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HP Patents Bignum Implementation From 1912

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the can-you-spell-prior-art dept.

Patents 144

I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "The authors of GMP (the GNU Multiple Precision Arithmetic Library) were invited to join Peer-to-Patent to review HP's recent patent on a very old technique for implementing bignums because their software might infringe. Basically, HP's patent claims choosing an exponent based on processor word size. If you choose a 4-bit word size and a binary number, you end up working in hexadecimal. Or for a computer with a 16-bit word and a base-10 number, you use base 10,000 so that each digit of the base-10,000 number would fit into a single 16-bit word. The obvious problem with that is that there's plenty of prior art here. Someone who spent a few minutes Googling found that Knuth describing the idea in TAOCP Vol. 2 and other citations go back to 1912 (which implemented the same algorithm using strips of cardboard and a calculating machine). None of this can be found in the 'references cited' section. Even though the patent examiner did add a couple of references, they appear to have cited some old patents. The patent issued a few months ago was filed back in October of 2004, and collected dust at the USPTO for some 834 days."

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CmdrTaco Has A Tiny Penis (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30650534)

CmdrTaco patents having a 2 inch penis.

Re:CmdrTaco Has A Tiny Penis (5, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651612)

CmdrTaco patents having a 2 inch penis.

Don't laugh, you're cited as prior art.
     

Re:CmdrTaco Has A Tiny Penis (1)

Antiocheian (859870) | more than 4 years ago | (#30652860)

Truly laughing for the guy who moderated your statement as "Redundant"

What I want to know is... (4, Insightful)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 4 years ago | (#30650568)

...how many of these blatant abuses actually get overturned?

In particular, is there any way sanity can enter the process without having to challenge it in court?

Re:What I want to know is... (3, Insightful)

stms (1132653) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651070)

You must be new here, sanity rarely enters the process even when it does get challenged in court.

Re:What I want to know is... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30651164)

In particular, is there any way sanity can enter the process without having to challenge it in court?

The whole idea is not that the patent has any basis but that it is ridiculously expensive to go to court. This puts a huge entry barrier around the market and protects the large incumbents. In essence, patents are now being used to protect large corporations from small entrepreneurs - exactly the opposite of their original intention.

Re:What I want to know is... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30651754)

Except for patent trolls, you know...

Re:What I want to know is... (5, Interesting)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651254)

Sanity has never been part of the US patent process. Here's some pre-computer examples.

1. An inventor was able to patent a design for mule shaped bookends, while another was denied a patent on a mule shaped balloon. The Patent Office ruled that sawing a brass mule in half was non-obvious and original, while blowing up a rubber mule wasn't. In a similar area, dying coal blue wasn't novel, but dying coal blue with your company logo was.

2. Aspirin was patented well after a similar process for making Salicylic Acid on an industrial scale was. The office decided, with no precidents, that making the same chemical in pure enough form that it was safe for medicinal use was novel. When challenged on it, the USPO said they were going through a bottle a day deciding patent claims and were not about to reject rewarding this claim no matter what the law said.

3. A patent was once denied on a chemical process because that chemical was already mentioned in industry literature from more than a year before. The problem? What the literature said was: "It is impossible to synthesize chemical X. No one will ever do it."

Re:What I want to know is... (2, Interesting)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651304)

Patents are for the most part completely useless. We should just get rid of the entire patent process. It's not needed.

Re:What I want to know is... (2, Interesting)

pipatron (966506) | more than 4 years ago | (#30653178)

We're trying to do this in Sweden. Spread the word. :)

Re:What I want to know is... (1)

Gerzel (240421) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651358)

It comes right down to the process is overloaded. We don't put enough people and energy into maintaining the patent system and it is geared solely toward protecting large industry and business.

Re:What I want to know is... (1)

NickFortune (613926) | more than 4 years ago | (#30652312)

It comes right down to the process is overloaded. We don't put enough people and energy into maintaining the patent system and it is geared solely toward protecting large industry and business.

The question then is whether it is possible to put enough people and energy into maintaining the patent system.

Certainly it is to the advantage of those building IP thickets that the system should be overloaded. The less time the examiner has, the greater the chance of a spurious patent getting rubber stamped. So allocating resources to the patent office isn't necessarily going to help, since the system's abusers will likely increase the volume of submissions.

Worse, there's an asymmetry to the workload involved. Examining a patent should be a process of careful and painstaking research. That's not necessarily a problem when the patents being examined are the result of a similar painstaking effort. The trouble is that if the submitter doesn't care about novelty, then they can skip most of the research. This means that a bogus patent can be drafted and submitted with far less effort than that required to properly examine and reject same.

I don't think the system can be fixed by throwing money at it. I rather doubt it can be fixed at all.

Overloading is a factor, it's not "the" cause (1)

golodh (893453) | more than 4 years ago | (#30652726)

As other posts noted, patent examination isn't about verifying whether a patent application is in fact novel.

Instead it's about seeing if a patent examiner, who must approve a certain number of patents per week or be fired (!), can spot any obvious prior art (read: "previous patents on the same subject") in the time budgeted for examination. Which is about 10-30 minutes apart from doing the paperwork retrieve and to file a patent claim and scan for existing patents.

The USPTO largely relies on the public to conduct in-depth tests of patents (through court action).

This probably isn't by malicious design, but it's a direct consequence of the USPTO being self-financing (and indeed a profit center) from patent application fees and being mandated by congress to remain that way. Our collective wisdom has probed the alternatives and settled for this particular solution.

Of course the USPTO could be instructed to change its priorities and conduct rigorous and in-depth patent examinations. Only ... we (or our elected representatives) aren't willing to pay the price, which is a few billion $ extra per year from here on out to employ large swathes of new patent examiners.

