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Will Patents Make NCAA Football Playoffs Impossible?

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the life-will-go-on dept.

Patents 177

An anonymous reader writes "Mark Cuban recently announced plans to create a college football playoff system, which many people (including President Obama) have been claiming has been needed for years. However, after doing so, Cuban received an odd email, claiming that he'd better watch out, because a college football playoff system is patented and anything he did would likely infringe. The patent wasn't named, but Techdirt believes it has found the patent in question, along with another pending patent application (which has some amusing errors in it — such as an abstract that says it's about a boat fender, rather than a sports playoff system). So is it really true that some random guy in Arizona is the only person who can legally set up such a college football playoff system?"

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177 comments

In a word... (1)

ThePromenader (878501) | more than 3 years ago | (#34658822)

Yes.

Re:In a word... (1)

migla (1099771) | more than 3 years ago | (#34658846)

>Yes.

This. Or "No". Or "Maybe". Definately one of those.

So, in a few more words, for example about 63, what would you say the answer could be?

That is a finate statement. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34658870)

You should stop trying to use long words. You would actually sound smarter if you used mos' def' instead.

Re:In a word... (2)

Suki I (1546431) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659236)

Yes.

At first blush, I had the same answer as you. Actually, this falls into the "anybody can take anybody to court over anything" category. Playoff systems existed before those patents, before the patent holders were born too. This could all be moot if the NCAA continues to drag its feet for another 20 years, lets the patent expire, IIF it applies, and use the idea at that time.

Re:In a word... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34659388)

This is nuts. NCAA division II and division III have had a play-off system for a long long time. if this patent is real it would cover the play-off system ALREADY IN PLACE.

Enjoy your innovation ... (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34658830)

Reform of a field of sports for an entire nation is dependent on the whim of a random individual somewhere.

no no. patent system isnt something that cannot work. surely. it can work. maybe. on some occasions. if, and when.

until it works, maybe, sometime in future, youth wont be able to play in a reformed sports arena. because, well, just 'because' it spurs innovation.

Re:Enjoy your innovation ... (3, Insightful)

commlinx (1068272) | more than 3 years ago | (#34658882)

Reform of a field of sports for an entire nation is dependent on the whim of a random individual somewhere.

This coming to light could be a good thing, maybe something a lot of the general public actually give a shit about like sport will highlight how ludicrous the system is to a wider audience.

Re:Enjoy your innovation ... (1)

JackieBrown (987087) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659610)

Nope. They will invalidate this patent or pay the holder off just to keep this out of the news.

This will change nothing.

Re:Enjoy your innovation ... (1, Troll)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659190)

The so-called patent is a joke. If you read the blog post, a "method patent" .. "issued long ago" - hint for the clueless, these things expire, so this is just someone having random fun at your expense.

You should also consider that the playoffs are already owned by someone, as in, the patent for resolving the FBS championship by way of a playoff was issued long ago. It’s called a method patent, so be careful not to infringe it.

Anyway, if you want to know who owns assets in this field, let me know. I can put you in touch with one of my attorneys who can let you know what you’re in for. It’s much more complex that it’s commonly understood to be.

It's a joke, people.

Then again, so is college football.

Then again, so is American football.

Re:Enjoy your innovation ... (2)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659222)

The so-called patent is a joke. If you read the blog post, a "method patent" .. "issued long ago" - hint for the clueless, these things expire, so this is just someone having random fun at your expense.

yeah yeah, justify, rationalize, explain. spend THAT much effort to portray it as workable, despite we are seeing another problem every 1-2 days, on major scale.

yeah.

Re:Enjoy your innovation ... (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659654)

HellOOO! Wakey-wakey, have a cup of coffee or something ... :-)

There IS no patent.

There IS no "Washington legal firm"

The IS a troll. Just not a patent troll. And Cuban probably threw that in knowing that slashtards would just RTFS and not RTFA.

-- Barbie

Well... (1)

ThePromenader (878501) | more than 3 years ago | (#34658832)

Perhaps not impossible, but impossible without the 'idea-holder' holding his 'idea' hostage in exchange for loads of $$$$.

The lunatics have taken over the asylum (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34658862)

Ever wondered why your country is getting it's ass kicked in every sphere known to mankind except the number of lawyers per head of population?

Re:The lunatics have taken over the asylum (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34658976)

Hey, just be glad they all haven't realized they need to be specializing in International Business/Contract Law, and Mandarin/Cantonese. When they do that, you'll really be screwed.

