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A friend tells me it's not worth it to get a patent on a web application because they are not useful.

Either:

  • the USPTO has stopped granting patents on "process" improvements (i.e. web apps) or
  • they are not useful once granted.

Take, for example, the fact that Amazon technically owns the patent for selling stuff over the internet.

So, I ask this community:

Are technology patents useful?

  • "Useful" in what sense? – cpast Aug 9 '15 at 20:24
  • @cpast: Useful in the sense that the patent will do what is expected. i.e., protect I.P. I submit to you the Amazon patent as an example. How is that patent useful to them when, it seems, anyone can sell (almost) anything over the internet without paying Amazon a fee? And I hear they aren't even granting patents for software anymore? – Mowzer Aug 9 '15 at 22:06
  • Also, you're misreading the patent: it only covers ordering with a single action (Amazon's one-click orders), not all ecommerce. – cpast Aug 9 '15 at 22:11
  • I sincerely hope not. Have you ever seen a software patent that didn't make you think "This person is equal parts insane and spectacularly greedy?". Speaking of which, this is also on-topic on the patents SE. – Parthian Shot Aug 10 '15 at 19:11
  • In fairness to all users, this question was cross-posted to Startups SE. – jimsug Aug 19 '15 at 15:06
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Yes, technology patents are useful.

Regarding the Amazon patent you referred to, it only covers Amazon's one-click ordering (and similar single-action ordering), and it is immensely valuable to Amazon. Their competitors (essentially, anyone who sells things online) would love to use a similar system, but to do so, they must either pay Amazon a licensing fee or risk being sued for patent infringement.

Beyond the value that patents can bring in court or at the negotiation table, and the value that they can have in dissuading potential competitors from taking away your business, patents can also have great defensive value. Some technology companies amass vast collections of patents for defensive purposes. They do not necessarily plan to sue anyone for patent infringement, but if one of their competitors were to sue them, they have the arsenal to effectively countersue.

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