If you find that strange, I'm with you. Only don't tell me it's by an act of God that all kinds of stupid patents are granted. We're doing that to ourselves (if only by proxy).

Re:What I want to know is... (1)

AlecC (512609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30653266)

More relevantly, does the patent process serve society as it now exists? The process was invented about three centuries ago, when the pace of progress was much slower and research tools were much weaker, so that it was plausible to protect at least some inventions (e.g. industrial processes) by keeping them secret. It intended to protect society against two ills: people not bothering to make or exploit inventions because they would be ripped off by others, and people keeping inventions secret to they were not as widely exploited as would be useful for society.

Both of these reasons are much weaker in our current technological age. People generally manage to make quite a fair amount out of things that not patentable. While they do, of course, apply for patents, in many cases they would still product their products without patent protection - and even with patent protection, copiers often find ways round the protection. And reverse engineering is often good enough to bypass the secrecy approach: while your product may be difficult to reverse engineer, I think it would be unwise to depend upon that.

I would not deny that the patent system provides some means of protecting and rewarding genuine inventors. But I question whether the cost of the system is worth the benefit it brings in today's technological world.

Re:What I want to know is... (4, Insightful)

quantumplacet (1195335) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651458)

[citations needed]

very badly since you seem to be the only person on the entire internet to have ever heard any of these stories.

Citation Gambit! (Sorry Mods, Offtopic!) (1, Informative)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 4 years ago | (#30652696)

Sorry, sir, I changed my sig because of folks like you. It reads:

Citation War - A1: Correct, NotCited. A2: Correct, Cited. B1: Wrong, NotCited B2: Wrong, Flawed Citation.

Because all of slashdot seems to hide when I start a reply, you made me open seven tabs to compose this. But here we go.

----
Section A - you vs. poster above you.

You said: "[citations needed]very badly since you seem to be the only person on the entire internet to have ever heard any of these stories."

Calling his comment some 75% correct, that makes your remark about 75% libel.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libel [wikipedia.org] ...libel (for written or otherwise published words)--is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, ... a negative image. It is usually.. a requirement that this claim be false and that the publication is communicated to someone other than the person defamed...

Retire the Freudian acronym. This is a partial list of Slashdot Lawyers. If I were a lawyer I would be on my own list. I am not on that list.
http://taophoenix.paradoxservers.net/Freedom/Slashdot_Lawyers.html [paradoxservers.net]

Saying this is "too long - didn't read" tries to cover your fallacious post with a fallacious ad hominem attack. Your comment directly says his post was not long enough, so to discard the requested length below is a red herring.

-----
Section B - Poster's comment #2.

"2. Aspirin was patented well after a similar process for making Salicylic Acid on an industrial scale was. The office decided, with no precidents, that making the same chemical in pure enough form that it was safe for medicinal use was novel. When challenged on it, the USPO said they were going through a bottle a day deciding patent claims and were not about to reject rewarding this claim no matter what the law said."

"Salicylic Acid on an industrial scale"... also known as "Salicylic acid is commercially prepared from sodium salicylate, which is produced from sodium phenoxide and carbon dioxide at high pressure and temperature in the Kolbe-Schmitt reaction."
http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Salicylic_acid [newworldencyclopedia.org]

(In about the mid 1840's) ...Kolbe also synthesized salicylic acid and showed its value as a preservative. The process was named Kolbe synthesis (or Kolbe-Schmitt reaction)...

Going to
http://www.corrosion-doctors.org/History/mid-nineteen.htm [corrosion-doctors.org]

Then, in 1853, French chemist Charles F. Gerhardt synthesized a primitive form of aspirin, a derivative of salicylic acid.

In 1897 Felix Hoffmann, a German chemist working at the Bayer division of I.G. Farber, discovered a better method for synthesizing the drug.

Going to
http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Aspirin#Synthesis_of_aspirin [newworldencyclopedia.org]

On March 6, 1899, Bayer registered Aspirin as a trademark. However, the German company lost the right to use the trademark in many countries as the Allies seized and resold its foreign assets after World War I. The right to use "Aspirin" in the United States (along with all other Bayer trademarks) was purchased from the U.S. government by Sterling Drug in 1918. However, even before the patent for the drug expired in 1917, Bayer had been unable to stop competitors from copying the formula and using the name elsewhere, and so, with a flooded market, the public was unable to recognize "Aspirin" as coming from only one manufacturer. Sterling was subsequently unable to prevent "Aspirin" from being ruled a genericized trademark in a U.S. federal court in 1921. Sterling was ultimately acquired by Bayer in 1994, but this did not restore the U.S. trademark. Other countries (such as Canada and many countries in Europe) still consider "Aspirin" a protected trademark.

Going to
http://www.chemheritage.org/EducationalServices/pharm/asp/fh.htm [chemheritage.org]

Acetylsalicylic acid was given the trademarked with the name "Aspirin," from the A for "acetyl" and the spirin from Spirea, the genus name for shrubs that are an alternate source of salicylic acid. An application for a German patent was rejected, because in fact acetylsalicylic acid was not a new substance, having been first synthesized in 1853 by French chemist Charles Gerhardt, in impure form, and later in crystalline form by German chemist Carl J. Kraut.

Recognizing that it had a potential blockbuster in aspirin, the Bayer Company aggressively marketed the drug worldwide. In the United States, Bayer was able to obtain a patent, giving the company the monopoly on manufacturing the drug from 1900 to 1917.

Going to
http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=VideoArticle&id=52415 [history.com]
partially contradicts the above German patent note, but I shall do no more here to pit the sources against each other. This is a basic effect of research, that by going into detail the length increases multifold. Requiring 100% perfection on all the parts of a proof reply like this against an at-least-partially incorrect reply like yours is a logical fallacy.

