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Best Approach To Keeping a Virtual World Protocol Free to All?

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the generous-coders- dept.

Patents 163

arkowitz writes "I invented a protocol called CICP for interacting with virtual worlds, and filed a provisional patent application on it March 20 of last year. I have since declared the protocol open and public, and contributed an implementation of it to the Sun Wonderland project, which is GPL; and made public the LSL code and accompanying Java servlet for the Second Life implementation of the protocol. I've been collaborating with a fellow in Finland named Tommi S. E. Laukkanen on a new protocol called MXP: Metaverse Exchange Protocol (here's a full description at cybertechnews.com). MXP is and will always be public domain; we intend it to enable an open and ubiquitous metaverse. My question is this: is there any reason to complete the patent app for CICP, which could potentially cover MXP as well, and release it to the public domain? The full app is due by March 20 and the legal work would probably cost my company $10k. Would finishing the patent protect the open and public protocols from patent trolls, or would it be a waste of money? Also, what kind of document would I need to make official the public-domaining of the app?"

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first pzorttg (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26729265)

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Re:first pzorttg (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26729649)

Welcome to marklarg.

anal sex (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26729281)

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Re:anal sex (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26729453)

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Re:anal sex (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26729625)

not true, it will also make you a star on the Internet! Do it and post it on your website, then link it to us!

Can it do this? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26729283)

If your thing allows me to put the swimsuits of Dead or Alive Xtreme Volleyball on the female characters of Xbox360 games, I'd buy it.

Put Your Documents & Code on SourceForge (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729287)

Best Approach To Keeping a Virtual World Protocol Free to All?

  1. Document it well. Do you have a javadoc style reference for it? What about example or sample code showing how to use it?
  2. Promote it. Ninety percent of GPL code I use is recommended to me by coworkers & coleagues.
  3. Support it (if possible). Feature f is seriously not working for me, is anyone going to help?
  4. Let the community own it. Don't be afraid to let contributors add/request new directions.

... filed a provisional patent application on it March 20 of last year

But I'm guessing you haven't been awarded the patent? I think you've done more than most people would have. If you're worried about someone suing you for using a protocol, why not just upload all the documentation for it to a SourceForge Project or make it available on your site and date it? I'm guessing it's a bit more tricky than software [gnu.org] as you need the required documentation to define a protocol but why shouldn't that be releasable under the GPL? If you really wanted to ask for help, you could seek help from the EFF [eff.org] in establishing prior art now.

Also, what kind of document would I need to make official the public-domaining of the app?

If you have the source code, just drop it on SourceForge or make it available for download on your site with a copy of the GPL as a license file [gnu.org] . Frankly, I'd be more concerned about it being adopted and supported widely rather than having it be a GPL protocol. I wish you the best of luck--I think something very neat could come of this!

Re:Put Your Documents & Code on SourceForge (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729771)

Yeah I don't understand why you need to file for a patent at all. It's a protocol; once everyone agrees how they expect things to behave, what's there to buy or sell? Can protocols even be patented?.. Even if they can (and protecting a particular way for other peoples software to behave is ridiculous) then you don't need to worry about someone else patenting it as long as you've already written it up and dated it.

Usefulness and community more important (1)

pizza_milkshake (580452) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730809)

If your aim is to give it to the world, then do so, literally. The true value of software comes from the number of people using it; which means if you can design something useful and provide free high-quality tools implementing it that people can use and keep an active community behind the project so the project doesn't become obsolete then you will accomplish more than with money and a lawyer. Also I suggest a license that is as unencumbered and straight-forward as possible, such as MIT or BSD; as people will feel more comfortably including it in commercial software.

GPL not in Public Domain (3, Informative)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729785)

Also, what kind of document would I need to make official the public-domaining of the app?

If you have the source code, just drop it on SourceForge or make it available for download on your site with a copy of the GPL as a license file [gnu.org].

No, the GPL will not "make official the public-domaining of the app". The GPL is a copyright license that imposes all kinds of terms on those making derivative works, while something being in the public domain means there are no copyright-based restrictions on those making derivative works. A BSD-style license would be more like releasing it into the public domain, but still quite distinct.

Strictly speaking, there is, AFAIK, no way in the US to release a copyrightable work to the public domain officially. When you say that a work that you control the copyright is in the public domain, you've mostly just issued a gratuitous public license for other people do with it what they want, that is as revocable as any other gratuitous license, but may be enforceable to the benefit of the licensee (e.g., anyone who acted under the purported release into the public domain) under the principle of promissory estoppel.

Anyhow, asking Slashdot for this kind of business/legal advice is like asking a forum of MBAs or lawyers for programming advice.

Re:Put Your Documents & Code on SourceForge (3, Informative)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730367)

Also, if you are comfortable with giving up your copyright, you could ask the FSF if they are interested in having code and patent donated.
If you offer that and they accept,
-you would be limited to GPL use of the project yourself
-but the FSF would handle the legal stuff and bring lawsuits against GPL violators if necessary.

Am there, doing that, Sourceforge is good route. (1)

kbonin (58917) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730371)

If you want your VR system to succeed, then just built it - a hundred other groups are doing the same. If you want it open, post the source and docs somewhere like Sourceforge. If you really want people to use it, post the code under BSD instead of GPL.

