×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Some Schools Welcoming Patent Firm, Others Wary

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the and-by-firm-i-mean-troll dept.

Patents 55

theodp writes "Intellectual Ventures (IV) will be setting up shop at the top of a Four Seasons this week as Headline Sponsor of the Ready to Commercialize 2008 conference hosted by the University of Texas at Austin. It's the patent firm's 100th university deal, though some, such as Professor Michael Heller at Columbia University, warn against such deals. '... their individual profit comes at the cost of the public ability to innovate. The university's larger mission is to serve the public interest, and some of these deals work against that public interest.' It's a follow-up to the conference IV sponsored last summer for technology transfer professionals entrusted with commercializing their universities' intellectual property, and should help IV, a friend of Microsoft, snag even more exclusive deals (PDF)."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

55 comments

Don't fight the law, ignore it. (3, Interesting)

wild_quinine (998562) | more than 5 years ago | (#25778977)

With laws as outrageously stupid as some of the current patent laws, it's frankly time to start ignoring them.

Re:Don't fight the law, ignore it. (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25779029)

With laws as outrageously stupid as some of the current patent laws, it's frankly time to start ignoring them.

There's a much easier way. We should all just stop going to college. That's the free market approach, right?

Extreme solutions to complicated problems always work out, just like you and I have suggested.

Fix the Law. It's not 100 Universities. (3, Insightful)

Erris (531066) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779307)

Don't shoot yourself in the foot, stay in school and push for better laws. You don't have to work for an unethical company when you get out, just those that think "ignorance is bliss" when it comes to patent law - there never was finer proof that patents offer no real protection to inventors. Software patents should be abolished so the patent office can get back to enforcing real patents.

The number of Universities falling for this has been grossly understated. The article itself says:

the firm recently completed its 100th tech-transfer deal with a university

Despite the multiple deals with Intellectual Ventures, however, Georgeson said his university has kept some pending patents, from its nanotechnology program, off-limits from the firm, believing it can successfully market those to industry itself.

This means that the deals are often with the same suckers but are not exclusive by a long shot. Stanford and MIT have the right idea. I predict IV will be found guilty of fraud and self dealing. It would be easy for Bill Gates and friends to make one or two universities a lot of money by paying for a few select patents while sucking a much larger volume of money out of the rest of the pawns and one night stands.

Re:Don't fight the law, ignore it. (3, Informative)

dsginter (104154) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779175)

With laws as outrageously stupid as some of the current patent laws, it's frankly time to start ignoring them.

That's what RIM thought [theregister.co.uk]

Re:Don't fight the law, ignore it. (4, Insightful)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779367)

Ignoring laws is fine as long as those laws ignore you. Unfortunately, the more people ignore the laws, the more they tend to be strengthened and enforced. The only solution to such stupidity is political.

Re:Don't fight the law, ignore it. (1)

wild_quinine (998562) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779753)

Ignoring laws is fine as long as those laws ignore you. Unfortunately, the more people ignore the laws, the more they tend to be strengthened and enforced. The only solution to such stupidity is political.

When faced with such counter-intuitive, counter-productive abuses of the legal system, I feel like holding my hands up and crying 'fuck everything', but of course that won't work. But there is some method in my madness, when I suggest ignoring patents.

If your product is making enough waves that a patent infringement lawsuit is on the cards, move offshore and ship to the rest of the world. If a country files suit against you, pull out of that country, and don't pay. This is a self regulating system, and I don't think many people will end up against the wall for it... Patent infringement is not sufficient reason for extradition in many countries I can think of. Nobody should end up in jail, unless they're too stubborn to move country to keep in business. It's not the worst sacrifice anyone has had to make. You'd need to be very careful with your funds, because obviously various host countries would freeze your assests from time to time. But it's like this, ultimately: patent infringement is not illegal everywhere, and is not dealt with punitively everywhere. If your product can stay alive in one market, it can stay alive in another. And this stupidity will all resolve itself in time.

Re:Don't fight the law, ignore it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25784265)

Patent infringement is not sufficient reason for extradition in many countries I can think of.

