Technostrategic Patent Jargon

by: Patrick Anderson | May 9, 2017

Last week on the blog, we discussed the fact that IP policymakers and implementers focus heavily on law, rather than value. While some of this stems from needless complexity, stemming largely from lawyers’ collective stranglehold over the various national patent offices, terminology plays a role as well. The use of confusing, overly technical terminology to keep practical information inaccessible to outsiders is so well-known that the phrase “technostrategic discourse” has been coined to describe it (not without some irony, to be sure).

In fact, a YouTube video discussing South Park’s Margaritaville episode, of all things, actually does an excellent job explaining technostrategic discourse at the 4:30 mark. The authors of that video even comment on how this strategy fueled the 2008 financial collapse.

Lest you think technostrategic obfuscation of intellectual property is merely hypothetical, take note: a new working group of tech giants, including Google and Yahoo, are actively developing a “common vocabulary … to establish an industry standard … of legal tasks involved in patent matters.” (Subscription required). While the effort is couched in terms of eliminating miscommunication and increasing efficiency between legal counsel and clients, the result will advantage the large incumbent insiders driving this process at the expense of small companies, start-ups and inventors left on the outside looking in. The effect of such discourse is startling and predictable. In the words of the professor who coined the term:

As I learned to speak, my perspective changed. I no longer stood outside the impermeable wall of technostrategic language and, once in side, I could no longer see it. Speaking the language, I could no longer really hear it. And once inside its protective walls, I began to find it difficult to get out.

Don’t be the one in the back of the classroom or IP conference audience or while reading said patent – too ashamed or embarrassed to raise your hand when you don’t understand what’s being said – it’s likely that many are in similar situations. Clear and precise, and most importantly, comprehension should rule our day.

Photo credit: Jim Nickabocker

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