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Tandberg Attempts To Patent Open Source Code

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the cut-and-paste-your-way-to-innovation dept.

Patents 187

An anonymous reader writes "As if the current situation with software patents wasn't bad enough, it appears a new phenomenon is emerging: companies are watching the commit logs of open source projects for ideas to patent. In this case, Tandberg filed a patent that was step-by-step identical to an algorithm developed by the x264 project — a mere two months after the original commit. The particular algorithm is a useful performance optimization in a wide variety of video encoders, including Theora."

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FIRST POST (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34349544)

EAT MY DICK, idiots!

Re:FIRST POST (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34349640)

Hmmm idiot. Isn't that what most people though of Armin Miewes victim?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armin_Meiwes

Re:FIRST POST (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34350524)

Stupid AC. Had he said "eat my pussy" he'd be at +5 "what's your email" now.

i love patents (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34349554)

i'm thinking of patenting the word god and ripping off the colection plates from churches. corporate america would raise me a statue.

Re:i love patents (4, Funny)

LordAndrewSama (1216602) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349646)

Step 1) Patent a process by which members of an organization transfer a circular container amongst themselves, incrementing the capital value within the container after each transfer.
Step 2) Sue church for profiting from your patents for the last thousand years.
Step 3) Profit
Step 4) Damnation.

Of course, there's always the slim slim hope that this will show the ridiculousness of the patent system and it will be overhauled.

'overhaul' (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349754)

things that award ownership of THOUGHT to private individuals, can NOT work.

its the fools who try to make it go around, with justifications and excuses and 'but maybe's.

Re:i love patents (1)

Iceykitsune (1059892) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349758)

Tje church will just switch to square collection plates.

Re:i love patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34350218)

Our church cannot afford plates so they use square wicker baskets... maybe the patent should read "a hand-held 3 dimensional geometrically shaped container" instead or is that too broad?

Re:i love patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34350304)

The broader, the better.

Re:i love patents (1)

PincushionMan (1312913) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350422)

I've been to a church in this area that doesn't even let the laity handle the collection plates. They are affixed with long poles that the ushers keep a tight grip on. A church that doesn't touch it's congregation? Odd.

Re:i love patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34349912)

i'm thinking of patenting the word god and ripping off the colection plates from churches. corporate america would raise me a statue.

This is (at the moment— it may change by the time you read this) modded insightful. I know we all love to bash patents (myself included), but learn a little about what it is your bashing. You can't patent a word— not even the current lazy, screwed-up patent office allows that. A more realistic comment would be to suggest that you patent the process of collecting donation money on plates, and then sue the churches for license fees. This is still extremely unlikely to work in the real world, but at least it addresses the actual subject at hand.

Re:i love patents (1)

Anarki2004 (1652007) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350126)

He said the word of god. Not the word "god".

reading comprehension: try it some time

Re:i love patents (1)

gilleain (1310105) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350232)

He said the word of god. Not the word "god".

reading comprehension: try it some time

No, the OP really did put "the word god". Perhaps they _meant_ "the word of God" (or "the word 'God'..."), but that's not what was typed.

Re:i love patents (1)

Anarki2004 (1652007) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350468)

Oh damn...allow me to retract my original statement.

reading comprehension: i fail it

i apologize for my stupidity. however this is the internet and thus, this is to be expected

on a completely unrelated note, typing on a netbook is effing terrible

Re:i love patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34350020)

I think you mean trademarking the word god.

Re:i love patents (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350142)

It would seem that something similar has been done historically. There's a commandment about the usage of God's name, and one could argue that YHWH is to Yahweh (or whatever the exact pronunciation is supposed to be) as *nix is to UNIX. God's name is perhaps one of the oldest trademarks humanity has.

First to Invent (5, Informative)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349560)

The open source project should file their own patent. Because patents in the U.S. are on a first-to-invent basis, and because they can clearly demonstrate having invented it first, their patent will effectively invalidate the other patent. Then sue the other company for violating the patent, win, and use this to fund many decades of x264 development.

Re:First to Invent (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34349586)

Sounds like a great idea. That will be $10,000 (about the bare minimum to file a patent and prosecute it through issuance).

Re:First to Invent (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34350298)

If we could ensure that the patent would stay in the public domain I'd contribute $1K.

Re:First to Invent (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349624)

patent MAD, "love" it...