Defensive patents are interesting, but the patent system is so broken that a better approach is a simple defensive publication of the architecture and protocols. Frankly, no matter how you built it, you're basically guaranteed to be infringing at least dozens of patents...

I to am sitting on an expiring provisional patent for a large scale VR protocol, actually VR over P2P. We decided some time ago to stop wasting our effort on the broken patent system and focus on releasing the system.

We're going this route, building a AAA game platform integrated with P2P MMO back end, all in cross platform code. We're not posting code or docs until we deploy publicly so we can enjoy first mover advantage, but we plan to open the source in phased releases as we grow - the only part we currently plan to retain control over us the underlying PKI.

All that matters in the end within the VR domain is who can build the first massively scalable system that can also be a fun place for a broad cross section of the public. If anyone builds such a system with closed source and/or protocols, it will be recreated with open source and protocols.

Re:Put Your Documents & Code on SourceForge (2, Informative)

Insaniac99 (1440867) | more than 5 years ago | (#26731001)

just to make a clarification: putting something under the GPL is not the same thing as releasing it as public domain. the GPL and other licenses like it (such as Creative Commons) still protect the works under copyright and allow the owner of the copyright to pursue people who violate the restrictions placed on the use of it. releasing something under the public domain relinquishes all control of the IP and lets people start selling, modifying, and doing whatever they want willy-nilly without any stipulation that they need to release the work as open source or keep it free (whether as in beer or freedom) or anything else.

Who owns the patent? (3, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729325)

You might have invented the protocol, but if the rights are assigned to someone else (an employer etc) then you have no rights over it.

If you have kept the rights then you don't have to do anything special to keep it free for all. Just tell people that it is.

Re:Who owns the patent? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26729477)

The rights are assigned to Green Phosphor LLC, the company I founded. I own 60% of the company. :)

So when I say it's free, I guess it must be!

Re:Who owns the patent? (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729781)

Hmmmm...would the Tommi Laukkanen you mentioned in the article be this Tommi Laukkanen [substanceofcode.com] ? He wrote the GPL Twitter client I use on my phone. That guy's gifted.

Re:Who owns the patent? (1)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729655)

You could well lapse the patent.

Prior art = prior patent.

Prior art != no legal fees (2, Informative)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729721)

Even when there's prior art it doesn't mean somebody else can't patent it and try to sue you.

You'll win ... but in the USA at least you'll ruin yourself in the process.

Re:Who owns the patent? (1)

rs79 (71822) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729879)

Right. By filing the application you've established prior art.

Are there any patents on this or near this previous to yours? Did activeworlds ever patent their stuff?

(not a lawyer etc...)

Re:Who owns the patent? (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730233)

Right now, if the patent holder has no resources (namely money and/or lawyers), the patent has relatively little value in itself. It can help with preventing somebody else from getting a similar patent, but since you have already published your code and specs, these should be able to be used to show "prior-art"...

uberkool (1)

alexborges (313924) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729335)

Sounds REALLY COOL (but then, im one of those that actually read the book). Id say with the current environment on software patents, it would be critical to your goals to aquire the patent so that no trolls could come and attempt to bite us in the ass in the future as has happened to some media formats (and to our collective arses).

So go, go, go do the patent thingie to appease the trolls. Yes, they may be in the way of the dodo, but we will never know until they are gone and this are some fiesty and angry troll-dodos with wads of cash to buy senators and presidents....

Re:uberkool (1)

arkowitz (1185265) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730529)

That is exactly what I have been thinking. Something like this, were it to be adopted/used/spread, will need to be defended. Thanks for the feedback; this helps.

Talk to a patent lawyer (5, Insightful)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729341)

Your company presumably has one. You know damned well it's a waste getting any legal advice from /. so why bother?

TALK TO YOUR DAMNED PATENT LAWYER!

Re:Talk to a patent lawyer (1)

EpsCylonB (307640) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729361)

seconded

Re:Talk to a patent lawyer (1, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729465)

Your company presumably has one. You know damned well it's a waste getting any legal advice from /. so why bother?

TALK TO YOUR DAMNED PATENT LAWYER!

I quite frankly disagree.

If this guy is legit and he owns the rights to this and his company is backing him, do it. People need to get it through their heads that you don't need an army of lawyers to donate to the community. That's an old dead Microsoft/SCO way of thinking. If you want to open source something that is originally yours, it does not--I REPEAT DOES NOT--cost you anything or require a law degree!

I don't even think he needed to file for a patent unless he had the intention of selling this protocol at a later date. Just release the documentation with the GPL and date it!

You don't need a "damned patent lawyer" to write code and distribute it!

Re:Talk to a patent lawyer (2)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729569)

He's asking whether he should continue the patent process which costs $10K, and which potentially covers the new protocol. That involves the patent lawyer, and that is why he needs to continue talking to the patent lawyer instead of random /. strangers.

Re:Talk to a patent lawyer (3, Insightful)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729759)

That involves the patent lawyer, and that is why he needs to continue talking to the patent lawyer instead of random /. strangers.

Patent lawyer: "Why yes! Of course you should pay me $10,000! Otherwise the boogeyman will get you!"