Presumably that is what the new secret law soon to be signed up to by all industrial countries (except China) is for. When I can get extradited to the Arizona desert for writing code for my employer, I'm seriously going to have to consider a new career in burger flipping. Or learn Chinese, cos they will be the only countries allowed to make stuff without getting sued.

Re:Don't fight the law, ignore it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25779769)

Any political solution is such stupidity.

Re:Don't fight the law, ignore it. (3, Funny)

smellotron (1039250) | more than 5 years ago | (#25782591)

The only solution to such stupidity is political.

...or violence, French Revolution-style.

Re:Don't fight the law, ignore it. (1)

cizoozic (1196001) | more than 5 years ago | (#25789471)

The only solution to such stupidity is political.

Ah yes, fighting fire with fire.

Re:Don't fight the law, ignore it. (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779377)

Not ignore. Work around.

What with US companies giving up actually building anything and relying on patent trolling for income, odds are that they will become increasingly adept at defending their patent portfolios. Anyone wishing to innovate will have to be aware of this when developing a business plan.

Your best bet in the IT biz is to implement an application on a web platform. Done in such a way so that its inner workings cannot easily be deduced from its interface. Then, host it off shore in a jurisdiction that is less amenable to discovery motions by US courts.

If its hardware, it will have to be designed such that reverse engineering will not reveal its inner workings. Also, offshore the final assembly to a jurisdiction that will not divulge the source of the internal components.

Re:Don't fight the law, ignore it. (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779529)

If its hardware, it will have to be designed such that reverse engineering will not reveal its inner workings. Also, offshore the final assembly to a jurisdiction that will not divulge the source of the internal components.

That will work... http://www.countryoforiginlabel.org/ [countryoforiginlabel.org] That is only food, but there are similar requirements for all US products.

Jeopardy (0, Redundant)

Kagura (843695) | more than 5 years ago | (#25778993)

... and should help IV, a friend of Microsoft

Well, I'll tell you what, my friend. IV is a roman numeral, so despite your best efforts, you have won! And you wagered...

Re:Jeopardy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25781043)

Suck it Trebek

Sham motives for the "public interest" movement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25779061)

The interest in "public interest" is a sham. The Stallman movement has as its goal to kill off proprietary software, which is not in the public interest.

Once open source software is developed to a certain standard (through any speed and regularity of development, regardless of service standards or the existence of a commercial support providing organisation, regardless of whether developers stay in place or leave), then the "hurdle cost" of developing proprietary software that is competitive in terms of feature set will be prohibitive. As a result no investments will be made in the software field unless developers of uncertain quality randomly decide to contribute to it, or, a company is happy to fund development that will be shared with all their competitors.

If there was a law stating that factories are only allowed to exist if they publish the exact blueprints of their manufacturing systems, would that be helpful or harmful to the economy? If anything it means you can no longer gain a competitive advantage by investing in manufacturing systems.

If they cared about public interest, the natural choice would be to support that companies should be able to include open source software in their products, with proprietary functionality added on.

Re:Sham motives for the "public interest" movement (1)

Daishiman (698845) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779647)

Keep trolling. Come back when you've actually read and understood what the Free Software movement is about.

Re:Sham motives for the "public interest" movement (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779671)

then the "hurdle cost" of developing proprietary software that is competitive in terms of feature set will be prohibitive.

All open source does is raise the bar in certain areas. The reality is that many closed source companies (if not most) will not make any investment in improving their technology unless forced to do so. Why bother? Just keep milking that same old feature set for all it's worth. That may be good business (at least, in the eyes of shareholders who look at R&D expenditures as cutting into their dividends) but it isn't really in the public interest either. If what open source has done is commoditize some types of software ... so be it. In general, that's a good thing for the public. Tough on the closed source company, I suppose, but then again that's what creative destruction is all about (George Gilder reference, in case you're interested.)

On the other hand, there are many areas of the software market not well-served by the open source development model: plenty of room for closed source to compete and make money. But no organization has an intrinsic right to their revenue stream: if what you have to offer is of no value to your customers any longer, that's just too bad. Unfortunately, many corporations feel that they are owed their profit margin, and it's that sense of entitlement (and general resistance to change) that is the root of the problem. Not open source in itself.