In 1897, Bayer employee Felix Hoffman found a way to create a stable form of the drug that was easier and more pleasant to take. (Some evidence shows that Hoffman's work was really done by a Jewish chemist, Arthur Eichengrun, whose contributions were covered up during the Nazi era.)

Going to
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_aspirin [wikipedia.org]

We get more of the complicated multi-country history of Aspirin patents.

*** Rounding in on your key point seems to be this paragraph ***

"When production of Aspirin began in 1899, Bayer sent out small packets of the drug to doctors, pharmacists and hospitals, advising them of Aspirin's uses and encouraging them to publish about the drug's effects and effectiveness. As positive results came in and enthusiasm grew, Bayer sought to secure patent and trademark wherever possible. It was ineligible for patent in Germany (despite being accepted briefly before the decision was overturned), but Aspirin was patented in Britain (filed December 22, 1898) and the United States (filed February 27, 1900). The British patent was overturned in 1905, the American patent was also besieged but was ultimately upheld.[27]"

Analytically we get:
"...in 1899, Bayer sent out ... the drug to doctors, pharmacists and hospitals (((At a minimum - emphasis mine))), advising them of Aspirin's uses and encouraging them to publish about the drug's effects and effectiveness. As positive results came in and enthusiasm grew (((Any enthusiasm from the patent office?))), Bayer sought to secure patent and trademark wherever possible. It was ineligible for patent in Germany (despite being accepted briefly before the decision was overturned)(((see citation confusion above))), but Aspirin was patented in Britain (filed December 22, 1898) and the United States (filed February 27, 1900). The British patent was overturned in 1905, the American patent was also besieged but was ultimately upheld.[27]"
# ^ Jeffreys, Aspirin, pp. 77-80

From
http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventions/aspirin.htm [ideafinder.com]
Patent: 644,077 (US) issued February 27, 1900

From Google Book View,
http://books.google.com/books?as_q=Patent+644077&num=100&btnG=Google+Search&as_epq=&as_oq=&as_eq=&as_brr=0&as_pt=ALLTYPES&lr=&as_vt=&as_auth=&as_pub=&as_sub=&as_drrb_is=q&as_minm_is=0&as_miny_is=&as_maxm_is=0&as_maxy_is=&as_isbn=&as_issn= [google.com]

Are all kinds of old documents. The exact comment would not be the type of language recorded, but all you'd have to do is a search of who was in the patent office at the time vs the doctors Bayer sent samples to. Someone beyond my pay grade would have a match, and common extrapolation would produce a remark similar to the post.

Re:Citation Gambit! (Sorry Mods, Offtopic!) (2, Insightful)

rxmd (205533) | more than 4 years ago | (#30653422)

Your comment directly says his post was not long enough, so to discard the requested length below is a red herring.

No, it doesn't. It says he should have provided some references for his three stories. It's possible to provide references in a short, concise way. You don't do that either, making your post unnecessarily teduous to read.

Section B - Poster's comment #2.

"2. Aspirin was patented well after a similar process for making Salicylic Acid on an industrial scale was. The office decided, with no precidents, that making the same chemical in pure enough form that it was safe for medicinal use was novel. When challenged on it, the USPO said they were going through a bottle a day deciding patent claims and were not about to reject rewarding this claim no matter what the law said."

Your discussion on the chemistry, production and product history of aspirin is very lengthy, but does not constitute a substantial reference either for or against the GP's claim. It says nothing about the patent status of different *production methods*, only that they were different, which in my eyes seems to at least undermine the GP's argument. The rest is basically just a long list of links and pieces of text about aspirin that adds little to the discussion of patent practice at the USPTO, in addition to being largely orthogonal to either the parent or grandparent poster's statements. Also you mingle patents and trademarks in the discussion, which is careless and misleading at best.

In the spirit of Karl Popper's criticism of what he calls the Neo-Dialecticians (the reference for which you can find on Google) you may add a few items to your signature, such as variations of "Cx, Drowns Fellow Human Beings in a Sea of Words, with x one of "1: Correct", "2: Wrong", and "3, Irrelevant to the Subject". Your post looks like a case of C3.

Re:What I want to know is... (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 4 years ago | (#30652226)

That essentially means that the patent office is a bunch of morons where people ends up when they for some reason can't get a productive job but still can't be put into unemployment since it would make the government look bad.

Maybe it's time to invalidate all patents and start over with a new set of rules for patents. Let a patent be valid for at most 12 months from the date of the application. That would keep competition on it's edge.

Today too many man-hours are wasted on patents and the process around patents. Enough to delay progress instead of promoting progress.

Now if we only knew what the patent was about! (0, Troll)

radtea (464814) | more than 4 years ago | (#30650578)

I wish the summary said something about what the patent was about. I guess I'll check back in a few hours and scroll down to read the explanation that someone who has actually bothered to read and understand the claims has posted--I can't be bothered to be that guy this time, but I'm sure someone else will do it.

Just think, if /. summaries on these stories bothered to tell us what the patent was about we could all be spared that effort, but we all know from long experience that they don't, so there's no point in responding to the summary with outrage unless you want to look like a completely newless clewbie.

Re:Now if we only knew what the patent was about! (2, Informative)

nebaz (453974) | more than 4 years ago | (#30650654)

In the example section they give, they are dividing up the "bigdecimal" in decimal, rather than binary components. The number of decimal digits depends on the word size. For example, an 8 bit word has 0-255 as possible storage, but in decimal, you could store 0-99, but not 0-999. So you would store the number 102,345 as 10, 23, and 45 in 3 separate words if you had an 8 bit word. They claim that this is more efficient than binary for rendering back to decimal, though I can't see how this is more efficient than straight binary storage.

