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Beware the King of the Patent Trolls

CmdrTaco posted about 4 years ago | from the lotta-fresh-air-under-the-bridge dept.

Patents 286

superapecommando writes "If you haven't heard of Intellectual Ventures, you may want to check this out. Set up by ex-Microsoftie Nathan Myhrvold, with investments from Microsoft among others, it is basically a patenting machine – filing and buying them in huge quantities. Note that it doesn't actually use these patents – except to threaten people with. In other words, Intellectual Ventures is a patent troll – or, rather the King of the Patent Trolls. So I was interested to come across this extremely positive blog post on the company. That it is so positive is hardly surprising, since the blog is called 'Tangible IP,' and subtitled 'ipVA's blog on adding value through intellectual property.' Nonetheless, it provides valuable insights into the mindset of fans of intellectual monopolies. Here's what it says about Intellectual Ventures: 'They are an invention house, and have adopted and reinvented leading edge patent strategies to create a portfolio of their own IP which, in its own, would be of high high worth.' They don't invent anything in the proper, deep sense of the word; they merely file and buy patents – with no intent of ever making stuff or solving real-life problems."

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286 comments

You will do (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31614516)

Excellent first sentence, really gets that article off to an awesome start.

Re:You will do (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31615434)

I agree, I liked it do.

Re:You will do (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31615650)

Did anyone else read that line with Yoda's voice?

You will do! (1, Troll)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about 4 years ago | (#31614528)

If you haven't heard of Intellectual Ventures, you will do.

Is that some sort of threat?

Re:You will do! (4, Funny)

spun (1352) | about 4 years ago | (#31614552)

No, it's saying that if you haven't heard of them, you are acceptable. "You will do, Pig, you will do."

Re:You will do! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31614834)

The line is, "That'll do, Pig, that'll do."

It is from Babe [wikipedia.org] .

Re:You will do! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31615206)

these people make the RIAA look like good samaritans. what a useless bunch of jackasses that need to find real jobs. it's really sad that invention, innovation and progress will probably just come to a halt in the near future because you won't be able to create anything without being sued by some chump looking for a free paycheck. beginning of the end of American dominance?

devil's advocate (1, Interesting)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | about 4 years ago | (#31614570)

Someone invented something which otherwise would not have existed, and in return they got paid money in a chain of payments which ended up with this company. That's how capitalism works - the free trade of commodities.

The problem lies with the original inventor, if you want: the guy who wanted to be paid for an idea, rather than giving it to the public domain. How many good ideas have you given to the public domain, reader?

IP is all we have left. (0, Flamebait)

maillemaker (924053) | about 4 years ago | (#31614590)

Moreover, Intellectual Property is one of the last assets the United States has left to profit from. We don't actually make much anymore, we just invent it and have someone else make it. If we don't control the profits from the inventing, we're fucked.

Re:IP is all we have left. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31614672)

Sorry that you went in that direction. You are already fucked since this won't work in the long run.

Re:IP is all we have left. (5, Informative)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | about 4 years ago | (#31614738)

WARNING

Parent post filled with misinformed bullshit.

The US remains the leading manufacturer in the world by value: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Economy#Manufacturing [wikipedia.org]

Re:IP is all we have left. (0, Troll)

cwrinn (1282510) | about 4 years ago | (#31614962)

[citation needed]

Re:IP is all we have left. (3, Informative)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | about 4 years ago | (#31615298)

http://www.wnd.com/index.php?pageId=121034 [wnd.com] Cites a Federal Reserve Report for last November.

For the year 2008, the Federal Reserve estimates that the value of U.S. manufacturing output was about $3.7 trillion (in 2008 dollars). If the U.S. manufacturing sector were a separate economy, with its own GDP, it would be tied with Germany as the world's fourth-richest economy. The GDPs are: U.S. ($14.2 trillion), Japan ($4.9 trillion), China ($4.3 trillion), U.S. manufacturing ($3.7 trillion), Germany ($3.7 trillion), France ($2.9 trillion) and the United Kingdom ($2.7 trillion).

More data from the same Federal Reserve report from last November:

http://blog.american.com/?p=8593 [american.com]

Manufacturing has seen the same changes over the last forty years that agriculture saw over the previous two hundred: Productivity per worker rose so much that fewer and fewer workers were needed to produce just as much stuff. This freed those workers to do other things, increasing the wealth of society. So manufacturing jobs have fallen--but we produce more than we ever have, and more than anyone else, including China. This is a GOOD thing, because it frees those workers to do other things, producing more goods and services for society as a whole.

Re:IP is all we have left. (0, Troll)

cbope (130292) | about 4 years ago | (#31615674)

Is that report from the same Federal Reserve that *enabled* the whole US economy to go into the dumpster recently?

Oh yeah, that's a reputable source of economic data.

Re:IP is all we have left. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31615210)

China controls their currency to seriously under-evaluate its real value. Multiply the Chinese economy by a factor of 5 to 10 to give you the real value of Chinese manufacturing. The USA is far, far behind.

Big businesses using China to manufacture their products are working against their own country. It should be illegal and they should be fined via import fees to compensate and economically force them to manufacture their products in the USA.

Re:IP is all we have left. (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | about 4 years ago | (#31615360)

Multiply the Chinese economy by a factor of 5 to 10 to give you the real value of Chinese manufacturing. The USA is far, far behind.

No economist with half a brain would endorse this. Even on a PPP basis (the actual adjustment an economist would use, which gives a factor of less than two), the US is not behind.

