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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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The U.S. Doesn’t Have a Monopoly on Stupid IP Court Decisions

Comments (20)

For those of you who read my blog, you know that I hate software patents. My partner, Jason Mendelson, began fighting me on this back in 2000 when we began working together, but a scant eight years later, he’s joined me in the crusade.  In fact, he’ll be arguing this position on March 4th at the Silicon Flatirons event.  Lawyers (oops, sorry Jason, ex-lawyers) are so quick to change their thinking.

Anyway, from the news of the absurd, Jason pointed out the EU court has determined that the word “Parmesan” is a protected name for cheese made solely in the Italian city of Parma.  Never mind that the past 800 years of cheese production from this city hasn’t cause a stir, but evidently now, it’s big business. 

And before you comment about Champagne / Sparkling Wine trademark decisions, yeah, these are stupid too.

At least the U.S. isn’t alone.

  • Dave

    I'm surprised you're so flip about trademark protection issues. Granted, these location-oriented trademarks involve more complicated issues, but there are good reasons to have protection for trademarks and brand names.

    Or maybe you wouldn't mind if I start a company called StillSecure or Lijit?

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      I don't think I'm flip about trademark. I just think this one is particularly weird given the 800 year history and the fact that I've probably each 100 pounds of parmesan cheese in my life but I doubt I've ever eaten any from Parma. I'm not a legal scholar nor do I pretend to be, but based on my read of this article, it seems that “Parmigiano Reggiano” is the phrase that should be protected. I could get my mind around the notion that only cheese manufacturers from Parma should be able to refer to this 800 year old delicacy as “Parmigiano Reggiano”, but my simple mind doesn't get that the now generic term “Parmesan” should be the protected term.

      • Dave

        It's a generic term outside Italy, but apparently there “Parmesan” literally means “cheese from Parma.” This is one of the things that happens when you unify the economic laws of previously separate countries – either you can respect the rights of the former nations or you can overturn them – they've apparently decided to respect them in this case. Also, my impression is that in Europe, the place things are made has a significance that is hard for us transient Americans to grasp. It may not be the right decision, but it's not stupid or absurd.

        • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

          Dave – you are correct. My view is evolving.

          • Dave

            I think the store brands have a good way of dealing with this. On the package, they say “Compare with XXX” where XXX is the branded version. Nothing wrong with having “Joe's Hard Cheese” with a line below that says “Compare with Parmesan!” Of course, all of this is irrelevant in the United States where these terms are in fact generic and it is too late for these producers to try to protect them here.

  • Steve Bergstein

    I need to agree with Dave. This seems to me like a consortium of producers protecting their unique brand name. I see the logic in it much more than I see the logic in software patents.

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      I agree that the logic in this is much more compelling than the logic of software patents! But – I still don't really get it…

  • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

    I received several “Feld – you are an idiot – you don't get it” emails about this post. All of them were compelling and I realized that I don't have enough depth here, nor do I have a strong enough opinion about trademark of foreign foods to make a compelling argument against it.

    Following is an exchange I had with someone – their comment first, then mine.

    Commenter: “Having lived for a long time in Europe (Italy & France), where relatively local producers (including my family) of unique products are the mainstay of some regional economies – it seems reasonable to try to preserve the high quality of those ancient authentic products, and to protect their small producers from large industrial copycats in the U.S. and elsewhere (China?). You are correct that for ~800 years there was not a problem regarding cheese from Parma, but now we have a large, global interest in serious food that has encouraged domestic U.S. producers to claim that they are making real parmigiana cheese. They are not, their cheese is universally inferior to the authentic product from Parma, and they are trading on a unique, ancient brand-name that is not theirs. As you know, the same issue was resolved by the courts regarding Roquefort (see the Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roquefort). There are dozens of other products – mostly food/alcohol – that, I feel, are deserving of some protection. “Scotch” whiskey, authentic blue agave “Tequila”, Kentucky or Tennessee “Bourbon” whiskey, to name a few … and again, “Champagne”. I don't think this is opposition to “free trade”, but is a narrow application of principles of authenticity that seem reasonable. I suspect that this is one of those examples of a fundamental difference in world view between Europeans and Americans about quality and authenticity.”