Re:The lunatics have taken over the asylum (4, Informative)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659742)

Ever wondered why your country is getting it's ass kicked in every sphere known to mankind except the number of lawyers per head of population?

While I bitch about the state of the Union as much as anyone, to say the United States is getting it's "ass kicked in every sphere known to mankind" is not only demonstrably untrue, it's not even a very good troll. The only reason I even responded was because some morons actually modded you insightful.

Why have that in colleges at all? (5, Interesting)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 3 years ago | (#34658874)

Why supposedly educational institutions keep teams of what is essentially professional entertainers and let this business overshadow education? At the extent of admitting "special" (as in "short bus") students and pretend to educate them, spending budget on things 99% of students can never use, hiring a coach who is paid more than any other person working for the school, etc.?

Re:Why have that in colleges at all? (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#34658892)

Why supposedly educational institutions keep teams of what is essentially professional entertainers and let this business overshadow education? At the extent of admitting "special" (as in "short bus") students and pretend to educate them, spending budget on things 99% of students can never use, hiring a coach who is paid more than any other person working for the school, etc.?

Money. Just like everything else in the world.

Sheesh. Kid's these days.

Re:Why have that in colleges at all? (5, Insightful)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 3 years ago | (#34658946)

Let me clarify -- why is this allowed? Colleges have shitloads of government funding and regulation behind them, why are they allowed to engage in business that is clearly at odds with their primary purpose? And if sports are OK then why not, say, strip clubs?

Re:Why have that in colleges at all? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34659006)

good old roman "bread and games", keeps the population fed and happy.

A nice side effect of doing this in college is that it diverts attention away from the lack of money for education.

Re:Why have that in colleges at all? (1)

Walzmyn (913748) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659162)

And if sports are OK then why not, say, strip clubs?

Sports build character, make men into boys, provide wholesome entertainment for millions of fans.

But you suggest strip clubs?... hey, wait. That's not a bad idea. I'm thinking back to some of the co-eds I went to college with.

Can we patent this idea?

Y'Know... Nerds Don't HAVE to be Tedious re Sports (4, Insightful)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659186)

>>Why is this [sports] allowed?

Because 20,000 people won't buy tickets to watch a meeting of the Princeton Math Club.

Because CBS isn't interested in buying the broadcast rights for the Dartmouth Glee Club's next season.

Because rich alumni don't donate millions to keep their alma mater's Medieval History curriculum competitive.

Re:Y'Know... Nerds Don't HAVE to be Tedious re Spo (4, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659334)

Because 20,000 people won't buy tickets to watch a meeting of the Princeton Math Club.

So?

Because CBS isn't interested in buying the broadcast rights for the Dartmouth Glee Club's next season.

So?

Because rich alumni don't donate millions to keep their alma mater's Medieval History curriculum competitive.

Now we hit on the real problem: rich alumni who never really appreciated the value of an education. Of course, that implies that at one time, the school accepted people who were not really interested in receiving an education, likely an ongoing problem. Really, the core problem is simple: higher education is not really about "education." With a tiny handful of exceptions, becoming an educated person is more of an optional side effect of going to college, rather than the primary aim.

So of course those rich alumni would like to be able to say, "Yeah, that's my school!" while they are watching college football with all their friends, and could not care less about whether or not their degree actually represents anything.

Re:Y'Know... Nerds Don't HAVE to be Tedious re Spo (1)

lyinhart (1352173) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659486)

Now we hit on the real problem: rich alumni who never really appreciated the value of an education.

Who said they didn't appreciate the value of an education? If they didn't, they obviously wouldn't donate any money to the university at large. And anyway, most people appreciate the value of an education these days. Look at all the students with outstanding student loans. They appreciate the value of an education because they know how much it's costing them. Besides, beyond the drinking, the parties and the sports, I think that most people appreciate the value of an education - that is, the money they want to make because they have a degree.

Re:Y'Know... Nerds Don't HAVE to be Tedious re Spo (1)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659526)

What do you mean, so? It's a source of money for the school. Are you suggesting that schools should not try to raise money? Money that can be used to pay for non-sports programs?

Re:Why have that in colleges at all? (1)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659510)

More profit, less funding needed. Plus, not every college is state owned (some may not even see a penny of federal money), so it can be another source of income beyond tuition. Some franchises are pretty popular nationwide, bringing in $$$$.

Re:Why have that in colleges at all? (4, Insightful)

darkitecture (627408) | more than 3 years ago | (#34658896)

Short answer: Because at the end of the day, having a high-profile and appealing sports program makes them a lot more money than they invest in it.