Re:IP is all we have left. (1)

pcfixup4ua (1263816) | about 4 years ago | (#31615316)

The parent post is more right than wrong ... we don't export as much manufactured goods as we used to. That, and our increasing consumption of foreign natural resources (mainly oil) has caused increasing trade deficits. The royalties we can get from IP , along with a reduction in consumption, can restore our economic balance. http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/statistics/historical/gands.txt [census.gov] http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/data/index.html [census.gov]

And is almost last place in exports... (0, Flamebait)

copponex (13876) | about 4 years ago | (#31615318)

http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/eco_exp_pergdp-economy-exports-per-gdp [nationmaster.com]

Scroll down - we're between Burundi and Cape Verde, at number 179.

Does the richest country in the world have the most manufacturing? Yep. Are they in the top ten in manufacturing per capita? Nope. Are they even in the top fifty for manufacturing per GDP? Nope.

These numbers are by "value added" manufacturing. So, we've got a lot of bullshit that we put together that's manufactured almost entirely in east asia. Gluing it together, shoving it in a box, and then raising the price is not what I would call manufacturing.

Re:IP is all we have left. (1)

Znork (31774) | about 4 years ago | (#31615256)

You make the mistaken assumption that IP adds value to an economy. It doesn't. It's a way of redistributing, and eventually, removing value from the economy; those paying for the IP are in the economy subject to the IP, those receiving the payment may or may not be. Fundamentally it's equivalent to a taxation form where the recipients may be outside the economy where the tax is levied.

So saying we need IPR to make a profit in the future is the equivalent of saying we need more taxes and we need to give corporations in other countries a lot of the proceeds or we're fscked.

Somehow that doesn't exactly sound like a very good business plan to me. I'm sure it's great business for the recipients (who tend to be the only stakeholders represented as by calling it 'property' instead of 'tax' some seem to assume that the money isn't taken from someone else), but for everyone else, it's simply another of those economic burdens that are making rapidly making western economies uncompetitive.

so... Sell them ip (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 4 years ago | (#31615262)

they're buying ideas & patents. Shouldn't we sell them ideas and patents - lots and lots of them?

That's what the market says.

jebus' advocate (0, Troll)

The End Of Days (1243248) | about 4 years ago | (#31614616)

The problem lies with profit, man. It's evil to want to be paid. In the new reality, right-thinking people give away everything.

Re:jebus' advocate (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31614854)

Profit, or payment? They aren't the same thing, you know. Fair payment for honest work is not evil. Unfair profit from someone else's work is at least a little evil. And there is a middle ground between giving it all away and lazy, parasitic, rent-seeking behavior.

Copyright, trademark, and patent rights are defined by the government here in America. They are not natural rights. Thus, it is up to us to decide how to use them to our advantage. That is why we created them: for OUR advantage, not for the artists and inventors. And certainly not for money grubbing parasites who have spent their lives doing nothing more creative than shuffling numbers in an accounting ledger.

Re:jebus' advocate (1)

The End Of Days (1243248) | about 4 years ago | (#31615004)

There's only one tiny little problem. There is no fair way to decide what fair profit is. Our current attempt is the let the market do it, which seems to work pretty well in a lot of cases.

What a lot of the entitlement crowd seems to clamor for I can't really determine. They want to benefit from the output while paying nothing. I'm not sure how that is ever going to workable.

I'll probably get blasted for calling that mindset entitlement oriented, but I honestly can't imagine another description.

Re:jebus' advocate (1)

spun (1352) | about 4 years ago | (#31615212)

If the market were to decide on a fair price for intellectual, non-rival [wikipedia.org] works, without government granted and enforced monopoly, that price would be near zero.

Re:jebus' advocate (4, Insightful)

ircmaxell (1117387) | about 4 years ago | (#31615134)

The question I have is how many of these things are down to earth inventions, and how many are just academic ideas that they just decided to patent? When I say academic idea, I mean something along the lines of "Hrm, an observer model would be good for notifying an application about a change in a sensor". Even if nobody had done it before, does that make it an invention that should be patentable? And what about the delineation between method and implementation? You can increase the power band of a car engine by using variable valve timing. Should that in and of itself be patentable? What about the specific method that uses oil under pressure to laterally move the camshaft along a threaded "valley" to alter the timing (Basically Honda's V-Tech)? One is an idea/concept, and the other is an implementation. IMHO, an idea is useless without a specific implementation, and ideas should not be patentable. The problem with this, is that most of the software patents I've seen patent the idea, not the implementation. Now sure, with software the line between idea and implementation is much finer, but that's more of an argument towards the patent-ability of software in general, not what constitutes an implementation...

Re:devil's advocate (0, Flamebait)

longfalcon (202977) | about 4 years ago | (#31614642)

it's a really simple principle:

if i invent something, i am entitled to as much money from it as i can get. if someone else invents something, it should be free for me to license.

that should describe the resulting discussion....

Re:devil's advocate (4, Insightful)

oldspewey (1303305) | about 4 years ago | (#31614796)

How about something more along the lines of:

If I invent something, I should be free to parlay that IP into as much profit as I want to, through whatever means suit me (including selling to an IP house), within some reasonable timeframe.

Similarly, if I buy somebody else's invention (as an IP house), I should have the ability to control that IP to protect my investment for some reasonable period of time, and so long as I can prove I am actively working to realize value from that IP and I'm not just sitting on it in order to stifle innovation.

