Why we’re joining the fight against patent trolls

Patents lawsuits and possible reform get a lot of press these days but there’s much less discussion about how companies should approach applying for and protecting their patents.

At my first job, the founder of the company encouraged me to apply for a patent. Worried about patent abuse, I pushed back but he assured me that the company would only use patents defensively. A few years later, he had started a new company and was sued by the previous company over a patent that he had applied for. This experience convinced me that patents are dangerous and that promises mean little.

That experience was top-of-mind for me when Asana began thinking about patents in late 2009. Common advice for startups is that investors and potential acquirers value patents and they can be used to defend against infringement suits. But we worried that our patents could come to be used offensively in the future. Promises didn’t count this time — we wanted to protect the patents with legal force.

LOT, the License on Transfer, is the best license we have found for this. It’s a relatively simple agreement that a patent held by a member will be licensed to all members if it is ever transferred to a troll.

I’m delighted that Asana is a founding member of LOT. We believe that enabling better collaboration makes the world a better place. We are also committed to improving the world in other ways, and joining LOT is just one way we’re making good on our promise. If you’d like to work for a company where ethics (in patents and other areas) are an important part of the culture, consider joining Asana.

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