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To Patent or Not to Patent?

In a recent BusinessWeek article (Hard Choices), Elon Musk talks about his decision to patent NOTHING having to do with SpaceX. Why? Because, as he put it, “Our competition is the Chinese and Russian governments, against whom patents are unenforceable and can simply be used as a recipe. It’s much better for our technology to be trade secrets.”

This reminded me of something that Chris Moffitt had talked about when I interviewed him for How They Did It. He never patented anything for Rubicon (RBCN) – preferring instead to sink deep teeth into his employees, scientists and engineers. The problem with patenting in Moffitt’s case was that most of his industry was in Japan and China – where they would be perfectly happy stealing it.

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