Better?

Re:devil's advocate (0, Troll)

srussia (884021) | about 4 years ago | (#31614968)

Reasonable timeframe, reasonable period of time?

Heck, since we're using weasel words anyway, let's just reduce all laws to:"You are free to do anything as long as it's reasonable.

Better?

Re:devil's advocate (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | about 4 years ago | (#31615258)

Well, rather than posting a 120-page comment filled with airtight legal language, I just sort of assumed people would understand the high-level concept.

Feel free to jump right in there and lawyer it up until it meets your standards.

Re:devil's advocate (1)

spun (1352) | about 4 years ago | (#31615260)

Read the US constitution if you'd like to understand why the time frame must be reasonable. We get to define what reasonable means in this case, through legislation. But it must, theoretically, be a limited time. Patents are still limited to a reasonable time, IMHO, but copyright terms are ridiculous and counter to the stated purpose of encouraging the arts.

Re:devil's advocate (3, Interesting)

Arthur Grumbine (1086397) | about 4 years ago | (#31615406)

Reasonable timeframe, reasonable period of time?

Heck, since we're using weasel words anyway, let's just reduce all laws to:"You are free to do anything as long as it's reasonable.

I agree with you about the ambiguity of the parent's proposal. How about - the life of a patent is halved with each transfer of ownership? This is unambiguous and severely cripples any potential for patent re-selling, while still retaining significant value for the 1st buyer to make money off of (allowing for inventors to sell their inventions and continue to invent instead of being forced to produce their invention themselves), if the buyer is actually ready/capable to bring the technology/product to market.

Re:devil's advocate (4, Insightful)

spun (1352) | about 4 years ago | (#31614654)

There's a middle ground between 'every idea or work of art is free' and 'we've patented inspirating oxygenated air through an orifice, now pay up.' And no, it is NOT how capitalism works, it is how government granted monopolies work, that's about as far from real capitalism as you can get. As intellectual property is imaginary, made up by people using legislation, not the free market, for OUR benefit, not the inventor's, WE get to decide what's acceptable and what's not.

Re:devil's advocate (1, Redundant)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | about 4 years ago | (#31614784)

If you want to philosophise, tangible property is also made up by people using legislation. You have a government granted monopoly on your tangible property: there's nothing in the laws of physics to say that it's yours.

You are correct that patents/copyrights exist for the benefit of the people, from a US Constitutionalist viewpoint. You the people have decided, via a representative democratic system, that the concept of intellectual property is more appropriate than the concept of temporary monopolies granted for the advancement of science and the useful arts.

Time for less decision by the masses and more philosophy for a sanely governed state, perhaps?

Re:devil's advocate (1)

spun (1352) | about 4 years ago | (#31614994)

Bullshit. I can protect my own tangible property. If I sell it, I don't have it anymore. If I sell my patent or copyrighted work, I still have it, but you also have it, and can sell it.

It takes FAR more government intervention to protect real property than it does intellectual 'property.' And far more intervention to protect real property than it does to protect personal property. Not all forms of property are the same, or require the same amount of government protection.

Not sure I understand your middle paragraph. You say, "that the concept of intellectual property is more appropriate than the concept of temporary monopolies granted for the advancement of science and the useful arts." But that is what intellectual property is: temporary monopoly granted for the advancement of the arts and sciences.

Governance derives from the masses. If you can use philosophy to convince the masses that a certain idea is good governance, great. if not, tough luck.

Re:devil's advocate (1)

spun (1352) | about 4 years ago | (#31615036)

Gah, I meant far LESS government intervention to protect real property than intellectual 'property.' Stupid brain, stupid fingers, why must you betray me?

Re:devil's advocate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31614808)

As intellectual property is imaginary, made up by people using legislation, not the free market, for OUR benefit, not the inventor's, WE get to decide what's acceptable and what's not.

Huh?

If someone invents something, patents it, makes it, and then markets it, you get to decide its value by buying it our not. You vote with your money.

Re:devil's advocate (2, Insightful)

spun (1352) | about 4 years ago | (#31615090)

Wrong. The only reason patents and copyright exist is government intervention. Without that, I could sell someone else's work as my own. We wrote the law, without which, there would be no such thing as copyright or patents. Without a law, real and personal property would still exist as such.

As a voter, I get to vote for representatives who will define copyright and patents as I think they should be defined. Read the constitution and tell me why we even have patents and copyright? To advance the arts and sciences. Not to profit inventors and artists, that's just a side effect.

Re:devil's advocate (1)

jcr (53032) | about 4 years ago | (#31615334)

I'm for rolling back patents to the duration that our first patent laws granted, which as I recall was fourteen years. The purpose of patents, is that the state grants a monopoly on their use to the inventor in exchange for disclosure, so that inventors have a reason to tell the public how to do something instead of keeping them as trade secrets which may be forgotten when the inventor dies or goes out of business.

I'd say it was a mistake to ever consider a patent a form of property, as opposed to a contract between the inventor and the public.

-jcr

Re:devil's advocate (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | about 4 years ago | (#31614708)

For some more devilish advocacy to the free marketeers around: I recently heard a talk by an expert for trade law. He basically made the point that the usual patent function theories, e.g. incentive for innovation, reward for inventors, and so on, are besides the point. In his view, the main point of patent law in particular and IP law in general is to make inventions, and in extension, intellectual property, a trade-able commodity. Only if inventions can be traded, their true value can be assessed. The true value of an invention is not the R&D cost behind it, but the price the market assigns for the transfer of the patent rights between market actors, or in a more indirect way, the price the market assigns for a license.

