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Encyclopedia Britannica Loses Information-Retrieval Patent Ruling

timothy posted about 5 years ago | from the rent-seeking-behavior-thwarted-for-once dept.

Patents 95

angry tapir writes with a snippet from Good Gear Guide: "A notorious patent case about a technology that allows people to search multimedia content may finally be coming to a close. Earlier this week, a judge ruled that two patents initially awarded to Encyclopedia Britannica are invalid. The patents were built on the infamous 5,241,671 patent first unveiled by Compton's NewMedia in 1993 at the Comdex trade show. That patent, which covered the retrieval of information from multimedia content and is now owned by Britannica, would have been relevant to the many companies selling multimedia CD-ROMs at the time."

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How does this effect the OTHER companies? (4, Interesting)

Fluffeh (1273756) | about 5 years ago | (#29008121)

I always wonder in these sort of over-rulings where common sense has prevailed, how it sits with the other companies who DIDN'T have the patent at the time.

Is there now a resource that those companies can sue Britannica for possibly not ALLOWING them to conduct business as normal due to Britannica having a patent that's invalid?

If I wanted to make a CDROM with some info on it, and these guys jumped in and stopped me due to a patent, and now I found out the patent is invalid, I would be (pretty rightly) pissed off.

Any lawyers/patent-know-it-all's in the house?

Re:How does this effect the OTHER companies? (-1, Redundant)

Xhris (97992) | about 5 years ago | (#29008145)

Maybe you should patent the idea of suing companies for filing invalid patents....

Why Britannica (4, Interesting)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | about 5 years ago | (#29008387)

(Incidentally it's a US company despite the name). Isn't this a case where the US Government should be sued since they own the USPTO? The publishers of Brittanica shouldn't be sued because they didn't grant the patent. I think this is a really interesting idea. Companies affected by piss-poor patent granting by the USPTO should start a class action against the US Government to enforce proper patent investigation. Up till now large companies have been beneficiaries of the system more than losers, so have had no incentive to rock the boat. Small companies may have stayed quiet in case they came across a doubtfully patentable but potentially profitable idea. But once bad patents start to be invalidated, they are potentially losers, and so the balance swings towards trying to reform the system.

Re:Why Britannica (1)

dna_(c)(tm)(r) (618003) | about 5 years ago | (#29008591)

Companies affected by piss-poor patent granting by the USPTO should start a class action against the US Government to enforce proper patent investigation.

Unlikely to happen. The companies that can afford this are mostly the ones investing in big patent portfolios...

Re:Why Britannica (2, Interesting)

Jurily (900488) | about 5 years ago | (#29008647)

The publishers of Brittanica shouldn't be sued because they didn't grant the patent.

Exactly. For all intents and purposes, they did have that patent, so there's nothing wrong if they enforced it.

What we need is to prevent companies from getting questionable patents in the first place. Make a law saying a company holding a later invalidated patent will be fined 1% of their profits that year, and I promise you, this shit will stop. If you're worried about legitimate patents getting screwed, make this fine non-cumulative.

Alternatively, get the USPTO to hire some clerks that actually know what they're deciding about, and tell them to throw out anything with excessive legalese in it.

Re:Why Britannica (1)

Lord Bitman (95493) | about 5 years ago | (#29008735)

Don't try to fix broken situations by coming up with laws which only make any sense in the broken situation. That is: If there weren't a lot of patent abuse, the law you propose would make no sense. So if the law were to achieve its goal, it would make no sense. So the law is either ineffective, or makes no sense. Worst-case scenario: people forget what the law was originally intended to do, and take it for granted that it must be morally right.

See previous well-known example in history: All "intellectual property" law.

Re:Why Britannica (2, Informative)

Jurily (900488) | about 5 years ago | (#29008807)

You can fix a broken situation by starting from scratch. You can't, however, fix a broken situation with lots and lots of money invested on all sides, by starting from scratch.

Re:Why Britannica (2, Insightful)

Quothz (683368) | about 5 years ago | (#29009349)

What we need is to prevent companies from getting questionable patents in the first place. Make a law saying a company holding a later invalidated patent will be fined 1% of their profits that year, and I promise you, this shit will stop.

Maybe I'm cynical, but I'm pretty sure that whatever percentage you set, folks'll still do it if they think it's more profitable than the fine times the chance of getting caught. Even if it's a hundred percent chance to lose all their annual profits - some companies will still do it to pick up investors, to gain market share/destroy a competitor, and such.

Re:Why Britannica (1)

Jurily (900488) | about 5 years ago | (#29009421)

I know, but it's an arbitrary number to illustrate my idea, and as such, up for debate before implementation :)

Besides, you don't want to destroy a truly innovative company because they slipped over a detail. You want to destroy the trolls who try to patent the wheel.

Re:Why Britannica (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 5 years ago | (#29009487)

For all intents and purposes, they did have that patent, so there's nothing wrong if they enforced it.