Re:Now if we only knew what the patent was about! (1)

Vexorian (959249) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651132)

straight binary storage would improve memory usage but it does not improve CPU usage incredibly much. However, using a power of 10 as base is helpful when converting the input/output decimals to bignum, since it is trivial instead of requiring successive divisions. Let's call it a case of pick your poison. However, that's not what the patent is about, it is about choosing a base according to the word size... The base may be a power of 10 or 2 if you like but the patent (According to the summary) merely says that you should choose a bigger base when the word size is bigger... This is perhaps a very obvious realization to even the slower CS student, but hey, it is patented!

Re:Now if we only knew what the patent was about! (1)

kainino (1042936) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651210)

To the best of my knowledge:

Without this, if you want to find out the higher up (leftmost) digits, you have to consider every single binary digit (except the last few) to find out what it's going to be.

With this, you can just say, "what's the digit at byte x?" and you will get to digit. But this is just about the same thing as storing bignums as strings (in decimal, hex, base64, whatever).

Re:Now if we only knew what the patent was about! (1)

Ciggy (692030) | more than 4 years ago | (#30652398)

SED
LDA #$12
CLC
ADC #$19

The Accumulator of the 6502 8-bit processor (circa 1978) now contains 0x31; the top nybble contains the MSD in decimal.

Ok, so this is actually only using only 1/2 the word size - 4 bits - packed 2 to a byte.

But this isn't what seems to be implied by the summary, namely, instead of using a BCD style, you only use the first B^n numbers of the word, ieeg for 8-bit and 10^2, you use 0x00-0x63 to represent 0-99 and you still have to convert the binary to decimal, just that each word contains a single base B number, which for B=10^n would be n decimal digits.

And that sounds very similar to the problem we were set as the end of the 1st year of my maths degree back in 1984 as part of a computing unit:: calculate every [decimal] digit of 2^3000 using a CBM PET. In BASIC the obvious answer was to use an array of "bignums" (each holding, say, 0-999) and then to print out each element with leading zeros (except the first). (Choosing 0-999 means that each element contains the "normal" 3 digit split for writing big numbers.)

Re:Now if we only knew what the patent was about! (1, Informative)

_merlin (160982) | more than 4 years ago | (#30650664)

If you had comprehension skills, you'd be able to ascertain that it relates to an implementation of an arbitrary precision numerics engine, a la GNU MultiPrecision (aka GMP). The technique has been around for close to a century, if not longer.

Re:Now if we only knew what the patent was about! (4, Funny)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30650666)

I wish the summary said something about what the patent was about.

Actually, the summary explains the whole thing:

Basically, HP's patent claims choosing an exponent based on processor word size. If you choose a 4-bit word size and a binary number, you end up working in hexadecimal. Or for a computer with a 16-bit word and a base-10 number, you use base 10,000 so that each digit of the base-10,000 number would fit into a single 16-bit word.

It's okay if you don't understand the explanation, but perhaps you should try reading the summary before complaining about it.

Re:Now if we only knew what the patent was about! (1)

achbed (97139) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651366)

...perhaps you should try reading...

You're new here, aren't you?

Re:Now if we only knew what the patent was about! (1)

pipatron (966506) | more than 4 years ago | (#30653248)

I only read the headline, it's faster that way.

Put down the pitchforks. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30650584)

I guess that there is some good news in this article. The patent hasn't been issued yet, it is only being reviewed right now. And this review is accomplishing what it is meant to: showing that the patent claim is ridiculous. Yeah, HP shouldn't try patenting this, and the USPTO probably should have thrown this away in November of 2004, but still it was caught and (hopefully) won't be issued. The system is working, kinda, and this patent at least will hopefully not be issued. We will only need to get out the torches and pitchforks if the USPTO grants this patent anyways despite the outcry and prior art.

Re:Put down the pitchforks. (2, Informative)

martijnd (148684) | more than 4 years ago | (#30650740)

"A few minutes googling"

Less than 10 years ago it would have taken multiple trips to (several) libraries by a very persistant person to find this information. (The kind of person who would read an obscure mailing list about patent abuse).

Most likely a cursory review by a bored patent clerk (as he is working on the next E=MC^2) would have turned up nothing, and the patent would have passed.

Now any Slashdotter with a minute to spare can find the same information.

Its interesting to see how we are getting to grips with information overload.

Re:Put down the pitchforks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30651140)

I wouldn't quite say "less than 10" - more actually closer to 15. AmericaOnline was pretty ubiquitous by 1995-1996. That said, your point stands.

Re:Put down the pitchforks. (3, Insightful)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651368)

Yes AOL was. The information being sought out in this case was not.

Re:Put down the pitchforks. (2, Insightful)

tragedy (27079) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651906)

Sorry, wasn't this in The Art of Computer Programming? That is not in any way shape or form an obscure text in the field of computer science. In any sane world, any patent examiner dealing with patents in computer science would have the set on their desk.

Re:Put down the pitchforks. (1)

Simon Brooke (45012) | more than 4 years ago | (#30653018)

Sorry, wasn't this in The Art of Computer Programming? That is not in any way shape or form an obscure text in the field of computer science. In any sane world, any patent examiner dealing with patents in computer science would have the set on their desk.

The Art of Computer Programming is a pretty big book. I have the first three volumes on the shelf behind me; they have my scribbles all over the margins. But I couldn't tell you from memory every algorithm that's in there. This is just one of the many places where searchable hypertext scores over flattened dead trees.