I realize that this is from his specific point of view, but he has got a point, neglecting, though, the effects of essentially broken litigation systems in some countries, which have a huge impact on the value assessment of patents.

Re:devil's advocate (1)

AnotherBlackHat (265897) | about 4 years ago | (#31615012)

Only if inventions can be traded, their true value can be assessed.

So his point is, that since he can't think of any other way to assess true value, there is no other way?
And patents are justified because otherwise we'd have to use an approximation of value?

Maybe it's just me, but I don't find that a very compelling argument.

-- Should you believe authority without question?

Re:devil's advocate (1)

spun (1352) | about 4 years ago | (#31615306)

Your argument is not compelling. Mindcontrolled's argument is. Because they aren't even remotely the same argument..

Re:devil's advocate (1)

beakerMeep (716990) | about 4 years ago | (#31614768)

Yeah I'm more inclined to think the problems are in the system itself. I mean if this company files patents on things it reads about, or obvious things, that is trolling (and despicable), but if they merely invest in patents that others have created there is nothing wrong with that at all. I may not like the patent system, but there is nothing wrong with venture capitalism per-say. Article is light on details though, and I wonder why the article said it's hard to know how many patents a company holds. Aren't patents public knowledge? Is there no way to search for patents by ownership? I'm guessing not, but there should be.

Re:devil's advocate (3, Informative)

beakerMeep (716990) | about 4 years ago | (#31614928)

Replying to myself as I found more details in the economist article about the actual trolling activity this company engages in:

The idea of raising money to invest explicitly in creating patents is not new, Mr Myhrvold notes: that is what Thomas Edison did. But firms such as his will seek to institutionalise the process so it is not dependent only on a single inventor. Intellectual Ventures has 650 employees, not all of them patent attorneys, and as well as buying patents it develops ideas in-house. In 2009 it applied for about 450 patents for its own inventions—more than Boeing, 3M or Toyota—putting it among the world’s top 50 patent-filers.

Read more in the Economist article. [economist.com]

Re:devil's advocate (-1, Flamebait)

Absolut187 (816431) | about 4 years ago | (#31614878)

Dude. This is SLASHDOT.

Your post will be rated -1 in less than 2 minutes.

If you want +5 you need to stick to these talking points:

IP stands for "imaginary property."
The patent system has no value to society (never ever mention that the patent system is authorized in the constitution).
Patents never incentivize R&D.
The patent system is irrevocably broken and should be dismantled.
Anyone who files a patent application must be engaged in the manufacture of a tangible product that embodies the invention, otherwise the applicant is a "patent troll."
It *might* be ok to file for a patent if you have a "worthy" invention AND you manufacture an embodiment, so long as you never sue or threaten to sue anyone. If you sue anyone you're a "patent troll." (never ask what else you can do with a patent).
If we do decide to keep the patent system, patents should not be transferrable.
Only the inventor(s) should be allowed to own the patents, and never sell or license their invention to anyone else.

Follow these rules and you will get +5 here every time.

Re:devil's advocate (1)

Wildclaw (15718) | about 4 years ago | (#31614972)

Someone invented something which otherwise would not have existed,

Someone invented something which otherwise someone else would have invented sooner or later. Extremely likely sooner if history of inventions tells us anything.

That's how capitalism works

Yes

- the free trade of commodities.

No, only tradee. It is designation of non physical goods as capital to be owned and traded. A fundamental part of capitalism, but completely opposite of any free market theory that deals in distribution of scarce goods.

Information Economy (3, Interesting)

oldhack (1037484) | about 4 years ago | (#31614598)

Information economy only works if you have mega army to enforce it.

Re:Information Economy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31615032)

Almost. Both the information economy and the mega army only work if you have OIL. No oil, no energy. Simple as that.

Holy Summary Typo (2, Insightful)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 4 years ago | (#31614622)

"If you haven't heard of Intellectual Ventures, you will do.

That was the first line of the summary. Really, can't slashdot get an editor? Or even someone with journalism experience who would know to read something over before putting it on the front page? This story could not possibly have been so time-sensitive that it needed to bypass some common sense editing.

Re:Holy Summary Typo (4, Informative)

schmidt349 (690948) | about 4 years ago | (#31614746)

I hate idiot grammar trolls who don't understand that International English sometimes works differently from the American dialect. It's confusing to many English speakers from outside the US to use a naked modal verb without an auxiliary, and thus they use expressions like "I can do" or "I might do" rather than "I can" or "I might." In these cases "do" marks the absence of a true auxiliary. It's by no means ungrammatical or even unusual syntax.

Re:Holy Summary Typo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31615162)

No, but it's horribly awkward to read, and that's more important.

Re:Holy Summary Typo (2, Informative)

Aranykai (1053846) | about 4 years ago | (#31615236)

Regardless of regional colloquialisms, the entire summary is poorly written. Grammatically correct perhaps, but lacking in readability.

Re:Holy Summary Typo (1)

schmidt349 (690948) | about 4 years ago | (#31615448)

This summary is a fine example of British English prose style; the only flaw I can find is that it uses appositional clauses a bit excessively.

