material is the case and point. I'm not against charging for knowledge, but there are moral/ethical limits to needing two pages of data from a 3000 page tome that costs $300 to legally purchase. Just thoughts...

answered Jan 1 '11 at 14:42
121 points
  • Thank you for your inputs. – Manish Nair 12 years ago
  • I recently read on a blog that IBM applied for a patent after improving upon an open source project & got it (after 3 failed attempts). is that legal to improve upon an open source project & patent it? – Manish Nair 12 years ago
  • Depends on the licensing. You could patent the improvement under some circumstances, like a BSD licensed product. The improvement only could be patented though. I have a lot of respect for IBM though, if I remember correctly they paid part or all of the FIPS certification for source code cost on openssl(a fairly hefty price tag). – Hbdgaf 12 years ago
  • Thank you for the information. – Manish Nair 12 years ago

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