Re:Why have that in colleges at all? (3, Insightful)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 3 years ago | (#34658914)

Then those people should organize professional sports teams and stop pretending that it has anything to do with edcational institutions they run.

Re:Why have that in colleges at all? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34659218)

Because a good number of students like college sports. Popular/good/time-honored teams play a role in students going there. That, in turn, increases revenue for the school.

Also, not all sports-generated funds stay within the athletic department. A good chunk also goes to the rest of the school for paying for things, like, you know, professors, etc.

Re:Why have that in colleges at all? (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659470)

Just to confirm: you want more professional sports teams, and you want educational institutions that have substantially less in the way of monetary resources.

Methinks this is a case of principles being at odds with reality.

Re:Why have that in colleges at all? (2)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659536)

Yeah because generating money for the school (directly and indirectly) is so bad. That money isn't locked away in some safe in the athletic department; it can (and is, depending on the school) spent for other things, like education. Just having a team also gives you some advertising.

Re:Why have that in colleges at all? (1)

GeckoAddict (1154537) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659812)

This way the players play for almost nothing (yeah, there's scholarships, but it's hardly a burden on the school to offer 50 of these).

Yeah! Privatize! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34659822)

These colleges should privatize and sell off these teams. They could even keep an equity stake. That would probably be more profitable all around. And it would sidestep most of those pesky rules. The teams could "incentivize" (bribe) players and others with hookers and blow. Sounds great to me!

Re:Why have that in colleges at all? (4, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659284)

Short answer: Because at the end of the day, having a high-profile and appealing sports program makes them a lot more money than they invest in it.

[Citation Needed]
http://www.google.com/search?q=college+sports+programs+money+losers [google.com]

And I believe this is the original source all those articles are based on:
http://www.centerforcollegeaffordability.org/uploads/ICA_Subsidies_RegressiveTax.pdf [centerforc...bility.org]

The only meaningful catch is that their conclusions are based on an examination of public universities, not private ones.
But some of the most successful sports programs are at public universities, so the analysis is worth looking at.

Re:Why have that in colleges at all? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659436)

The second report there details that the high spending successful programs generally don't put much tuition towards sports.

Re:Why have that in colleges at all? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34659346)

Probably not. There are some schools where the teams (on paper at least) make money for the school - the very biggest football/basketball teams. Or so it is claimed. I work at a university where one team recently got a big donation and by the conditions of the donation it all had to go to the athletics program (unlike, say, an NSF grant where a big chunk of change is taken in 'overhead'). The donation ended up costing the school a whole pile of money. For instance, traffic to games increased (a lot) and this required more parking, overtime for school security, and so on. And this is only one way that the donation has cost the school money.

I am also involved in the budgeting process and can tell you that there is a bunch of Hollywood accounting going on. Lots of costs for the athletics programs are funded through other budget items. Again, as a for-instance, a dorm has to be opened for the fall in the middle of the summer to support the football team and support people for the dorm have to be brought in, food service has to go from closed or minimal staffing/hours up to almost full time, food needs to be purchased - and these things are absorbed as part of university overhead and not charged as part of the athletic budget.

On the plus side, there are a bunch of non-athletic students who get a boost from this - they get paid to take tests for team members, and to write papers for them. So it ain't all bad.

Re:Why have that in colleges at all? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34659556)

Shorter answer: Because of gambling, not anything else any of these people have mentioned, that's all a crock. It comes down to gambling. If you can bet on it... it's going to generate a lot of cash.

Re:Why have that in colleges at all? (0, Troll)

Corbets (169101) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659108)

Because they hope that the example will encourage people not to become fat impotent nerds on Slashdot?

Get over it man - most of America loves college sports, and your bit of nerd ragin' isn't going to change that.

Re:Why have that in colleges at all? (4, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659406)

Get over it man - most of America loves college sports, and your bit of nerd ragin' isn't going to change that.

That is not really the problem. If athletes were held to the same standard as everyone else, then sure, you could call it "nerd rage" when people complain about football teams receiving so much money. The problem is that athletes, especially star athletes, are very often held to a lower academic standard than other students, and I have even seen cases where athletes are allowed to break rules and even laws without facing the same disciplinary actions as any other student would. That situation is a problem, regardless of what America loves.

Re:Why have that in colleges at all? (1)

edmicman (830206) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659762)

The NCAA might be interested in your witnessed accounts of athletes breaking rules and even laws, ya know...