Re:Put down the pitchforks. (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30650792)

I see the patent grab as being indicative of the fucked-up state of the patent system, not as abusing it. A defensive move. Hell, I wish more big corporations would scoop up common-sense shit and release them as open patents [wikipedia.org] . It's in everybody's best interest as long as patent trolls exist.

Better HP than some "IP Firm" taking it to the East District of Texas.

Re:Put down the pitchforks. (1)

LOLLinux (1682094) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651050)

You mean except for the fact that HP has used the East District of Texas to file patent suits?

Re:Put down the pitchforks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30652948)

http://www.wikipatents.com/7523150.html-1

Date of application: Oct 28, 2004
Date of patent: Apr 21, 2009

Note that this is a GRANTED PATENT, and can thus be found in the USPTO's granted patent search, NOT the pending/applied for patents search.

http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=PTXT&s1=7523150&OS=7523150&RS=7523150

WikiPatents? Good idea! (3, Insightful)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 4 years ago | (#30650602)

I think this is the first time I've heard of WikiPatents at all, and I don't think it's been featured on the front page yet.

I'm thinking this would be very useful in the patent approval process, not just after the fact. Suppose it worked like this: The second you file a patent, it would be published. Before it could be approved, it would have to be public for some length of time, during which anyone could present prior art or arguments for "obviousness".

On the other hand, I think they're being entirely too kind. From their FAQ [wikipatents.com] :

Patent Examiners do an excellent job reviewing patents in the limited amount of time they are allotted to review patents. However, no single individual can accumulate all of the most relevant information to review a patent within 10 hours, 100 hours, or even 1,000 hours.

On the other hand, based on the "quality" of the patents which get through (like this one!), it really doesn't seem like Patent Examiners even bother to Google it before approving.

Re:WikiPatents? Good idea! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30650786)

On the other hand, based on the "quality" of the patents which get through (like this one!), it really doesn't seem like Patent Examiners even bother to Google it before approving.

It's worse than that - this isn't something you Google, because as soon as you are able to understand what the patent is saying, you will also understand that it is obvious in an especially egregious way. The patent examiner cannot have understood the patent and still have granted it. It is much like the Russian patent on bottles a while back. If anything, NOT doing what the patent is suggesting is the non-obvious thing.

Re:WikiPatents? Good idea! (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651064)

Google is, however, one way to understand what the patent is saying, at least enough to examine whether there might be prior art.

I suppose in an ideal world, they'd at least skim the summary, then fire an email off to whoever filed the patent asking "How is this different than <list of patents>?"

Re:WikiPatents? Good idea! (4, Insightful)

Ciggy (692030) | more than 4 years ago | (#30652962)

...The patent examiner cannot have understood the patent...

Errm, patents are supposed to be usable by someone skilled in the art to produce the invention; no? If the patent examiner can't understand what the patent is about then either:

  • a) The patent examiner isn't skilled in the art; or
  • b) The patent isn't disclosing the [full] details of the patent [clearly enough for a skilled person];

or both. In the case of (b), the patent should be instantly rejected as it doesn't fulfil the criteria of disclosing details for a limited monopoly,

In the case of (a) the examiner should refer to someone who is [so skilled] to give guidance and to fail to do so is negligence (and so either personally or the USPTO should be liable for costs incurred in defending against such a patent when the patent is shown to be issued wrongly).

Re:WikiPatents? Good idea! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30651262)

as long as Jimbo isn't involved. Fuck him.

Re:WikiPatents? Good idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30652144)

Fucking Jimbo has been patented by "Underage Boys Inc."

Re:WikiPatents? Good idea! (3, Informative)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651356)

I'm thinking this would be very useful in the patent approval process, not just after the fact. Suppose it worked like this: The second you file a patent, it would be published. Before it could be approved, it would have to be public for some length of time, during which anyone could present prior art or arguments for "obviousness".

That's brilliant. Why, change "the second" to "within 18 months after" and you just described the USPTO. All patent applications are published and public for some length of time before approval, during which anyone can present prior art or arguments for "obviousness".

You knew that, right? I mean, you're not just griping about something without actually researching it, right?

Re:WikiPatents? Good idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30652450)

All patent applications are published and public

In a completely useless form of course. The patent mafia are phenomenal hypocrites.

Re:WikiPatents? Good idea! (1)

dasmoo (1052358) | more than 4 years ago | (#30652134)

You do know the patent system sucks not only for companies being trolled, but also for inventors right? There are so many big companies infringing on the little guys who just don't have the resources to fight. Even if they did fight, they could be labeled trolls because they don't have the capital to produce their idea. Publishing the patent before approved could give big companies two years of royalty free access to their idea, making it so that everyone already has widget x and doesn't need one anymore, or the goodwill has been created for company x's widget being the best. The patent system sucks from both sides.

Just wait to you see my patent. (5, Funny)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30650618)

On finding the length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle.

Scope of the invention:

For right triangle with length of two sides denoted by A, B, the length of the hypotenuse denoted by C:

C^2 = A^2 + B^2

and

Abs(C) = Sqrt(A^2 + B^2)

Oh yes.. and my patent on trigonometric functions.. These things I like to call "Sines", "Cosines", "Secants", "ArcSecants", "Tangents", and "ArcTangents".

And PI itself...

Stand back Eolas, i4i, NTP, Unisys, get ready for Mysidia.

Muahahahahahahahahaha!!

Re:Just wait to you see my patent. (4, Funny)

darthdavid (835069) | more than 4 years ago | (#30650652)

The scary thing is that you could probably actually get away with that as long as you make sure to put "On a computer:" at the start...

Re:Just wait to you see my patent. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30650772)

"... over a wireless connection..." seems to be the prevailing trend among patents I've seen for obvious technologies.