Re:First to Invent (4, Informative)

PseudonymousBraveguy (1857734) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349632)

TThen sue the other company for violating the patent, win,

This sounds good in theory, but I've come to the conclusion that it's not neccessary that only because you *shold* win you actually *do* win. If you are unlucky, the process will go like: File for a patent, sue, get your own patent invalidated, get sued by company, and go bankrupt.

The most important step is therefor: Get a good lawyer first before trying anything else. I don't know if the EFF or similar foundations would sponsor a lawsuit, or if you'd find enough money by asking for donations, but without any backing the whole process sounds risky.

If that whole legal thing is not your favorite cup of tea, you could give all evidence to PUBPAT or a similar organisation and let them fight the patent. They have more experience dealing with this stuff.

Re:First to Invent (2, Interesting)

Compulawyer (318018) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349638)

Good idea. Unfortunately, the article says the code was released in 2008. In the US, you have one year after publication to file a patent application. After that year runs, no one can get a patent on whatever was disclosed.

Re:First to Invent (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349776)

Ah. I didn't see that this was ancient history. Is this within a two month period after the patent was issued, or did they miss the window for public comment, too?

Re:First to Invent (4, Insightful)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350216)

Tandberg, a unit of Cisco, tries according TFA, to patent someone else's open source code; that someone else is the complainer in the link.

Should he be unhappy? Yes. Is this person trying to patent open source code per se? No. Instead, it's this person's code. Should he sue? Probably. Should Tandberg be laughed off the planet? Certainly. Is the filing one year late? No, not by Tandberg's math. Does the prior art count? It would seem so. And the patent application ought to be denied for that reason-- prior art.

Re:First to Invent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34349666)

Does every idea in this world need to be patented ?

Re:First to Invent (5, Insightful)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350402)

In an environment where everyone is "looking for _their_ share", especially in modern america (if I had a nickel for every time I heard some slob demand "his" bailout when the fed bailed out the bank and loan sector, I'd be as rich as bill gates by now.), you end up with a situation where instead of just shaking hands and working together for a common future, you have all these players trying to screw each other and everyone else with exclusivity contracts, patents, copyrights, trademarks, and all that filth.

If it is even remotely valuable, there is an impetus to patent it, so you can hoard it like troll, then demand payment for its use.

For these people/this mindset, the idea of an open commons is an anathema; Cooperation is a sign of weakness in their eyes, and "giving away" something so obviously useful is something that only suckers do. They are used to "Dog eat dog" dealings, so the idea of "We dont mind if you fork our code, as long as you comply with the GPL" is uncomfortably alien to them. They operate on the model of exclusivity, and freedom is the exact opposite of that.

Naturally, if they can simply steal what you are making, and transform it into an exclusive (such as a patent), they WILL. They are more comfortable with exclusives that they own (legitimately or not, it doesn't matter) than they are with shared commodities that they do not. Why do you think there is such a push away from an open internet and toward a tiered one where everyone pays and charges tolls to route traffic by these people? Exclusivity. "Pay me or else."

For what it's worth, I agree with you-- Not everything should be patented, not everything should be lorded over by some troll with a sense of entitlement, and not everything should be divvied up and spoiled for profit. Sadly, as the saying goes, "Money talks, and bullshit walks". It would seem that the people stealing FOSS innovations like this feel the GPL is "bullshit", as evidenced by their actions. (Personally, I think the idea of the thing scares them. If FOSS groups started amassing patent portfolios, they would cry foul with every regulator you could think of.)

Re:First to Invent (1)

masmullin (1479239) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350606)

I cannot answer that question without violating copyright.

Re:First to Invent (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34349670)

The authors should sue Tandberg for IP theft under the DMCA. I suspect they'd have a good case, since filing a patent is a claim of ownership. Since Tandberg could not possibly have ignored the prior art, they are thus making a fradulent claim of ownership. They could also file a complaint for abuse of judicial process. But they need to sue Tandberg's pants off, since Patent Trolls such as those operate only in the expectation that they will not be sued. They are targeting open source projects because they believe those projects to be too poor to have good legal representation.

Re:First to Invent (1)

txwikinger-slashdot (1664887) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349688)

Well.. the application states it is a *calculation*. Calculations are mathematics, and mathematics is not patentable. This is a non-starter, especially after Bilski.

Re:First to Invent (1)

dimeglio (456244) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349880)

I'm glad to live in a country where the ridiculousness of software patents has been long ago realized.