Its a trap (4, Funny)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779091)

what more needs to be said?

Re:Its a trap (2, Informative)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779591)

what more needs to be said?

The problem is that as taxpayers, we are paying for the trap, the cheese, and the rat that gets caught. And this needs to be said often, to the non-technical people that vote and make policy.

Could be OK if done carefully (4, Insightful)

GroundBounce (20126) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779127)

Although many patents (both software and hardware) are bogus, the basic concept of the patent system has some validity and there are conditions where patents serve the public interest by encouraging innovation and at the same time making knowledge available to the public which would otherwise be kept as tight trade secrets by companies. In the case of universities, they have been loosing other sources of public funding and so earning some money from patent licensing may not inherently be a bad thing, but there should be requirements for patents obtained based on publicly funded research that although licensing fees could be charged for use by private companies, other universities and other publicly funded research institutions should be allowed to use the technology royalty free.

Grammar Nazi is on duty (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25779327)

loose != lose

The Fûhrer is not amused!

Re:Grammar Nazi is on duty (3, Insightful)

retchdog (1319261) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779351)

Didn't you mean Führer?

Re:Grammar Nazi is on duty (2, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779503)

Didn't you mean Führer?

No, he didn't because if he did, then he'd have been wrong and as we all know perfectly well, Grammar Nazis are never wrong. Ever.

Re:Grammar Nazi is on duty (1)

Rary (566291) | more than 5 years ago | (#25790445)

Didn't you mean Führer?

He's a Grammar Nazi, not a Spelling Nazi. Cut him some slack.

Re:Could be OK if done carefully (5, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779467)

Although many patents (both software and hardware) are bogus, the basic concept of the patent system has some validity and there are conditions where patents serve the public interest by encouraging innovation and at the same time making knowledge available to the public which would otherwise be kept as tight trade secrets by companies.

Yes, but the real issue here is not the patent system pre se, but that certain rogue organizations are gaming that system in a way never intended by the Founders.

IV (and other patent troll outfits) are using the acquisition of large numbers of patents to control innovation and extract their pound of flesh from such activity, while providing little or nothing of value in return. In a sense, they're like Microsoft, who did much the same thing in the operating system / office software world. The term "Microsoft Tax" came about because of the level of control that Microsoft exerted (and still exerts) upon the sale of computer equipment and the choice of operating software, and companies like Intellectual Ventures are attempting to levy an "Innovation Tax" upon anyone or anything trying to do something new and valuable.

The net result of this will be an increase in wealth disparity in this country, and continued decline in our research and industrial sectors. This needs to stop before any attempt to design and manufacture useful, innovative products will be stymied by cease-and-desist orders, lawsuits, and what amounts to a tax levied by private organizations.

Re:Could be OK if done carefully (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779867)

There is also the question of student research going into patents. I can't think of another area of the economy where one person pays money for the priviledge of doing work, which is then auctioned off to the highest bidder for an exclusive contract. This strikes me as the sort of thing that California loves to find unfair.

Re:Could be OK if done carefully (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780279)

There is also the question of student research going into patents. I can't think of another area of the economy where one person pays money for the priviledge of doing work, which is then auctioned off to the highest bidder for an exclusive contract. This strikes me as the sort of thing that California loves to find unfair.

You're right about that. Given the number of high-profile Universities in California, at some point there's going to be an equally-high-profile case on this very issue. If there hasn't already been, of course.

Re:Could be OK if done carefully (1)

ITEric (1392795) | more than 5 years ago | (#25781657)

This is yet another way that the current patent SNAFU will hinder innovation. What students in their right minds are going to want to contribute their (potentially) brilliant and innovative ideas for the profits of a bunch of patent trolls? It seems more likely that they'd hold onto their best ideas in the hope that they'll someday find themselves in a position to profit from them, meanwhile putting forth work that is merely adequate to graduate.

Re:Could be OK if done carefully (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25780613)

And the public should also be allowed to use the technology royalty free.