So, Brittannica should get a prize for trying to prevent its competitors from doing business? It's like letting someone who cheated into the Hall of Fame.

Man, B-School grads, like today's professional athletes, have an interesting take on morality.

Re:Why Britannica (1)

Jurily (900488) | about 5 years ago | (#29009635)

So, Brittannica should get a prize for trying to prevent its competitors from doing business? It's like letting someone who cheated into the Hall of Fame.

Retard. USPTO fucked up by granting the patent, not Britannica by using it.

Completing your analogy, the heuristics of the DM were broken. That's not cheating by any standard I can think of.

Re:Why Britannica (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29012093)

I'm not so sure Britannica should get a prize, but the competitors who didn't exercise their legal right to challenge the patent when doing so could have been profitable can now exercise their legal right to go cry me a river.

Re:Why Britannica (2, Interesting)

guruevi (827432) | about 5 years ago | (#29009499)

Make a law saying a company holding a later invalidated patent will be fined 1% of their profits that year, and I promise you, this shit will stop.

No it won't. The only thing this will do is get even more companies to set up shell companies to hold their patents for them. Those companies won't be making any profit so even if you fined 50% of it you still won't be getting any of it. They already do it for questionable legal procedures (RIAA), questionable monetary flows (Cayman Islands, products sold in Cuba) or for questionable products (Made in China) thus leaving the parent company protected from any blame or harm. All the parent company does is say: it was our vendor/upstream sales/foreign manufacturer that did it, we promise we will be more careful in the future and we won't be buying from them again.

How to get rich in three easy steps (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 5 years ago | (#29027365)

The only thing this will do is get even more companies to set up shell companies to hold their patents for them. Those companies won't be making any profit so even if you fined 50% of it you still won't be getting any of it. They already do it for questionable legal procedures (RIAA), questionable monetary flows (Cayman Islands, products sold in Cuba) or for questionable products (Made in China) thus leaving the parent company protected from any blame or harm.

  1. Be dishonest
  2. ??????
  3. Profit!

Re:Why Britannica (4, Insightful)

SailorSpork (1080153) | about 5 years ago | (#29009197)

Isn't this a case where the US Government should be sued since they own the USPTO?

Brilliant, I agree! In theory, at any rate.

Except for the fact that if a company can successfully sue the USPTO after it revokes a patent, then the USPTO will never again revoke a patent simply out of liability avoidance. Then we've made a half-broken system all-broken.

The process needs to be fixed at the front end, and the patent office needs to be REWARDED for overturning patents, not sued, in order to encourage it to continue this behavior.

Re:Why Britannica (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29009343)

But then you would have a lot of garbage patents granted just for them to shoot it down for the rewards.

While this may not sound bad at first, but you should realize that when granted, it is valid and can be used. Well, unless the USPTO immediately overturns it.

1. APPROVED
2. DENIED
3. PROFIT

I just hope there is no 1.5 time span. :B

Re:Why Britannica (1)

naasking (94116) | about 5 years ago | (#29010597)

They wouldn't have a choice in revoking them based on court rulings. That's when it should be subject to suits. Where the USPTO takes initiative and revokes a patent based on an internal review, they should not be liable. Positive reinforcement as you suggest would help too.

Re:Why Britannica (1)

AlHunt (982887) | about 5 years ago | (#29009823)

>Isn't this a case where the US Government should be sued since ...

Sovereign immunity makes that pretty difficult.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sovereign_immunity [wikipedia.org]

Re:How does this effect the OTHER companies? (1)

Cantus (582758) | about 5 years ago | (#29008615)

A ffect.

Re:How does this effect the OTHER companies? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 5 years ago | (#29008783)

In order to avoid further confusion, I propose to replace both "affect" and "effect" by "aeffect" and depend on the context to determine the meaning in each case.

Re:How does this effect the OTHER companies? (1)

AndrewNeo (979708) | about 5 years ago | (#29009751)

Surely you mean æffect!

Re:How does this effect the OTHER companies? (1)

BigBlueOx (1201587) | about 5 years ago | (#29009777)

In order to avoid further confusion, We have already replaced the word "affect" with "impact". We do, however, value your contributions and hopefully one of your future ideas will produce the desired favorable impact.

Sincerely,
They

Re:How does this effect the OTHER companies? (0, Offtopic)

Sebilrazen (870600) | about 5 years ago | (#29009305)

what the hell is a "ffect?"

Re:How does this effect the OTHER companies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29009319)

Well, Afflact is an insurance company! :)

Re:How does this effect the OTHER companies? (1)

DJRumpy (1345787) | about 5 years ago | (#29009153)

Why isn't it perfectly legal for these folks to create their own reverse engineered methods of doing this? If their methods are so trivial to reproduce, or so logical that everyone is doing it after simply hearing the idea, then the patent isn't worth the paper it's printed on. I know there are some specific areas where rulings have been made that makes reverse engineering perfectly legal and desirable to market competition and innovation:

http://www.chillingeffects.org/reverse/faq.cgi#QID195 [chillingeffects.org]

They need to stop rubber stamping these 'ideas' or actions that are common sense and start requiring actual innovation before handing out a patent.