    Feld: “Trademark protection – I have a weak and uniformed point of view. I find the whole naming thing very confusing and the rules around it weird. However, I can’t refute your argument – partly because I don’t know enough; partly because I don’t have strong enough feelings about it. “

  • Jason

    Come on folks! This isn't at all about Trademarks or protection local producers in a global market, this is about some lawyer wanting to make a buck. Or perhaps the EU court is trying to gain favor with its citizens? (I can rip on the US courts the same way, I'm not playing favorites).

    I've been eating Parmesan cheese all of my life – long before the Internet, cell phones and CNN. Now, granted it was the crappy out-of-the-green-paper-can Kraft type, but to say that something has changed recently because of globalization is disingenuous because it's been a “problem” forever. My mother would buy the cheap junk and I'd be excited to go out to eat and get the real stuff. I have a real issue with anyone claiming “changed circumstances” 800 years later.

    Furthermore, the entire goal of Trademark law is to prevent the likelihood of confusion from a consumer point of view. That's it – that's what it is for. If you want to start a car company called Lijit, or a home security company for old folks homes called Still Secure, have at it.

    Question: will this ruling protect consumers by ending their “confusion?” I've read as much as I can about this case and I don't see that issue being taken into account which is the only issue that should matter in trademark cases. Are consumers confused? Do they understand the difference between these cheeses already? I'd argue (unscientifically) that if you are buying Kraft, you are never going to know the difference and if you are going to the cheese store or cheese aisle and plunking down $20 a pound for the real stuff, you already know – the label says it all today as far as place of origin.

    What this ruling will do is make it so some very good “Parma-esque” producers in other regions are going to have to name their cheese differently, thus confusing consumers who no longer can find what they really want to buy. It will protect the local producers and potentially increase sales if the consumer now sees only one brand of Parmesan at their local market and feels forced to buy that particular brand. But producer protection isn't what Trademark law was meant to protect. Trademark analysis about consumer protection.

    And at the end of the day, I find it silly that so much effort is going into an issue about food, just as it angers me how much time our Congress is spending tracking down doping baseball players. I wish we could all just have a nice home-cooked meal and laugh at ourselves.

  • Anonymous

    The real question this post inspires is how anyone who lacked the insight to be against software&internet patents by 2000, which was well behind the curve of anyone with a clue, managed to become a venture capitalist.. and how much damage any publicity of that fact has done to his credibility in the eyes of any software&internet companies. To have insight into the future of software and the internet you have to understand the basics of the business and to be able to understand the dynamics that come into play in real world businesses such the government they often need to deal with or sell to (eg, that government entities are often broken, slow, and bloated). No respectable software engineer with knowledge of the situation at the time would have disputed that patents were being granted for obvious things for which there was often prior art. Those against software patents use them for defensive purposes. Aside from the very rare few that have something that truly should be patentable any other use of the government to patent something obvious in order to use the government against another company is legal but unethical.

    Its laudable that at some point in the 8 years since then he learned his lesson.. but the question is why he hadn't learned it several years before that or why it took more than a few moments back in 2000 to do more than discover that the patent office is broken and granting bogus software patents to be against them. Unless there was some illusion the system could/would be quickly fixed and all the existing patents somehow re-examined in a reasonable amount of time.. which seems a bit naive in the real world.

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      I'm not sure I understand your logic. I think I infer that you are suggesting that I don't have a clue because you think I didn't oppose software patents until recently.

      I've opposed software patents since 1988 when I wrote my masters thesis at MIT about innovation in the software industry. This is not a new position for me.