There isn't one universal English style that will communicate any idea to anyone else who speaks English. For that matter, there aren't one or even two languages called English, but a whole host of them. I had a student from Singapore last year who was surprised to find out that American usage requires the verb "reply" to have an indirect object. He, and all his fellow Singaporeans, are very comfortable saying "I replied his message."

That you put down reasonably good English style as "regional colloquialism" shows that you aren't very well-read in any English other than the American dialect, which is a bit depressing.

Re:Holy Summary Typo (1)

k8to (9046) | about 4 years ago | (#31614748)

It's not a typo, it's a colloquialism.

Get out in the world sometime.

Re:Holy Summary Typo (1)

jduhls (1666325) | about 4 years ago | (#31614970)

It's the past perfect present participle, fools! Related to:

You are will have done did before again for the first time.

Easy money ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31614668)

Welcome to the best side of capitalism ....why work when you can steal idea from inventor ? ....

Re:Easy money ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31614906)

If the patent was purchased, an inventor was paid. This is actually a way that the patent system rewards individual that do not have the resources to turn their idea in to a product. Nor the resources to sue a big company that might steal their idea rather than buy it. Their idea has value which can be marketed and sold.

They don't seem to be a typical troll (3, Informative)

MikeRT (947531) | about 4 years ago | (#31614680)

Their Wikipedia entry [wikipedia.org] implies that they actually do a decent bit of R&D themselves. I wouldn't call a company that does R&D and licenses the heck out of its work "King of the Patent Trolls." Of course, that assumes that the Wikipedia entry is accurate and all that. I can handle a company making money off of pure R&D. What I cannot tolerate is a company that makes money off of patents that it bought from someone else when it has neither a R&D base nor a manufacturing base.

Re:They don't seem to be a typical troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31614920)

Aside from the patent licensing effort (money in), they fund some really interesting in house research (money out). See http://intellectualventureslab.com.

Re:They don't seem to be a typical troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31614988)

They do not invent in the real and legal since of the word. They generate ideas. The patent office requires that you "reduce to practice," your ideas. They hire a bunch of folks knowledgeable in a field, put them in a room, get them chatting about blue sky stuff and get patent lawyers to write up their BS into broad patents. This is not "reduction to practice!" I've had their recruiters knocking on my door many times. These are bottom feeders who are no different than the trades who managed to crash the financial system. All take and no give. We must find a way to break this business model.

Re:They don't seem to be a typical troll (3, Interesting)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about 4 years ago | (#31615358)

Unfortunately the "reduction to practice" requirement was completely gutted in 1995 by an absurd bit of legal fiction called "constructive reduction to practice." Constructive reduction to practice: "[O]ccurs upon the filing of a patent application on the claimed invention." Brunswick Corp. v. U.S., 34 Fed. Cl. 532, 584 (1995). In other words, as soon as you write it down and file it, no matter how loopy/insane/impossible it may be in the real world, you have "constructively reduced" your patent to practice.

Sometimes legal terms are obscure because of long history and obsolete words; sometimes legal terms are obscure because of outré definitions of common words; and sometimes legal terms are batshit crazy.

This is one of the latter times...

Re:They don't seem to be a typical troll (2, Interesting)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | about 4 years ago | (#31615626)

What I cannot tolerate is a company that makes money off of patents that it bought from someone else when it has neither a R&D base nor a manufacturing base.

I don't have a problem with patent-only companies. Or rather, I dislike patent-only companies and hate patent trolls, but that's only because of the issues I have with patents more generally. As long as patents exist and are legal, it makes perfect sense (and is completely legitimate) for companies to spring up that deal exclusively in patents. In the same way that since stocks exist, are legal, and are ascribed value, it makes perfect sense for companies to spring up that deal only in buying and selling stock, without "actually making" anything in particular. The law ascribes value to patents, so companies trading in that particular value are legitimate. In principle, secondary (non-research/non-manufacturing) companies purchasing patents is just a way that the patent system achieves its goal of incentivising invention: inventors are more likely to invent/patent when they know there is a market for their invention/patent.

So the question really becomes whether the legally-protected constructs (stocks, copyrights, patents, etc.) are really legitimate things in the first place. I think a pretty good case can be made for stocks being a good thing (within a regulated framework). I think patents are, currently, way out of control... but that's not the fault of patent-holding companies per se. Too much value is being put in to really weak patents. The law needs to tighten-up the definitions and grant far fewer patents. So let's keep up the pressure for patent reform... but direct that pressure towards the patent office and lawmakers. It's wasted effort to be mad at companies for doing what they will always do: making as much money as possible based on existing laws and regulation. (The ability of companies to actually change the law is a huge problem, mind you... but a discussion for another day.)

Time for some insightful, informative rants (-1, Troll)

Absolut187 (816431) | about 4 years ago | (#31614688)

rant rant rant imaginary property rant rant microsoft rant rant software patents rant rant corporations rant monopolies rant rant rant.

+5 please.

Re:Time for some insightful, informative rants (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31614794)

If I had any mod points, I'd certainly mod you in some direction, that's true.

Re:Time for some insightful, informative rants (2, Insightful)

magsol (1406749) | about 4 years ago | (#31614828)

It's a legitimate issue in the technology sector. All we keep hearing from political pundits and professors in the classroom is that innovation will drive the economy, lead you out of your bankrupt and unemployed community, solve world hunger and cure cancer.

And yet the patent system is structured in such a way that encourages this sort of corporate behavior, culminating in companies like Intellectual Ventures who, given that they don't produce anything per se, exist almost exclusively to stifle innovation. And they're making a truckload of profit in doing so.

