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The Six Dimensions Of API Patents I Dwell On

Each story I publish about API patents will usually get a comment, Tweet, LinkedIn, or other comments letting me know that the owner of the patent is only doing it in a defensive pattern. I fully grasp that this is the predominant stance when it comes to defending a patent portfolio, but I prefer seeing six dimensions to this discussion–looking beyond this single position.

When thinking about why a patent exists I see it in six dimensions:

  • Idea - That someone has an idea, thinks it is theirs and feels that this should exist as a patent.
  • Patent- That some have the resources to craft the patent application, and file it with the patent office.
  • Filing - That the patent authority thinks an idea is patent-worthy, and something that should be approved.
  • Litigation - When someone wields a patent as part of litigation, either in an offensive, or defensive stance.
  • Public Deals - When patent shows up as part of an acquisition, partnership, and wielded publicly as part of some deal.
  • Backroom Deals - When patents are leveraged as part of backroom deals when negotiating with companies and investors, and sizing up the value on the table.

We only have insight into the middle four dimensions. We really don’t have any view into the individual reasons behind a patent, and we do not get access to how they are wielded and leveraged behind closed doors. I think that defending yourself as part of any court case makes sense, but I’m discussing API patents to help shine a light and understand what is happening within the other dimensions.

Overall I find that the existence of patents to speak volumes about a company’s motivations. The way they showcase or do not showcase their API portfolio contributes to this conversation in important ways. Sadly we will never get a full picture of the individual and backroom aspects of how API patents are used. However, I’m confident I can extract enough meaning from the existence of a patent, the information within the application, and any litigation that has occurred to paint a pretty clear picture of the motivations behind having a patent on your API(s).