Re:How does this effect the OTHER companies? (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | about 5 years ago | (#29010079)

I always wonder in these sort of over-rulings where common sense has prevailed, how it sits with the other companies who DIDN'T have the patent at the time.

Is there now a resource that those companies can sue Britannica for possibly not ALLOWING them to conduct business as normal due to Britannica having a patent that's invalid?

Nope - there's a presumption that any granted patent is valid until proven otherwise. So, if Britannica asserted their patent against any infringers, it wouldn't be fraudulent - they had what the USPTO had stated was a valid patent, so they were in the right, as they reasonably believed the situation to be.

Now, as for suing the USPTO for issuing an invalid patent? Nope. They're part of the government and have sovereign immunity. Furthermore, you'd have to somehow prove that they granted the patent fraudulently and knew it was invalid. Failure to find some particular prior art isn't fraudulent unless they knew of it. Carelessness isn't grounds for a suit.

Any lawyers/patent-know-it-all's in the house?

Patent agent, so halfway to being a know-it-all.

Re:How does this effect the OTHER companies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29010763)

Straight outta Compton's!

Britannica is really a ground breaker (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | about 5 years ago | (#29008133)

I always wanted to know where my mandibula was.

Look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls.

Re:Britannica is really a ground breaker (2, Informative)

tepples (727027) | about 5 years ago | (#29011207)

Look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls.

Microsoft bought the F&W encyclopedia in 1993 and rebranded it Encarta [wikipedia.org] . It finally lost to Wikipedia in 2009.

Re:Britannica is really a ground breaker (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 5 years ago | (#29028113)

It's right here [google.com] .

Adios (4, Insightful)

Locke2005 (849178) | about 5 years ago | (#29008139)

I feel sorry for Encyclopedia Britannica. Like many other companies that were built on the concept of monopolizing information, they no longer have a viable business model.

Re:Adios (5, Insightful)

religious freak (1005821) | about 5 years ago | (#29008219)

Well, when you say you feel sorry for them, you're obviously being sarcastic. But I do feel sorry for them.. as sorry as you can feel for an for-profit corporation anyway. Britannica is obviously flailing around trying to maintain some kind of revenue as shown by this lawsuit, but to say they made money on "monopolizing" information is completely unwarranted.

Did you ever read an encyclopedia pre-internet days (I'm guessing you're too young)? An encyclopedia was an enjoying read just like wikipedia is today. Literally EVERYTHING in the world was accessible to a young kid in 200-500 word chunks. Britannica did not monopolize information, they made it available to anyone that could pick up one of their books. That was their mission, and they did a damn fine job of it. Yes, they didn't keep up with technology and couldn't find their niche, and it looks like the company is going to die... but that really is sad - to have a company devoted to learning die off is never a good thing.

BTW: getoffmylawn!

Re:Adios (2, Informative)

Eric Smith (4379) | about 5 years ago | (#29008297)

but to say they made money on "monopolizing" information is completely unwarranted.

Hardly! That is EXACTLY what they were trying to do with the Compton's patent.

Re:Adios (1)

religious freak (1005821) | about 5 years ago | (#29008305)

Dude... read the rest of my post, please...

Re:Adios (4, Insightful)

dna_(c)(tm)(r) (618003) | about 5 years ago | (#29008625)

You BOTH have a point.

They used to dedicate their efforts to making information available. Then they tried to conquer the new media restricting access to information. Now they're on the brink of failing. It is the same path to failure lots of newspapers follow.

I too spend hours reading Encyclopedia Brittanica, mostly mechanical and scientific stuff. Probably the first thing I read in English.

Re:Adios (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29009455)

Then they tried to conquer the new media restricting access to information.

That's complete bullshit. Britannica could hardly restrict access to information other than the high prices they chose for their books and papers.

Re:Adios (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29009445)

Executive summary of the conversation up to this point:

Locke2005: Point A.
religious freak: You're wrong! Here, I'll refute point B.
Eric Smith: Um, this is about point A, not point B. *coughStrawmancough*
religious freak: ...dude...

Re:Adios (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29008725)

They want $1200 for a set of books. That is 2 years of internet access for me. Guess which one I am paying for? It seems as a company focused on learning, they did not learn themselves.

Re:Adios (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29008775)

Wikipedia is much closer to "literally EVERYTHING" than Britannica, but still hugely short of such a goal (except that neither actually HAS such a goal)

That's much better achieved by the Internet, which owing to its lack of any coherent systemisation is able to include instructions for making children's stuffed toys, video of teenagers dancing to popular music, the source code to several operating systems and so on.