Sometimes a second opinion is a good idea. Whether slashdot gives a good second opinion is left as an exercise to the reader.

Re:Talk to a patent lawyer (2, Informative)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729851)

Patent lawyer: "Why yes! Of course you should pay me $10,000! Otherwise the boogeyman will get you!"

The $10,000 cost referred to is the cost of filing the final, non-provisional application, not the cost of legal fees. Since the cost is to the company, if the company has in-house counsel, talking to them should be far less expensive, and would be the kind of thing that would be pretty irresponsible not to do (and if special talent that is outside of the company is needed, that's something in-house counsel should be able to determine, and should be able to assist in locating someone who isn't going to blatantly violate legal ethics by acting in their own interest rather than their clients, and, failing that, should be able to get the ball rolling on the legal malpractice action against the outside counsel if such a violation does occur.)

Re:Talk to a patent lawyer (1)

lucas_picador (862520) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730003)

The patent could be useful to you and other users of the FOSS protocol/software as a defensive patent, i.e. you could use it to countersue anyone (e.g. a troll) going after you or any other user of the software. Whether it's worth $10k to your company for this extra protection for you and the community of users is something you should talk to a lawyer, and your company/community's business strategists, about.

Re:Talk to a patent lawyer (1)

j0nb0y (107699) | more than 5 years ago | (#26731023)

Most of the $10,000 is the cost of preparing the application. The actual filing fees are a small fraction of that. They might be even smaller in this case, as it sounds like the LLC qualifies for small entity status. Small entities qualify for reduced fees (50% off) for many things at the patent office.

I am a Registered Patent Agent.

This is a hard question for me (-1, Offtopic)

Gizzmonic (412910) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729343)

I like, totally don't even know what a Virtual World Protocol is? Is that like AOL? *giggle*

Hey, will you like drive me to the mall? I'm supposed to be meeting Bobby there and we're so totally gonna make out! Thanks, you are like so cool. I'm so glad we're friends and you like fix my computer all the time. Hey, why do you look so sad?

  Is it because of that Virtual World Protocol thingie? Maybe you can get a new one at Gamestop at the mall! Also, like, I'm totally gonna get my bellybutton pierced at Claire's! Oh my God, you know my mom's gonna freak, but I totally don't care!

Re:This is a hard question for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26729413)

I like, totally don't even know what a Virtual World Protocol is? Is that like AOL? *giggle*

Hey, will you like drive me to the mall? I'm supposed to be meeting Bobby there and we're so totally gonna make out! Thanks, you are like so cool. I'm so glad we're friends and you like fix my computer all the time. Hey, why do you look so sad?

Is it because of that Virtual World Protocol thingie? Maybe you can get a new one at Gamestop at the mall! Also, like, I'm totally gonna get my bellybutton pierced at Claire's! Oh my God, you know my mom's gonna freak, but I totally don't care!

Hey hey calm down. I have something important to tell you ...

I RAN OVER YOUR CHIHUAHUA AND NAILED IT TO THE WALL IN YOUR ROOM.

So, now how do you feel?

Re:This is a hard question for me (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729479)

It wasn't mine. Noisy little bugger just wouldn't go away. Thank you. It should make a nice trophy.

Re:This is a hard question for me (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729571)

Looks like all the east-coast 12 year olds got out of school and just got online. Seems the trolls get thickest this time of day...

A patent means nothing until upheld in court (5, Insightful)

goffster (1104287) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729359)

A patent merely helps you argue your case.
It guarantees absolutely nothing.
A patent troll may be able to outspend you in
court.

Re:A patent means nothing until upheld in court (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729899)

I'm pretty sure that in a patent trial, a patent can be used as evidence of prior art.

Of course, I can't say I'd be all that surprised if it didn't with the way the justice system works. What he's really asking (if I'm not mistaken) is how to ensure that nobody will be able to patent it out from under him. That requires establishing prior art. He's doing that with a patent right now, he's wondering if his second project not being patented should be patented to protect it. This is a legitimate question, and a patent would almost certainly be a strong defense if this ever went to trial.

Re:A patent means nothing until upheld in court (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730231)

Publish documents about it. The copyright on the documents wouldn't work for proof?

Does it now count as prior art? (4, Insightful)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729363)

The only reason to finish the patent process would be to establish your freedom to continue down that path without anyone else patenting your own technology, and then blocking your from using it.
I don't know if an abandoned patent application is sufficient to give you that protection. Finishing it and then not keeping it up is definitely going to do it (usual IANAL disclaimer).

Re:Does it now count as prior art? (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729425)

The only way he would not be free to practice it is if it has already been patented by someone else. If he has been practicing this (with dated documentation, such as a patent application), that's automatic prior art invalidation.

Now, if a troll can forecast something you want to do in the future that you have not yet documented practice of, they can run ahead of you and patent that, but having a full patent is no more protection from that than dated, documented practice of the art.

Lots of ways to establish prior art (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729813)

Just publish it in a public space: blog, user group etc.