Yes, there are certainly other issues that still need working out - can software really be patented, is something intangible really able to belong to someone, should monopolies be regulated, WHEN IS THE US PATENT OFFICE GETTING THEIR ACT TOGETHER (sorry, fingers slipped there), and countless others. But this would appear to be the poster child for everything that's wrong with the current patent system.

Re:Time for some insightful, informative rants (2, Interesting)

Absolut187 (816431) | about 4 years ago | (#31615308)

It's a legitimate issue in the technology sector.

I strongly agree.

Obviously the intent of my post was to poke fun at the level of discourse here on /., not to discourage discourse altogether. As a patent attorney, I find the level of discourse here is usually comprised of knee-jerk, anti-patent rhetoric that is not particularly well thought-out.

Intellectual Ventures who, given that they don't produce anything per se, exist almost exclusively to stifle innovation

Look. Patent law 101:

It goes without saying that patents stifle innovation in the short term. So it would be nice if people would stop saying that as if they expect a cookie. Its obvious. Everyone knows that. All a patent lets you do is sue people. That's it. Sue people. Nothing else. One government-issued right. It doesn't even guarantee you the right to practice your invention. Just sue people. That's it. I get it. I really do.

A LONG time ago, people realized that good inventions will be copied.
Also, R&D is expensive.
SO, why do R&D when you can just copy?
If you let everyone copy, nobody does any R&D.
Or maybe they do some reduced amount of R&D and try to keep it secret.

The founding fathers put the Progress Clause in the U.S. Constitution for a reason.
The realized that innovation is generally good for society in the long-term, so they wanted to incentize R&D, and incentivize public disclosure of inventions. Inventions increase the size of the pie. Look at our standard of living in the U.S. How did it get so high?

Sometimes the government offers cash prizes. But how much should we offer? Which inventions should have cash prizes? How can we offer cash prizes if we don't even know what the next invention is?

Turns out, government is really bad at predicting and valuing inventions. So they decided to issue patents instead, and let the free market figure it out. So we just give people the exclusive right to their invention for a short time (i.e. the right to sue) and we let them sell or license the inventions. Even to "patent trolls."

That's the patent system folks. A short-term pain in the arse for a long-term net gain.
20 years from filing, which usually results in about a 17 year enforceable term.
Then it becomes public domain and anyone can do it.

So please: stop pointing out that it is a (short-term) pain in the arse as if that were insightful.
It's not.

Not that any mods will actually read this far down, but feel free to mod me -1 troll now.

Nothing wrong with that. (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 years ago | (#31614714)

" with no intent of ever making stuff "

That is not, nor has it ever been, the point of patents.

You could argue they do deserve the patent because they never intend to license, and thus is against the intent of the constitutionality of patents. However event that would be weak since congress determines patent laws.

What they do is well within the patent concept.

However, if you are talking about software or business methods, then those are clearly outside the intent of patents.

Re:Nothing wrong with that. (2, Interesting)

magsol (1406749) | about 4 years ago | (#31614888)

This might be naive on my part, but I would argue that the spirit of patents is to protect the inventor's innovation, which in theory would take the form of some sort of product. The protection would allow the inventor to reap the benefits of his/her brilliance.

Essentially, making the invention process more "fair". But I think what we have instead is a system that's far from the spirit in which it was created.

I'm not necessarily saying that's the right way to do things (Nietzsche would have a field day). I'm just saying that's how I see the current system trying to work...and failing miserably.

Re:Nothing wrong with that. (1)

ljw1004 (764174) | about 4 years ago | (#31615160)

The spirit of patents is, as you say, to protect the inventors innovation.

The nature of a free market is that, through brokers and middle-men buying and selling stuff, everything achieves its correct price, and this price is a fair reflection of the worth of something.

All this company's doing is acting as that broker, i.e. one of the cogs in the free market machine, with the effect that the market gets the correct price for patents.

Blaming this company is like blaming corn speculators acting as the cogs that fine-tune the markets valuation of corn prices -- or like blaming ebay bidders for fine-tuning ebay's valuation of the cost of items.

Re:Nothing wrong with that. (2, Informative)

Jer (18391) | about 4 years ago | (#31615414)

Don't forget, though, that patent protection is a government intervention into the free market for a specific social purpose that society has deemed to be important (i.e. spurring innovation by rewarding innovators with a guarantee of return on investment). They are not natural outcomes of a free market system, they are in fact a specific counter to a problem that the free market creates (i.e. tragedy of the commons). As a government-granted construct they need to be watchdogged very carefully because they are ripe for exploitation by individuals and corporations who would subvert their intent (spurring innovation) to maximize their own profits (as the market model insists that they should).

That's what this article alleges - that companies (and this company in particular) are subverting the implementation of the patent system in the US to maximize their own profits. This isn't a natural outcome of the free market, this is the exploitation of a particular social-engineering tool historically used by governments to manipulate markets in a way that is seen as beneficial to society as a whole.

Re:Nothing wrong with that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31615184)

" with no intent of ever making stuff "

That is not, nor has it ever been, the point of patents.

You could argue they do deserve the patent because they never intend to license, and thus is against the intent of the constitutionality of patents. However event that would be weak since congress determines patent laws.

What they do is well within the patent concept.

However, if you are talking about software or business methods, then those are clearly outside the intent of patents.

