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Protecting UAS Innovators

Patenting and legally protecting innovations is an idea that's been around since the beginning of the United States. It provides incentive to UAS innovators to create and develop new technologies that keep the industry moving forward.
By Patrick C. Miller | December 17, 2015

While interviewing patent attorney Melissa Coombes of the Lee & Hayes law firm for an article posted on the UAS Magazine website last week, I asked her what it was that most people didn’t understand about intellectual property law.

“The greatest misconception stems from the idea that people creating things and getting patents actually stops innovation,” she responded.

I was a bit taken aback by her answer because the idea seemed so far removed from the way I view intellectual property. But that could because I’ve spent most of my professional life writing. I’m glad there are copyright laws to discourage others from presenting my words as theirs. I’m also not from the generation that grew up with the Internet of Free Things.

Much to my surprise, Coombes statement was validated less than an hour after the story about her went live on the UAS Magazine website. Someone posted a comment saying a business she represents was stopping UAV innovation by patenting its technology.

My reaction was: What? Really? So there are people in the world who resent inventors seeking to legally protect their innovations. The stories about a company making millions of dollars off an invention for which it paid little or nothing while the person who originally came up with the idea went poor apparently have the opposite effect they once did.

In fact, Coombes volunteered that one reason she decided to pursue intellectual property law was because he father was an inventor who never realized the fruits of something he invented. I find it noble that she wants to help others avoid the same pitfalls. We should encourage innovation in the UAS industry by giving inventors the incentive to innovate.

What I also learned during my conversation with Coombes was how critical the patent process was considered from the very beginning of the United States.

“Our founding fathers thought it so important that they put it into the constitution,” she explained. “Patent and copyright are the only real parts of law—apart from criminal law—that are actually in the constitution. It’s something that’s been very important for a significant period of time, and it’s still very important, especially with the advances in technology today.”

Certainly one can argue that the principle of rewarding innovation as advanced by the founding fathers has worked fairly well over the course of history. Coombes said it’s especially important with UAS technology where there are so many new innovations every day as opposed to patents that are merely improvements on current technology.

“The whole idea behind patent law is that it helps innovation because it provides the opportunity for you to make money and grow your business around your innovations,” Coombes noted.

The beauty of this system is that nobody has to participate in the profit deal. Those who want to give away their ideas are always free to do so.