Re:Lots of ways to establish prior art (1)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729973)

Maybe I wasn't clear enough here - when you file a patent, you're required to list relevant patents in the field. These will (hopefully, if the process works) prevent the troll from getting a patent on your stuff. Prior art based on previous publication might help you get the patent overturned, but it won't necessarily stop the troll from getting the patent in the first place, leading to all kinds of expenses (much more than the 10k to finish the patent process and than abolishing it) or hindrances in the market place (FUD a la SCO).

Re:Does it now count as prior art? (2, Informative)

fair use (948368) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730111)

A patent doesn't give you the right to do anything. A patent only gives you the right to prevent other people from doing something. So getting a patent on this won't prevent other people for suing you for patent infringement. The patent could be useful from a defensive perspective. If you get sued by a competitor for patent infringement, then you could potentially countersue for infringement of your own patent. If you are sued by a troll, however, that won't help because trolls don't do anything and thus can't be sued for patent infringement.

Just publishing something makes it available as prior art and allows it to be used to prevent someone else from obtaining a patent. The prior art rules in the US are slightly different for publications and patents (look up 35 USC 102) but if there is any significant difference it probably wouldn't be worth the expense of obtaining the patent.

Re:Does it now count as prior art? (1)

j0nb0y (107699) | more than 5 years ago | (#26731041)

The only reason to finish the patent process would be to establish your freedom to continue down that path without anyone else patenting your own technology, and then blocking your from using it.

Not true. A patent does not give you the right to practice the invention. A patent only gives you the right to exclude others from the invention. If someone else has a prior patent, you might still be prevented from practicing your invention.

IANAL.

Poor name choice (4, Funny)

Compholio (770966) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729365)

You need a better name for a GPL project than that, I recommend "Black Sun" - and if you haven't read Snow Crash then shame on you.

Re:Poor name choice (1)

arkowitz (1185265) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730291)

well if we changed the name we would change it to "bubbles". I've read SnowCrash twice, btw, and it is overrated. I prefer Gibson's vision.

Public domain isn't necessariliy free and open (4, Informative)

gujo-odori (473191) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729377)

You are, to some extent, talking about creating two different things: public domain Vs. GPLed.

If you release something to the public domain, I (or anyone) is perfectly free to take it and make a proprietary version which may or may not be fully compatible with the PD version.

If you release it under the GPL, it's very difficult for someone to do that without violating the license.

That said, you need to talk to a good intellectual property lawyer, not Slashdot. You'll only get one shot at doing this so that it comes out the way you want, and a good lawyer's guidance through the process will make your success a lot more likely.

Agree for the same reasons (2, Insightful)

happyslayer (750738) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729693)

The GPL license includes some restrictions on use and redistribution (if don't want it to remain free to all, you could use the BSD license..(IANAL, all the rest, so this is only my personal understanding.)

Being a usual /.er, I haven't read the article, but it sounds like you're talking about a protocol layout--a communication schema. In that case, talking to the IP lawyer would be a good way to go. However, in dealing with the lawyer, don't let them decide "the plan"--you should lay out your plan, and say "Can you make this happen?"

My suggestion for "The Plan" is this:

  • Have the protocol sponsored/supported by your company.
  • License under the GPL so that it can be used free of cost, with appropriate credit for the original coding.
  • Have the reference or baseline code hosted online, freely available (your own servers [big company investment] or at Sourceforge.net

that leaves a few questions for the IP attorney:

  • Do we need a patent?
  • Patent or not, what steps to enforce the license will be required?
  • How much will this cost the company--best/worst case?

Details like community involvement; retaining the project as a company project only or not; taking donations or "selling"; etc. will come later. None of these are new questions; you might want to talk to some big OSS project administrators to see how their choices are working.

Good luck! It sounds like a lot of fun to be involved in.

Use GPL version 3 (1)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729863)

Version 3 was updated for this specific problem. Otherwise, how can the community have any assurance that your contribution will remain free from your own patents? Supposing your company and its patents were bought and the new owners decided against letting the community freely use those patents?

The patents themselves may be a waste of time and money. They are for software, are they not? And it is not clear that software should be patentable. (I'm of the opinion it is clear that software should not be patentable.) If software and business processes and such are not patentable, then those patents will be of no value.

Suppose software can be patented. Even then, why obtain them at all? If they are for purposes of establishing prior art so that no one else tries to patent the same thing, there are other, cheaper ways to achieve that, such as publishing.

Patents might be useful for fighting patent holders who have something to lose. Fight fire with fire. If they come knocking, demanding that you pay them for the use of their patents that you are allegedly infringing, don't pay. Buy them off by offering to cross license, with the implied threat that you can sue them just as easily as they can sue you. I'm guessing they will deal. I think that's how all large patent holders operate. I don't really know how useful this approach is. It may be that it is unnecessary, and prior art is sufficient to keep those kind of sharks at a distance. However, the entire approach may be fundamentally flawed. It's just like stockpiling ever more nukes and missiles, to achieve Mutual Assured Destruction. All sides benefit if they don't have to devote resources to such ends. It may also be possible to get the protection of all the patents of patent hoarders, in exchange for contributing a few. Don't know about that idea either.

