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Why IP Laws Are Blocking Innovation

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the same-old-song-and-dance dept.

Editorial 348

DrJimbo passes along this quote from Groklaw: "The White House is asking us to give them ideas on what is blocking innovation in America. I thought I'd give them an honest answer. Here it is: Current intellectual property laws are blocking innovation. President Obama just set a goal of wireless access for everyone in the US, saying it will spark innovation. But that's only true if people are allowed to actually do innovative things once they are online. You have to choose. You can prop up old business models with overbearing intellectual property laws that hit innovators on the head whenever they stick their heads up from the ground; or you can have innovation. You can't have both. And right now, the balance is away from innovation."

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348 comments

Welcome to the real world, hippies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35181732)

Business gets what business wants.

Re:Welcome to the real world, hippies (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#35181924)

Yep. Remember what happened the last time the President used the internet to ask the people what they wanted? The most popular response, by a long shot, was marijuana reform. The President came out and laughed, as if tens of thousands of people in jail were some sort of joke. I don't expect patent reform to be taken any more seriously.

Oops (3, Funny)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182010)

All those votes were probably from me. I just got really high and forgot that I'd already voted.

Sorry about that.

Re:Oops (1)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182066)

All those votes were probably from me. I just got really high and forgot that I'd already voted.

Sorry about that.

Does that still count as Chicago politics if you don't remember that you voted often?

Re:Welcome to the real world, hippies (-1, Flamebait)

davev2.0 (1873518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182194)

They are a joke. They were too stupid or lacked the self-control to NOT break the law.

Remember the vast innovation in the baroque period (5, Insightful)

andreyvul (1176115) | more than 3 years ago | (#35181740)

No IP was a contributing factor.

Re:Remember the vast innovation in the baroque per (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35181898)

Yeah, the good old days, when you needed a the support of the Church or a wealthy patron to make a living as an artist.

Thanks but no thanks.

Re:Remember the vast innovation in the baroque per (5, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182000)

you needed a the support of the Church or a wealthy patron to make a living as an artist.

How is that different from today, where the wealthy patron is a mainstream publisher? Try to do it yourself and risk getting sued for plagiarism.

Re:Remember the vast innovation in the baroque per (0)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182084)

I wish I hadn't blown all my mod points to increase the visibility of a couple titty jokes. You should have got one.

Re:Remember the vast innovation in the baroque per (2)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182148)

Plagiarism is a lot harder to prove than you think. And, if you sue somebody for that and lose, you're probably going to end up on the wrong side of another lawsuit, and end up paying out big bucks in damages.

Re:Remember the vast innovation in the baroque per (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35182282)

I assume you are referring to games.

I would agree that current IP laws go too far. That said, how would you make money if they were eliminated altogether? Donations from users? If your game became even marginally successful, a company like Nintendo or Microsoft could just port it and sell it for their consoles, which you would still be locked out of, without paying you a cent.

It's also worth noting that your argument does not apply equally to other artistic fields. Music, for example, can be and is produced outside of the major label system. I would argue that most of the better music of the last couple decades has been produced independently.

Re:Remember the vast innovation in the baroque per (4, Insightful)

silanea (1241518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182110)

In the "good old days" artists needed a patron not because there was no IP law but because most artists' audience was incredibly small by today's standards. The Church and the aristocracy were about the only ones to commission artworks or have their buildings elaborately decorated. Not because everyone else got their art fix from ThePirateHorsecourier but because everyone else was too busy working their arse off to feed themselves or bashing in skulls. Given the circumstances I would still consider that era a prosperous time for the arts. I agree with GP's point that the ability to freely use whatever you got your hands on and create something new from it was a very good thing, and I would like to extend this to say it contributed considerably to the wealth of cultural legacy that has serves artists up until this very day as a solid foundation to build upon and a rich repertoire to draw inspiration from.

Re:Remember the vast innovation in the baroque per (0)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182238)

Artists can go fuck themselves. What, you think creativity is in short supply? I'm an artist - pay me. Market your product, then we'll talk.

Re:Remember the vast innovation in the baroque per (5, Insightful)

NFN_NLN (633283) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182124)

No IP was a contributing factor.

I don't know what you people are talking about. There is considerable innovation in America today. The US is the leader in CDOs, derivatives, tax avoidance, and is always coming up with new and innovative schemes to part working people from their money.

No lack of innovation there, it's just misdirected.