Re:Could be OK if done carefully (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25782397)

Agree. Since the Bayh-Dohl Act, many universities created tech transfer offices charged to spin off promising technologies. Few would argue that public University-created intellectual property should serve the public interest in some way. As national and state funding allocations continue to erode, some institutions see IP as another potential revenue source. Public schools only have a few levers to help them pay their bills; licensing original IP will likely find more nods than raising tuition or taxes.

Patent pooling among universities (2, Interesting)

troll8901 (1397145) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779237)

I know this is a really silly idea, but I can't seem to stop dreaming.

Universities can:

  1. Form patent pools
  2. Hire a good patent attorney
  3. Fight patent trolls
  4. Form a joint patent-holding foundation

Darn, I've gonna stop inhaling hallucinogens, and start following the money instead!

Re:Patent pooling among universities (2, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779921)

Unfortunately, patent trolling is in the best interests of most universities in the United States. Since the 1980s, everything in America has become increasing profit-centric, including education, and there is no sign of that slowing down any time soon. Just look at how most people view college these days: a ticket to a job. Gone are the days when going to college was about studying, learning, and becoming an intellectual. The schools themselves have adopted a new attitude as well, based on making money on patents and copyrights. The copyrights to my senior design project are held by my university, and for a while, they even had a legal fight with a local company that sponsored the project in order to retain those copyrights.

It will not be long before colleges start partitioning their students' access to journals based on those students' majors.

Symptoms of a bigger problem (4, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779273)

Again, patents were created as a bridge between creators and the market to promote progress. They have mutated into trolls that prevent progress. Patents are now a monster that must be slain.

Re:Symptoms of a bigger problem (2, Interesting)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779499)

Again, patents were created as a bridge between creators and the market to promote progress. They have mutated into trolls that prevent progress. Patents are now a monster that must be slain.

I agree with most of your statement, but eliminating patents entirely may not be the solution. Patents (if properly implemented) can have a beneficial effect on progress ... the problem is not that patents are in inherently evil but that (as you say) they've been turned into something that no longer works for the public good. What's worse is that the only organization that can repair the damage caused by a malfunctioning USPTO and lawyer farms like IV is Congress ... and they're the ones that got us into this. Congress, and some really bad court decisions over the years.

I don't have much hope that anything will improve, near-term. It's going to have to get much, much worse, and the fact that we have a crisis-oriented government now, which likes to let matters go all to Hell before jumping in with a "solution" is another problem.

Re:Symptoms of a bigger problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25780625)

the fact that we have a crisis-oriented government now, which likes to let matters go all to Hell before jumping in with a "solution" is another problem.

say what? you're blaming the newly elected government (who's president hasnt even been sworn in yet) for letting matters "go to hell" before jumping in with a solution? you dont think the previous 8 years might have had more than a little to do with the current crisis? or am I just completely misunderstanding what you meant?

Re:Symptoms of a bigger problem (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780651)

the fact that we have a crisis-oriented government now, which likes to let matters go all to Hell before jumping in with a "solution" is another problem.

say what? you're blaming the newly elected government (who's president hasnt even been sworn in yet) for letting matters "go to hell" before jumping in with a solution? you dont think the previous 8 years might have had more than a little to do with the current crisis? or am I just completely misunderstanding what you meant?

Yes, you're completely misunderstanding what I meant.

Re:Symptoms of a bigger problem (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#25781681)

It's going to have to get much, much worse...

Well this at least seems like a sure thing. No worries on this score. Lots of things are going to get a lot worse faster than most of us would believe possible.

At least we can agree there is a real problem.

Re:Symptoms of a bigger problem (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25782061)

At least we can agree there is a real problem.

Oh, no argument there, and I wasn't really disputing your point. I just wanted to make a distinction between the patent system itself, and the abuse of said system that is going on.

Whether patents are good or bad is a matter of some debate, mainly because they're both good and bad. I do agree that the U.S. patent system as it currently stands is not serving its Constitutional function. Really it's operating in a way that is diametrically opposed to what the Founders intended. It took a good while, but the reasons why some of them did not want such protections enshrined in the Constitution have become (ahem!) patently obvious.