That leaves the troll who has nothing, and who therefore can't be bought off with a cross licensing offer. I doubt that anything-- patents, legal precedents, threats to counter sue-- will be much use against that. Anybody can sue for any reason. Hope it doesn't happen. Maybe there are things that could be done to make yourself look like a difficult target. Maybe patents are one of those things. Perhaps merely not having deep pockets, like RIM does, is enough. But if a troll does attack, it may come down to deciding whether to buy them off or fight.

IANAL. These are just my guesses.

Re:Public domain isn't necessariliy free and open (2, Interesting)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729905)

You are, to some extent, talking about creating two different things: public domain Vs. GPLed.

OP seems pretty clear that they are looking to release the protocol to the public domain, while the software they have so far released that implements the protocol is released under the GPL. Those are, quite clearly, two different things, but they are not at all in conflict.

Re:Public domain isn't necessariliy free and open (1)

powerlord (28156) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730475)

Actually we need to remember that there are REALLY two different things here.

There is the protocol specification, and there is the code (in essence a reference implementation).

I'd suggest that you could take the documents outlining the protocol specification and release them under copyleft, or, alternatively, just host the information in a Source-Forge project and start building momentum (if you build it, they will come).

Then release the sample binary under GPL (for the whole), with the actual "reference" libraries (I'm assuming its a bunch of libraries and not just everything in one binary), under LGPL.

That would provide the benefits to the protocol that they could be used by proprietary applications, while still maintaining the rights of the end-user and the community to any updates/changes to the LGPL protocol module. Alternatively, you could release the reference libraries under BSD licensing, but that could make them susceptible to being subverted until your protocol becomes a de-facto standard.

Don't forget that as a Copyright holder, you can offer to license the reference code to parties interested in using it beyond the LGPL boundaries also (don't forget to make assignment of copyright to you a requirement for accepting any patches to the reference code).

Just some thoughts, but then I'm not an Intellectual Property Lawyer. I'd suggest you find one. :)

Prior Art (3, Informative)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729383)

Assuming your invention is not already covered by someone else's patent, then essentially, no. IANAL, naturally, but I think you basically would just want to get a good description of the patentable claims, probably with a reference implementation, out there.

If I understand the legal situation correctly the formulation is something like your prior art has to be 'published'. My guess would be the more prominently, the stronger its claim is. In other words ideally in some "major" print publication dealing with the subject matter might be ideal.

An RFC might not be a bad idea either. Or two as the case may be.

Getting a patent issued in any case is not strictly required and as you observe, kind of expensive and time consuming as well. The only thing having a patent would likely do for you is allow you to refuse to license purely commercial implementations or collect royalties from them. Doesn't really sound like either of those things are on your agenda.

Re:Prior Art (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729421)

An RFC might not be a bad idea either. Or two as the case may be.

If hes got the money he can always get an ISO

Re:Prior Art (2, Funny)

rts008 (812749) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729951)

Arrrhhgg.
If he has Ktorrent, he can just download the .ISO- for free!

Re:Prior Art (1)

mr_death (106532) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729627)

I think it depends on arkowitz's goals. Nothing can stave off a lawsuit; the real goal is to skew the risk/reward and ROI toward you and away from your hypothetical foe.

Reading between the lines, arkowitz is creating a very useful platform that could be used in the future. A legal stake in the ground may be the cheapest and most efficient way to set the prior art bar high. As others have noted, a drop to sourceforge or an RFC would unambiguously set a public date for your invention.

US patent 5841980, assigned to Sony, appears to cover some of the high level concepts of CICP. If Sony decided to come after you, I don't think possession of a CICP patent would make a difference. That said, if you're not looking to make a lot of money on this, I doubt Sony would come after you.

YMMV, IANAL, etc. If you really care about this, an hour long consult with a patent attorney could give you peace of mind.

Good skill to you and your partner!

Nothing can protect you (4, Informative)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729389)

My gut says that if you're expecting this one patent to protect you from anybody filing an opportunistic lawsuit against you then it's a waste of money.

It's certainly not illegal to invent a new protocol/new software and give it away for free. If someone later patents the same thing and comes to get you, then what you did is prior art. The thing is, just saying it doesn't make you immune from lawsuits -- the point of the lawsuit is to prove that you don't owe anybody anything. Likewise, your one patent wouldn't stop anyone else from writing a slightly different patent and trying the same thing. In other words, so long as software is patentable, you'll never be safe from patent lawsuits.

Maybe the thing to do is to file a copy of your specifications and your software code with the U.S. Copyright Office. Copyright protection for software is automatic, just like it is for written works or anything else. Registering your copyright does confer certain advantages, however. In this case, the point would be to grant you a recognized legal document establishing that your work was completed before any future patents came into being. It would certainly be cheaper than $10,000.

The real thing you have to worry about is the likelihood that there are already 200+ patents on the books covering the ideas that you have implemented. No patent registration will protect you against that.

RIcki don't lose that number (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26730195)

Burn it on DVD, send it out in a letter to yourself.

Re:RIcki don't lose that number (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 5 years ago | (#26731009)

I get the reference, but this is actually a longstanding myth about copyrights. The idea was that a sealed envelope with a postmark on it would establish the date that you created a work. Obviously, however, that isn't true -- it's trivial to fake a postmark, or you could have just as easily mailed yourself an empty, unsealed envelope for use later. Simply put, sending a copy of your work to yourself gets you nothing.