Re:Remember the vast innovation in the baroque per (1, Insightful)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182316)

TFA is built on the premise that crime would pay if there weren't patents on the crime methods.

Napster? Really?

Napster wasn't hit with a patent suit for its method of stealing music. It was busted up because it was stealing music.

I couldn't read the rest after it started with that. Someone tell me if it redeemed itself.

Re:Remember the vast innovation in the baroque per (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182444)

Napster wasn't hit with a patent suit for its method of stealing music. It was busted up because it was stealing music.

If you're going to be anal about terms you should make sure you aren't playing fast and loose with them yourself. Napster didn't *steal* anything.

Patents != Copyright, however IP covers both Patents and Copyright.

And the worst offender is... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35181742)

Patents. Bloody software patents, and fat cats using patents to bludgeon little guys. IIRC, the intention was pretty much the opposite - patents were supposed to be a way to put the law on the side of the little guy. Where did it all go wrong?

As for copyright - no more damn extensions. Indeed, ratchet back.

Re:And the worst offender is... (1, Troll)

preaction (1526109) | more than 3 years ago | (#35181772)

Don't forget that Microsoft wants to reform our patents to be "First to file", putting even more shackles on innovation. You fail to patent, or file slowly? That's okay! We will patent for you, and then sue you for violating our patent!

First to file (4, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#35181858)

You fail to patent, or file slowly? That's okay! We will patent for you, and then sue you for violating our patent!

As I understand first to file, prior art published outside a patent application can still invalidate a patent or application. It makes a difference only when two inventors have pending applications on the same thing (e.g. AG Bell and Elisha Gray).

Re:And the worst offender is... (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35181958)

The only change is that the first party to file for a particular patent gets it. Whereas now it's a lot more complicated than that. You'd still have prior art and the standard methods of getting a patent set aside, it's just that patents would be considered in the order that they're submitted, giving some consistency to which similar patents are approved.

Re:And the worst offender is... (5, Insightful)

Moryath (553296) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182016)

Where it went wrong is when the "big guys" were allowed to pull tricks like patent-slamming and overwhelm the patent office.

That and when the rules were changed so that a corporation, rather than an individual, got to own the patent.

Absurd patents have always existed, but now they're allowed to destroy industries - and not just the software patent. When Wizards of the Coast [thefreelibrary.com] was granted a patent on card games, for instance, the patent NEVER should have been granted. It's a motherfucking joke [patentstorm.us].

A copy of Mr. Hoyle's Games Complete, circa THE YEAR 1750, offers every single mechanic WotC's patent describes that could possibly be counted as a nontrivial change. The idea of a "trading card game" in the patent ought to have been invalidated by, to name one early example "The Base Ball Card Game", produced by the Allegheny Card Company in the year 1904.

But some dope-on-a-rope in the patent office, overworked and underbrained, granted the patent to WotC. Sheer lunacy but the patent-slammers prevailed yet again.

And before you say "well but you could sue to have the patent invalidated" - NO. The point is that crap like this should never be granted. Most of the competing CCG-makers simply folded up shop after WotC started demanding royalties. It took until years later for Wizkids to finally offer a lawsuit to try to invalidate WotC's patent, and then it got settled without judgement [icv2.com], meaning WotC can still bully and make asses of themselves on an obviously invalid patent.

Re:And the worst offender is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35182234)

Go back to your magic cards geek. :-D

Re:And the worst offender is... (4, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182306)

A junk patent is a valuable thing these days. It may not stand up in court, but it doesn't have to - the costs of fighting it would be so great, most people would rather just settle. It's cheaper than winning.

Re:And the worst offender is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35182126)

There's no need for a rant: software should have stayed under copyright law - period.

Treat software like a novel.

End of story.

Sorry math geeks, but your ideas are nothing more than prose.

Re:And the worst offender is... (3, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182254)

Be careful what you wish for.

Copyright is for life + 70 years.

Patents last 17 to 20 years.

The OP had it right. Patent law prohibits patenting ideas or algorithms. Programs are algorithms by definition, and shouldn't be patentable at all. Yet the Patent office has decided to allow software patents in spite of what the law states.

Re:And the worst offender is... (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182318)

I would not be surprised if some companies are already planning how they will lobby for patent term extensions. Copyright started out as 14 years, too.

Re:And the worst offender is... (1, Interesting)

CajunArson (465943) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182138)

are patents, and fat cats using patents to bludgeon little guys.

