It was 2004, and I remember that dreamy and misty morning in January. I was walking along Harvard Square, bundled up against the biting cold. I saw a young man, who looked about half my age, walking in the opposite direction. As he approached, he stopped and asked “Hey, your face seems real familiar, have we met before?”
I asked him “Have you been to Princeton?”
“Yeah, like a year ago, when I was checking out colleges.”
I said “OK, I was a grad student in Princeton in early 90’s, and I became quite famous for writing the most boring PhD thesis ever. You may remember my face from one of those year books at Princeton”.
That very moment, his eyes lit up, and he screamed “Yes, YES, OMIGOD, Face on the book, FACE BOOK, I Got It, Now I Really Got It, That’s what I am going to do, Facebook. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, I LOVE YOU!”
He gave me a bear hug that nearly choked me, and before I could recover my poise and ask him anything, he just blasted off. I shouted after him, “Really, I am serious, I had the distinction of producing the most boring PhD ever …” but he was gone. That was the last I saw him. Until now.
When I saw the photo of Mark Zuckerberg recently, that little incident in Harvard Square came flooding back. It was a staggering realization: the whole concept of Facebook must have come to him at that brief moment we crossed each other in Harvard Square that morning. I thought to myself “Yeah, genius, so what are you going to do about that now?” To be perfectly honest, I felt a little cheated. OK, I felt really cheated. I mean, he gave me that bear hug that nearly choked me to death, and never even bothered to give me any credit, for my idea, my very own original idea, that gave him that inspiration.
So naturally I went to my lawyer, because I remember being told that is the first thing you are supposed to do in these situations. You know, like, billions could be at stake here.
He listened to my story intently, and started explaining the legal situation, in that measured, precisely crafted manner that I had come to associate with him: “Clearly you brought the two distinct ideas “FACE” and “BOOK” together in one sentence, on which the whole Facebook foundation rests, and which Mark Zuckerberg took from you, as proved by the reaction he had when the idea was transmitted to him. In legal terms, what you had was a THOUGHT-ent, also known as a thought-patent, which are considered legally equivalent to patents.”
I was getting pretty excited by now, “So what do we do now?”
The lawyer explained “Listen, the first thing we will do is to establish priority for this thougtent for you. The best place to do that is the federal court at Sleepy Valley, Idaho, where thougtents get granted quickly and painlessly. This can be done any time, because under US law, it is the first to think the thought that counts, not the first to file. Then we will start the legal process, starting with a Cease & Desist, also known as the love letter.”
“But Mark and team wrote all the code, so won’t they try to minimize my original contribution?” I protested.
“That is immaterial under US thougtent law. Anyone could write the code, it is having the thought that counts. You are the legitimate and rightful holder of one of the most important thougtents on the internet today. I would be really happy to help you get you what is rightfully yours.”
With that I thanked my lawyer and came out. The air smelled sweet outside – it felt great to be alive in this wonderful nation, the greatest on earth. Thank God for freedom and property rights, America.