Re:First to Invent (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34349702)

It's too late. 35 U.S.C. 102(b) requires the inventor to file a patent application within one year of the invention being made publicly known. Once you have made that commit, the clock starts. Ideally though, it's much easier to file an application before you publicly release the details.

Re:First to Invent (1, Interesting)

arivanov (12034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349836)

Who told you that Tandberg will use said patent after they have filed it.

Most patents today are filed defensively, to ensure that you have ammo to sue back a non-troll in a patent war similar to the one currently going on in mobile.

In fact, it is exceedingly rare for a non-troll company to actually license something for a fee from another company. If you try to do that, at the second meeting the lawyers of the company you are trying to license to open a FAT briefcase with their patent ammo and you are facing a mutually assured destruction. The sole exemption to this are industry standards with RAND tagged on them. However as the ongoing war in mobile has shown that is broken too.

This by itself should show that the system is broken. In fact that is what you need to show to _BUSINESS_ people when speaking why it is broken. They do not care about free, blah, whatever, what they care is bottom line and that has a very bad forecast in a Cold war. Cold war on the verge of mutually assured destruction is a guaranteed lose-lose situation. The budget to maintain a final solution war arsenal for all of your product exceeds by far the budget to innovate in the specific areas you want to advance.

Re:First to Invent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34350210)

They want to play hardball? OK, we'll play hardball.

If you try to do that, at the second meeting the lawyers of the company you are trying to license to open a FAT briefcase with their patent ammo...

and then my people open violin cases with Thompson submachine guns and real ammo. I think they'll sign ownership to my company at that point.

Re:First to Invent (1)

hkmwbz (531650) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350564)

Who told you that Tandberg will use said patent after they have filed it.

Nice excuse for ripping off someone else's algorithm and claiming that you invented it...

Re:First to Invent - not funny at all! (1)

jenningsthecat (1525947) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350360)

Although your comment was modded up as 'Funny', I suspect that wasn't your intent.

There's an important idea here; not the suing part, but the patenting part. The FOSS community should organize itself to patent EVERYTHING it does that's even remotely patentable. Everyone who wanted to use the software commercially would then have to sign a "For one dollar received and other valuable considerations" licensing agreement that, while effectively keeping the software free, would explicitly support the FOSS licence, making it easier to pursue legal action against violators.

Where would the money for this come from? Well, I think a good chunk of it would come from the greed-headed businesses that would patent blue sky and green grass if they could do so. Because preventing your competitiors from having a patent that locks you out of key technological innovations, is almost as good as locking them out of those same innovations yourself. If a corporation can't gain exclusivity over a patent, it will support a 'level playing field' approach just to ensure that none of their competitors can gain exclusivity.

Yes, give the PTO lots of money, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34350612)

Yes, give the PTO lots of money, that'll solve the problem of software patents at the PTO!

Does FOSS have a community warchest to sue every company in the US infringing on patents? If not, then they've just paid to have worthless bits of paper given them.

Re:First to Invent (1)

toppavak (943659) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350378)

There's an even more robust option- members of the public can file requests with the PTO to review patents it has granted. If we can present a "preponderance of evidence" that the patent should not have been granted, it will be revoked. It's worth noting that 90% of such requests are successful.

get rich in easy steps (1)

JonChance (1115393) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349568)

1 ) follow open source commit lots
2) patent the idea's there
3) try and figure out WTF they are doing
4a) can't figure it out , sue any one using it.
4b) figured it out , sue anyone using it
5) Collect settlement from innocent users
6) Collect payoff from MPAA/RIAA, Microsoft etc.. for killing open source.

Excellent (1)

Issarlk (1429361) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349576)

More companies should do the same, patent everything until the whole thing collapses into a gigantic innovation blackhole.

If you can't invent it... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34349578)

...steal it! Those OSS hippies will never have the gumption to fight back...

Re:If you can't invent it... (4, Interesting)

gabrieltss (64078) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349660)

Sure why not. I've seen MANY H1B workers (from India) that have done this sort of thing. We have sent several packing home because of it. They would go out, take code from an open source project and rip out the copyright then put their name to it and try to commit it to our SVN. Fortunately, because we have been burned by this in the past we instituted a "review before commit is allowed" process for ANY "outsource", "H1B", etc.. worker. They can't commit until we have reviewed. We actually take snippets of the code they want to commit and do searches to see if it came from an OSS project. You have to watch people these days.....

