While the state of the patent industry may seem dry to some, patent litigation has shown to be a headache for businesses, from sole proprietors to large corporations. Patent hoarders rule the roost, as mega-corporations spar over the shapes and functionality of devices, while the fees for protecting ideas have been soaring. These fundamental problems in which patents are researched and granted can be detrimental to budding entrepreneurs. Luckily, John Wise, a former auto racing engineer, and his team of blockchain developers are actively trying to fix these issues.
When you think of bitcoin, you may think digital money, but what lies beneath the surface of bitcoin, the deep mathematical inner workings of the ‘blockchain’, has designs and the capacity to revolutionize the industry and, by proxy, the world as we know it. Loci is a tech company with a mission to help inventors and entrepreneurs revolutionize the way they protect their products and ideas. By creating their own cryptocurrency in the image of bitcoin, they’ll be able to verify any patent research users do and then support them with legal advice and licensing for a fraction of the cost of the traditional process.
John Wise, the CEO of Loci, has been working on the software behind all this for over 10 years. Coming from the high octane world of automotive engineering, he saw the problems with inventors and creative engineers disenfranchised with the patent process. He found that most of the best ideas were discarded and lost to the world, never to be made. It’s typically expensive and laborious, sometimes costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. And even once that money is spent, there’s no guarantee to the idea’s rights. The outdated patent industry hasn’t progressed in nearly a century. The filing process can take up to seven years — no wonder as to why the phrase “patent pending” can be found on a multitude of common products!
For example, imagine you’re a software engineer who has come up with a few lines of code that could disrupt Facebook’s entire business model. Currently, you have to shell out huge sums to lawyers that research whether the idea is really new and patentable. All this takes an exorbitant amount of time when you could just do it yourself and save yourself the money for actually filing the patent. Brain Hwang, Loci’s COO explains, “The America Invents Act (first to file system) gives the priority to whoever files a patent first. And with an average of 16 months before filings get published, there is a serious lack of transparency.” The result? People are pushed to hastily file their patent, which can nullify or weaken a patent, resulting in serious legal fees to correct. In some instances, people go through the process of filing, and start producing their product, only to find out years later that someone had filed to patent that idea a mere few months before. Hwang laments, “The whole system disincentives regular people to seek a patent for their great ideas, yet the protection of their IP are essential.”
Loci’s InnVenn platform simplifies patent research by charting potential inventor’s keywords in a Venn Diagram. They can do this due to their patent on a “system and method for fuzzy concept mapping, voting ontology crowd sourcing, and technology prediction.” Especially, Loci’s InnVenn uses machine learning (trained by their users) to boil down the sea of over 2.1 million US patents into condensed points on each generated diagram.”
Here’s where it gets interesting. By functioning as a disclosure platform for inventions, a simple search on InnVenn can give the inventor a 12-month exclusive right to patent their idea. In other words, because all research is recorded on the blockchain, Loci users have immutable proof of that they were the first to come up with a specific idea.
Once listed, you can choose to be in an investment pool, giving larger corporations the ability to purchase the rights to patent a group of similar ideas. Once a purchase is complete, LOCIcoins, the platform’s own cryptocurrency, will be distributed to everyone that has ideas listed on the platform. Inventors can profit off their ideas without having to develop them, and companies that need innovative new ideas get easy access to them – a win-win.
In the blockchain space, there’s a lot of hype, as well as controversy, about token sales, which are ways for individuals to purchase tokens at a discounted rate. Controversy on token sales stems from a trend in which companies are having token sales for the sole purpose of collecting money, without anything more than an idea and a website. Loci is defying this by coming into the market with an already working product and a much clearer vision on how to scale and implement their plan. Time will tell if they are able to accomplish their goal, but it’s definitely a company worth watching.