Yes you used all the correct terms to get an Insightful mod on Slashdot while saying the exact opposite of what really happens. Please name for me the last "little" guy who was sued for patent infringement, especially for software patents..... Usually it's the "little guys" suing Microsoft, Google, etc. etc.

The reason is money. Despite the narrative that Slashdot likes to portray of multi-billion dollar companies suing some open source developer on Source Forge, patent litigation is expensive and if you sue somebody who isn't make big money already, you've already lost no matter who wins the case.

Re:And the worst offender is... (1)

gilesjuk (604902) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182176)

It went wrong when people started to patent things they had no intention of putting into practice. Such patents are like laying land mines or snares and waiting for someone to set them off.

I think a patent should expire after 6 months if they haven't been utilised in a product.

Suggestions (1, Insightful)

modulo26 (75918) | more than 3 years ago | (#35181762)

Of course, without strong ip laws there's no reason to innovate. Any suggestions? Clearly this debate belongs on a larger basis than the 1D, "stronger - weaker". How about a policy of "use it or lose it?"

Re:Suggestions (4, Interesting)

Moryath (553296) | more than 3 years ago | (#35181802)

"Of course, without strong ip laws there's no reason to innovate."

Really. Interesting - innovation seems to predate "intellectual property law" by at least millenia.

Re:Suggestions (4, Insightful)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182132)

Really. Interesting - innovation seems to predate "intellectual property law" by at least millenia.

In ancient Egypt: "Hey, buddy! You in the chariot with the wheels! Pull over! I own the IP for my innovation of the wheel, you owe me license fees. So pay up, or take them off the chariot!"

In the sixteenth century, the Venetians innovated ways to make colored glass. They protected their IP by turning the glass blowing factory into a fortress. Revealing the secrets to folks outside the factory was punishable by death.

The Chinese had a monopoly on silk making, and used similar methods to ensure that no silk worms left the country. Italian monks eventually managed to smuggle some out hidden in hollowed out walking sticks. Hey, ancient Industrial Espionage!

So ancient cultures did understand the value of protecting their innovations. They just used different methods to protect them.

Re:Suggestions (1)

butalearner (1235200) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182212)

In the sixteenth century, the Venetians innovated ways to make colored glass. They protected their IP by turning the glass blowing factory into a fortress. Revealing the secrets to folks outside the factory was punishable by death.

The Chinese had a monopoly on silk making, and used similar methods to ensure that no silk worms left the country. Italian monks eventually managed to smuggle some out hidden in hollowed out walking sticks. Hey, ancient Industrial Espionage!

So ancient cultures did understand the value of protecting their innovations. They just used different methods to protect them.

Keeping trade secrets is pretty widely accepted among the End Software Patents crowd.

Re:Suggestions (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182362)

China did something similar with their lacquer technology, and regions of South America struggled to protect their valuable control of the rubber tree. Then the British took over the world and aquired them. That is why everyone got to enjoy cheap rubber and japanned furniture, until oil-derived chemicals largely replaced them and became even cheaper.

Re:Suggestions (4, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35181814)

Of course, without strong ip laws there's no reason to innovate.

LOL.

The 'reason to innovate' is to make money by making better stuff than your competitors.

Or do you really think our ancestors sat around in a cave saying 'you know, I'd really like to invent the wheel, but since I couldn't patent it, what's the point?'

Re:Suggestions (1)

santax (1541065) | more than 3 years ago | (#35181982)

Whehehe, I could make a fire, but fuck it... Then some can steal my idea. I'd rather freeze to death. You say it really funny, but you are so right. I would have modded you up if I had points left. Now you will have to do with this comment.

Re:Suggestions (1)

modulo26 (75918) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182048)

In that circumstance you directly benefit without patent enforcement. In the current market, that does not apply to any significant degree.

Re:Suggestions (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182374)

The 'reason to innovate' is to make money by making better stuff than your competitors.

Wasn't, originally, the idea behind innovation 'making it easier to survive'? Or, in probably more fashionable terms, 'making life more sustainable'?

CC.

Re:Suggestions (4, Insightful)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 3 years ago | (#35181860)

The fashion industry manages to innovate just fine without strong IP laws for anything but trademarks.
The food industry does just fine without patentst on recipes.
etc

it's a myth.
A myth perpetuated by a horde of business graduates who wouldn't know an original thought if it bit them in the ass and who just accept the idea that patents are utterly essential because the general idea sounds kinda good.

Re:Suggestions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35181972)

I'd hardly call the fashion industry technology innovators. It's "art".

the food industry does have innovations, and they all get patented.