Re:If you can't invent it... (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349774)

Sure why not. I've seen MANY H1B workers (from India) that have done this sort of thing. We have sent several packing home because of it. They would go out, take code from an open source project and rip out the copyright then put their name to it and try to commit it to our SVN.

Our company rule is: No outside code gets checked in unless our lawyers have checked the license. Since having our lawyers checking the license is more expensive and more of a pain than writing the code yourself, it is very very very rare that this would happen. With GPL code at least the company has the benefit that it isn't copyright infringement until they distribute the code, so they are legally fine if they catch it and remove the code before shipping.

Re:If you can't invent it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34349942)

Yay to innovation! Reinventing the wheel a thousand times, will of course speed up progress manifolds..

Re:If you can't invent it... (0, Troll)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350430)

Yay to innovation! Reinventing the wheel a thousand times, will of course speed up progress manifolds..

You realize that there are consequences to choosing the GPL, just as for any other choice in software development? One of those consequences is that you automatically exclude large portions of people and corporations from using your code. That may be what you want - on the other hand you seem to find it offensive. If it's a problem, use a less restrictive license*.

*(Says the person who's developing and maintaining a GPLv2 project.)

Re:If you can't invent it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34350056)

Why is this post flamebait. It seems relevant to the discussion and there is no reason to think the statements aren't true.
The parent post with unsupported accusations about "hippies" stealing OSS code seems more like the flamebait.
Some people just love to bitch.

Re:If you can't invent it... (1)

mehemiah (971799) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350214)

what do u mean you've been burned by this? you've been punished, as a company, for doing it? Many comments here suggest that it would be hard to punish? please explain how you were caught and punished.

Re:If you can't invent it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34350394)

Most likely in this case, being "burned" by it means they noticed it and had to spend money removing that code and rewriting it. A true cost. I know recently I was asked to do a code review of a program written by our "offshore partners" (in this case LTI). There was an entire module in it that was just copied from a site on the internet. Fortunately it was published as public domain code so we didn't have any legal issues with it - but the bigger issue is that it was code to detect network change events and the developers supporting the program didn't understand the code. Not the best situation when you expect them to be able to fix problems. Code reuse is commendable and all, but when you get folks incorporating code that they don't know enough to have written themselves (given the time to write it) you are asking for trouble.

Re:If you can't invent it... (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350578)

Let's say you're Microsoft. And you pay a third party to develop a tool and slap your name on it. Then it turns out that it was pirated GPL code. Or let's say you're Microsoft. And your China division creates a website. Then it turns out that they copied everything -- layout, graphics, css -- from another website.

Previous cases of similar (3, Informative)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349602)

There was also a study (2004?) which showed that getting patents makes you more likely to be the target of patent litigation, and there's a guy in FFII who published a computer science paper only to find that someone else patented an extension of his work a few years later.

The links and descriptions are at the below link, but it's down briefly for maintenance:
http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Publishing_information_is_made_dangerous [swpat.org]

Re:Previous cases of similar (2, Informative)

pacinpm (631330) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349786)

[...]and there's a guy in FFII who published a computer science paper only to find that someone else patented an extension of his work a few years later.

It's completely legal. He added some "value" so he can patent it. That's how patent system works. There is no prior art defence here.

Except he patented it all. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34350554)

Except he patented it all. Not the extension. Not the "value add". And is any value added that deserves patent protection anyway?

Even if under a certain reading of the patent claims says that the original isn't patented, in what way has that ever been an impediment to suing someone for patent infringement?

NEVER.

Open Source Ass Kicking (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34349604)

If you came to my gangs place and took our stuff, we would come to your house and get medieval on you and your families asses.
So what's the Geek equivalent? You gonna infiltrate and drop his company down the shitter or just whine about it like I think you're gonna?
About 60% of you want to defer to the useless justice system, about 20% will just sit there wishing 'someone' would DDoS them, 10% just give up, 5% think the code could be bettered anyway, 2.5% would do something if it directly affected them and the rest just opened another tab to explore their sexuality.
Well, maybe if we whine in unison in 5 part harmony with a bridge, chorus, turnaround and 5 verses of " Life Ain't Fair". It's bound to work, we do it here all the time with smashing results.
We get results, right?
Yup, business as usual.