      • Anonymous

        No, the point was that Jason didn't have a clue re: software patents. He was the one you stated was against software patents in 2000 but eventually came to your side.
        Its important to select the right team members for a VC and that also reflects on the impression the entrepreneur community has of them (even someone impresses those who give funds to the VC to invest) as to how in touch the VC team is vs. a bit isolated, even if they respect your insight personally you weren't involved enough. If you check around in the community for candid comments vs. what you folks usually hear you'll find concerns re: a different team member there.

        • Anonymous

          ps, most of these folks btw would never have hired CW to work for them.. let alone feel he were qualified to judge their investment. Be careful of too much delegation, and careful of letting those less insightful write off things too early before you pay more attention. The more new/innovative.. the more it may require your attention vs. others in the firm.

  • Jason Mendelson

    Actually, I think his comment is for me, Brad, that I'm the numb nut who took 8 years to figure it out. Honestly, I was being a bit glib, it really only took me two years. But in all fairness, my background was a corporate / IP attorney, and prior to that, I was drafting provisional patents as a software engineer. I had to make a complete 180 on all of this and so it took me a while. Hopefully the commenter is happy that he has another person on his side of the issue regardless of how long it took me to get there.

    • Anonymous

      I mentioned that it appeared that it was likely due to indoctrination by education&those around him. That sort of background may be fine for certain types of roles. The question is how appropriate it is for a VC who should be the sort to question assumptions and spot trends. Especially someone working in that field with a background as a software engineer who should have known the stuff being patented was obvious. Just because you can get away with using the government to patent something that shouldn't be patentable.. and some folks might do so being focused only on money and not on business.. doesn't mean its ethical and it doesn't seem to mesh with the culture of innovative software and internet companies.
      Unfortunately, unlike software engineering where code actually has to work eventually, VCs have little in the way of external validation other than a very slow process of seeing ROI. Unfortunately its difficult for them to know how much better the ROI might have been with better insight.

    • Anonymous

      If it were 2 hours then it would seem more in the lines of where a VC should be. If it takes 2 years to catch on to a major trend software engineers and bleeding edge folks already know.. why should a company be confident a reasonable decision will be made on their insight within a 20 minute or hour pitch? (let alone an elevator pitch prior to that point). You may be great at other tasks/roles, but the question is what sort of VC firm is this.. a follower or a leader..

    • Anonymous

      Yup btw, happy to have someone on this side talking sense in public :-) Again, the only issue is re: entrepreneur checking out potential VCs for future. I guess there remains puzzlement re: whether you were unaware as a software engineer or IP attorney of the issue that so many software patents were bogus.. It would have been showing initiative to learn more about your field of work vs. simply doing what was required for the job without being more curious about the context of your work.. or what.. re: whether entrepreneurs should know that you will fully check out their niche better than you checked out the one you worked in or in general pay attention well to the general software/net/govt. picture moreso now or only when others like Brad explain it.. Just playing Devil's advocate re: choice of VC firm as a VC would re: a company.. You are from what I gather likely all great guys personally and well intentioned I'm sure, etc.. the issue is re: from perspective of use as a VC and whether you are great in this niche as you likely were in others or you wouldn't be in this job… (the same with the other members of the team)

      VCs get so used to companies beating down there door and doing due diligence on them.. I suspect rarely is much done on your firm especially given the context of you being the ones controlling the funds.

      Also an issue is when/whether you folks are aware of your limits and when to ask for outside help eg re: evaluating trends or how innovative software is, etc.. (eg, another minor data point when trying to glean level of initiative shown is tasks of personal interest.. eg a post by Brad before re: world series tickets and one of the other partners asking everyone in the office to keep hitting refresh on the ticket website to get in… vs. being aware enough of the net and software world to ask someone to work up a script to do it automatically (I created one for others).. hopefully no one sat there hitting refresh on the page with a countdown timer on it.. since if you checked it out that only reset the timer and didn't actually try again since it only tried after the end of the timer (or something like that, forget details now). Perhaps not quite kosher in theory for a few reasons but the sort of problem solving entrepreneurs would use and hopefully we are trusting VCs to get advice from entrepreneurs or other experts if needed vs. banging away manually not getting there is better tech out there.. and learn from them quickly..

  • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

    Anonymous – it sounds from the comments above that you have some constructive criticism for us. I'd love to hear it directly – can you email me at brad@feld.com so we can set up a time to talk and I can get a direct view on what you are suggesting?

    • Anonymous

      I'll consider that.. I wasn't sure whether I wanted to risk alienating you folks with even constrictive critique since sometimes messengers unintentionally get shot and I may seek funding at some point despite critique :-) I'll think about it.. or bring topics up when I run into you. . One issue might be attempting to get candid feedback from the entrepreneur community since many others will have similar comments. One basic issue I'd suggest to consider is that even VCs who are locally considered at the top of the heap.. need to consider that they compete against VCs elsewhere.. and for companies which might choose to either start or move here.. or a coast.. and they often check out blogs for impressions (like VCs and employers would check out people that come to them..). No one data point is definitive but they are all added to the tentative impression of a VC. eg to suggest other team members learn more critical thinking skills and are careful marketing wise how they present themselves to the public, eg: another team member there taken in by an internet hoax, and also noting an apparent ant-intellectual bent

      http://www.sethlevine.com/blog/archives/2008/02/o
      > Seth Levine's VC Adventure
      > Here's the 8th grade competence exam from 1895. Thank god I went through 8th grade about 90 years later…

      indicating, depending on interpretation that he'd rather not have been through a more rigorous school system as in the past (contrary to most net entrepreneurs who would have loved to have learned more, and would expect innovation seeking VCs to be avid learners (as you appear to be)).. or a lack of confidence he'd have been able to keep up with other students who were being taught that material. The exam itself may have not been really given back then… but that doesn't effect the reaction to it.

  • Anonymous

    How different is your VC firm (and most) from the US Patent office team?
    If you check eg Paul Graham you'll note one fear of people re: seeking venture capital (even if not warranted) is that their companies may eventually be taken over by someone brought in by their investors, or regardless of having the investors on their board, and hence many companies may never be started or never seek VC due to concerns over how savvy the VCs are. You may not know what you are missing.. the seen vs. the unseen. I think VCs having lots of companies chasing them can have their perspective skewed to overconfidence by all the attention and fawning.

  • Dave

    I'm surprised you're so flip about trademark protection issues. Granted, these location-oriented trademarks involve more complicated issues, but there are good reasons to have protection for trademarks and brand names.

    Or maybe you wouldn't mind if I start a company called StillSecure or Lijit?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/steve_bergs2127 steve_bergs2127

    I need to agree with Dave. This seems to me like a consortium of producers protecting their unique brand name. I see the logic in it much more than I see the logic in software patents.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    I don't think I'm flip about trademark. I just think this one is particularly weird given the 800 year history and the fact that I've probably each 100 pounds of parmesan cheese in my life but I doubt I've ever eaten any from Parma. I'm not a legal scholar nor do I pretend to be, but based on my read of this article, it seems that "Parmigiano Reggiano" is the phrase that should be protected. I could get my mind around the notion that only cheese manufacturers from Parma should be able to refer to this 800 year old delicacy as "Parmigiano Reggiano", but my simple mind doesn't get that the now generic term "Parmesan" should be the protected term.

  • Jason

    Come on folks! This isn't at all about Trademarks or protection local producers in a global market, this is about some lawyer wanting to make a buck. Or perhaps the EU court is trying to gain favor with its citizens? (I can rip on the US courts the same way, I'm not playing favorites).

    I've been eating Parmesan cheese all of my life – long before the Internet, cell phones and CNN. Now, granted it was the crappy out-of-the-green-paper-can Kraft type, but to say that something has changed recently because of globalization is disingenuous because it's been a "problem" forever. My mother would buy the cheap junk and I'd be excited to go out to eat and get the real stuff. I have a real issue with anyone claiming "changed circumstances" 800 years later.