An encyclopedia, even one on the scale of Wikipedia, must have scope rules. You can't write an article about your not very notable grandfather, who owned a greengrocer shop in a small village. If you write it, Wikipedia's editors will delete it, quite rightly, as non-notable. It's outside their scope.

The bulk of Britannica's activities are redundant. We don't need encyclopedia salesmen, or publishers, or printers. We don't need someone to solicit prestigious men and women to write their opinion on one topic or another. So the only valuable contribution was editorial.

And the truth is that Britannica's editorial position hurt as often as it helped. That "young kid" brought up with a mid-20th century Britannica, if she happened to be a girl, would see no female role models in science. Not because there weren't any female scientists of note, but because Britannica editorial policy tended to minimise them. A man trying to educate his kids about equality despite Jim Crow laws would find that his expensive encyclopedia describes the KKK positively and argues that blacks are inherently inferior. The contrary opinion was already held by many scientists, but editorial policy preferred the political status quo.

It was too expensive to update the Britannica as often as would be ideal. And then it became too expensive to update it as often as really necessary. And finally it has become too expensive to update it even when the lack of updates makes it a laughing stock. Several friends have related tales about entries for their towns or cities of birth, where if someone tried to sell them a Britannica, they'd ask if it was kept up to date, then ask to see the entry for the place they knew so well. And they'd begin by praising the entry "It's just like I remember" and then they'd drive in the knife, "but I haven't been there for 20 years, half this stuff is now wrong.".

Re:Adios (1)

bloosheep (707371) | about 5 years ago | (#29009183)

Thank you for a good obituary for the Encyclopaedia Britannica. When it goes, its passing will be the end of an era -- and not just a passing of technology, a passing of quality. While Wikipedia is an amazing effort, it will not ever be Britannica, unless you pour a lot of money into it to hire writers and editors. They are both a luxury in the Internet media world, and the lack of them shows in the uneven writing and many factual errors Wikipedia suffers from. You can still rightfully call Wikipedia an experiment. There was nobody who could apply that term to Britannica. It strived to be a reference worthy of inclusion in all the libraries of the world. It shaped our world. Be a little bit in awe of it before it finally sinks beneath the waves.

Re:Adios (2, Informative)

Quothz (683368) | about 5 years ago | (#29009473)

While Wikipedia is an amazing effort, it will not ever be Britannica, unless you pour a lot of money into it to hire writers and editors. They are both a luxury in the Internet media world, and the lack of them shows in the uneven writing and many factual errors Wikipedia suffers from.

The error rate of Wikipedia versus Britannica is about the same [cnet.com] . While it has more errors per article, it has a lot more information per article. I would dare to guess that Wikipedia is much more accurate than newspapers. The experiment is over, and it worked.

The belief that Wikipedia must be less accurate is purely religious zeal; print is not automatically more accurate than electrons, a small group of editors doing it all isn't better than the Wiki model, and paying for encyclopedic information doesn't buy accuracy. The latter thinking - "it costs more, so it must be good" - is also the bane of FOSS.

In fairness, a Cornell study that escapes me at the moment once showed that Wikipedia's vandalism rate was getting marginally worse over time (by hundredths of a percent per month, based on actual page views of damaged pages, and with lots of disclaimers). The last serious, peer-reviewed study of the comparative error rate was in late '95; we're due for a new one.

Re:Adios (1)

religious freak (1005821) | about 5 years ago | (#29011403)

Sounds like an interesting study, but '95? Wikipedia was started in '01

Re:Adios (1)

Quothz (683368) | about 5 years ago | (#29012725)

Sounds like an interesting study, but '95? Wikipedia was started in '01

Whoops. Well, the 0 and 9 keys are right next to one another. It's just a typographical-type error; don't get too excited.

Re:Adios (1)

religious freak (1005821) | about 5 years ago | (#29012911)

Ah, '05. That makes much more sense then :)

Re:Adios (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | about 5 years ago | (#29009645)

Yes, I had the same experience with encyclopedia encarta.

What?

The last recoverable technology (2, Insightful)

tc9 (674357) | about 5 years ago | (#29010159)

Imagine a civilizational crisis. War, Famine, Disease, whatever. How will we recover without Britannica and its peers. The renaissance was sparked by the rediscovery of ancient books. If we lose technolgoy, how would we ever recover digitial records? A CD or DVD is a nearly magical device, with assumption piled on techniology atop compression algorithm, with healthy amounts of assumptions about scan rates and directions tossed in.

Wikipedia will be, not surprisingly, off-line.

The last print Britannica might be the last back-up check point for our civilization.

Re:Adios (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 5 years ago | (#29027753)

Did you ever read an encyclopedia pre-internet days?

I read the whole 26 volume set when I was 12. Sadly, all that shit I read is as obsolete as a slide rule now.

