I have ideas. I have quite a few ideas, and one of the biggest challenges for me is determining what to do with my ideas. As Ludwig Wittgenstein put it:
The difference between a good and a poor architect is that the poor architect succumbs to every temptation and the good one resists it.
I started this blogging effort to document the work I was doing, and that work started out being very personal, a one-off effort to build the ultimate ergonomic guitar. It has snow-balled and diverted into becoming a small business developing and selling lightweight hardware for headless guitars. It is giving me a lot of pleasure, and seeing a finished instrument with my hardware is a great feeling.
My thoughts and design process are documented here, and I even publish the drawings for the bridges I develop. They are all licensed under a particular version of Creative Commons that means that you are free to use my ideas as long as you yourself publish and license them under the same conditions, and, most importantly to me, that you attribute the ideas to me. If you use anything that I came up with, you need to make known that the idea came from me and link to my site. This is a form of copyright (“copyleft”) that is just as legally binding as anything else, but is intended to minimize the effort of sharing. I recently found the first derivative works on eBay without this attribution, and it concerns me. Obviously something is amiss in my thought process.
Why patent? I can pursue a copyleft/copyright violation in pretty much the same way as a patent infringement. The cases are not quite an apples-to-apples comparison, but for this discussion, I don’t think it is a big difference (not being a patent expert.) The difference is that a patent becomes a commodity – a piece of intellectual property that can be traded and sold. If I come up with an idea that is novel, I can patent it and obtain a well documented basis for protection of the idea and whether I use it or not in my own work, it is something that I can trade.
But if it’s public, it’s not novel. It’s common knowledge and considered “prior art”. Quite a few of my ideas are in this limbo right at this moment.
Let me know your thoughts. My copyleft strategy is intended to build goodwill and my name. This in turn will lead to business, and even if someone copies my work, they have to give me free advertising as the original developer. The patent strategy, on the other hand, will allow me to get a finer granularity of who can use my ideas, with the same “advertising”, but possibly make money from it as well. I also get better protection, but at the expense of the “open source” type development that I started with.