One. More. Time. (4, Informative)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729403)

Also, what kind of document would I need to make official the public-domaining of the app?"

See. A. Lawyer.

Nobody on Slashdot is a legal expert, except in their own minds. The exceptions are the few actual lawyers who hang out here, and they all know better than to offer legal advice based on the kind of vague information you're providing.

This point gets made every time we have one of these give-me-legal-advice Ask Slashdots. It's vaguely possible that the submitter hasn't heard this before. But why do the editors refuse to hear it?

Re:One. More. Time. (1)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729891)

See. A. Lawyer.

This point gets made every time we have one of these give-me-legal-advice Ask Slashdots. It's vaguely possible that the submitter hasn't heard this before. But why do the editors refuse to hear it?

Well... does 'Ask Slashdot' really exist in order to benefit the person asking the question? Or is it to give all us Slashdot readers/posters an excuse to say 'IANAL, but...' and then pontificate on how we think the law works and how we think the law OUGHT to work?

Which one is likely to make more money for Slashdot and its parent companies and business partners?

Re:One. More. Time. (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730091)

Yes, being stupid can be profitable. Doesn't make it intentional. Anyway, I very much doubt that anybody signs on to Slashdot specifically to complain about what's on Slashdot!

Re:One. More. Time. (1)

Rigrig (922033) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730005)

I think the general idea is that lawyers cost quite a lot of money per hour, while /. is completely free.
So if someone here posts you need to know x, you can look up what x is in your case. This might save you from paying a lawyer to tell you to look up x before coming to see him again.
Of course you should always end up seeing a lawyer eventually

Re:One. More. Time. (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730213)

I think the general idea is that lawyers cost quite a lot of money per hour, while /. is completely free.

There are ways to get legal advice without spending a lot of money. Like visiting web sites and reading books authored by people with actual legal training [nolo.com] .

Whatever the cost, the kind of legal advice you get on Slashdot can easily cost you more than you could possibly save on legal fees. The problem here is that too many Slashdotters just don't understand the law as well as they think they do. So they deliver bad advice based on a misunderstanding of the law with a sense of authority that's very dangerous.

Nor does it help that many Slashdotters have a strong libertarian bent and a strong sense of outrage over perceived social wrongs. Too often, their understanding of the law is motivated by a desire to further these principles, rather than any real understanding of how the law actually works in practice.

Re:One. More. Time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26730015)

Come, now. You can answer your own question, fm6.

If Slashdot stopped posting "articles" which contain nothing but vaguely worded requests for "expert" advice, what would we have left?

Sadly, we'd have nothing but yesterday's Engadget posts on today's Slashdot.

Public Disclosure May Be Enough (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729405)

IANAL, but patents are for protection from copying. For it to be public domain and practically unpatentable all you should have to do is publically disclose it as widely as possible in venues with a clear timestamp. It would also be wise for you to have a notebook with notarized dates, etc to demonstrate invention dates.

That said, I hope all software and business patents are abolished as soon as possible.

Is it really worth it? (1)

sstamps (39313) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729415)

Why are you bothering to patent it? Doesn't that kinda contravene the point of making it "open" and "free for all"?

I mean, once you publish it and implementations using it, it becomes prior art and no one else can patent it, either.

Besides my general distaste for process, software, and business-method patents, I have to ask:

Is it really worthy of patent protection? Is it really that new and novel to deserve 20 years of government-mandated monopolistic protection? Do the development costs justify it?

I've yet to see anything protocol-related that is nothing more than an inductively-developed solution to a problem , or a variation on a existing one, that anyone with ordinary skill in the industry could come up with.

Re:Is it really worth it? (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729547)

Why are you bothering to patent it? Doesn't that kinda contravene the point of making it "open" and "free for all"?

Not at all. Ogg is patented, yet open.

I mean, once you publish it and implementations using it, it becomes prior art and no one else can patent it, either.

In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.

Is it really worthy of patent protection? Is it really that new and novel to deserve 20 years of government-mandated monopolistic protection? Do the development costs justify it?

Patenting it allows time for this standard to become adopted on a widespread basis before it can be hijacked.

Re:Is it really worth it? (1)

sstamps (39313) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729707)

Not at all. Ogg is patented, yet open.

Ogg is NOT patented. Come on, dude. Don't post bullshit.

In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.

Perhaps, but it isn't a justification for patenting something that you want to remain open.

Patenting it allows time for this standard to become adopted on a widespread basis before it can be hijacked.

Ummm.. could you explain how you "hijack" an OPEN standard. I am a little fuzzy on that one.

Re:Is it really worth it? (1)

sstamps (39313) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729603)

In fact, after reading the spec, I don't see anything patent-worthy about it at all.

It's basically nothing more than an externally-driven meta-scenegraph, and a VERY generic one at that. One that would encompass a GREAT DEAL of content already in existence in virtual worlds, even in Second Life. It is WAY WAY WAY too broad.

You do know that similar functionality is already in use in SL by a number of different projects, right? Object backup/copying solutions, web-driven interfaces, etc.