Re:Suggestions (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182038)

you can't patent a cake recipie.
you can't patent a roll of pastry.
you can't patent a taste.

you might be able to patent a new chemical additive but that's as close as you'll get.

Re:Suggestions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35182214)

except none of those things are innovations. additives and new processes are, and they're all patented.

Re:Suggestions (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35181864)

Of course, without strong ip laws there's no reason to innovate. Any suggestions?

For starters, that isn't true. There's massive reasons to innovate that have nothing to do with ownership of IP. The biggest reason to innovation is that you do something new or gain an advantage over your competitors.

Second, the US doesn't have strong IP laws. Countries like boogieman, China don't respect US IP laws at all aand reap great benefits by doing so. That puts US business at a big competitive disadvantage since it is rather easy to steal IP and exploit it in countries where those laws aren't respected.

In my view, it is far better to race to the bottom and accept a level of IP protection that the whole world is willing to support (which may well be just trademarks) rather than continue this one-sided legal monster that institutionalizes one of the largest thefts in human history to date.

Re:Suggestions (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35181978)

That wouldn't be a problem if corporate morons weren't so naive as to assume that the Chinese weren't doing it. If they limited outsourcing to countries with better records it wouldn't be a problem. But then the costs would make it largely inefficient to outsource.

Re:Suggestions (2)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182096)

That wouldn't be a problem if corporate morons weren't so naive as to assume that the Chinese weren't doing it.

It's still a problem because overseas manufacturers (not just China) move fast. Anything that they can copy and which sells well gets copied. For example, I have a friend who runs a US business selling a certain small plastic product. Only two things currently protect his business: 1) he's too small to get noticed by potential overseas competitors who could easily enter his market, and 2) the US-side competition is really stagnant. He has a patent on the product so that provides some defense against US competitors, but it won't protect once the overseas competition gets wind.

At best, he's hoping for a couple of good years of business and maybe some further licensing income from places that have to respect patents.

Re:Suggestions (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#35181886)

How about a policy of "use it or lose it?"

This is well-established in trademark law. But how would it work in copyright or patent law? For example, how would a reformed patent statute distinguish a nonpracticing entity (aka "patent troll" or "lawsuit factory") like Intellectual Ventures from a fabless firm [wikipedia.org] like ARM that designs working implementations but happens not to manufacture them?

Re:Suggestions (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 3 years ago | (#35181988)

It's quite simple, actually. If a company is actively licensing their patent portfolio and allowing them to be used by other companies, they're using the patents. If, OTOH, they're just sitting on their patents and waiting for a chance to sue somebody for infringement (i.e., acting like a patent troll) they're not making use of the patents, and they can be withdrawn.
In fact, with a slight modification, this would make patent trolling impossible. All you have to do is change the law so that if a company sues for infringement, but is making no effort to use the patent either directly or by licensing, the patent is taken away from them and given to the defendant to develop. I'm not sure, of course, how it would work in reality, but it sounds good in theory.

Re:Suggestions (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182034)

Licensing. You either use it yourself, or you allow someone else to with a license. Or the authority that issues patents/copyrights will license it out for you.. at what it determines to be a "fair" market price. Sounds fair. This will help root out hoarders and speculators and stabilize prices. It should apply to real property (land) also.

Award for best Hegelian synthesis of the day. . . (1)

modulo26 (75918) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182140)

Well done! Anarchist principles incorporated into a philosophy of intellectual property. I did not expect that. (btw, I'm not being sarcastic.)

Re:Suggestions (1)

spazdor (902907) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182160)

But a patent licenser is just a patent troll who got what he wanted. The entire reason people seek licenses is so they can implement the technology without getting sued. Right?

Counterpoint. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35182052)

to:
"without strong ip laws there is no reason to innovate"

Software (pre and post Software Patents is a great example), Fashion, Cookbooks, Numerous countries that do not have the same fashion of IP laws, and a lot of history all say otherwise.

Music was recently just able to be copyrighted (1909?) in comparison to the time line of music. Yet very few real music innovations have occurred, everything is primarily made of four cords still.

Re:Suggestions (4, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182118)

Of course, without strong ip laws there's no reason to innovate.

Innovations are made in spite of and not because of strong IP laws. The amount of ideas popping out of your mind doesn't increase if you can make one innovation or magnum opus and then live happily on it for the rest of your life. That actually stifles innovation.
Force the innovators to continue innovating, by taking away their exclusive rights after a time short enough that they can't rest on their laurels.