Re:Why have that in colleges at all? (1)

aix tom (902140) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659448)

Hurray for College sports. I believe the US can't have enough of it. The sooner it disappears into international obscurity because no "fat impotent nerds" come up with new ideas the better for the rest of the world. ;-P

Re:Why have that in colleges at all? (2)

lyinhart (1352173) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659134)

Because it's easier to have people rally around a football, basketball or other team than it is for basically anything else you can think of. This is especially true in universities that aren't specifically technical or liberal arts and/or aren't Ivy League schools whose primary selling point is academics. You're less likely to get thousands of people to come to a poetry slam or robotics competition than to see Michigan State trounce Ohio State on the gridiron.

Re:Why have that in colleges at all? (1)

edmicman (830206) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659772)

And if we got to see Michigan State trounce Ohio State on the gridiron this year we wouldn't be seeing those punk ass Badgers in the Rose Bowl!

Re:Why have that in colleges at all? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34659136)

Alumni donate money to their schools on the basis of loyalty. Sports are a big part of the "loyalty" picture. End of story.

Re:Why have that in colleges at all? (2)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659604)

Yes, because my small rural university of about 1500 students(almost half of which were commuters) just rakes in the money with football, and blows millions on it every year. Our conference was made up of small, private, mostly Christian schools, and did not even allow the full complement of athletic scholarships that the NCAA allows. In fact, there was probably no one on my team getting a full ride unless it included academic money as well. And I can assure you our coaches made about as much as a teacher would. When you get to these smaller schools, you can have anywhere from 25-40% of students that are athletes. Of the 4 years I was there, and roughly 250 or so people I saw come through the program while I was there, were had exactly 3 players go professional, with one of those going to Canada. And this was Division II. Remember, most colleges with football are not the high profile ones you see on TV every fall Saturday. Besides that classification there are 3 other levels, the last of which, Division III, allows for no athletic scholarships of any kind.

So, why do colleges have football? For the same reasons that high schools have football. It gives the schools a sense of pride, it brings in students and gets them involved. It lets students come in, have a good time, and help them get an education. If you had ever played sports are the collegiate level you would know it is not just about entertainment.

It only covers this methid (3, Interesting)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#34658886)

The patent is on "A method for conducting championship playoff", not on conducting championship playoffs. There's a difference. Do the same general thing in a way that isn't covered by the patent and you're safe. Honestly, I can't see any reaon you have to use the weighted result of polls.

Re:It only covers this methid (2)

Walzmyn (913748) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659180)

I don't understand how the patent could apply anyway. The individual football teams are part of individual universities. the NCAA is a collection of those universities. They have made an agreement between themselves on how they are going to determine an arbitrary designation for one of their members. How could any outsider have any claim over that process?

It'd be like me trying to go patent "apricot coke-a-cola" some something foolish like that.

And for nerds this = ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34658928)

And for all of us, which consider sports to be the bane of evil (except e-sports), I ask on behalf of the community -

HOW THIS MATTER TO NERDS (as per your byline?)

Re:And for nerds this = ? (4, Insightful)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659244)

Because it relates to patent trolling.

This puts patent trolling in the limelight.

Next time you discuss something like patent trolling with a jock (as if, I know) you will have something relevant to him to refer to.

Yes please? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34658930)

The money burnt every year on 'sports' (grown men playing with a ball. If you can call that a sport.).

Could fix the planet several times over.

Truth. And yet since i have expressed a view that isn't YAY FOOTBALL! This will be modded so far down it will vanish into a black hole.

Re:Yes please? (2)

mug funky (910186) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659020)

no, AC's only get any modding at all if they're saying something really interesting. you are not.

you get a big [citation needed] instead.

it could be said the main reason europe has not had another world war is as much to do with FIFA as it is to do with the UN.

Re:Yes please? (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659076)

You are underestimating the Eurovision Song Contest. (The object of which is to appear more bizarre and irrelevant than your competitors).

Re:Yes please? (1)

sjwt (161428) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659038)

The money burnt every year on 'sports' (grown men playing with a ball. If you can call that a sport.).

Could fix the planet several times over.

Truth. And yet since i have expressed a view that isn't YAY FOOTBALL! This will be modded so far down it will vanish into a black hole.

Indeed, but sports is after all a substitution for war.

No, as first claim is easily avoided (2)

drphil (320469) | more than 3 years ago | (#34658938)

As exemplified by the summary, there's a pervasive misunderstanding on Slashdot on how patents work. Just because someone is able to patent one method in the field of X does *not* exclude others from practicing in the field of X.
Don't get me wrong - method patents like this stink worse than the NY Giant's defense in the 4th quarter, but they are generally pretty easy to avoid by simply doing one step differently. Rival companies do this all the time with ligit process patents.

