* R E D T H R E A D H I J A C K *One of the most influential books I've ever read as a developer is Masters of Doom. It's an inspiring story for any game developer or entrepreneur.
Jeff Atwood just made an equally inspiring post about id Software's story, You Don't Need a Million Dollars. He's right. When I was a filmmaker so many years ago, the same message was drilled into me. There are no barriers anymore for aspiring creative minds to create something great. Sure, you may have that full time job, but there's always time afterwards to chase the dream, and the resources available now are unprecedented. I want to say overly so, as to lose the whole "art through adversity", but I've been told that's too cliche to say...
Take the following excerpt from Masters of Doom;
Carmack turned red. “If you ever ask me to patent anything,” he snapped, “I’ll quit.” Al assumed Carmack was trying to protect his own financial interests, but in reality he had struck what was growing into an increasingly raw nerve for the young, idealistic programmer. It was one of the few things that could truly make him angry. It was ingrained in his bones since his first reading of the Hacker Ethic. All of science and technology and culture and learning and academics is built upon using the work that others have done before, Carmack thought. But to take a patenting approach and say it’s like, well, this idea is my idea, you cannot extend this idea in any way, because I own this idea—it just seems so fundamentally wrong. Patents were jeopardizing the very thing that was central to his life: writing code to solve problems. If the world became a place in which he couldn’t solve a problem without infringing on someone’s patents, he would be very unhappy living there.
I've always felt the exact same about patents, but we have to consider the world we live in today. Patent trolls are real, and if you don't protect yourself and your business by filing patents, you may find yourself waking up from your dream very, very quickly. Understand why Carmack said this in the 90s, and understand why anyone should file a patent today.