And make copyrights and patents non-transferable and only licenseable for a year at a time.. If the company who hires you only have access to your innovations as long as they still pay you, the bright minds who come up with the ideas would be rewarded much more than the fat cats who reap the profits from other people's ideas.

Re:Suggestions (1)

suutar (1860506) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182224)

Or a reduced time period (especially for software. Seriously, 17 years from now the h.264 algorithm's not going to be considered useful even if it is public domain). Or both. I like both.

Re:Suggestions (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182384)

h264 we might be stuck with for longer than that. No doubt better technologies will come along, but don't underestimate the power of entrenchment. Remember why the MTU on ethernet is 1500 bytes?

Re:Suggestions (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35182230)

Of course, without strong ip laws there's no reason to innovate."

I work in web shop developing software for WordPress. Before we switched our license to GPL, we found that copyright was essentially worthless. People did whatever they wanted with our software, and there was very little we could do to stop it. In essence, we would have to litigate the world if we wanted to create a feeling of protection. Even then, it would have no effect on the actual infringement.

I guarantee that this is exactly the feeling that the media industry has. They know that they can never win the IP fight, but they have way too much invested in the old way of doing business to do nothing and have a hard time convincing themselves and their investors that change of business practices could bring greater profits.

For us the solution was simple, go GPL and stop caring about the delusion of control. You know what changed for us? We had to change some text in our files and got a little press for switching our licensing. Other than that, not a thing changed. We still have customers that buy products from us and ask for support. Our stuff can still be found all over the web, just as it was before. We still have the same level of control over what people do with our code, none. And personally, I don't mind that one bit. I still put well beyond my 40 hours a week into creating new code and trying to be "innovative," yet the farce of IP and the delusion of control it would seem to offer has nothing to do with my efforts nor with the efforts of anyone else I work with. In addition, all the devs I know that do similar work don't have any thoughts about protecting their work. They are just concerned about making something new and making things better, because that's how we make money.

Can the same be said of everything? Maybe. Maybe not. There could possibly be legitimate need for some kind of IP protection. I'm not quite sure. I do firmly believe that most of the belief in IP is just our being conditioned to think that ideas can be possessed like tangible pieces of matter. I also firmly believe that most IP protections have grown wildly out of scope (I'm looking at you infinite copyrights, software patents, DMCA, and careful manipulation of IP laws permitting businesses to legally perform anti-competitive practices).

If the goal of IP is to foster innovation, it has failed.

Fanaticism is losing sight of the original goal (4, Informative)

WebManWalking (1225366) | more than 3 years ago | (#35181766)

The original goal of copyrights and patents was to reward people for creating things that benefit all of us, not to create huge corporations that prevent people from creating things that benefit all of us.

Re:Fanaticism is losing sight of the original goal (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35181850)

Orson Scott Card had a comment about the impossibility of expecting a bureaucrat (and presumably by extension, lawyer) to be able to understand the spirit of a law. Can't remember the quote offhand, but the gist of it is, if they understood enough about how the world works to be able to understand when to follow and when to ignore the letter of the law, they wouldn't be willing to be a bereaucrat.

Re:Fanaticism is losing sight of the original goal (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182006)

We don't have to ditch patents or copyright to fix the problem, but I do think it's more realistic to push for that than for meaningful reform. What they could do is require that patents be used and that the plaintiff demonstrate a genuine effort to minimize damages when asking for damages. Additionally, measures to bar gatekeeper patents would be important as well.

And, yes I know, easier said than done.

Re:Fanaticism is losing sight of the original goal (1)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182324)

What kind of communist nonsense is this?

When somebody has done something good, their childrens childrens children* deserve an ongoing income too!!!

* -copyright is life plus 70 years, possibly longer if Disney pays up again to the right politicians

Medical Breakthroughs and Blockbuster Drugs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35182344)

Its all about cooperation - or in this case lack of it.

We are going to die, because antibiotic discoveries are at an all time low while antibiotic resistance is at an all time high.

Plenty of research has been shelved because 'that company has wall to wall patents over the place' so its not viable to look there - there is no money. Speed and urgency creates winners and lots of them. Impose patents and lawyers, and that missing jigsaw piece may remain buried until such time it might have value again.

Lawyers are advising 'Don't tell anyone, don't publish , don't patent it' because you don't have the money to fight a claim.

OK, you have taken the first step admitting current system is broken. The 'Haves' don't want to give up a dollar - not one, and use the legal system to game things and punish 'parasites', and lawyers to bleed them financially in long drawn out cases.