Re:No, as first claim is easily avoided (2)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#34658942)

As exemplified by the summary, there's a pervasive misunderstanding on Slashdot on how patents work. Just because someone is able to patent one method in the field of X does *not* exclude others from practicing in the field of X. Don't get me wrong - method patents like this stink worse than the NY Giant's defense in the 4th quarter, but they are generally pretty easy to avoid by simply doing one step differently. Rival companies do this all the time with ligit process patents.

Rival companies who have a lot of money to contest the patent and show that it does not apply if necessary. If you don't have deep pockets don't even try.

How these things work (4, Informative)

dtmos (447842) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659150)

No, the GP is absolutely right.

If you've never seen one of these patent lawsuits, they start by going through each claim (that the petitioner claims infringement), and identifies how the infringing technology contains each element of the claim. The easiest way to have such a suit dismissed is to have at least one element different (or missing) in the supposedly-infringing technology. In the case of method claims, as the GP says, just do one step differently.

As an example, the issued patent (6,053,823) has only one independent claim, which has the elements (steps) of:

--------
- adding the rank of each participating team from a first poll to the rank of each team in a second poll to obtain an initial overall rank; [element 1]

- assigning a final rank for each team, with the lowest sum of the initial overall rank constituting the highest rank, and the highest sum from the initial overall rank constituting the lowest rank; [element 2]

- conducting a championship tournament with at least the three teams having the highest final rank, comprising the steps of:

          - conducting at least a first round of events to determine the two teams to play in a championship game; and

          - conducting a championship game with the two teams determined from the previous round of events, to determine a champion. [element 3]
--------

So to start out we see that this method requires adding the rank of each team from a couple of polls. Don't use polls? No infringement. Don't add the rankings from the two polls to establish the initial overall rank? No infringement.

Secondly, a final rank for each team must be calculated, with the highest and lowest ranks determined as described. Don't have a final rank for each team? No infringement. Determine highest and lowest differently? No infringement.

Finally, a championship tournament must be held with at least the three teams having the highest final rank, which must also have the two steps of (1) a first round of "events" to determine the two teams to play in the championship game, and (2) playing the championship game. Have only two teams in the tournament? No infringement. Don't have a first round of events? No infringement.

As I hope you can see, there are lots of ways (I've identified only a few) to have a playoff that avoids this patent. What the headline to the linked article should say is, "One Method of College Football Playoffs Patented."

Isn't it lucky (3, Interesting)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#34658940)

Isn't it lucky that the guy has got the patents system to enable him to innovate on how to organise playoffs

Re:Isn't it lucky (1)

mug funky (910186) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659030)

i should patent the process of organising a root in a brothel with a bagful of money. the patent office could certainly use this information for itself.

Re:Isn't it lucky (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659122)

i should patent the process of organising a root in a brothel with a bagful of money. the patent office could certainly use this information for itself.

politicians and lawyers would be interested. Most normal people would be interested in a root in a brothel with one of the workers.

Also in the news (5, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#34658950)

Bin Laden family has taken a patent out on the concept of the USA winning a war against and Islamic state. The US troops have been instructed not to fight too hard in case they infringe this patent.

Re:Also in the news (3, Interesting)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659258)

Funny but true, if you rewind to WW1.

The US rifle that the troops used copied the bolt action design used by the German Mauser rifle. The Germans sued, and the US was forced to pay royalties to the Germans for this design.

While the US was fighting the Germans, they were paying royalties for the bolt action on the rifle used to shoot at them.

Ironic, but true.

Re:Also in the news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34659508)

As we have seen with medicines the US will just let the WTO invalidate patents if needed.

For non North Americans, what's a playoff system? (3, Interesting)

Frankie70 (803801) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659012)

What the hell is a playoff system?

Is it a way of taking lots of team & play them against each other & narrowing them & finally 2 of them play in a Final match to decide the winner?

If so, don't tournaments around the world in other sports already do this?

For eg.
In the last cricket world cup help in 2007
- 16 teams played
- 4 Groups each with 4 teams. Each team played the other team in the group once.
- 2 top teams chosen from each group. So 8 teams left out of 16.
- The 8 teams now played round robin against each other team in the group of 8 except the team which was from their group. They had already played this team in group stage - so their result against this team was carried forward & added to the result of their other 6 matches.
- Four top teams emerged from the 8.
- Team 1 played Team 4 in one semi final & Team 2 played Team 3 in the other.
- The Winner of the two semi-finals played in the final.

