Jonathan Schwartz: Ex Sun CEO Blogs about “What I Couldn’t Say…”

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010 | Business | by

In a position of leadership Jonathan Schwartz, the ex CEO of Sun Microsystems, couldn’t say what he wanted.  Now that he is an “ex”, he is telling some great “war stories”.

Anyone thinking of working in tech, working in tech… developers, managers, CTOs, CEOs … should read this blog.

The most recent post, Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal, illustrates the problems with the U.S. Patent system.  He goes over how companies deal with each other (at least big ones, and some little examples).  The story involves Apple (starring Steve Jobs), Microsoft (starring Bill Gates), and Sun (of course).

You might say why should developers read the blog, if it’s about higher level processes (and zero code)?  It’s important to get the bigger picture.  To know how the technology you develop today will affect your company down the road.

As a developer, I would find it annoying that my company would want to patent something that I know is already deployed out there, and is something I consider obvious.   Lets consider a linked list (I wish I were making this up, read the thread at reddit — and the article — .  It’s a fundamental building block, like patenting a brick.

The reason a company would want to patent something so basic, is both defensive and offensive.  The legal system is full of issues, one being generically intelligent judges.  For all a judge knows, a linked list could have been the result of extensive research, and be a truly valid patent.  Some companies get patents solely to sue for infringement.

Jonathan Schwartz points out the need for defensive patents, ones that can be used when attacked.  A form of technological “mutually assured destruction”.

He writes well, and has interesting subject matter — read it.

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