The totally slimy, completely dishonest way some companies are getting rich in 2015.

Back in the good old days, there was basically only one way to get rich.

You invented something. And then you sold it for money.


"Invent something" is pretty loosely defined here. Image by Hempdiddy.

But guess what, kiddos? There's a brand new way of cashing in that's taking America by storm. And the best part is, you don't even have to, like, invent anything.

Just apply for some super-vague patents!

Patents are basically copyrights on ideas. You can also get them for things you can hold in your hand, but patents on things you can actually hold in your hand is so 20th century!

Now, for this to work, you have to make sure your patents are super-broad and vague so that they encompass pretty much anything you can think of.

Did you do it? Nope. Vaguer. Vaguer. OK, good.

Now sue the pants off the people who actually invent things that could potentially kinda sorta be covered by your super-vague patents but are too poor and/or skittish to fight you in court!

It's called "patent trolling."

You may have heard John Oliver talk about it on his show.

While Oliver makes some fantastic points about how ordinary people and small businesses get railroaded by companies that make their living suing people for patent infringement, he leaves one big thing out.

Threatening innovators with huge lawsuits and hoping they settle out of fear isn't just one of the shadiest ways of doing business imaginable.

It's also a huge roadblock to technological and economic progress.

Remember how in 1875, we didn't have cars? Or planes? Or mass-produced electric lightbulbs? And then, within 30 years, we had all those things?

Also zeppelins. How could I forget zeppelins? Photo by U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command.

That was because people thought, "Hey! Why don't I invent this really cool thing that doesn't exist already so that I can make a ton of money."

But now, all the people who would otherwise be inventing all the cool stuff are saying to themselves, "Hey! Why don't I not invent anything because if I do, I'm just going to get sued by someone who claims to hold the patent on it already."

Don't take it from me. Take it from this super-dense paragraph about how, despite a booming market and high demand, companies have stopped developing software for storing medical images.

"Why, precisely when the market for their product had just taken off, would companies stop innovating? An explanation comes from Catherine Tucker, an economist at MIT who has studied the medical IT sector. In an unpublished study, she shows that the slowdown in R&D occurred as a result of litigation by a company whose primary reason for existing is to acquire the rights to others' inventions and file patent claims against producers of related products — a patent troll. Tucker's study is, to date, one of the best pieces of quantitative evidence of the broken state of America's patent system, a critical concern not just for improving health care but for encouraging the innovation that's needed to ensure future economic prosperity." — Ray Fisman, Slate, April 9, 2012

Or this one, about how companies named in a patent infringement lawsuit are more likely to limit research and development spending.

"Researchers from Harvard and the University of Texas recently examined R&D spending of publicly listed firms that had been sued by patent trolls. They compared firms where the suit was dismissed, representing a clear win for the defendant, to those where the suit was settled or went to final adjudication (typically much more costly). As in the previous paper, this comparison helped them isolate the effect of lawsuits from other factors. They found that when lawsuits were not dismissed, firms reduced their R&D spending by $211 million and reduced their patenting significantly in subsequent years. The reduction in R&D spending represents a 48% decline." — James Bessen, Harvard Business Review, Nov. 2014

There's a bill currently kicking around Congress that seeks to limit this. And shockingly, it has support from both Republicans and Democrats.

Honestly, we're too bored to fight over this one. Image by Chuck Kennedy.

But delays have stacked up and opposition has grown, due in large part to pressure from lobbyists for trial lawyers.

If this whole terrible thing gets you steamed up and you'd like to translate your anger into productivity instead of deep self-loathing at your own powerlessness, what are you waiting for? You have a senator!

Call that guy or lady right now and tell them to vote for this thing.

I would link their number for you, but only you know where you live. So go Google it!

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash
True

This story was originally shared on Capital One.

Inside the walls of her kitchen at her childhood home in Guatemala, Evelyn Klohr, the founder of a Washington, D.C.-area bakery called Kakeshionista, was taught a lesson that remains central to her business operations today.

"Baking cakes gave me the confidence to believe in my own brand and now I put my heart into giving my customers something they'll enjoy eating," Klohr said.

While driven to launch her own baking business, pursuing a dream in the culinary arts was economically challenging for Klohr. In the United States, culinary schools can open doors to future careers, but the cost of entry can be upwards of $36,000 a year.

Through a friend, Klohr learned about La Cocina VA, a nonprofit dedicated to providing job training and entrepreneurship development services at a training facility in the Washington, D.C-area.

La Cocina VA's, which translates to "the kitchen" in Spanish, offers its Bilingual Culinary Training program to prepare low-and moderate-income individuals from diverse backgrounds to launch careers in the food industry.

That program gave Klohr the ability to fully immerse herself in the baking industry within a professional kitchen facility and receive training in an array of subjects including culinary skills, food safety, career development and English language classes.

Keep Reading Show less

This article originally appeared on 10.23.15


Getting people who don't suffer from anxiety issues to understand them is hard.

People have tried countless metaphors and methods to describe what panic and anxiety is like. But putting it into the context of a living nightmare, haunted house style, is one of the more effective ways I've ever seen it done.

Brenna Twohy delivered the riveting poetic analogy recently in Oakland, starting out by going off about some funny "Goosebumps" plots. It's lovely, funny, sweet, and relatable, and it's totally worth the short time to watch.

Keep Reading Show less
True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."