The solution is to allow 'independents' a piece of the action and money flow straight away - which means rolling back other peoples 'rights'

What I think (0)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | more than 3 years ago | (#35181786)

The internet has become mostly a method of keeping the people distracted.
It seems to be bread and circuses all over again.

Re:What I think (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182272)

It has always been about bread and circuses, for the majority. The rest are either running the game, or have interests that lie outside the game.

Patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35181808)

I totally agree. I have been saying this for a while now. If the government wants to make up some of that deficient, they should rebuild the patent office "correctly" and then throw out all the patents and let people reapply for them in a matter that helps everyone and does not require so much litigation to make something as simple as a screw or lever. This would as help flush out patent squatters.

Re:Patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35181900)

Maybe simply amending the rules so that any patents, in order to be enforceable, must be in active use in products that are selling at a certain minimum unit/dollar volume. Pure inventors would then have to actively market their ideas to licensees instead of just waiting for someone to come along and infringe. That would put an end to pure defensive patents...

IP Law Results (4, Interesting)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 3 years ago | (#35181820)

It has become disgustingly easy to patent something that really should not be patentable. One result of the fast and loose IP laws is an entirely new method of profit for enterprise: using the court system as a means of revenue (i.e. sue for profit.) In the end, the IP laws have become the United States undoing because how can we be technological innovators and leaders if the would-be inventor is scared off by some superfluous patent over something ridiculous.

Re:IP Law Results (5, Informative)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 3 years ago | (#35181944)

Prime examples:
http://www.freepatentsonline.com/5443036.html [freepatentsonline.com]
What is claimed is:

1. A method of inducing aerobic exercise in an unrestrained cat comprising the steps of:

(a) directing an intense coherent beam of invisible light produced by a hand-held laser apparatus to produce a bright highly-focused pattern of light at the intersection of the beam and an opaque surface, said pattern being of visual interest to a cat; and

(b) selectively redirecting said beam out of the cat's immediate reach to induce said cat to run and chase said beam and pattern of light around an exercise area.

2. The method of claim 1 wherein said bright pattern of light is small in area relative to a paw of the cat.

3. The method of claim 1 wherein said beam remains invisible between said laser and said opaque surface until impinging on said opaque surface.

4. The method of claim 1 wherein step (b) includes sweeping said beam at an angular speed to cause said pattern to move along said opaque surface at a speed in the range of five to twenty-five feet per second.

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/6368227.html [freepatentsonline.com]

1. A method of swinging on a swing, the method comprising the steps of: a) suspending a seat for supporting a user between only two chains that are hung from a tree branch; b) positioning a user on the seat so that the user is facing a direction perpendicular to the tree branch; c) having the user pull alternately on one chain to induce movement of the user and the swing toward one side, and then on the other chain to induce movement of the user and the swing toward the other side; and d) repeating step c) to create side-to-side swinging motion, relative to the user, that is parallel to the tree branch.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the method is practiced independently by the user to create the side-to-side motion from an initial dead stop.

3. The method of claim 1, wherein the method further comprises the step of: e) inducing a component of forward and back motion into the swinging motion, resulting in a swinging path that is generally shaped as an oval.

4. The method of claim 3, wherein the magnitude of the component of forward and back motion is less than the component of side-to-side motion.

Its intellectual feudalism. (4, Insightful)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#35181832)

examine western european history in the 300 years in between 300 AD and 600 AD. you will see that the feudalization of economy and politics in that period closely resembles the feudalization of economy, and now intellectual sphere in our modern times.

a concept is like a bridge. once you give the ownership of the bridge to someone, that someone has the control of that bridge, can use it to do anything, toll anyone, deny access to anyone. and buy more bridges. eventually, most of the bridges get concentrated in the hands of minority, which then end up controlling the social, political and economical aspects of life through their power. its the inevitable result of inheritance-supported, unlimited ownership.

innovation or not? (-1, Troll)

Kohath (38547) | more than 3 years ago | (#35181834)

Why is it OK to block innovation and commerce with environmental laws, racial preference laws, licensing laws, union preference laws, unreasonable liability laws, international trade laws, and thousands upon thousands of regulations? But somehow it's not OK to block the same innovation with IP laws?

I wonder if people really want innovation or if this is just a way to justify taking IP from the people who create(d) it.

