by Mike Masnick
Fri, Feb 8th 2008 6:18pm
When discussing patent related stories, people often claim that without patents, copycat companies would simply copy everything and put the original creators out of business. There are a number of reasons why this isn't true (and plenty of historical evidence that it's not true at all), but for a good example of this at work, just take a look at Google. Google is by far the dominant search engine out there, and it's only been growing. It was first to market with a quality search engine, but many studies have pointed out that Yahoo and Microsoft have both caught up (and possibly passed) Google in terms of search quality. And yet, Google keeps growing. There are plenty of reasons for this, from Google's "celebrity" (as the article implies) to Google's clean interface to people generally trusting Google more than those other providers (to date, Google has done much less to piss off most people). None of those things have anything to do with the technology alone. There's this view among patent system supporters that the technology is everything, when it's really just a component in terms of what makes a business. Copying the technology is one thing, but there are advantages to being first to market, executing well, treating customers right and building a reputation. Just copying someone's technology won't get you very far on most of those other points, and shows that focusing solely on patents as a competitive advantage is unlikely to get you very far.
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