How about a my idea for curing dementia by using magnetized nano-particles to inhibit the formation of mal-adaptive neurons in the brain?

PATENT.

Note that I DON'T actually make nano-particles - nor do I provide anyway for poor but charitable types to make and distribute it for free either. Now, no one (but me) can make money off that for about 20 years, so why would anyone else spend money to do that when they can go after a better penis pill instead?

They are why "Magic Cap" is dead. (5, Informative)

DdJ (10790) | about 4 years ago | (#31614734)

I don't know if anyone else around here remembers the state of slate/pen computing in the mid-to-late 90s, but there used to be a company called "General Magic" that made a touch-based graphical operating system for handhelds named "Magic Cap".

As the company kinda fell apart, there was an effort by some of the developers to open source it. But their intellectual property had been sold to Intellectual Ventures, because of some agent technology their stuff included. (Basically, imagine setting up a search on the handheld, and then briefly connecting to the internet to let your "search agent" run around inside a cloud, analyzing data and performing calculations. Then you reconnect and your agent comes back to you and presents the stuff on your handheld.)

Intellectual Ventures never really wanted most of the Magic Cap stuff. But they've made it so difficult to disentangle that the developers eventually gave up. Here's a writeup from one of the people involved.

http://joshcarter.com/magic_cap/faqs/the_future_of_magic_cap [joshcarter.com]

General Magic made a graphical OS designed for handheld touch-based use, not based on a port of a desktop OS. And the people who built it tried to open-soruce it, but were blocked by Intellectual Ventures. If things had worked out differently, we might have had some really interesting work going on in the slate area long before the advent of the iPad.

(Heck. I'd love to run MagicCap on an iPad. It's the perfect hardware platform for it. I have three MagicCap devices myself.)

Yet another reason (3, Interesting)

pnewhook (788591) | about 4 years ago | (#31614736)

Yet another reason to completely scrap the patent process as the original intent of patents has been completely corrupted by lawyers.

Re:Yet another reason (0, Troll)

Absolut187 (816431) | about 4 years ago | (#31615422)

OMG that's so insightful and interesting!

Scrap the patent system you say?
Brilliant!

Your suggestion is so well thought out, let's implement it right now!

The case against intellectual property (3, Interesting)

rolfwind (528248) | about 4 years ago | (#31614744)

http://levine.sscnet.ucla.edu/general/intellectual/againstfinal.htm [ucla.edu]

And, and a tip of my hat to Microsoft "innovation".

Re:The case against intellectual property (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31615074)

I disagree with some of the authors' interpretation of events - especially in the beginning of of PC software revolution.

Anyway, the FLOSS community is creating an interesting "study" of what happens when IP isn't used - at least traditional - the GPL is a Copyright after all.

Here's what to look for in the FLOSS community: innovation. There isn't any.

When I start seeing innovation in the FLOSS community - any innovation - I'll see that as some evidence that IP isn't necessary.

http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Intellectual_Ventures (2, Informative)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | about 4 years ago | (#31614790)

Please help document there here:

http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Intellectual_Ventures [swpat.org]

en.swpat.org is a way to build a wealth of info for when we need it.

Re:http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Intellectual_Ventures (2, Interesting)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about 4 years ago | (#31615458)

What does that site offer that Wikipedia lacks? On a wiki about software patents I would expect to find a list of the patents companies hold, for example. That appears to be encyclopedic information, which is exactly what Wikipedia is. I've seen a couple links to it posted here, by you or someone else, so I'm just curious what it brings to the discussion that isn't already there.

Counter Sue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31614810)

Suppose you have a patent in a field that IV has patents and IV licensed it's IP to others. Is there a novel way to go after those other companies who have licensed from IV? By forming an alliance have they all become responsible for the actions of another? Is there a way to make it a bad idea to work with IV?

Posting as an AC for a reason.

I don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31614860)

Can someone explain this stuff to me? Can you really patent ideas for things? Like, can I patent "A method of energy production whereby isotopes of hydrogen and helium are fused to release heat" without ever working out the details? If so, where's the monetary incentive to make ideas work?

Re:I don't get it (1)

MountainLogic (92466) | about 4 years ago | (#31615148)

Can someone explain this stuff to me? Can you really patent ideas for things? Like, can I patent "A method of energy production whereby isotopes of hydrogen and helium are fused to release heat" without ever working out the details? If so, where's the monetary incentive to make ideas work?

No you can not, at least that is what the law says. It says you must "reduce to practice," your idea. The patent office has been doing a poor job of late making sure application fulfill that requirement. Patents can be broken in court even if they are issued by the patent office if it can be shown that they were issued in error, such as not properly reducing to practice. The problem with taking it to court is that it is very expensive.

Adding value and other oxymorons (3, Interesting)

Angst Badger (8636) | about 4 years ago | (#31614912)

Whenever a capitalist talks about "adding value" or "creating wealth", they're really talking about creating scarcity. "Intellectual property" is the purest form of artificial scarcity, restricting the use of ideas, which otherwise can travel freely from mind to mind with negligible actual cost. A more mundane example is the way building houses drives up the cost of property by reducing the pool of available (or at least desirable) undeveloped property. (The housing bubble pushed this past the point of viability by building more houses than there were buyers for, but between inevitable population growth and the physical decline of abandoned houses, the situation will eventually return to normal.)