Is this a playoff system? Did I infringe any patent by posting this?

Re:For non North Americans, what's a playoff syste (1)

NoSig (1919688) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659092)

Is this a playoff system? Did I infringe any patent by posting this?

Certainly. There is no activity that cannot be construed to infringe a patent. E.g. you just infringed on my asking-if-this-infringes-a-patent-patent. As a precaution, I've already patented patenting-asking-if-this-infringes-a-patent-patent.

Re:For non North Americans, what's a playoff syste (1)

dcollins (135727) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659104)

"Is this a playoff system? Did I infringe any patent by posting this?"

(1) Yes. (2) Maybe not; now you get to argue about specific claims in the patent.

For example, in the granted patent, it has specific claims on two polls that would be used to establish initial placements, a weighting formula for the polls, a primary tournament with specifically 12 teams, a secondary tournament held on different days from the primary tournament, initial games scheduled the week after Thanksgiving, championship game held on New Year's Day, and a bunch of other stuff. I'm not seeing that you infringed any specific claims -- I just scanned it briefly and I'm not a lawyer of any sort, but that's my initial guess.

Still immensely stupid that patents for business methods of any sort are granted, especially stuff like this.

Re:For non North Americans, what's a playoff syste (1)

Sique (173459) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659658)

If someone actually granted that as a patent, then what constitutes a patent?
Just because I do something different than my neighbor I am not an inventor.
Otherwise I just build a random tournament generator and every schedule it throws out which is not played anywhere yet is patentworthy.

Re:For non North Americans, what's a playoff syste (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659152)

The question is how you choose the teams to play. Take a look at the two top 25 lists on this [go.com] page. Notice that while they contain mostly the same teams, the order does vary a bit. The many historic conferences (see here [go.com] vary quite a bit in difficulty - and since a large part of your schedule necessarily consists of in-conference teams, the difficulty of the schedule can vary quite a lot. For example, 6 of the 12 teams in the Southeastern Conference and 5 of 12 in the Big 12 are in the top 25; only 1 of 12 in Conference USA is. Going strictly by win/loss record doesn't account for this.

Re:For non North Americans, what's a playoff syste (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34659198)

A playoff system is the idea that sport teams, based on their record of merit for the season, get one last chance to show they are the best (I have not cleared any of these words with my lawyer in terms of trademark)

So the theory might go: Draw the topmost teams participating from a lottery system (I have not cleared with my lawyer if there is a patent on "draw names from a hat") where the top 16 teems get matched up (I have not cleared with my lawyer if "game", "team" or "matched" is restricted) and the winners of that first round ("Round" and "Tier" may be restricted terms) are then matched with the winners of the first games ("Matched" might be a restricted term) and so on where winning teams progress until there are 8, 4, 2 (Disclaimer: The number "2" may now be a protected term. I have not cleared this with my lawyer) Those last two teams play a "Final" (trademark unknown) game where the winner is considered the "Top" (trademark unknown) "Team" (trademark unknown) for the "Season" (I really should have my lawyer on speed dial, but I can't afford the legal advice for this post)

Personally, I don't care about this sport or if any college team "wins"

If you don't agree, can I at least ask you for legal certification that you got proper review for stating your idea?

Think the system isn't broken yet?

Re:For non North Americans, what's a playoff syste (0)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659238)

We have playoffs here as well. The problem is that this is a method patent that was granted by either some Indian or Chinese inspector, since W's admin outsourced all of that. Between the fact that CONgress supported the concept of method patents and then W outsourced to ppl who are NOT experts in any field here in America (physics does not prepare one for knowing prior art in America), they have allowed millions of patents that should not have been allowed. As it is, I will probably have to fight against one which had prior art in the 70's. Had it been done by a person in America, they would likely have recalled it. Sad.

The more that W outsourced to his buddies, the more that it has costs America. This is no different than when reagan killed the move to metric. Had we done that back in 1981, then we could have competed better. Now, everything is more expensive coming in here, because of lack of thought for the nation, only for a few friends in large business.

Re:For non North Americans, what's a playoff syste (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659452)

16 teams played
...
The Winner of the two semi-finals played in the final.

Is this a playoff system?

No.

The slightly longer, but still short version:
Figuring out *which* 16 teams go to the playoffs and *how they're matched* is the meat and bones of a playoff system.