Let's keep this going (3, Funny)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 4 years ago | (#30650914)

"... with one click..."

Re:Let's keep this going (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30651480)

"...for use on social networking sites..."

Make it stop! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30652186)

Stop this! You're scaring me! :-)

Re:Make it stop! (1)

only_human (761334) | more than 4 years ago | (#30653096)

"A computer optimized travel method for pedestrians, vehicles and signal communication paths through open access spaces with superior distance and time characteristics than methods that utilize travel over two connected edges of said space." "Features: Narrow-beam signal transmissions aimed directly from source to destination will automatically utilize all the benefits and features of this patent"

Re:Just wait to you see my patent. (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651568)

get away with that as long as you make sure to put "On a computer"...

I already patented that process:

// make me rich
  h = openFile("ordinary_behavior.txt");
  while (w = readNextWord(h)) {
    if (random(0.0,1.0) > 0.96) {
      w = w + " using a computer ";
    }
    print(w);
  }

Re:Just wait to you see my patent. (1, Funny)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30650874)

I wish to patent the "floor function". It takes as its input lots and lots of alcohol. The output then hits the floor.

Using my floor function as a reference, I extend it to the ceiling function, which also accepts alcohol as an input. F(x) then becomes parallel to the floor function and faces upward. The projection is then called the ceiling function, which is a dizzying combination of periodic sine[(c)Mysidia 2010] and cosine[(c)Mysidia 2010] functions. The ceiling function is itself periodic and reverts to the floor function.

Re:Just wait to you see my patent. (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651104)

Sure... that's cool..

As long as I get the -vomit-frame-pointer gcc option

Re:Just wait to you see my patent. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30651622)

If you vomit, you clean it up! (Or you owe us a case of beer.)

Re:Just wait to you see my patent. (1)

gearloos (816828) | more than 4 years ago | (#30650986)

did someone say pie? I was told there'd be pie!

Spoiler (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30652446)

The pie is a lie.

Re:Just wait to you see my patent. (-1, Offtopic)

kadey (1689548) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651048)

wow gold [power4game.com] cheap wow gold [power4game.com] buy wow gold [power4game.com] tiffany jewellery [tiffanys-store.com] tiffany [tiffanys-store.com] tiffany jewelry [tiffanys-store.com] pandora jewellery [panjewellery.com] pandora bracelets [panjewellery.com] pandora charms [panjewellery.com]

Re:Just wait to you see my patent. (0, Offtopic)

webmistressrachel (903577) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651306)

Spamspamspam spamspamspamspam spamspamspamspamspamspamspamspamspamspamspamspamspamspamspamspamspam spamspamspamspamspamspam

Page widening doesnt work any more. Those are non-breaking spaces ^^^^. By the way, this is now the spam thread. Please reply below::

  damn it's made me add spaces defeating the object. And it strips ampersandnbspsemicolon!

Newbie mistake (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651072)

Context: author described "finding the length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle" in English.

Damn newbies, with an explanation as provided you will most definitely get your patent application rejected. Heck even a two year old could understand the explanation. Your mistake was using an understandable explanation. The trick is to use 'patentese' a language so arcane that even the experts have a hard time understanding what is being described. You see it is like using Shakespear's English in that you marvel them at your use of the language that they give up and simply approve based on language rather than content.

There is other arcane languages in common use today such as 'marketese', where you convince people to buy your product simply based on the noble use of the words of Buzz.

Re:Newbie mistake (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651198)

That's not the patent application.. that's the form before adding layers of obfuscation and indirection, translating to lawyerese, and inserting every possible elaborate permutation in claims.

Re:Newbie mistake (1)

Tsujiku (902045) | more than 4 years ago | (#30652400)

You need to translate from lawyerese to English and back a few times to get it to really work right.

Re:Newbie mistake (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30652794)

"Never use a big word when a diminutive word will do." (One of my Greek prof's quotes for the day.)

Simple solution (3, Insightful)

bobdotorg (598873) | more than 4 years ago | (#30650688)

Have the patent office add a Slashcode forum so commenters from the peanut gallery can yell:

DUPE!!!

Re:Simple solution (2, Insightful)

robot256 (1635039) | more than 4 years ago | (#30650834)

Have the patent office add a Slashcode forum so commenters from the peanut gallery can yell: DUPE!!!

Crowd-sourcing patent review is a very good idea actually. Patent applications are normally published after 540 days [wikipedia.org] whether they've been issued or not, so putting them up for public comment *before issuance* would be in line with current policy. And since slashdotters are used to providing references, the clerks could just ignore everything else and look up the references people posted. WikiPatents.com is a start but does not seem to allow people to actually critique a patent (or application) for being unique.

Only problem is: how are we going to get an intelligent (slashdot) crowd to research all of the ~500,000 patents filed each year? For that matter, would this actually be able to deter some of the frivolous patent applications, i.e. actually have them denied? I would love to see the (probably short) list of patent applications that have been denied recently.

Re:Simple solution with a flaw? (1)

GumphMaster (772693) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651056)

Strikes me that there is a flaw in this process.

Let's say that the a range of software authors read the patent and comment, but the patent is granted anyway. The freshly-minted patent holder then has a ready made list of parties interested enough to read and comment on a patent, which is probably a good approximation of those that thought they might be infringing. Send the list to the lawyers and you reduce the underpants-to-profit time. The patent holder also knows that these people have read the patent so they cannot claim ignorance and the settlements can be increased.

I guess you take comments in confidence but that defeats the transparency that is being called for.

Re:Simple solution with a flaw? (1)

the_enigma_1983 (742079) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651194)

I see your point, but it won't always be "infringers" who will be looking for these prior arts. And even if they were, an anonymous tip on "wikiforpriorartclaims.com" would let some do-good random make the complaint anyway.