We end up with deceptive terms like "creating wealth" because few people would be enthusiastic about creating scarcity except, of course, for the people who already own the commodity being made scarce. Everyone else just ends up paying more for less. Intellectual property is particularly egregious in this sense because the scarcity is completely artificial, as opposed to real estate, where there really is a limited supply of raw material. Ideas, even good ones, are cheap and plentiful and very seldom actually unique; "ownership" is rather arbitrarily awarded to the company that has the resources to afford the patent process and gets it through the door first, with a strong incentive to do so as vaguely and broadly as possible so as to throttle as much actual creativity as possible.

Re:Adding value and other oxymorons (0, Redundant)

Flambergius (55153) | about 4 years ago | (#31615282)

Whenever a capitalist talks about "adding value" or "creating wealth", they're really talking about creating scarcity.

I call bullshit.

summary flat-out wrong: IV *does* make things (3, Interesting)

smellsofbikes (890263) | about 4 years ago | (#31615008)

I'm not defending IP hoarders, and I think the general idea that Intellectual Ventures is pursuing is abhorrent, but they do indeed make things. Two weeks ago, Slashdot had a front-page article about a mosquito-killing laser system [slashdot.org] intended to be placed remotely and autonomously wipe out mosquitos, in an attempt to reduce malaria. Intellectual Ventures designed and built the functional system, which they've displayed in several places.

If anyone would like to read a somewhat middle-of-the-road (neither "IV IS GREAT!" nor "IP is the DEVIL!") discussion of Intellectual Ventures, The New Yorker did a somewhat in-depth article on them last year [newyorker.com] that I thought was interesting. I (being of the IP is the DEVIL! mindset) don't think he addressed the problems to society at large with having companies that primarily chew up intellectual advancement space by pre-emptive patenting. But, on the other hand, patents are time-limited, and if they patent lots and lots of stuff that just isn't feasible given current tech, in 20 years when it IS feasible, there will be prior art and the areas won't be patentable, so that could be a plus.

Re:summary flat-out wrong: IV *does* make things (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | about 4 years ago | (#31615302)

Yeah, gotta say, for a company that doesn't invent stuff... how'd they make a laser skeeter killer? I thought a patent troll (like, say, NTP) doesn't go through the trouble of manual labor outside of signing the checks to lawyers.

Re:summary flat-out wrong: IV *does* make things (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31615408)

I'm not defending IP hoarders, and I think the general idea that Intellectual Ventures is pursuing is abhorrent.

Because they do NOT indeed make things.

The mosquito article you mention... speciifcally mentions they have NO intention iof actually making them. They just want you to pay them if you happen to want to end malaria in beach resorts, Africa, etc.

Re:summary flat-out wrong: IV *does* make things (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 4 years ago | (#31615682)

If anyone would like to read a somewhat middle-of-the-road (neither "IV IS GREAT!" nor "IP is the DEVIL!")

As a Satanist, I would like to say that I find your usage of those two ideas as extreme opposites offensive.

However, as a Satanist, I find causing offense to be commendable. So, carry on!

The UBER-KING Of Patent Trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31615052)

"with no intent of ever making stuff or solving real-life problems" which is exactly what MicroSLOP [www.microsoft] does.

Yours In Akademgorodok,
Kilgore Trout.

What if... (3, Interesting)

MobyDisk (75490) | about 4 years ago | (#31615114)

What if you could only own a patent if you manufactured something that used it? That would mean old unused patents would become public domain once they weren't needed (as determined by the market - if nobody was buying things that used it, and nobody made anything that used it, then the inventor could not hold the patent) Similarly, it means no one could buy a patent unless they were actively using it. It would remain with the original owner, or revert to the public domain if they went out of business.

I guess you might need protections then, to keep companies from just destroying another company to force the patents into the public domain. That could get sticky.

Could we do this with copyrights too? Ex: If you stop selling a book or piece of music, or stop selling a piece of software, it becomes public domain. That would help a lot with old video games. Hmm... what about art, where the artist doesn't want to make copies. Hmm....

Thoughts anyone?

Re:What if... (1)

Absolut187 (816431) | about 4 years ago | (#31615522)

Question #1:
If I'm the inventor, do I have to physically crank the handle myself, or can I hire someone else to do that for me?

Question #2:
Under your suggestion, if I own a patent (I'm the inventor, I manufacture) can I still sue other people for patent infringement?
Or do you propose changing the nature of patents so that they grant the owner some sort of freedom-to-operate to practice their invention?

Look, we dont like patent trolls but.... (1)

goffster (1104287) | about 4 years ago | (#31615250)

They *paid* money to someone for their invention. Someone, supposedly,
figured out something interesting, and, for whatever reason, decided
to take his money and run rather than let the invention stagnate.

Now, I don't like it when the patents are not for anything interesting
or novel, but simply being a patent troll is not a bad thing. Being a patent
troll of "obvious stupid" patents does seem like a bad thing
and is more of a fault of the people who *granted* the patent
to begin with.

That's voiding the patent! (2, Interesting)

Hurricane78 (562437) | about 4 years ago | (#31615312)

I don’t know how it is in the US, but in Germany, if you don’t actually use a patent, then after a specific time, your patent automatically becomes void.
This is to stop people who aren’t serious about doing something with it. Because then, the original point of the patent goes away.

HBR write-up on Intellectual Ventures (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31615346)

http://hbr.org/2010/03/the-big-idea-funding-eureka/ar/1

Apart from the obvious anti-patent bias of your post (IV != SCO), I think you are conflating invention with manufacture.

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