I mean, this smacks so much of something like patenting a business method that has been used for many years, just because it is "over the internet". "HTTP for virtual worlds", indeed.

create a 'defensive publication' (5, Interesting)

dencarl (138314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729431)

From DefensivePublications.org [defensivep...ations.org] ...

Defensive publications, which are endorsed by the USPTO as an IP rights management tool, are documents that provide descriptions and artwork of a product, device or method so that it enters the public domain and becomes prior art. This powerful preemptive disclosure prevents other parties from obtaining a patent on the product, device or method. It enables the original inventor to ensure that they have access to their invention by preventing others from later making patent claims on it. It also means that they do not have to shoulder the cost of patent applications.

[emphasis mine]

Re:create a 'defensive publication' (1)

arkowitz (1185265) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730335)

nice. this seems like actual good advice.

Mod parent waaaaay up. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26730817)

Parent needs to be about +7 informative. It's exactly what the OP needs.

Re:create a 'defensive publication' (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730867)

Ahh, you beat me to it. Patents, in the corporate world, do *not* exist to protect the corporation from being sued if someone else patents the concept. Patents, in the corporate world, exist for one of two reasons: as a club to make money (ie, patent trolling), or as a defensive, MAD-style weapon against would-be patent trolls. If you just want to make sure someone *else* doesn't patent your idea, a defensive publication is all you need.

Honestly? (1)

ceswiedler (165311) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729433)

Honestly? The chances that anyone will ever be interested in even implementing your protocol, much less copying it in a way which your patent would protect, is close to zero.

The only reason you have for patenting it is an over-inflated sense of its worth. So no, I wouldn't spend $10k on a patent.

SIX INCHES OF AIR (1)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729443)

SIX INCHES OF AIR.

Seriously. Unplug it. Protocol free!

the main benefit is defensive (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729455)

(I'm nothing close to a lawyer, as probably goes without saying here. An IP lawyer is necessary if the answer to this question has any significant value to your business.)

As far as prior art goes, there may be a minor practical benefit to registration. Publishing your stuff publicly is enough to establish that your thing exists and is public domain, and will prevent someone else from legitimately patenting it. However, having an actual patent registered might make it more likely that a patent examiner would find your prior art and reject any subsequent attempts to patent the same thing (your sourceforge project is less likely to come to the examiner's attention, so a crappy patent might get granted that later has to be invalidated).

However a bigger benefit is probably a defensive one. Although publishing your stuff online establishes prior art, someone could patent an extension of it to cover some case it doesn't currently handle, and use the patent to prevent you or your users from implementing any similar extension. This is sort of the "embrace and extend" approach, where a commercial entity extends free systems and prevents (in this case through patents) the free systems from implementing similar extensions. If your stuff is patented, you can use the patent defensively to prevent this, since they would be unable to use their extension to your patented stuff without reaching a patent agreement with you, in which you could demand some sort of cross-licensing.

I should add that it's somewhat tricky to do this (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729539)

An important caveat I forgot: If you do plan to use patents on open-source software defensively, it's fairly tricky to figure out the right way to do it. You cannot just give a blanket grant to anyone to use the patent for any purpose, since then it loses its defensive value: you have to be able to retain the right to threaten the extension-patenter with a patent-infringement suit. But at the same time you clearly don't want normal users to feel thus threatened.

You instead need to take an approach that grants a royalty-free patent license, but conditional on a reciprocal grant of any relevant patents the other party holds (for some definition of "relevant"). The in-development Open Patent License [openpatents.org] was an attempt to codify this in an off-the-shelf license, but seems to have died about 1 1/2 years ago. I'm not sure if there are any current such licenses.

Re:the main benefit is defensive (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729681)

An IP lawyer is necessary

I'm not sure if there is such a thing. There are copyright lawyers and Patent lawyers and Trademark lawyers. All are considered "imaginary property" lawyers, but the laws differ in each instance. For instance, patents last twenty years, copyright lasts close to two hundred years, and trademarks never run out.

If someone infringes your copyright you still hold copyright. If someone infringes your trademark you have to defend it.

BTW, speaking of copyright lawyers, where's Ray Beckerman been lately? I'll be he could answer these questions better than about anybody else here.

nobody cares (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26729529)

Unless you make a server and a client which implements this in an awesome manner (i.e. better than SecondLife), nobody gives a shit.

wait.... wait.... hold on.. (1)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729575)

You put source code into a PDF file?

Stop the patent filing process immediately.
Stop the development process immediately.
Stop working in any computer-related field immediately.

And stay out of Second Life!

Re:wait.... wait.... hold on.. (1)

arkowitz (1185265) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730457)

lol yes I did put source into a pdf. why not? open your mind.

Who tagged this 'ianal'? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26729577)

Come on, people. This is a family website. Who thought it was appropriate to tag this article with "ianal"?

I'm not a lawyer (anymore), but I think such vulgarities should be placed somewhere else.

- J. Thompson

Disclosure Trumps All Later Work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26729615)

No one can file a patent on an item that is publicly disclosed, so your disclosure here & elsewhere including the USPTO has already assured that it is now public & "free", given the GPL type structure.

No need for a patent at this point.

