Of all the ways to judge the effectiveness of an event here at CoCo, my favorite is what I call The Sam Rating.
The Sam Rating was inspired by CoCo member Sam Raiche. Sam is one of the most curious and approachable CoConuts I’ve met. It’s hard not to like the guy. It’s even more difficult to get Sam to quit working and go home. When the bell hits five o’clock, you’re more likely to find Sam furiously sketching away at a white board than packing up to go home. As an aspiring entrepreneur, I really respect his enthusiasm and work ethic. However, as an event staffer, Sam’s work ethic also makes me late for dinner dates and Friday night movies! But I digress, this post isn’t actually about Sam Raiche. It’s about the recent App Developers Summit here at CoCo MPLS. So, let me get to the point…
The Sam Rating is simple: the more difficult it is to get people to leave after an event, the higher the rating. The more engagement, idea-sharing and post event chit-chat going down, the higher the chances are that I’ll find Sam in the crowd—and that I’ll be postponing tonight’s viewing of Game of Thrones!
On a scale of 1-10, I would say the recent App Developers Summit earned a Sam Rating of at least 8.5.
Legal fears and frustration brought the group together. Sharing stories and resources kept them late into the evening. It turns out that for every slick new Web app that hits the market, there are a handful collecting digital dust on the shelf thanks to the quagmire of legal barriers otherwise known as patent law.
The Application Developers Alliance is out to change that. The group hosts Patent Summits around the country, bringing together developers, policymakers and patent experts together to discuss practical topics, like assertion and defense strategies for startups, as well as policy reform.
Each event features a patent expert, followed by a panel discussion between policymakers, app developers, and attorneys, an open Q&A, and plenty of beverages to fuel the reception afterward (but more on that later).
This event was sponsored locally by Fantastic iP Consulting, CoCo and MOJO Minnesota. Ernest Grumbles of Adams Monohan, LLP and Co-founder of MOJO Minnesota kicked things off with a quick overview of the current legal challenges facing app developers.
I noticed an unusual amount of head-nodding and MMMM-HMMMM’s during the opening session, which I later understood as the group’s shared frustration with a legal system that simply isn’t keeping up with the rate of change and innovation in their industry.
For example, panalist Michael Cohen of Gray Plant Mooty Law told a story of spending millions defending a totally bogus claim by a patent troll. (What would a troll even do with a mil anyway?!) My take-away: When it comes to defending a patent in court, even when you win you lose. For most of these cases, all that “winning” means is that you regain the right to get back to work, only now with a few thousand—or million—missing from your budget.
My other take-away: Some app developers really need a drink! The requisite legal jockeying in the app development world may be bad for innovation in America—but it seems even more soul-sucking for the individuals trying to share their passion and ideas. Many of the folks in the room seemed guarded and tense when they arrived (after a few stories like Michael’s, I definitely understood why!). I don’t know if it was the booze or simply the opportunity to connect with others navigating the same troll-infested waters, but closing remarks were punctuated with a palpable sense of camaraderie, perhaps even a twinge of relief that the trolls won’t get the last word.
Speaking of the last word, when I left the building the conversations had migrated to the elevator lobby—and yes, Sam was still there.