Personally, I'd like to see it set up such that if random-joe finds prior art using publicly available information (aka 'Hey, I searched for the obvious terms A & B, and found prior art here'), then the applicant is fined, so the applicants themselves are forced to at least complete a cursory search for prior art. Of course, then we have to work out what counts as "obvious terms" and what is considered "publicly available" (are scientific journals?).

Re:Simple solution with a flaw? (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651492)

Anonymous/pseudonomous submissions avoid that problem.

Re:Simple solution (1)

sg_oneill (159032) | more than 4 years ago | (#30650856)

Its not the dupe guys they fear, its penisbird.

Re:Simple solution (1)

webmistressrachel (903577) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651346)

It's not penisbird they fear. It's webmistressrachel's /. rants... don't worry, I'm quite placid today...

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[RANT]OMFG....

Re:Simple solution (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651488)

I prefer that would-be patent applicants have to post their patents in a comment, so the dupes can be modded... -1, Redundant, by a computer scientist with mod points :)

10,000??? (0, Troll)

istartedi (132515) | more than 4 years ago | (#30650788)

10,000??? Turn in your geek card now. Don't understand why it should be turned in? Well, there are 10 types of people...

OK, nevermind (0, Troll)

istartedi (132515) | more than 4 years ago | (#30650872)

I read it too fast, saw a number that wasn't a power of 2, and got snarky. Not sure about my geek card; but at least I'm in line with Slashdot community values.

Re:OK, nevermind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30652370)

Lamer lame lame.

Approve them all and let the courts sort em out (2, Insightful)

SlappyBastard (961143) | more than 4 years ago | (#30650824)

That seems to be the USPTO's over-riding theory. Approve all the patents and then if people want to scream prior art, let them scream it to a judge.

Re:Approve them all and let the courts sort em out (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#30650958)

That seems to be the USPTO's over-riding theory. Approve all the patents and then if people want to scream prior art, let them scream it to a judge.

The courts, in their turn, then defer to the USPTO and grant a presumption of validity to the patent. And so we have Microsoft successfully sued for breaking an XML file up into the text and the tags with pointers into the text. And nonsense like this. And also a new patent for a mousetrap which appears in ads in the 1920s...

Re:Approve them all and let the courts sort em out (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651420)

And also a new patent for a mousetrap which appears in ads in the 1920s...

[Citation needed]

Re:Approve them all and let the courts sort em out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30651998)

You're an idiot.

Patent system fundamentally broken (3, Insightful)

dwheeler (321049) | more than 4 years ago | (#30650842)

The current patent system presumes that "everything worth inventing, that has been invented, already has a patent". That wasn't really true in the late 1700s, and is completely nonsense today.

Eben Moglen made an interesting point about patents back in 2009 [dwheeler.com] . Today, any time the government wants to create a new rule/regulation, they must normally ensure that the public can participate/review/comment on it. Also, the government must show that the benefits of the rule/regulation exceeds its costs. All of this is courtesy of the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946 (aka the APA). The APA is no garden of perfection, but it has helped. The big exception is the patent system, which predates the APA, and thus patents are exempt from the APA. In the patent system, there is no opportunity for the public to participate/review/comment on each patent, and there is no requirement to show that the benefits of granting a patent exceeds its costs. Which is weird, because patents (as government-granted monopolies) can have as wide an effect as any other rule or regulation. We need to get rid of software and business method patents [dwheeler.com] , at least, but changing the patent system to require public review and a demonstration that costs exceeded benefits would help too.

I'm waiting (2, Funny)

Grand Facade (35180) | more than 4 years ago | (#30650858)

I'm waiting for Al Gore to patent the internet.

Re:I'm waiting (1)

webmistressrachel (903577) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651380)

Why would he want to do that? If he did that, then the cost of using the internet would go up, and his movie trolls would get torrented less and ... well ... that's all, really.

This comment will not be saved until you click the Submit button below.
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Grrrrr... 14:59 I wrote 05:01 it submits

Re:I'm waiting (0, Offtopic)

webmistressrachel (903577) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651406)

Oops dumb time stuff going on there god I'm tired 04:59 and 05:01

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Grrrrr... do they think I'm crapflooding or something????

05:01 1st Submit 05:06 Last Submit

btw WTF is a "little bit" anyhows??
--
It's possible to go from "Bad" to "Good" in one day with only the 10 posts you are given. Phew. Thanks

Re:I'm waiting (1)

pipatron (966506) | more than 4 years ago | (#30653324)

do they think I'm crapflooding or something?

I hate to be the one to break it to you (ok I lied, I love it), but yes, you are.

PostgreSQL did this ten years ago (2, Informative)

butlerm (3112) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651028)

PostgreSQL starting storing NUMERIC columns in base 10000 six or seven [postgresql.org] years ago. A nice trick, but not exactly rocket science. If you have a high school level education in computer science, you should know how to do stuff like this. Maybe that is what the patent examiners need.

Re:PostgreSQL did this ten years ago (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30651388)

Although, it looks like Tom fixed the number at base 10000 (i.e., 16 bits) where it had been base 100 (8 bits) rather than adjusting to the machine word size - perhaps the HP patent takes that additional step.

Yep, obvious though - or at least I think so having done something similar in the 90s just as 64 bit machines were becoming commonplace. I didn't think it was particularly clever at the time and didn't pat myself on the back. I certainly didn't think it was worth a patent - although, I must admit, when the plea "Developers, find stuff that we can patent and we will give you $2K for each patent - no matter how inane" goes out I pretend to be a drooling idiot with no ideas (there's no way $2K or $20K is worth dealing with patent attorneys and reading drafts of patents - even if tricking the USPTO to grant patents that shouldn't be seemed ethical to me).