Re:Symptoms of a bigger problem (2, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#25782463)

While I share your respect for the Founders' [upenn.edu] vision, the system of copyright we have now is founded in British common law [abolishcopyright.com] , and in fact harks back to 1662 [wikipedia.org] . Copyrights originally carried for 27 years, and currently go for over 100 years. Thomas Jefferson considered 14 years and he was reluctant about even that and was swayed (or more likely, conceded to get a more important concession) by James Madison. Patents originated further back in ancient Greece, around 500BC [wikipedia.org] and originally carried for 1 year but now extend to up to 20 years. Both have been extended to include things not then invented that are far beyond the original scope.

Should every modern presentation of the dramatic arts credit the contribution of Aeschylus [wikipedia.org] ? Should each modern electronic inventor credit Julius Edgar Lilienfeld [wikipedia.org] ? Maybe. But should some portion of the profits go to them? Probably not. Each was standing on the shoulders of prior giants after all, as are we all, and neither (being dead) would benefit from the cash.

Innovation happens in a climate that encourages or requires it. Perhaps the defining characteristic of Men is that we take the inventions of others and improve them. Each inventor and creator owes a debt to the culture and climate that fostered him or her. That debt is fulfilled when their creation becomes the property of all in the commons from whence a new generation of creator draws from the well and adds their contribution, to profit from for a limited time but ultimately to become part of the common pool again.

The current climate encourages neither business nor innovation. This is a lawyer's paradise where they can make claims of infringements for forgotten claims decades - no, even a whole century - from a prior claim of invention and need prevail only one time in a dozen to reap ridiculous wealth. In the mean time their suits and The duration is being stretched beyond imagining, supported and extended by the wealth of those who support and exploit the inventions of others without inventing, creating, or building anything (NPE) [wikipedia.org] . The Crazy Years [spiderrobinson.com] are truly upon us. I believe there was once a popular author whose histrionic vision included such a period that ended in "the year they hanged the lawyers [amazon.com] ".

Copyrights and patents have become monsters that must be slain.

Re:Symptoms of a bigger problem (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25796493)

Copyrights and patents have become monsters that must be slain.

Yes. But you essentially agreed with me when you called this a "lawyer's paradise." You haven't really presented an argument against the principle of a patent system, just what ours has currently become. There I agree with you: the system has become worse than useless. However, keep in mind that the original patent system did serve us very well for a long time, and could have continued to do so. Any way you slice it, the old system would have required some modifications to be truly effective in our time, but the changes made were exactly the wrong ones. Well, wrong for We the People, but absolutely perfect if you're an IP lawyer or big rightsholder.

Columbia not Colombia (1)

dereference (875531) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780087)

For what it's worth, one [columbia.edu] is an Ivy League university in New York City, the other [unal.edu.co] is not [wikipedia.org] . TFS is wrong but TFA is right; the editor and/or submitter must be having trouble with copy and paste.

Uggh. (2, Interesting)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780473)

Anyone else see the abbreviation "IV" in the summary and immediately think "four"?

Re:Uggh. (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780659)

Anyone else see the abbreviation "IV" in the summary and immediately think "four"?

No, actually I thought "intravenous" but hey, that's just me.

It's a good defense against boycotts (1)

gelfling (6534) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780729)

Every time some group of social activists and NGO's screams about boycotting this that and the other Israeli institution, particularly academic institutions I start to lobby those academic institutions to increase royalty fees they charge those self same academic and NGO groups that already reap the benefit of the research of Israeli institutions they now claim to want to boycott. So for instance if the UK Academic Union wants to boycott all Israeli Universities then they should pay 5 or 10x what they do now while they use the intellectual property of those institutions they want to boycott. The choice should be up to them to pay or not and if they were as moral and ethical as they say they would not pay and put their money where their mouth is. All I propose is to make that decision easy for them.

This is precisely why... (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#25781863)

... the Bayh-Dole Act, which allowed the privatization of the results of research done at public Universities, needs to be repealed.

Public money should NOT be spent to set up University professors and their friends in lucrative businesses. Not only is that unethical in the extreme, it is a mirror of what the Bush Administration has done with public funds and private interests.

i got a better name... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25787387)

Intellectual Vultures

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...