Re:Adios (1)

religious freak (1005821) | about 5 years ago | (#29028505)

Well, obviously the history isn't obsolete, for the most part - and analyzing the relationships between the facts is what really mattered. Facts will always change, but our ability to analyze and understand facts will always be valuable. Sounds like that's where you developed that ability.

To all people seeking software patents... (0, Flamebait)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 5 years ago | (#29008147)

a great big "fuck you".

Fuck you for taking my freedom.

Fuck you for engaging in a game where the rich steal from the poor, because the rich can afford longer law suits.

Fuck you for capitalizing on the ineptitude of the USPTO.

Fuck you for standing on the shoulders of giants, and patenting everything you can reach from there, so that no one can stand on your shoulders.

The legendary Iced Tea said it best (3, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | about 5 years ago | (#29008163)

Don't hate the playa. Hate the game.

Re:The legendary Iced Tea said it best (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29008203)

dunno who "Iced Tea" is. but Ice-T [wikipedia.org] said it first, afaik.
either that or you take some real good drugs with your iced tea aka 'ice tea'.

Re:The legendary Iced Tea said it best (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29008449)

The legendary Iced Tea said it best

Wow.. you are obviously white.

Re:The legendary Iced Tea said it best (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29008543)

Either that or it was hilarious self-ridiculing humour. I actually can't decide.

Re:To all people seeking software patents... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29008257)

a great big "fuck you".

Fuck you for taking my freedom.

Fuck you for engaging in a game where the rich steal from the poor, because the rich can afford longer law suits.

Fuck you for capitalizing on the ineptitude of the USPTO.

Fuck you for standing on the shoulders of giants, and patenting everything you can reach from there, so that no one can stand on your shoulders.

So protecting your work is evil but knocking off some one else's hard work is good? If I spend five years developing a device but some one else can knock it off in a matter of months then what's the point of developing anything new? I loose my development money plus some foreign company under prices me and I never make money at all. Patents are out of control but some encourage innovation and development of new technologies and they aren't all held by big corporations or trolls. Do you honestly believe the computer you are typing on now would exist without patents or be afordable enough that the average person could own one? The point is to use common sense when issuing patents not just scrap the system. Some things might get cheaper as companies knock off products but innovation would largely dry up. How would you feel if you'd spent every cent on an invention only to have it stole and knocked off shortly after you brought it to market? What protection do you have? Patents.

Re:To all people seeking software patents... (5, Insightful)

moogsynth (1264404) | about 5 years ago | (#29008371)

Do you honestly believe the computer you are typing on now would exist without patents or be afordable enough that the average person could own one?

What might surprise you is the fact that the computer industry was doing just fine for forty years without patents. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates (patent maximalists by anyone's standards) have said many times that if patents had been more prevalent back in the day, neither would have succeeded with their businesses.

Re:To all people seeking software patents... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29009405)

But to say that the patents existed means that the technology would have already been there, much like today. Hence, your statement is a chicken/egg argument.

This actually sounds more like a job for Snopes. *Looks to the sky in hope*

Maximalism (1)

tepples (727027) | about 5 years ago | (#29011311)

[Prominent CEOs] have said many times that if patents had been more prevalent back in the day, neither would have succeeded with their businesses.

That reminds me of Disney. Had copyrights been at their current life + 70 terms back in the 1940s through 1960s, we probably wouldn't have several of the films in the Disney animated canon that were first published the year after copyright in their source material expired worldwide, such as Pinocchio and The Jungle Book.

Re:To all people seeking software patents... (0)

Anarchduke (1551707) | about 5 years ago | (#29008485)

Patents do not encourage innovation. What they do is give a company exclusive rights to market and sell their invention. The idea behind patents was to encourage innovation, but they do not do so. Instead, they create incredibly expensive and difficult barriers for people trying to bring a product to the marketplace. The overwhelming amount of bullshit being thrown at the Patent Office, and the resulting mountains of patented crap coming out of the office is proof that the system is inherently broken.

As to the computer I am typing on? Of course I would still by typing on a computer. You seem to believe that patents are responsible for how fast the computer is. The real question is, how much faster would it be if there were unfettered competition in the computer hardware industry, or the software industry.

Re:To all people seeking software patents... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29008761)

If I spend five years developing a device

And spend most of that reading every line of code to see which software patents it infringes (there will be dozens, including several that are not published because they are "pending"), and then cross-license it with the other big boys... oh sorry you aren't a top-ten company? They won't cross license it with you, but they will each license it for 5 percent of your revenue though. Unless they are a troll, in which case they will wait until you release your product, and then sue you for all your revenue. But thanks for playing.

Re:To all people seeking software patents... (1)

EdIII (1114411) | about 5 years ago | (#29008913)

You completely ignored the part about how he limited patents to SOFTWARE patents right?

I support the patent system, with some serious reforms, but I will NEVER, EVER, support software patents. They stifle innovation a hell of lot more than encourage it. For the most part, they are FUCKING RIDICULOUS.