Serious Accusation - Got Proof? (4, Interesting)

Compulawyer (318018) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349628)

If you are alleging that Tandberg copied the idea from the x264 project, that is a very serious allegation. Title 35 of the US Code, Section 102(g) prohibits anyone from getting a patent on something that he (or she) did not themselves invent. It would also violate Rule 56 of the Rules of Practice of the USPTO which requires those involved with the preparation and prosecution of a patent application to disclose to the USPTO any reason known why a patent should not issue. Failure to do so is called "inequitable conduct" and is a basis for finding the patent permanently unenforceable. In some cases it can also be a federal crime.

The US is not a first-to-file country but a first-to-invent country. That means that it is possible for an inventor to get a patent even thought they were not the first one to file an application at the USPTO but were the first to invent and were diligent in efforts to obtain a patent. Copying of this type is serious indeed. Theoretically, conduct of this type could also be a copyright infringement.

I for one would like to see a *lot* more proof before reading about allegations like this. The mere fact that one event happened after another is far from sufficient. These are *very* serious accusations.

Re:Serious Accusation - Got Proof? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34349720)

Happens all the time [slashdot.org]

Re:Serious Accusation - Got Proof? (5, Interesting)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349740)

You know how you ghouls are always "Consult a lawyer before doing anything!!!!ELEVEN!!!" ?

If you read the patent claim and compare it to the published assembly, it's identical.

Oh, you don't speak assembly? Then consult a coder before spouting off your Class A Federal Alpha Constitutional wankspeak.

Re:Serious Accusation - Got Proof? (1)

PseudonymousBraveguy (1857734) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349810)

I speak assembly, but if I try to read the patent claims my brain implodes somewhere around claim 2.

And IF I understtod the patent and could verify for myself that both are identical, I'd have to prove the identity to a judge, who will probably ask what a "gathering of people" has to do with a computer, and why that is relevant to the patent. I'd rather trust a lawyer with that, thankyouverymuch.

Re:Serious Accusation - Got Proof? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34350328)

Well, in patent topics on Slashdot, we always say that the chances of independently writing a patented algorithm and thus unintentionally violating somebody's patent are actually quite high.

After all, there is usually only one optimal implementation.

So maybe this happened by chance?

Re:Serious Accusation - Got Proof? (1)

leuk_he (194174) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349750)

Who is going sue? Notice that tandberg is cisco, so they have pleny of money....

Re:Serious Accusation - Got Proof? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34350264)

Do we really need to sue or just bust the patent with prior art?

Re:Serious Accusation - Got Proof? (4, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349878)

How much further can you get without getting a lawyer, filing a lawsuit and start subpoenaing evidence? It's exactly the same algorithm, and if you don't want to spend $100k on a patent litigation case than naming and shaming is as close as you'll get. If they pull a defamation suit, then you can bring in the big guns yourself.

Re:Serious Accusation - Got Proof? (1)

hat_eater (1376623) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350014)

RTFA on the x264 blog. While simple sequence of events isn't proof, the dev seems to be sure enough his case has merit to accuse Tandberg and Endresen personally of stealing code in the past and provides corroborating evidence in the form of a functionality that lacks from the patent description and was added to the original algorithm two days after the patent was filed.

Re:Serious Accusation - Got Proof? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34350200)

I for one would like to see the bodies of all Tandberg employees in huge bloodsoaked piles - their lifeless eyes being plucked out by ravens.

Congrats, Mr. Endresen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34349658)

Ever since attending NTNU university it's always been a dream of yours to be featured on /.
Well, you've finally succeeded. Congrats!

Ok im asking again, where are those fools (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349704)

Who were defending patent system by this or that excuse or justification, by broad shooting or beautifying or rationalizing what was happening ?

Just a day ago someone justified some mishap with the system again, and attributed to this, that, and i have told him that the rate things are going is in front of us, the system is faulty, and it wouldnt take a few months before it would reach rock bottom.

and lo. it didnt even take a day.

Re:Ok im asking again, where are those fools (1)

pacinpm (631330) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349802)

I can see limitations with patent system. I think it could allow patents for phisical inventions only (real machines). Unfortunately I think removing patents completely will be even worse for small companies or inventors. There is no chance you can be competitive with large and rich company if there is no patents. They can just copy your invention and undercut you.

Re:Ok im asking again, where are those fools (5, Insightful)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349898)

actually to the contrary, in this case you have no possibility of competing. they have a larger capital to buy stuff, larger capital to sue you, larger capital to pre-patent everything conceivable ahead of you.

at this state, we are at the dawn of intellectual feudalism age. in such an age, there cant be any small companies or inventors. anyone would have to be subservient to whomever has the biggest capital.

the parallels in between the current situation, and the early middle ages in which feudalism has formed, are uncanny.