Basic research FTW (4, Informative)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659100)

The patent application mentioned in TFA went abandoned 17 August 2009. Importantly, all of the claims were rejected under 35 USC 101, i.e., they were determined not to be patentable subject matter. The examiner in that case also noted that the prevailing judicial wisdom on 101 had changed over the past few years, which was why they were able to cite an issued patent as prior art.

It's also notable that, in a general sense, the claims of the issued patent mentioned in TFA are not structurally dissimilar from the rejected claims in the abandoned application. That doesn't necessarily mean that a court would hold the claims of the issued patent to be invalid, but it does provide some insight into what might happen if a lawsuit came out of this.

Submarine patent (5, Informative)

demiurg (108464) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659146)

This is not an error, this is called a "submarine patent" were one intentionally writes an abstract which different from the claims. As a typical patent search returns hundreds of patents, reading the whole patent is not feasible, so people either don't bother with patent search at all or read just the abstracts. Having abstract different from the claims makes the patent "invisible", i.e. impossible to find - hence the "submarine" term.

Re:Submarine patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34659206)

Seems to me such a patent should be void. But what do I know...

Re:Submarine patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34659240)

What do you know? You probably can tell the difference between your ass and a hole in the ground which is better than those who run the patent system now.

Re:Submarine patent (5, Interesting)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659566)

No. A submarine patent is a patent issued on an application that was filed, or claims continuity to an effective filing date, before 8 June 1995, which means it gets a patent term of 17 years from the date of issue. The submarine strategy is then to keep the application pending (a relatively inexpensive proposition, given the potential profit) until an infringing product pops up in the marketplace, and then get the claims allowable, pay the issue fee, and sue.

Submarine patents were largely remedied by switching to a patent term of 20 years from the filing date (though there are still a very few applications still pending that have an effective filing date that gives them the old patent term). Now, if you keep your application pending for 20 years (plus patent term adjustments, a topic too complex to cover here), then when it issues, the term will already be expired.

As for the abstract not matching the invention, it's not really that great a loss, although the examiner should have objected to it. Patent searches are rarely done by flipping through abstracts. More often, they're done by classification along with keywords to search through the entire text of the patent. In this case, it's hard to tell why that abstract is attached to that application. It was probably a paperwork error, either on the part of the attorney getting their pages mixed up or at the USPTO mailroom. It's moot, though, since that application went abandoned.

YES!!! THANK GOD (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659214)

Now, what is needed is to push this in the face of all of these congressmen that supported method patents. It was an evil that MUST BE DESTROYED. It is destructive in the software industry most of all, but all businesses will suffer due to it. Then we can get ppl back to focusing on building things rather than gov. protected services.

Re:YES!!! THANK GOD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34659354)

Meh. They will probably find a way, some sort of exception, a legal "patch", to solve this immediate problem while keeping the evil undisturbed.

Re:YES!!! THANK GOD (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659458)

Maybe someone should just patent the method of pantenting something. That way, nobody could obtain a method patent without violating it.

fascinating (4, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659286)

I just find it fascinating how posters on this story are blasting the patent system and the entirety of the United States itself based on a single, solitary email from some unknown guy. I don't know how any reasonable person would assume with such 100% certainty that this single patent proves anything about any fact other than "once upon a time some guy managed to obtain a bad patent."

Re:fascinating (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659472)

I just find it fascinating how posters on this story are blasting the patent system and the entirety of the United States itself based on a single, solitary email from some unknown guy. I don't know how any reasonable person would assume with such 100% certainty that this single patent proves anything about any fact other than "once upon a time some guy managed to obtain a bad patent."

Because this is Slashdot. You don't really expect people to use reason or research before they post something, do you? Present company excluded, of course.

Re:fascinating (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34659534)

The blasting is based on YEARS of bad patents and basically the frustration because the whole patent process in the US seems screwed up. The concept of promotion of science and useful arts has been going away slowly for years. As it goes away, more people and businesses are affected by it. We hope it will eventually start to swing back but is taking longer than a lot of people would like. Those with large patent portfolios and those that profit from the current system have the most to lose if it starts to swing back and they are also in a position to manipulate the system through lobbying to protect their interests.

"Congress shall have power . . . to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.",

Re:fascinating (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34659680)

Have you every visited Slashdot before?

Odd (1)

RavenChild (854835) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659322)

I don't know what happened with the application but here's the real boat patent: http://www.google.com/patents/about?id=cPMTAAAAEBAJ [google.com]. It's a much better read than the playoff ones IMHO.
Anyways, would copying the abstract be considered patent infringement or copyright infringement? Either way, boat guys need to get their act together to protect their abstract IP.