Re:innovation or not? (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35181870)

Why is it OK to block innovation and commerce with environmental laws, racial preference laws, licensing laws, union preference laws, unreasonable liability laws, international trade laws, and thousands upon thousands of regulations?

Who said that's OK?

And it's worth noting that those regulations have resulted in a huge amount of business moving out of those highly-regulated nations to places like China which couldn't care less about them.

Re:innovation or not? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182058)

Probably because people who say that are full of it. With the possible exception of international trade law you're completely wrong on all counts. Nice hedging on "unreasonable liability laws" it's bad form to use a phrase like that without any hint as to the actual meaning.

The issue is that those things don't bar innovation, in fact most of those things you list are powerful tools of innovation. Imagine how much innovation would have happened if you looked at all the innovations that have been contributed by various minority groups. Sure most of that would've come about eventually, but it would've taken a longer time, sometimes diversity is invaluable when trying to innovate.

Re:innovation or not? (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182112)

Firstly, many people are against all those, so that's not an argument for IP laws.

Secondly, even those who aren't may say that innovation is only one factor and that the benefit of those regulations outweigh that factor, while the benefits of IP laws don't.

For some people, this is very true (4, Interesting)

Stregano (1285764) | more than 3 years ago | (#35181874)

I am a web developer by day, and am a software developer by night. I make software so that I can sell it. One of my biggest worries is that I will make a really great piece of software, start selling it, then some big company filled with lawyers starts suing me because it run in Windows, and according to some messed up, obscure patent, I can't do that. I understand that they would not touch me right now since, let's face it, none of you have heard of me (as with the rest of the world). I am not banking hardcore. It is possible that one single program I write will though. That is a very high possibility. I try to program safe and not go too insane with the software I make and sell. If I go insane and make something incredible, these sleazy, douchbag lawyers will want a piece of my pie even though they had nothing to do with it, so they sue me. You should not be allowed to simply buy up a patent. You should be required to have a working model of what the patent is for. If you have a software patent for software that does not exist and you have no proof it exists, why are you allowed to own it? You have nothing to do with the software outside of a small piece of paper saying it. You have no programmers on payroll. You have no engineers on payroll. You are not paying or contracting anybody to make these innovations, you simply own them to say you do. I think it should be revamped to make these people show proof of concept at the very minimum in order to own a patent. Unfortunately, for people like me who make just as much selling software on the side as I do at my normal job (and it is not a small amount, it is just not big either), it is only a matter of time before the "I can retire now" software gets sold off, and then I get sued for some software patent from a company that has nothing to do with software outside of having a piece of paper saying they can. Proof of concept, or you lose it.

If these patent trolls started losing patents for no proof of concept, that would up the innovation then and there as other big companies would be bringing in people to make a proof of concept so they could own the patent. A 2 for 1 deal and it is super simple. Innovation gets sparked, and patent trolls get smacked in the face. And all we do is force the patent trolls to show proof of concept of every single patent they own.

NPEs buying at fire sales; codec patent pools (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#35181954)

Proof of concept, or you lose it.

Perhaps the original inventor had a working model, but a nonpracticing entity bought the patent from the inventor's employer when the inventor's employer went bankrupt.

Besides, a working model requirement wouldn't clear up, say, the video codec situation. Any of the companies holding patents in MPEG-LA's AVC pool probably has the expertise to write its own AVC encoder and decoder.

Re:NPEs buying at fire sales; codec patent pools (3, Interesting)

Stregano (1285764) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182054)

If they don't have a working model, then they don't really have it outside of a piece of paper, do they? When it comes to codecs, use it or lose it. Sure they can write something up, so they should. If all you have is a piece of paper saying you own something, but you don't have it, well that is pretty dumb if you ask me. You don't truly own it since you don't have it. You say that you do so that you can sue if anybody really makes it. That needs to be stopped. These are to the point where companies are owning ideas. That is why we have not seen many super innovative thing in the software market. Sure, there are some incredible ones out there that are new, do not get me wrong, but there could be so many more if these companies did not "buy ideas".

Re:For some people, this is very true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35181998)

or, you know, not have patents on software.

Stephan Kinsella's "Against Intellectual Property" (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35181922)

Stephan Kinsella, an IP lawyer, has written an essay basically demolishing the philosophical and empirical reasons for supporting IP:

http://mises.org/books/against.pdf

Highly recommended reading!

Re:Stephan Kinsella's "Against Intellectual Proper (3, Insightful)

brit74 (831798) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182122)

Assuming you think there's anything to libertarianism. I certainly think libertarians have started from a flawed position, and their logic goes off the rails because of their bad starting point.

