Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Why is it so hard to stop patent trolls?

In the right hands, patents are good for inventors and for society. The monopoly they give allows for companies to do R&D work and commercialize that work, creating things that are a net gain for all of us.

The problem is, there are also companies out there that never make anything. They just see an issue, think about what kinds of things might somehow be related that issue, and then file patents based just on the description of how something should work rather than on something they've actually done. They never manufacture anything using that patent. They never even have any intention of doing it. Their definition of "doing business" with their patent is to find people who they think are doing something similar to the things described in their patent, contact them, and offer to license or even sell the patent. Meanwhile the companies that license or buy the patent just keep doing what they were doing, making things to try to help the world.

I have, of course, just described startup pharmaceutical companies.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A 3-step guide to basing fictional characters on real people

In a previous post, I've given a high-level overview of the issues involved in using real people as the basis for your characters. But this raises a very technical issue called libel in fiction. And that can be just as bad as libel in fact.

Here's three steps to consider if you want to take a real person and use them as the basis for a character in your fictional universe: