Friday, October 28, 2016

Can something be un-invented?


In a legalistic sense, an invention can be un-invented.

The concept of invention is embodied by patent law. Patent law even defines the appropriate use of words like “patented”, “patent pending”, “invention”, and “inventor”.

For example, I created the first and original embodiment of Chromebook as a Google employee and wrote Google’s patents on Chromebook, so I’m legally the inventor of Chromebook because my name appears on all Google’s Chromebook patents. By law, no one else can claim such.

However, there are ways that a patent can be voided.

A patent can be abandoned. This happens by default if a patent isn’t defended against infringement. For example, if Samsung made their own web operating system using Google’s intellectual property, and didn’t make arrangements to license Google’s webtop patents, a court might find the patents had been abandoned. Google would no longer be able to claim any intellectual property ownership for them.

A patent can also be superseded. At the time Google filed my patents, the law was such that whoever constructed the first embodiment of the invention described in the patent has priority. The very first implementation of a webtop at Google was in 2006, albeit at that time the code was built on Firefox. If someone constructed a webtop earlier than 2006 which matched the details of Chromebook, as described in the patents, it’s my understanding Google’s patents could be determined to be superseded. As far as I know, there weren’t any webtop before 2006, much less any webtops backed by cloud services and identical to the details described in the Chromebook patents.

There may be other reasons a patent could be invalidated, such as if a court determines the patent wasn’t filed properly or if some third party was harmed at the time of the filing of the patent, it could be challenged in court.

In a legal sense, these are some ways that a patent can end up invalidated, which might be poetically described as “un-inventing” the invention.

I suppose it’s worth mentioning that many other factors have nothing to do with invalidating a patent filing or un-inventing an invention. For example, I no longer work at Google, yet the patents I wrote for Google on Chromebook are still in force. Under US law and my employment contract with Google, Google own all the intellectual property (not me). Legally, though, I’m still the inventor of Chromebook.

I am - of course - not a lawyer; decades of work with software intellectual property being my only legal school. As always, you should talk to a lawyer if you need legal advice for your own inventions or intellectual property.



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