Well, after a struggle that has lasted several months now, it is complete. As of 11:13 pm EST last night, CaseySoftware has completed its first patent filing. Initially, what I thought we were doing didn't warrant such protections and legal entanglements. Then – after attending Startup School last fall – I followed the suggestion of Mark Macenka, did some serious digging for prior art, and went through with it.
This has basically been a four month process in tracking down and compiling information, sending it off to the Patent Office, them asking for more information and/or clarification, and me submitting yet another round. It is a terribly boring, tedious experience and required me to go back and fill in all those documentation gaps and specification gaps. The vast majority of which were originally understood clearly and simply not added to the specification or resulted from a deeper understanding of the requirements. The most interesting thing to me was the pseudo-language which had to be adopted in order to pass muster and appease the critics. As someone who has a degree in Electrical Engineering and nearly a decade of web development experience, I thought I already understood the extent of obfuscation and misdirection present in documentation. This takes the cake.
Delving into the world of patents while like speaking an entirely new language. I really learned to write when I was in high school when one of my teachers hammered us on the concept of "Precise but Concise." That worked for quite a few years until I happened upon Joel Spolsky and Dave Berry. By getting familiar with their writing, I found that you can actually insert humor and levity in writing and people still get the point. Imagine that.
From that time forward, I introduced a bit of levity into my technical writing. My wife claims that I write like I talk. I would have Salesman Sam calling Warehouse Wendy at 3am on the 5th of July to make sure that all the proper Christmas ornaments were on order. I would have Developer Dave introduce an error that made Tester Tom break down in tears, give up computers, and live in a tree. I would have Hacker Henry insert SuperNastyPornSite .com into credit card processing to steal information and generally wreak havok. These were all light-hearted and generally seemed to get the point across in a somewhat plausible way. I suspect that the tree comment struck a note near and dear to the hearts of many other developers that I've worked with, but I digress...
Last night when I worked through the final revisions, I realized that in order to meet the requirements, all of this had to be swept away. The most painful part was that the initial version of the filing was the specification itself so it was filled with Sam, Wendy, Dave, trees, and other aspects that simply had to go. I deleted the last of these and realized that the patent filing was a document with a life of its own and although it represented and explained my thoughts and ideas, it didn't speak in my voice, it didn't have my style, and it certainly didn't represent me.