Re:Ok im asking again, where are those fools (2, Insightful)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349966)

The problem is that big companies have patents too. They have the resources to get more patents than the small companies, and unless they are completely stagnated, it is giving them a stronger competitive advantage than without patents. Without some kind of patent system where acquisition of patents is somehow more difficult for large companies than startups, I don't think there's a way to not have a patent system generally tip the system in the hands of the big companies more than a system without patents. Non-practicing entities can avoid this trap, but that's usually not where the big money is at, and it does nothing to provide actual competition to the market.

The system is working fine (3, Insightful)

Steeltoe (98226) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349982)

For smaller companies, you're taking a huge risk developing anything, but for the big corporations, who bought these laws in the first place, this ensures less competition, less innovation and higher bar of entry to market. It's perfect, so for them the system works fine, and thus they won't be doing anything with it.

If the unfairness was aimed at huge corporations, the patent-system and copyright-laws would be gone within a few months or a year. I have no issue with the trademark-laws, and copyright might work out when we have something like GPL. However, the patent-system is such a big beast, it's continual existence is assured because of it, not in spite of it.

Fund OSS patent warchest. (2, Interesting)

miffo.swe (547642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349706)

Even if i dont like it, i do think the only viable solution in the current climate is if the open source community gets its own warchest of patents to use in negotiations.

A fund where you could input your inventions that patented them and then offer them to anyone using a GPL license for their code. If a corporate entity wants in, fine, just cross license and use them for all they care as long as they dont use their patents against GPL licensed code.

Thanks a lot, America (4, Interesting)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349714)

You guys have really fucked everyone up with this "Intellectual Property" concept you invented and marketed to the rest of the world.

Now everyone is arguing with everyone else because they somehow believe the delusion that they are the only fucking people in the world to ever have thought of something. And guess who is making a ton of money? The lawyers, of course.

If you have the brains to market your idea (or negotiate with someone who can) then you deserve the profits you'll make. If you just want to be paid because you thought of something, go to hell.

There's a big difference between having a flash of inspiration in the shower, and actually bringing a product to market. There's this notion that patents reward creative people - as if creative people were in short supply. Everyone is more or less creative. Those who get the reward, however, are the ones willing to make the effort to develop their ideas.

Re:Thanks a lot, America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34349830)

Ahahahahahahaha!

You think America invented the concept of intellectual property!

Ahahahahahahaha!!

Re:Thanks a lot, America (4, Informative)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349890)

'Intellectual property' is not an American concept. England is probably the most to blame, but they were going from arbitrary monopolies granted by the king to moderately logical monopolies that somewhat made sense given the primitive state of economics and psychology at the time. The problem is that we haven't progressed, and that we've had escalation occur, often through racheting mechanisms aimed at harmonization.

Re:Thanks a lot, America (3, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350122)

I'll concede that point, although today's laws have deviated and perverted so much what was intended that "IP" today bears very little resemblance to what was "protected" 200 or more years ago.

I remember going to museums as a kid and being told that I wasn't allowed to take FLASH pictures because, of course, the repeated flash of thousands of tourists' cameras every day would eventually degrade the pigments in the paintings. Now you are told, with flashless digital cameras because the museum just doesn't want you to, and they'll feed you some completely false copyright or IP garbage as an excuse. I believe the copyright on a Rembrandt expired a long time ago.

Re:Thanks a lot, America (1)

ElusiveJoe (1716808) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349988)

If you have the brains to market your idea (or negotiate with someone who can) then you deserve the profits you'll make.

And guess who will be making a ton of money? The marketing managers, of course. Somehow, I don't like the idea, that only one group of people should benefit from the collaborative work.

Following your logic, script-writers for movies should not get a penny for their work. I mean, anyone can imagine a movie plot in the shower, amirite?

"Ha! I could do that, too" argument is simply invalid.

Re:Thanks a lot, America (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350066)

I was under the impression, from recent strikes, that script writers barely did get a penny for their work as it is.

But seriously, compare the time and expense of writing the script for a movie, versus actually producing and marketing the movie. Everything is in proportion to the effort involved - or should be anyway. The problem is that human greed very often gets in the way (eg, New Line vs. Peter Jackson for the Lord of the Rings - yeah we actually LOST money on that film that's why we can't pay you...).