    Furthermore, the entire goal of Trademark law is to prevent the likelihood of confusion from a consumer point of view. That's it – that's what it is for. If you want to start a car company called Lijit, or a home security company for old folks homes called Still Secure, have at it.

    Question: will this ruling protect consumers by ending their "confusion?" I've read as much as I can about this case and I don't see that issue being taken into account which is the only issue that should matter in trademark cases. Are consumers confused? Do they understand the difference between these cheeses already? I'd argue (unscientifically) that if you are buying Kraft, you are never going to know the difference and if you are going to the cheese store or cheese aisle and plunking down $20 a pound for the real stuff, you already know – the label says it all today as far as place of origin.

    What this ruling will do is make it so some very good "Parma-esque" producers in other regions are going to have to name their cheese differently, thus confusing consumers who no longer can find what they really want to buy. It will protect the local producers and potentially increase sales if the consumer now sees only one brand of Parmesan at their local market and feels forced to buy that particular brand. But producer protection isn't what Trademark law was meant to protect. Trademark analysis about consumer protection.

    And at the end of the day, I find it silly that so much effort is going into an issue about food, just as it angers me how much time our Congress is spending tracking down doping baseball players. I wish we could all just have a nice home-cooked meal and laugh at ourselves.

  • Dave

    It's a generic term outside Italy, but apparently there "Parmesan" literally means "cheese from Parma." This is one of the things that happens when you unify the economic laws of previously separate countries – either you can respect the rights of the former nations or you can overturn them – they've apparently decided to respect them in this case. Also, my impression is that in Europe, the place things are made has a significance that is hard for us transient Americans to grasp. It may not be the right decision, but it's not stupid or absurd.

  • Anonymous

    The real question this post inspires is how anyone who lacked the insight to be against software&internet patents by 2000, which was well behind the curve of anyone with a clue, managed to become a venture capitalist.. and how much damage any publicity of that fact has done to his credibility in the eyes of any software&internet companies. To have insight into the future of software and the internet you have to understand the basics of the business and to be able to understand the dynamics that come into play in real world businesses such the government they often need to deal with or sell to (eg, that government entities are often broken, slow, and bloated). No respectable software engineer with knowledge of the situation at the time would have disputed that patents were being granted for obvious things for which there was often prior art. Those against software patents use them for defensive purposes. Aside from the very rare few that have something that truly should be patentable any other use of the government to patent something obvious in order to use the government against another company is legal but unethical.

    Its laudable that at some point in the 8 years since then he learned his lesson.. but the question is why he hadn't learned it several years before that or why it took more than a few moments back in 2000 to do more than discover that the patent office is broken and granting bogus software patents to be against them. Unless there was some illusion the system could/would be quickly fixed and all the existing patents somehow re-examined in a reasonable amount of time.. which seems a bit naive in the real world.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    Dave – you are correct. My view is evolving.

  • Jason Mendelson

    Actually, I think his comment is for me, Brad, that I'm the numb nut who took 8 years to figure it out. Honestly, I was being a bit glib, it really only took me two years. But in all fairness, my background was a corporate / IP attorney, and prior to that, I was drafting provisional patents as a software engineer. I had to make a complete 180 on all of this and so it took me a while. Hopefully the commenter is happy that he has another person on his side of the issue regardless of how long it took me to get there.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    I agree that the logic in this is much more compelling than the logic of software patents! But – I still don't really get it…

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    I'm not sure I understand your logic. I think I infer that you are suggesting that I don't have a clue because you think I didn't oppose software patents until recently.

    I've opposed software patents since 1988 when I wrote my masters thesis at MIT about innovation in the software industry. This is not a new position for me.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    I received several "Feld – you are an idiot – you don't get it" emails about this post. All of them were compelling and I realized that I don't have enough depth here, nor do I have a strong enough opinion about trademark of foreign foods to make a compelling argument against it.