Re:Odd (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659596)

Same attorney for both cases. The boat patent has a child application that went abandoned without being published, so I can't find out whether this is true through public means, but it's a good bet that there was an abstract filed in that case the same day as the playoff application, and the papers got mixed up.

So why not ... (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659424)

If there truly is a patent for the playoffs, then why not use a system that is already in existence? NCAA basketball tournament seems to be non-infringing. Nobody says you have to start with 64 teams. Take the top sixteen BCS teams, pair them like in the basketball tournament and let them have at it. It adds a total of 15 games for the public (not much different than the current bowl system) and a total of 4 more games to the season for whomever makes it all the way to the championship game (only 1 more game if you lose in the first round). If that is too many, then start with the top 8 teams.

Playoffs aren't inherently more fair (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659496)

I hear incessantly that any system that doesn't have a playoff can't crown a champion, and that playoffs are inherently more fair.

A couple years back in the NFL, the Patriots went 11-5 in a very tough division and still stayed home while a 9-7 team in a weak division went to the playoffs. Pundits calls that team perhaps the weakest team to ever make an NFL playoff. That said team got lucky during the playoffs and made the Super Bowl. Clearly, it wasn't one of the two best teams in the league, but it got lucky for a couple of games.

I'm in the minority here, but I really love college football the way it is. Every Saturday is tense and means something. People keep clamoring for a playoff system that would send conference winners to a playoff. Non-conference games would literally be rendered meaningless and no one would schedule a tough non-conference game again. No more Texas/Ohio State games. Be prepared for more Texas/Wichita State games.

While a playoff is possible, it isn't instant magic. No one can agree on what the best playoff format is, or which one is the most fair. College football is still insanely popular currently and I don't see why you should destroy the regular season (the best part) to try and appease the people who don't like college football, and in turn alienate the people who do like it.

Re:Playoffs aren't inherently more fair (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659636)

Was there a team better than the 11-5 Patriots in the playoffs? Did they beat the Patriots? the answer to both of those questions is yes. Did the 9-7 team go on to the superbowl? No. Your argument is a strawman.

Currently there are 119 teams in the NCAA Div I. There are 7 weeks between the traditional "last game" in regular season (the weekend after thanksgiving) and the second weekend in January, when the title game is usually played. You could let EVERY SINGLE TEAM into the playoff system and still have the same end date. You could even let the Big 12, ACC, and SEC, have their championship games and throw in the Div II and Div III champs and STILL make it. And don't give me shit about finals, the conference championship games are the weekend before, and the very-low-tier bowls are the weekend following finals. They're already playing at times when they should be studying.

Of course, it would probably be better to take the top 32 - it's hard to argue that anyone outside of the top 32 would win the championship - and leave the rest of the bowls as an NIT equivalent. Nobody would watch them, but that's kind of the case already.

I happen to be an alumnus of Virginia Tech, easily one of the top schools for loyal (rabid) football fans. We haven't even been (legitimately) excluded from a title game based on year-long stats, but I would welcome the chance to be in a playoff format rather than at the mercy of computers and sports writers to choose the best. Lord knows they suck at choosing the best football players (how many Heisman winners have gone on to stellar careers in the NFL?). And to be honest, VT now gets preferential treatment in the BCS because of our program, but it hasn't been very long since we were a nobody, and no matter how good we were we'd never rank well (thanks, sport writers).

Quite frankly, a playoff is the only way to choose a champion.

Re:Playoffs aren't inherently more fair (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659664)

Sorry, I missed something. Have you actually looked at the schedules? They're already conference games and patsies, with the occasional "money" game thrown in. Nobody plays a tough schedule BECAUSE there isn't a playoff system. One loss, esp near end of the season - to ANYONE - and you're out.

Schedules would mean more, as teams would want a higher seed, but a single loss wouldn't be devastating since it wouldn't keep you out of the title hunt.

This type of bullshit will not happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34659562)

in China.

Look at this email again:

You should also consider that the playoffs are already owned by someone, as in, the patent for resolving the FBS championship by way of a playoff was issued long ago. It's called a method patent, so be careful not to infringe it.

Anyway, if you want to know who owns assets in this field, let me know. I can put you in touch with one of my attorneys who can let you know what you're in for. It's much more complex that it's commonly understood to be.

Time to end this "contact my attorneys" bullshit! Time for a constitutional reform!

A good way to get the patent system fixed... (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 3 years ago | (#34659570)

...screw with football. It will be the ONLY way the know-nothings that comprise the majority of our population will even take of the major issue of patent trolling...

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