Re:Thanks a lot, America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34350098)

Yeah dude, why don't we abolish all property, not just the intellectual property. You really do not know what you're talking about. Copyright, trademarks, for instance, are also IP. if you abolish that, try to think what would become of the world. IP is not "invented". It is as real as property of tangible stuff. Why don't you say that is "invented" too. Only because you don't get a concept doesn't mean its bad. Patents are just too complex a concept for many technically trained people. Look at all those ignorant comments like "why don't we patent the internet, huh, huh" modded up for being "funny". It just goes to show that nerds really should stay out of this topic, *unless* they read up on some law so that they know what the fuck they are talking about.

Re:Thanks a lot, America (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350194)

I tried to make sense of your comment and all I understood was "you guys are too dumb to understand, stay the fuck out". Which, I might add, doesn't contribute much to the debate.

Still please tell me - what would happen if anyone could post Steamboat Willie on the internet, or paint the figure of Mickey Mouse on a kindergarten wall without being sued. The world would end, right? How?

Re:Thanks a lot, America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34350250)

You forgot the *unless* part in your quote of my response, thereby changing its meaning completely. Typical. The examples you provide are hard to follow. The idea of IP is that you control what happens to your property, just like with tangible property. Mickey Mouse on a kindergarten wall is not likely to draw the attention of any right holder, nor is there a legitimate interest in forbidding it. So now, you please tell me - what would happen if some Chinese crook started brewing Coca Cola and selling it as the real thing? Or some villain would start to make pills and call them Viagra and sell them to you as the real thing. The world would not end, right? You just haven't thought this through at all.

Re:Thanks a lot, America (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34350184)

Wow, so far you've got a score of 4 on this half-loaded rant.

I agree that today's IP system has become largely ineffective but let's look at why it exists.

In a day when inventions could be seen by, demonstrated to, and largely understood by laypeople, a patent meant that an individual who invested his time and effort (things of value, mind you) into creating a new product would have the chance to bring it to market. You see, the people who invent things often don't have the means for full-scale production so what would happen if BigBizCo, Inc. were to get wind of an invention before its creator could get past the prototype stage? Keep it hidden, you say? What if our inventor needed to show it to prospective investors, or needs to partner with someone who has the equipment to mass produce it? What if they secretly worked for BigBizCo? Surely BigBizCo would offer a reward for info about a new invention. Very quickly it becomes apparent that inventing is only worthwhile for the rich without intellectual property rights, and I think that's something you'd want to rant about too.

Re:Thanks a lot, America (2, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350196)

Those who get the reward, however, are the ones willing to make the effort to develop their ideas.

No, it's those that are best at ripping off creative people by putting it in their own product and kill them on margins and market power. You put down long hours actually doing product development, only to find yourself overrun by cheap clones that have done nothing but pick your product apart and copy it. I remember that happened to one company around here, it was a good idea, they actually had product on the market for one season produced locally and sold well, very far from "a flash of inspiration in the shower".

Next season a bigger company had taken their design, changed it just enough to not be a direct copy and fired it off to some low-cost country and flooded the market. Could they have won a lawsuit? Maybe, but when you're a failing startup due to lack of sales that's then even winning is losing because you can't take the short term cost and with appeals even just for the sake of appeals it can take forever. It's just that patent law is woefully ineffective at actually protecting real innovators and serve large companies with patent lawyers on staff and the deep pockets to kill startups that can't or won't play ball. But it's not like everything would be fine without patents either.

Research in motion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34349730)

RIM has been quite evil at this for some time now. For certain open source projects used on Android and/or iPhone, you can be sure RIM will have a patent application two weeks after any good idea commited in the project.

Public domain? (2, Interesting)

Amanitin (1603983) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349748)

You can't patent anything that's in the public domain already. I'd say this move is based on the negligence of application referees. Rightly so.

Re:Public domain? (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349978)

What does PD have to do with this? And you can't patent other people's inventions either - at least, not in the US.

Re:Public domain? (2, Insightful)

Steeltoe (98226) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350022)

No, but you can patent any extention of something in public domain. In most cases, you can just reword the patent a little here, and include some differentiation there, and whoopie, suddenly it's an innovative piece of patent, ready to slay all other ideas that even resemble it!

You can't patent something already publicaly disclosed, however, it's still possible to create a minefield of patents, who someone sooner or later, is bound to step on at least a dozen of them.