Re:To all people seeking software patents... (2, Insightful)

kimvette (919543) | about 5 years ago | (#29009419)

So protecting your work is evil but knocking off some one else's hard work is good? If I spend five years developing a device but some one else can knock it off in a matter of months then what's the point of developing anything new?

That's not the problem. The problem is these are getting patents:

[$SomethingDoneForCenturies] but on a computer

[$SomethingDoneForCenturies] but done wirelessly

[$SomethingObviousToThoseSkilledInTheTrade]

Those are all not allowed to be patented, and yet due to work overload and quotas, USPTO clerks are rubber-stamping these patent apps and are leaving it up to the courts to sort out. Compounding the problem is that the clerks who SHOULD know better can fix this problem but due to workloads and quotas do not, while the courts know exactly shit about patents and technology and uphold patents which should not due to clever arguments based in emotion and propoganda and not based on law.

The end result is the little guy is getting fucked.

Re:To all people seeking software patents... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 5 years ago | (#29028527)

The trouble with software patents is software is already covered by copyright. If I can both patent and copyright my software, why can't I both patent and copyright my novel? Art, like science and technology, is built in what came before.

I loose my development money

No, whoever backed you with capital loosed their money. And when you loose something you always risk losing it.

Patents for devices is good. Patents for software is bad. But not as bad a centuries long copyrights.

Re:To all people seeking software patents... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29008263)

Fuck you LIKE A BOSS

Re:To all people seeking software patents... (1)

gnupun (752725) | about 5 years ago | (#29008477)

Fuck you for taking my freedom.

Ha ha, how does anyone inventing a clever solution to a difficult problem take away your freedom? Patents just ensure that people like you and greedy capitalists, with a sense of entitlement to other people's work, don't leech off their genius. But keep acting like a some poor victim, while you've not done any work and want people to hand over the results of their hard work for free. I do agree that trivial, obvious, retarded patents like the 1-click patent should not be allowed.

Fuck you for engaging in a game where the rich steal from the poor, because the rich can afford longer law suits.

Yeah, right. Without patents some poor people would have never gotten rich, since the rich have more experience, money and manpower. Patents were created to prevent the rich from stealing commercially valuable ideas from the poor so as to encourage innovation and help mankind as well.

And finally, what's wrong with software patents? Are all software inventions easy, trivial, and ordinary so that their creation deserves no protection while inventions made in other fields such as engineering, chemistry and biology get full protection of the law? If a mechanical invention consisting of various metallic and plastic parts can get patent protection, why can't a software consisting of different Objects do too?

Re:To all people seeking software patents... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29008593)

Because a mechanical can-opener is only patented "as is". If someone else builds a different mechanical can-opener that uses a different mechanism then they are free to sell that.

Business model and software patents are starting to become "a method for selling can-openers using the internet" and "a can-opener using a touch-interface".

The patents should protect you from a direct copy and if you design a great new feature (say a new material for the cutting edges), that feature should be protected. But if someone else can come up with an even better way (using lasers attached to friggin' sharks) of opening a can your patent should protect you.

The problem is that the new patents are too broad. It's true that not all the claims will hold up in court, but how should a layman be able to tell which ones will?

Re:To all people seeking software patents... (1)

gnupun (752725) | about 5 years ago | (#29008825)

Business model and software patents are starting to become "a method for selling can-openers using the internet" and "a can-opener using a touch-interface".

Over broadness is a general problem of all patents, not just software and business ones. Although over-broad claims "cover more ground" and prevent the competitors from entering their turf, they risk being thrown out and invalidated due to prior art, obviousness etc. Anybody claiming an overly broad patent claim has probably invented something great or is a bottom feeder creating obvious patents such as the "can-opener using mobile touch device."

Re:To all people seeking software patents... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29008797)

Yeah, right. Without patents some poor people would have never gotten rich

For software patents, name some. Please. And if they are actual software developers rather than lawyers I will be impressed.

Re:To all people seeking software patents... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29008819)

And finally, what's wrong with software patents?

Some people (me included) think that it is currently not possible to write a non-trivial application without unknowingly infringing a patent. All signs point to the total amount of active patents growing significantly in the future as well.

Does that sound like well thought out system to you?

Re:To all people seeking software patents... (1)

gnupun (752725) | about 5 years ago | (#29008927)

Some people (me included) think that it is currently not possible to write a non-trivial application without unknowingly infringing a patent.

That is a very legitimate complaint, probably because when the patent system was created, we had less technology and literacy resulting in fewer, more manageable inventions. But that's no reason to simply throw the baby with the bathwater, it needs to be fixed somehow by the USPTO.

