Is there anything Paul Graham can’t do? He developed the first ever web app, co-founded Y Combinator, knows how to be zen about the competition, and now, Mr. Graham has figured out a way to stop the patent wars–without waiting around for Uncle Sam. Rather than rely on federal reform around the way patents are issued, Mr. Graham suggests interceding further downstream at the the point where the patents are being used.
And what better way to do that by making any would-be patent trolls publicly accountable?
On his blog, Mr. Graham writes:
“The way to do it is to get the companies that are above pulling this sort of trick to pledge publicly not to. Then the ones that won’t make such a pledge will be very conspicuous. Potential employees won’t want to work for them. And investors, too, will be able to see that they’re the sort of company that competes by litigation rather than by making good products.”
To make the shame of not signing extra conspicuous he makes the pledge very, very simple:
“No first use of software patents against companies with less than 25 people.”
Sort of calls to mind another terse promise not to give into the dark side, doesn’t it? Explains Mr. Graham:
“I’ve deliberately traded precision for brevity. The patent pledge is not legally binding. It’s like Google’s ‘Don’t be evil.’ They don’t define what evil is, but by publicly saying that, they’re saying they’re willing to be held to a standard that, say, Altria is not. And though constraining, ‘Don’t be evil’ has been good for Google. Technology companies win by attracting the most productive people, and the most productive people are attracted to employers who hold themselves to a higher standard than the law requires.”
Let’s hope his pledge turns out to be a more lasting deterrent.