    Following is an exchange I had with someone – their comment first, then mine.

    Commenter: "Having lived for a long time in Europe (Italy & France), where relatively local producers (including my family) of unique products are the mainstay of some regional economies – it seems reasonable to try to preserve the high quality of those ancient authentic products, and to protect their small producers from large industrial copycats in the U.S. and elsewhere (China?). You are correct that for ~800 years there was not a problem regarding cheese from Parma, but now we have a large, global interest in serious food that has encouraged domestic U.S. producers to claim that they are making real parmigiana cheese. They are not, their cheese is universally inferior to the authentic product from Parma, and they are trading on a unique, ancient brand-name that is not theirs. As you know, the same issue was resolved by the courts regarding Roquefort (see the Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roquefort). There are dozens of other products – mostly food/alcohol – that, I feel, are deserving of some protection. "Scotch" whiskey, authentic blue agave "Tequila", Kentucky or Tennessee "Bourbon" whiskey, to name a few … and again, "Champagne". I don't think this is opposition to "free trade", but is a narrow application of principles of authenticity that seem reasonable. I suspect that this is one of those examples of a fundamental difference in world view between Europeans and Americans about quality and authenticity."

    Feld: "Trademark protection – I have a weak and uniformed point of view. I find the whole naming thing very confusing and the rules around it weird. However, I can’t refute your argument – partly because I don’t know enough; partly because I don’t have strong enough feelings about it. "

  • Anonymous

    No, the point was that Jason didn't have a clue re: software patents. He was the one you stated was against software patents in 2000 but eventually came to your side.
    Its important to select the right team members for a VC and that also reflects on the impression the entrepreneur community has of them (even someone impresses those who give funds to the VC to invest) as to how in touch the VC team is vs. a bit isolated, even if they respect your insight personally you weren't involved enough. If you check around in the community for candid comments vs. what you folks usually hear you'll find concerns re: a different team member there.

  • Anonymous

    ps, most of these folks btw would never have hired CW to work for them.. let alone feel he were qualified to judge their investment. Be careful of too much delegation, and careful of letting those less insightful write off things too early before you pay more attention. The more new/innovative.. the more it may require your attention vs. others in the firm.

  • Anonymous

    I mentioned that it appeared that it was likely due to indoctrination by education&those around him. That sort of background may be fine for certain types of roles. The question is how appropriate it is for a VC who should be the sort to question assumptions and spot trends. Especially someone working in that field with a background as a software engineer who should have known the stuff being patented was obvious. Just because you can get away with using the government to patent something that shouldn't be patentable.. and some folks might do so being focused only on money and not on business.. doesn't mean its ethical and it doesn't seem to mesh with the culture of innovative software and internet companies.
    Unfortunately, unlike software engineering where code actually has to work eventually, VCs have little in the way of external validation other than a very slow process of seeing ROI. Unfortunately its difficult for them to know how much better the ROI might have been with better insight.

  • Anonymous

    I'll consider that.. I wasn't sure whether I wanted to risk alienating you folks with even constrictive critique since sometimes messengers unintentionally get shot and I may seek funding at some point despite critique :-) I'll think about it.. or bring topics up when I run into you. . One issue might be attempting to get candid feedback from the entrepreneur community since many others will have similar comments. One basic issue I'd suggest to consider is that even VCs who are locally considered at the top of the heap.. need to consider that they compete against VCs elsewhere.. and for companies which might choose to either start or move here.. or a coast.. and they often check out blogs for impressions (like VCs and employers would check out people that come to them..). No one data point is definitive but they are all added to the tentative impression of a VC. eg to suggest other team members learn more critical thinking skills and are careful marketing wise how they present themselves to the public, eg: another team member there taken in by an internet hoax, and also noting an apparent ant-intellectual bent

