The upstart barter site Swapthing.com seems to have more in common with online retail behemoth Amazon.com than with IBM. Swapthing and Amazon are part of a wave of online companies with no brick-and-mortar roots redefining how consumers buy (or barter) products. But when it comes to the patent infringement suit IBM last week brought against Amazon, Swapthing CEO Jessica Hardwick equates her fledgling business with Big Blue.That's because Swapthing and other Web 2.0 companies see a need to protect their intellectual property. Like IBM, Swapthing intends to license its technology that promotes peer-to-peer bartering to other companies that won't directly compete with it. Swapthing premiered last year, three years after it began developing technology that Hardwick sees as differentiating her company from other barter sites. Protecting intellectual property is more than guarding the financial interest of the patent holder; for Hardwick, it's personal.
"The only way people have the incentive to innovate is to clearly protect intellectual property," Hardwick says. "I put my whole professional life on the line to do this company for the past five years, and at the end of the day, if someone can come along and directly copy and illegally run it, that would be more than frustrating. It would be a crushing blow."