Re:To all people seeking software patents... (1)

Thundarr Trollgrim (847077) | about 5 years ago | (#29009245)

"Yeah, right. Without patents some poor people would have never gotten rich, since the rich have more experience, money and manpower. Patents were created to prevent the rich from stealing commercially valuable ideas from the poor so as to encourage innovation and help mankind as well. "

That may or may not have been the original intention, but it is certainly not what they are used for nowadays; the rich monopolising anything they can get their hands on.

Re:To all people seeking software patents... (1)

Quothz (683368) | about 5 years ago | (#29009545)

Yeah, right. Without patents some poor people would have never gotten rich, since the rich have more experience, money and manpower.

I dunno. I daresay I have more experience than, say, Paris Hilton.* I mean, I am a (ha ha) level 5 dwarf, after all.

Re:To all people seeking software patents... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29010815)

Yeah, right. Without patents some poor people would have never gotten rich, since the rich have more experience, money and manpower. Patents were created to prevent the rich from stealing commercially valuable ideas from the poor so as to encourage innovation and help mankind as well.

Umm, patents are mainly obtained by the rich companies, to a small companies they are not valuable, because they could not protect the patent in a court against a big company anyway. I guess you are also ok with other perversions of the patent system like companies that do nothing but mine patents, making money selling, licensing and buying patents. Really, your story about the poor inventor who has to be protected from the big companies, in reality, is just a story and in actuality it's exactly the opposite: software patents protect the big companies from competition by the small ones because any idea will soon be patented and you will only be able to "play ball" if you have a sufficient large patent portfolio yourself.

Things aren't always as black&white or easy as you think, you know.

Oh great, 16 years later the patent is invalidated (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29008149)

Issued in 1993, invalidated in 2009, what a deal. Valid patents only last for 20 (or sometimes 17) years, so this invalid patent turned out to choke the marketplace for almost as long as a valid one would have.

Re:Oh great, 16 years later the patent is invalida (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29008669)

That's the real problem with patents these days - they were designed in a time when 20 years still meant the patent was useful at the end; it was reasonable to give the discoverer/inventor a short term exclusive right in order to spur more invention and, overall, increase society's knowledge.

Unfortunately, for computers, 20 year old patents are virtually worthless to society. Net result is that society is paying (by restricting itself) but not getting anything worthwhile at the end.

(LZW compression, for example, is completely eclipsed by more modern standards *except* that it's part of certain file formats.)

Compare to drug patents, where they are (generally - antibiotics perhaps excepted) still relevant and useful after the patent expires.

(Plus, there is the occasional overly broad patent - no drug company would patent using any drug to cure a type of cancer; but people try and patent using a Computer to do Commerce.)

Re:Oh great, 16 years later the patent is invalida (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | about 5 years ago | (#29010133)

That's the real problem with patents these days - they were designed in a time when 20 years still meant the patent was useful at the end; it was reasonable to give the discoverer/inventor a short term exclusive right in order to spur more invention and, overall, increase society's knowledge.

Unfortunately, for computers, 20 year old patents are virtually worthless to society.

Yeah, for certain industries. The problem is the rampant anti-patent crowd on Slashdot keeps ranting about abolishing the entire patent system, or reducing the terms to 5 years or less. While that may be fine for software (only may - currently it takes almost two years just to get an application examined), it doesn't work for pharmaceuticals which have long FDA-mandated trials and expensive R&D or machines, which have much slower development cycles and more costs associated with manufacture.

Congress could fix this and simultaneously do away with all the confusion over Bilski and others by making a new category for patents, like design patents have with their 14 year term. Make a software and business method category explicitly patentable, but with a shortened term and an accelerated examination procedure.

Re:Oh great, 16 years later the patent is invalida (1)

Repossessed (1117929) | about 5 years ago | (#29010267)

Drug companies are some of the worst for patent abuse really. I've seen patents on any drug related to a certain protein for example, they also love to patent drug x + pre existing drug modifier y (such as extended release drugs).

Re:Oh great, 16 years later the patent is invalida (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | about 5 years ago | (#29010433)

Drug companies are some of the worst for patent abuse really. I've seen patents on any drug related to a certain protein for example, they also love to patent drug x + pre existing drug modifier y (such as extended release drugs).

... and neither of those are patent abuse. What's your point, other than that you understand neither patent law nor chemistry?

Re:Oh great, 16 years later the patent is invalida (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29014117)

... and neither of those are patent abuse. What's your point, other than that you understand neither patent law nor chemistry?

Of course they were abuse. Legal, sure, but ethically evil. They got congress to make laws that allowed them to extend patents over and over and over. The prevent generics from starting when the patent ended. Just look at the history of Claritin. Quick dissolve to extend patents, claiming it was too dangerous for a generic to make, then claiming it was safe enough to be over the counter once the patent expired and they wanted to create a market. Anyone who doesn't see those things as abusing is crazy.

