Machine Intelligence Services, Inc., which is the company that operates Solve for All, has been granted the following patent which covers many of the mechanisms in our answer process:
- US Patent No. 8,751,466: Customizable Answer Engine Implemented by User-Defined Plugins
We believe that the patent system is broken because:
- Large entities enjoy a huge advantage over small entities and individuals due to the exorbitant costs of obtaining and litigating patents.
- Patents have been obtained on many obvious, overly broad inventions. Then these unworthy patents have been used to impede the release of worthy products and services or to cause inventors to pay extortion fees, essentially. For example, the company that obtained a patent on an online shopping cart extracted millions of US dollars before it was busted by Newegg.
- Under the first to file (FTF) system, inventors that come up with ideas independently but don't file patents can be prevented from practicing their invention by inventors that do file (typically indicating that they have more resources at their disposal), or their assigns (patent trolls, big companies that fund R&D programs to obtain patents).
- No inventor today invents anything without the benefit of thousands of years of freely available mathematical, scientific, and engineering knowledge. It's not fair that any one entity can reap all the rewards of an invention that depends on discoveries made by mankind (and womankind!) in general. Not to mention all the underpaid teachers that have imparted this knowledge to newer generations over time.
But we chose to apply for a patent anyway, for the following reasons:
Our answer process is painstakingly documented for the benefit of
- Under the FTF system, if we didn't have a patent, a patent troll or competitor could take the ideas on this site, obtain a patent on them, then sue us into shutting down the site or paying exorbitant licensing fees.
- Without a patent, an established internet company could re-implement our algorithms and have a huge advantage over us because of its existing user base and army of well-paid developers. A lot of VC-funded companies could do the same and they would have more resources for marketing and development than us.
- We don't believe anyone should have the right to steal our non-obvious ideas without compensating us. (By the way, we respectfully disagree with Paul Graham's patent pledge because it gives any company with less than 25 people the ability to steal any other entitity's non-obvious ideas, including from those with even fewer people.)
- In case Solve for All is a colossal failure, the inventor of it would at least have a granted patent to put on his resume for when he has to get a real job. Oops! We meant failure is not an option.
- It's always a plus on Shark Tank to say you have a patent. No, we have never been on the show, and we would likely bomb if it we did. Internet sites just don't make for exciting TV. But dog clothing designed by poor minority kids with disabilities coming from broken homes -- those make for real tear jerkers!
So we decided to join the dark side an obtain a patent. We are not a large corporation, and have no plans to become one, so objection #1 doesn't apply. We think our patent is non-obvious and fairly narrow in scope so #2 is out. Finally, to the best of our knowledge, no one else is using the methods we patented, so #3 doesn't apply either. That only leaves #4 above: the knowledge creators and teachers, that were necessary for the conception of our invention, won't directly benefit if we benefit from the patent. Well, at least anyone with a internet connection and not-totally-unreasonable government will have access to an ad-free, privacy-respecting answer engine. We plan on giving back to the open source community once we are profitable.