Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Patently counter productive

Tim Bray received an email from the Patent Office’s new PR firm touting their Stop Fakes website. It is written in the energetic style of hype PR:

And the email itself? Here’s a sample: “Can bloggers help? Yes! The USPTO is well aware of the impact bloggers have and the important role they play. As an online opinion leader you can help small businesses protect the intellectual property of small businesses in one of several ways: Write about the site in your blog...” ...

So, let’s put this simply. Dear USPTO, you’re lying. If you actually read bloggers you’d know that the few who write about you think you’re part of the problem, not part of the solution

I think the tone of the USPTO pitch is a trifle condescending. When I pitch bloggers I treat them the same way I treat journalists. Even if they are amateurs, it is an error to suppose they are flattered to receive a pitch from a professional flack. Quite the reverse in fact.

Having said that, I think Mr. Bray is a little harsh. This site offers a general introduction to the patent system and its advantages for small business. Even if you think our current system has, er, room for improvement, this site strikes this observer as a good, if incomplete, introduction.

Here is how I might have written it:

Dear _______, Too often small businesses fail to file for patents because they don’t understand how patents can protect their business. The USPTO has developed a website for small businesses to give them an introduction to the patent process and describe its advantages.

I would not make this pitch to tech blogs. Instead I would send it to marketing, legal, venture capital, and small business blogs, who are less likely to take such a harsh view of the Patent Office.

v-Fluence Responds to Tim Bray and shows a lot of class.


Nicolas Nobile said...

My name is Nicolas Nobile, I am a sociologist specialized in online media research and analysis, based in Buenos Aires Argentina. I must say your post just cracked me up.

I have recently undergone a most unfortunate experience of abuse by v-fluence. My team and me had been their vendors selling our online media research services for over two years and in the recent months we had to bear an overwhelming pressure to delegate to them the IP rights of our own developments. Our denial was paid back with the cancellation of all our accounts and projects, leaving a trail of unpaid fees behind. They also broke our mutual non disclosure agreement by hiring a third party consultant to analyze (and reverse-engineer, I imagine) our products without our initial consent.

The fact that "v-Fluence Interactive Public Relations Inc" are now campaigning for small business IP rights, is just hilarious!!

Alice said...

Oh dear, that is truly awful and most ironic, given that they are hyping the Patent & Trade Office.

Best wishes for your business.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Nobile's characterizations sadly fail to note that his firm was paid tens of thousands of dollars to develop software coding under contract to v-Fluence and based on v-Fluence specifications. It is an unfortunate case of IP theft and failure to deliver on obligations by a vendor, not abuse by v-Fluence.

Alice said...

Thank you for clarifying that.