Re:Oh great, 16 years later the patent is invalida (1)

IMightB (533307) | about 5 years ago | (#29025091)

The other thing that drug companies like doing is paying the generic producers to not produce generics

Re:Oh great, 16 years later the patent is invalida (1)

RoverDaddy (869116) | about 5 years ago | (#29010241)

Compare to drug patents, where they are (generally - antibiotics perhaps excepted) still relevant and useful after the patent expires.

Silly me, I read that as "after the patient expires", in which case the drug patent has probably proved its uselessness, no?

aelig (3, Informative)

Svippy (876087) | about 5 years ago | (#29008813)

Am I the only one going to comment that it is spelt Encyclopaedia Britannica? While an US firm, Encyclopaedia Britannica still retains the British English spelling, as well in its look up, e.g. it prefers "colour" over "color" and so forth.

Re:aelig (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29008983)

Yes. You are the only one going to comment. The rest of us have lives.

Re:aelig (1)

kimvette (919543) | about 5 years ago | (#29009459)

Encyclopaedia Britannica still retains the British English spelling, as well in its look up, e.g. it prefers "colour" over "color" and so forth.

Yeah, isn't it a shame that a reference/educational book publisher actuallu uses correct spellings rather than the incorrect/lazy spelling we Americans have standardised on? Look at "standardised" for example: that is the technically correct (not just "accepted") spelling, and the US English spell check in my browser tagged it as misspelled. Our incorrect spelling is enforced due to convention, not to the objective fact that the British English is actually the most correct form of English, since it is the origin,

One can of course make the argument that language changes over time and that American English spelling should always be considered correct, but I like that they stick to their guns and use proper English. (read up on how we arrived at our incorrect spelling - it really was due to laziness and intentionally dumbing down of the language) Having standards is hardly a bad thing. I understand English is a difficult language to learn but those extra letters do indicate a (sometimes very) subtle difference in (correct) pronounciation. "Nor" is pronounced differently from "colour" hence the "u" which is not really silent but modifies how the "o" sounds. English is a difficult enough language to begin with so why make it more difficult by dumbing it down?

Re:aelig (2, Funny)

mqduck (232646) | about 5 years ago | (#29009541)

Please refrain from posting while drunk and irritable as you may end up fighting an argument that isn't taking place.

Re:aelig (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29009711)

-ize endings are probably the more "correct" spelling since they were used in the UK and the US far before the -ise endings became proper. Spelling everything with -ise was an attempt by the UK to differentiate themselves from the Americans. They have some bullshit justification about how it's closer to the original Latin, but they only did it after the US standardized on -ize.

Re:aelig (1)

Svippy (876087) | about 5 years ago | (#29009963)

-ize endings are probably the more "correct" spelling since they were used in the UK and the US far before the -ise endings became proper. Spelling everything with -ise was an attempt by the UK to differentiate themselves from the Americans. They have some bullshit justification about how it's closer to the original Latin, but they only did it after the US standardized on -ize.

Err... you mean Greek, not Latin. That's where the -ize ending arrives from. I have nothing against the -ize spelling, though I prefer the -ise spelling myself, as it look nicer.

My real bone to pick with Americans is that they use it incorrectly as well, on words like "analyse", which does not have the original etymology as the Greek -ize ending. The "y" is the hint here. These words should always be spelt -yse, never -yze.

Re:aelig (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29009763)

"Are spellings like 'privatize' and 'organize' Americanisms?"

No, not really [askoxford.com] .

Re:aelig (1)

Paaskonijn (1220996) | about 5 years ago | (#29010115)

While I full-heartedly agree that British spelling is the preferred spelling (you'll want to go for 'misspelt' next time btw ;) ), I can't follow your argument that there's any relation whatsoever between the spelling and the pronunciation of a word.

For an obvious example, look at 'to read' and 'I have read'. Or explain the difference in writing between 'to keep, kept' and 'to leap, leapt'.

Re:aelig (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | about 5 years ago | (#29009559)

The Encyclopaedia Britannica *was* originally a British (more specifically, Scottish) company for 130 years, before it was taken over by Americans around the start of the 20th century.

Re:aelig (1)

Svippy (876087) | about 5 years ago | (#29009935)

The Encyclopaedia Britannica *was* originally a British (more specifically, Scottish) company for 130 years, before it was taken over by Americans around the start of the 20th century.

I hinted at that when I said "still retains its British English spelling".

Re:aelig (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | about 5 years ago | (#29013851)

I hinted at that when I said "still retains its British English spelling".

[my emphasis]

Actually, what you said was

still retains the British English spelling

It's a minor difference for most purposes, but it still weakens the implication you mentioned.

Re:aelig (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 5 years ago | (#29028809)

Am I the only one going to comment that it is spelt Encyclopaedia Britannica?

Damn, but I love pedants!

funkin' wagnalls (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29008829)

Personally, I only like the Compton Encyclopedia. Who'd have guessed that what was happening in Compton in 1993 would be so relevant now?

Compton had patented it for a reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29012405)

They had the Picard retrieval feature.

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