Well, we all know what to do now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30651384)

...until GMP pulls their bignum implementation, it's time to boycott GNU software, and even once it's all cleared up, perhaps it still won't be cleared for Free Software use, given that they're using proprietary tech.

just kiddin', guys. I hope this ends up being a slam-dunk against HP.

"Someone who spent a few minutes Googling"... (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651410)

... but doesn't understand what he's reading. From the summary's link:

They claim one thing that they repeat three times. What they claim is converting a string of digits...
The claims repeat this, first for "a method of operating a processor having a processor word size" to do the sectioning and converting each section. Then they say the same thing but don't call the sectioning a separate step, i.e., going through the input string N digits at a time as there is no reason to actually do a sectioning step. And third they repeat the wording of the first one but call it "a computer-readable storage medium storing instructions for controlling a processor" instead of "a method of operating a processor", but otherwise just repeat all the same words.

... and that right there identifies the author as not understanding patent law. If he were to focus on the technical aspects, he may have some authority, but he clearly doesn't understand what he's actually criticizing.

Nice (3, Funny)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651474)

It's so much easier to be a patent troll if you patent stuff that's already been invented. I don't think HP actually makes... things... these days. The only thing I've seen out of them in recent days is crappy IT outsourcing and lawsuits. I'd have thought super-expensive ink would have been more profitable than any of the above, though.

Re:Nice (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651646)

When are the patents on inkjets gonna run out already and become a commodity? I'm tired of being jerked out of money by cartridges that find more excuses to expire early than Marilyn Monroe clones in a poppy field.

Re:Nice (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651656)

HP provides some decent server gear [hp.com] (and network gear, now that they bought 3com)

Re:Nice (2, Funny)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#30652534)

C'mon. They are world leader in printer ink cartridge lifetime shortening and protection from copying technology.

Wasn't that them who invented scanner-printer devices that refuse to scan if you don't have ink?
Wasn't that them who invented ink level permanent kill switch to prevent refilling?
Wasn't that them who invented disabling cartridges based on number of pages printed, ink level notwithstanding?
Wasn't that them who invented printer cartridges with built in clock and killswitch to disable full cartridges after specified date?

Who was first to create full C+M+Y+K cartridges so that if you run out of black, printing papers, you have to dump all the color ink as well?

Unfortunately Lexmark beat them to use code of a program as authentication key for a cartridge to sue anyone authenticating their cartridges using the same key under DMCA for copying their code.

Re:Nice (1)

pipatron (966506) | more than 4 years ago | (#30653346)

Wasn't that them who invented scanner-printer devices that refuse to scan if you don't have ink?

w.. t.. f..

Is this for real or are you just making crazy things up now?

I did the same thing (2, Informative)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651560)

I used to have a VAX assembly program called "er1e9", which computed e using base 1,000,000,000 numbers (which fit into 32-bit integers). I wrote that in the late 80's, and still have it around somewhere. Multiplying and dividing using the VAX instructions was fairly trivial with that format up to arbitrary lengths. It's a pretty obvious optimization, or at least it was for a college kid.

Re:I did the same thing (2, Interesting)

hughk (248126) | more than 4 years ago | (#30652510)

Funnily enough HP bought Compaq who bout Digital who designed the VAX range of computers, but the VAX architecture is ~30 years old (it was announced in 1978) so they probably ended up prior arting themselves.

Collecting dust for 834 days? (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#30651816)

Collecting dust for an indefinite amount of time with little feedback only to be arbitrarily granted or denied in some process with impenetrable logic (if it even has any of *that*).... I just realized....

The patent office is a perfect analogy for the iTunes app store!

FTP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30652516)

Fuck the patent police.

If I published a book (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 4 years ago | (#30652630)

Or a scientific article, which claimed to be original but was actually a copy of an older work, this would be plagiarism, as well as a copyright violation.

However, if I claim a patent on an invention almost a hundred years old, I would be granted exclusive rights to it until someone sics a lawyer on me.

Can't we make filing false patent claims a felony? It is not enough to have these patents sit uncontested unless someone can cough up the cash for a civil court case. The people who file these patents should ask themselves: "Do I want to pay a sizable fine or spend time in jail for filing a fraudulent patent claim?"

Morally, this is a violation of the intellectual property rights of the People (ie. the public domain), and the state should prosecute that.

Re:If I published a book (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30652742)

Meanwhile in the real world: big corporations like HP bribe politicians and officials to open their hands and close their eyes.

Suggested standard for patent reviews (5, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 4 years ago | (#30653130)

I'm not fundamentally against software patents, so long as they follow some basic rules:

  • If prior art is found, but wasn't mentioned on the application, the person applying for the patent is shot.
  • If finding that prior art took less than 2 hours of Googling by a PhD in the field, the inspector is shot.
  • If all of the above are true, and the patent was asserted against someone, the lawyer is shot, and since corporations are "people", the entire corporation (if one was involved) is put in jail for its "lifetime" (e.g., until its incorporation is dissolved).
  • A patent is considered "obvious" if 10 top-notch PhD's in the field are put into a room (with access to the Internet), posed with the problem to be solved, and can't come up with a solution similar to the one being proposed within a week.
  • If a patent is overturned, whoever field the patent must pay all costs (including labor, and interest) to the person who did the work of getting it overturned. And must also participate in a last-man-standing cage match with Michael Tyson after having tatooed on his ass, "Mike Tyson, I'm going to make you my bitch!"
  • Patents last for 7 years.

This would be completely acceptable to me.

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