Remember, a patent is about proof. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729629)

My grandfather was an inventor. He made several small items that he sold with varying success.
He would take all his information, get it notarized put it in an envelope.Get two people ti sign and data across the flap, and then put that in another envelope he would mail to himself and not open.

This gave him proof with a date on it. The few times protection came up, it was enough for the courts. Cost him very little money.

Another thing you can do is just do the patent yourself and send it in. A few hundred bucks, you still get the pending protection even if it is eventually rejected.

Considering you are distributing it into Open license, it will be very hard for anyone to claim infringement without some really good proof.

Now, what that 10G should get you is a good patent search to be sure no one has already patented it.

Re:Remember, a patent is about proof. (1)

Zerth (26112) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730713)

The envelope trick doesn't work anymore.

Anyone can steam the other flap open and reseal it.

Name is nothing original (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26729743)

Definitely need a new name. MXP has been used by zuggsoft as the name of their Mud eXtension Protocol [zuggsoft.com] for quite some time.

Question (1)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729809)

Let me ask you this; are you willing (or able) to spend the money to defend your patent in court? A patent is only as good as the person's/company's willingness to defend it. Otherwise, don't bother wasting the money to patent it.

Publish in Peer Review Journal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26729823)

Publish your code in a reliant peer reviewed journal detailing the protocol.

You you have dated prior art in the public domain.

Wanna hear something cool? (0, Offtopic)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 5 years ago | (#26729923)

Im using a Wiimote+nunchuck as a security system. It's kinda cool, really.

I pair the wiimote to the computer. Then, I pair some bluetooth headset to the computer. Then I make a script that watches the acceleration on the wiimote (easy to do), and if the acceleration changes by more than 3 on a scale from 00-ff, send sound to BT headset. I can also make it scream via local speakers, or fire emails or whatever.

The cool thing, is when I set it up, I just wrap the cord around the machine and plate the wiimote+nunchuck on the keyboard and over the trackpad.

Good luck touching that laptop without making it scream.

Re:Wanna hear something cool? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26730631)

This is where one plugs in a USB keyboard and mouse, then kills off your bluetooth monitoring process.

Provisional is not prior art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26729999)

A provisional application is not published and for all intents and purposes completely disappears 12 months later unless you file a non-provisional claiming priority to it. An unpublished provisional application is useless as prior art.

You can publish your invention to keep others from patenting it (if they manage to independently invent it, but you'll never be able to establish a date as early as your provisional unless you file something.

Sorry, but that's the law

Ask your lawyer! (1)

richardkelleher (1184251) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730079)

This is a question you should be asking a patent attorney, not a bunch of geeks. I guess if you can find a geek patent attorney that would be ok...

Publish it (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730261)

Publish the description of the protocol, in detail, along with any extensions or modifications you've thought up. Don't just chuck it up on some random website; publish it somewhere which is likely to stick around and be publicly noticable. If you put it up on Sun's Project Wonderland website that might be sufficient. The provisional application will protect you (in theory) from trolls who might read it and patent it themselves, and a year from first publication nobody (including you) will be able to patent it.

In fact the patent office is so broken that even if you actually get a patent, some troll might get a patent on it anyway. Nothing you can do about that, unfortunately.

Free Patent Advice (3, Funny)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730293)

Don't get your free patent advice from Slashdot.

Keep it Free (1)

omb (759389) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730365)

I get so bored and annoyed by some of the silly advice here, I dont pracice law, but hold a Doktor Recht. I do consult on IP issues.

Both in the EU and USA patent requires originallity and is absolutely barred by prior art.

That means all you need to do is establish prior art in a copy(left|right)ed document and publish it, by donating a copy to a copyright library eg Library of Congress, University of Cambridge, Universität Basle for example.

The date of publication, entry into the public catalog establishes the prior art.

You do not need to patent, and if you do you (theoretically) publish the details of your invention. That is why there are so many un-patentable Trade Secrets.

What does it *do*? (1)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730397)

I read the spec and looked at the web pages and, frankly, I don't understand what the point is. WHat's the problem this protocol solves. Why would you use it?

Re:What does it *do*? (1)

arkowitz (1185265) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730445)

You would use the protocol if you are a program which wants to put some 3d objects into a virtual world and have users within the virtual world interact with your objects, resulting in messages coming back to you. Virtual worlds can be great platforms for interacting with people and things but they need a standard, cross-platform way to accomplish that interaction.

Protocol free? (1)

CompMD (522020) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730509)

Well, you could just make it run on Plan9, that would accomplish your goal...sort of.

Definitely cannot patent your invention (1)

prograde (1425683) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730681)

You cannot patent the invention *and* release it under GPL.

From the US Patent office: The patent grant excludes others from making, using, or selling the invention in the United States. [uspto.gov] You cannot enjoy that protection and allow others to use it for free.

If you do not defend your market exclusivity, a competitor can apply to have your patent overturned/revoked. It would be a slam-dunk.

Re:Definitely cannot patent your invention (1)

arkowitz (1185265) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730989)

I figure if I patent it, and assign the rights to the patent to EVERYONE, then nobody is an OTHER. Ark

File more provisional patents (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#26730873)

Note that you can file provisional patent applications on any improvements that you make to the original "invention". Do so, and attach full source code for the reference implementation as an "exhibit".

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