The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Can the law keep up with technology advances?

digital law.pngWay back in 2005, I wrote a blog post: Law and the Next Big Thing, where I asked the question: “Will Stare Decisis survive the next big thing?” Since the article I linked to in that post is now gone, it made me wonder about articles on the subject today.


Now almost 10 years later, there was a post by the World Future Society that is asking similar questions: What Does Moore’s Law Mean For the Rest of Society? The article looks at a number of areas like patents, and policing as well as robotic vehicles. He also looks at technologies effect on jobs and job creation where the author states:

“The new technologies that once created new industries and new jobs are now only creating new productivity without the jobs. Computers, robots, artificial general intelligence, and other technological advances have changed the economic game. From a business point of view, improved productivity is good; but from the point of view of public officials desperate to create jobs for their constituents, not so much. This may be the biggest disruption we face.”


I don’t take quite that negative a view, but as we can see from the recent employment numbers, we need to look for new services in order to have new employment.

What can a technologist do to be relevant?

list.pngI was reading the top X lists that always come out at the end of a year. It made me think about stretch targets for technologists. These lists can be divided up into categories. It made me wonder what others thought important.


Some items are relatively straightforward tasks expanding the depth and breadth of experiences. These are usually fairly transient based on the changing technology trends of the day:

  • Install a cloud-based virtual machine
  • Write an application for a mobile device and get it into the app store
  • File a patent
  • Take an on-line class (or maybe a couple every year)

Some or focused on the development of others and through that effort, ourselves:

  • Participate in a high school targeted STEM activity (judge, mentor, lecturer)
  • Read blogs and post your own about things that interest you or make you question what you know
  • Find a mentor and mentor others
  • Participate in a service/standard organization startup

Are there other categories? What others items could you add? Frankly, I need some new items on my list. :-)


The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss, but that it is too low and we reach it. —Michelangelo

Faster Patent Review System?

A recent news story covered proposed changes by the US Patent Office to enhance the patent review process and reduce the backlog of over 750,000 patent applications. My last patent was issued after nearly 6 years in the process, so I really appreciate anything done to speed up patent prosecution.

Everyone agrees that the current 5-6 year processing time is excessively long, hurts the entrepreneurs, and some patents actually lose their value as the technology advances during this period.

The core of the new proposal appears to be:

  • Place more emphasis on the early stages of application review.

  • Specifically, the patent examiners get an extra hour to review an application, and they get more credit for the initial reviews rather than the latter continuation activities.

  • The proponents believe that the emphasis on the early phase should boost quality and morale. The skeptics argue that the extra hour spent on review may actually worsen the backlog.

However, I think everyone would agree that an extra 60 minutes spent on the initial review probably will not reduce the prosecution time from 5 years to a more reasonable 2 years. In fact, I doubt that any human-intensive process can adequately address the backlog – we need technology to come to the rescue.

To help with the backlog, some additional steps that come to mind include:

  • Better and more context-sensitive search tools available to the examiners.

  • More automation and intelligent systems in the review phase.

  • Language is inherently ambiguous; so, how about a more precise representation of patent claims?

What do you think?

Labels: Innovation| Patent
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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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