    http://www.sethlevine.com/blog/archives/2008/02/o
    > Seth Levine's VC Adventure
    > Here's the 8th grade competence exam from 1895. Thank god I went through 8th grade about 90 years later…

    indicating, depending on interpretation that he'd rather not have been through a more rigorous school system as in the past (contrary to most net entrepreneurs who would have loved to have learned more, and would expect innovation seeking VCs to be avid learners (as you appear to be)).. or a lack of confidence he'd have been able to keep up with other students who were being taught that material. The exam itself may have not been really given back then… but that doesn't effect the reaction to it.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    Anonymous – it sounds from the comments above that you have some constructive criticism for us. I'd love to hear it directly – can you email me at brad@feld.com so we can set up a time to talk and I can get a direct view on what you are suggesting?

  • Anonymous

    If it were 2 hours then it would seem more in the lines of where a VC should be. If it takes 2 years to catch on to a major trend software engineers and bleeding edge folks already know.. why should a company be confident a reasonable decision will be made on their insight within a 20 minute or hour pitch? (let alone an elevator pitch prior to that point). You may be great at other tasks/roles, but the question is what sort of VC firm is this.. a follower or a leader..

  • Anonymous

    Yup btw, happy to have someone on this side talking sense in public :-) Again, the only issue is re: entrepreneur checking out potential VCs for future. I guess there remains puzzlement re: whether you were unaware as a software engineer or IP attorney of the issue that so many software patents were bogus.. It would have been showing initiative to learn more about your field of work vs. simply doing what was required for the job without being more curious about the context of your work.. or what.. re: whether entrepreneurs should know that you will fully check out their niche better than you checked out the one you worked in or in general pay attention well to the general software/net/govt. picture moreso now or only when others like Brad explain it.. Just playing Devil's advocate re: choice of VC firm as a VC would re: a company.. You are from what I gather likely all great guys personally and well intentioned I'm sure, etc.. the issue is re: from perspective of use as a VC and whether you are great in this niche as you likely were in others or you wouldn't be in this job… (the same with the other members of the team)

    VCs get so used to companies beating down there door and doing due diligence on them.. I suspect rarely is much done on your firm especially given the context of you being the ones controlling the funds.

    Also an issue is when/whether you folks are aware of your limits and when to ask for outside help eg re: evaluating trends or how innovative software is, etc.. (eg, another minor data point when trying to glean level of initiative shown is tasks of personal interest.. eg a post by Brad before re: world series tickets and one of the other partners asking everyone in the office to keep hitting refresh on the ticket website to get in… vs. being aware enough of the net and software world to ask someone to work up a script to do it automatically (I created one for others).. hopefully no one sat there hitting refresh on the page with a countdown timer on it.. since if you checked it out that only reset the timer and didn't actually try again since it only tried after the end of the timer (or something like that, forget details now). Perhaps not quite kosher in theory for a few reasons but the sort of problem solving entrepreneurs would use and hopefully we are trusting VCs to get advice from entrepreneurs or other experts if needed vs. banging away manually not getting there is better tech out there.. and learn from them quickly..

  • Anonymous

    How different is your VC firm (and most) from the US Patent office team?
    If you check eg Paul Graham you'll note one fear of people re: seeking venture capital (even if not warranted) is that their companies may eventually be taken over by someone brought in by their investors, or regardless of having the investors on their board, and hence many companies may never be started or never seek VC due to concerns over how savvy the VCs are. You may not know what you are missing.. the seen vs. the unseen. I think VCs having lots of companies chasing them can have their perspective skewed to overconfidence by all the attention and fawning.

  • Dave

    I think the store brands have a good way of dealing with this. On the package, they say "Compare with XXX" where XXX is the branded version. Nothing wrong with having "Joe's Hard Cheese" with a line below that says "Compare with Parmesan!" Of course, all of this is irrelevant in the United States where these terms are in fact generic and it is too late for these producers to try to protect them here.

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