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How To Really Encourage Inventions


Re "Inside Nathan Myhrvold's mysterious new idea machine" (Cover Story, July 3) about Intellectual Ventures' approach to derive value from patents: As an inventor (with a patent issued to me recently), I must side with Myhrvold on his understanding of the mentality of the large corporations and the culture of infringement, and his trying to come up with a business model to get values for patents and, I hope, for inventors.

But I question the approach of buying it cheap from inventors -- an offer of $50,000 for a patent can barely cover the inventor's cost of getting it issued. I encourage Intellectual Ventures to shift its business model from protecting its big investors (large corporations) to a genuine value system that is in the spirit of our patent law -- to encourage inventions and the practice of inventions for the benefit of the public by rewarding the inventor.

Ifay Chang

Katonah, N.Y.

Intellectual ventures could be either a boon or bane to our economy. Current patent laws allow patents on all sorts of dubious "inventions." The definition of invention needs to be strengthened. Patenting business processes like one-click-shopping and other such obvious extensions of existing technologies just feeds the legal mill with a frictional drag on the economy. Patenting "discoveries" such as naturally occurring compounds makes no sense: They weren't invented. On the other hand, a drug company that synthesizes a molecule that is demonstrated to provide some medical benefit deserves to have protection of its invention.

Because of the economic importance of protecting true intellectual property, it behooves us to reform patent law and to provide the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office with a much larger budget to fully staff itself with people of the caliber required to evaluate patent applications and to give them the time to do so.

Peter M. Canepa

Chief Financial Officer, TFD Group

Los Angeles

If law enforcement officials say that criminals tend not to follow through after stealing personal data, then why do it ("ID theft: More hype than harm," News: Analysis & Commentary, July 3)? Could it be that financial fraud is being done for a business purpose? Think about the increase in fraud-detection services a company must procure every time there is a possible breach -- or the number of consumers that flock to credit-protection products in a panic at the mere mention of the possibility that their sensitive information has been stolen. Cynical as it may seem, these thefts may have an economic motive unrelated to the harvesting of the data involved.

Karen Ann DeLuca

Alexandria, Va.

We are compelled to respond to Ben Elgin's recent article about Direct Revenue ("The plot to hijack your computer," Cover Story, July 17). The article is tendentious, sensationalizing, and grossly unbalanced. Direct Revenue adheres to the following fundamental principles: 1) Consumer consent: We obtain explicit consent from users prior to installation, and we tell the user -- in plain English -- that the software they are downloading is advertising-supported; 2) Easy removal: Our software is listed in Add/Remove programs, and every advertisement we display communicates this fact to the user and provides a link to uninstall; 3) We collect no personally identifiable information from computer users. Moreover, Direct Revenue is a member of the Network Advertising Initiative, which has pledged to adhere to TRUSTe's proposed adware guidelines, and has long upheld the standards of the proposed federal legislation of the industry, HR 2929, even though Congress has not yet enacted the bill into law.

Elgin fails to disclose that his few on-the-record "experts" stand to gain by criticizing Direct Revenue. For example, Benjamin Edelman -- whose recent class action against Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO) has been labeled a "shakedown for cash" by cyber law expert Eric Goldman -- worked with plaintiff's counsel in private litigation against Direct Revenue.

Finally, the article fails to cite documentation that offers a refutation of New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's allegations.

Mike Spinney

Direct Revenue

New York

Editor's note: Click here for a sample of businessweek.com reader reaction to "The Plot to Hijack Your Computer".

Re "Death of a pushy salesman" (The Corporation, July 3): Selling is indeed going through a revolution, but I wonder if the results justify the time and expense of a lot of "empathy" training -- good salesmen are part mavericks and part artists, and I doubt many even understand the meaning of the word. What they really need to know is simple: Listen and deliver. Also, sell the product, but close the person. I am just a high school graduate but have earned a comfortable living selling private planes for 37 years with these basic tenets of salesmanship.

Barron Thomas

Scottsdale, Ariz.


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