Re:Public domain? (1)

thijsh (910751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350082)

That's a strange contradiction. Change a little and get a patent that even covers implementations that are wildly different... Wouldn't they also be able to pull the same trick and change something trivial to have their own patent?

I agree that patents have become ridiculous, but this exploit seems to be able to be used by anyone, not just the patent trolls.

Re:Public domain? (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350212)

You can make a slight change or extension to an existing idea and get a patent regardless of whether or not the existing idea is patented. Because of this, you can have some things require several patents to be produced because an implementation makes use of several patents that are derivative of each other. There's something similar with copyright. I could slightly change Hamlet and legally claim it as my own composition, but if someone uses a derivative of my derivative, they would be guilty of copyright infringement (as long as they don't fall within fair use and such).

So, all of the sudden, there is a phenomenon (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34349796)

So, based on this case you automatically assume that there is a phenomenon going on, big companies are now patenting every open source code they can find, suuuure.
You open source talibans should see a therapist, you all have a really serious case of paranoia

Hmm... (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349980)

Patents for software are founded on the idea that the software drives a mechanical device to perform tasks. However, Software also falls under copyright. Would you not therefore be able to sue a company for copyright infringement if they patent software that you wrote? That would be a fun little test of the legal system...

Re:Hmm... (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350026)

functionality isn't protected by copyright. If they were lazy enough, it might work, but it'd be very difficult to improve. Accusing the patent applicant for defarding the USPTO would probably be a better route.

Tandberg = Oracle (1)

thijsh (910751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34349994)

It would seem the Oracle lost it's touch... It's not very prescient to patent something after someone else published it for the world to see.
It's supposed to be *before* otherwise it's just called copying, cheating or stealing instead of prophetic, prediction or precognition.

Oracle, you're doing it wrong!

Re:Tandberg = Oracle (2, Informative)

thijsh (910751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350032)

Note to self: Tandberg (tm) not related to Oracle (tm)... They are part of the Cisco (tm) network imperium and although they deal in telepresence they are not supernatural in any way.

Can I patent.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34350166)

Can I patent the idea that people can protect their ideas by patent?
Or I would like to patent the process of watching code commits and see if I can patent something.

They are really thieves, but it's mostly a US thing, if the US is making it difficult to do something useful by it's own patent laws, then somewhere else (China) people will just make products and profit and will kindly not understand anything about patents and go on doing useful things.

Misleading title (1)

Zangief (461457) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350202)

Oh, I thought someone had patented the very idea of open sourcing code.

file ex parte to the patent examiner (1)

rhubarb42 (887861) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350228)

This sounds pretty convincing that it's a copy. You can tell the patent examiner about the prior art. You don't have to sue or be sued. The only defense Tandberg could claim is they actually told you about the idea, and you "stole" it when you committed the code. They would have to show evidence to the examiner to rebut his rejection based on your ex parte evidence.

Related Pic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34350374)

http://img816.imageshack.us/img816/2201/tandberg.jpg

An actual case of theft (3, Insightful)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350440)

Take note, pro-RIAA patsies: if this story is true, then it's a case of actual IP theft. That is, Tandberg would actually have deprived the original authors of the use of their own work, in this situation by making it illegal for them to continue distributing their invention.

Wait a second (1)

lolococo (574827) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350492)

I thought it was not legal to patent copyrighted material. Did I miss something?
If the code is open source, it means it's got an open source license, rite? Doesn't that provide copyright protection of said code?
This patent crap really sucks.

Obfuscated C (1)

Bazzargh (39195) | more than 3 years ago | (#34350514)

The code in the patent application has been translated into legalese, wonder if that's done by machine? If so, it would produce predictable patterns and be compilable back into C.

My next entry for the Obfuscated C contest will be*:

A method or apparatus for compiling a patent into a C program that, when executed, outputs its patent.

Inventors: Bazzargh, W.V.V. Quine

*) of course I can't be arsed actually writing this

Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34350562)

Guys in the oval office, please continue with this madness. It will be over when small folks form a joint patent pool and manage to destroy a corporate giant just by lawsuit. Either that or laws will change before that trial is over.

Maybe EFF should do that, collect a huge pool of patents and then sue Microsoft/Apple/Oracle (or anyone high on their hitlist) and collect a shitload of money. Open source has invented enough, now they should be busy making world's largest IP pool and start using it to blackmail major governments to abandon software patents.

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