Good thesis, poor execution (5, Insightful)

sdguero (1112795) | more than 3 years ago | (#35181934)

The thesis "Current IP law stifles innovation" is a good one, however I don't agree with the examples provided in the paper. I think a more persuasive argument would have used company vs company lawsuits are are going crazy right now (between the like of Apple, RIM, and Sony) and the hoops that things like the GPL has to jump through to placate Novell selling out to M$ amongst other attacks on open source software. Comparing the situation to the aircraft industry pre-WWI and using other examples of stifled innovation would have given our current situation more context as well. /sighs

Anyway, I just think the sheer amount of licensing boondoggles and lawyers required to build any kind of useful tech device these days is completely out of control, and I don't know if the paper made that clear (it didn't to me anyway).

Form is taken down already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35181940)

Leaving the form up on the website long enough for people to reply would be a good start...

Have to agree with most people.. patents have destroyed innovation.
Too many laws as well, When you do innovate you get messed around because of some law you never knew existed.

There is a fine line (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35181970)

There is a fine line that IP laws have to walk. On one hand, they have to be sufficiently liberal to ensure that ideas' implementations don't get stifled by the laws. On the other hand, they have to ensure profitability for an inventor with a sufficiently "good" idea. Both these goals are necessary to promote innovation because *having an idea is not the same as implementing that idea*. Generating ideas is mostly an automatic process that will happen regardless of IP laws: few are the people who are paid to sit around and think (I'm not saying they don't exist), so a society doesn't get far with respect to pure ideas by promoting their development with monetary incentives (i.e. by allowing patents). However, implementation of an idea is usually hard, and it is the only way for an idea to be useful. Patents, then, motivate the implementation of ideas by allocating a set amount of time (17 years) during which an inventor has exclusive rights to profits from his invention. At the same time, patents require a fairly detailed specification of an idea, from which an implementation can usually be derived, and so once a patent expires, parties other than the original inventor can easily implement the technology described, and society can further benefit from the idea.
The real problem here is that the 17 year period granted by a patent is far too long given the rapid rate at which innovation occurs in the computer industry. In 17 years a technology will likely be obsoleted, so a patent on a technology effectively bars others from *ever* using it, and so open source activists seem to think that "no patents whatsoever" is the solution, because they equate "patent" with "permanent ban on implementation". However, a better solution would be to shorten the period allocated on technology patents to, say, 4 years.
Given the advances in manufacturing capabilities in other industries, it would also be a good idea to reevaluate this 17 year period with respect to other types of technology, for example, drugs. Perhaps having a patent system where there are multiple classes of patents with different patent periods addressing different types of inventions would be best.
-Kerrick S

Brevity Fail (1)

Moof123 (1292134) | more than 3 years ago | (#35181986)

I tried to read the link. It was long and rambling. Using Napster as your starting point for a discussion will immediately turn off your target audience. Go back to your unabomber shack you wingnut.

DMCA made reverse engineering illegal. (1)

SonofSmog (1961084) | more than 3 years ago | (#35181992)

The DMCA. A law that made reverse engineering illegal. As though anyone ever built a better mousetrap without tearing someone else's apart first. Oh well the Chinese have no such illusions.

I don't get it (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182050)

Wireless access for everyone will spark innovation? There's someone in a cabin in the woods in Montana ready to build the next Google. If only she had broadband?

Wireless access for everyone will enable residents of rural communities to share videos of their cats with the world. That's it.

Getting it wrong (0)

brit74 (831798) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182056)

I was interested when the article mentioned "overbearing intellectual property laws" and "reform", but the article is less about "reform" and more about gutting Intellectual Property. The author isn't for, say, a 20-year or a 10-year copyright, but is against copyright at all. Suggestions about how Napster would some how result in great if the law hadn't shut them down seems like a pretty odd argument to make. Sorry, but I can't get on board with that. I'm fine with much shorter copyrights, but why in the world does anyone think that eliminating copyright leads to innovation (other than the fact that they're judgment is being swayed by the desire for endless free stuff on the internet)? The fact of the matter is that people aren't that generous, which means creators will have to get by on 1/10th of what they currently earn. There are plenty of examples of the fact that people aren't that generous. The most recent example is the fact that in 1990, Encyclopedia Britannica reached $650 million in revenue in a single year*. Now, wikipedia in 2010 is struggling to get $12 million in donations. Sure, that might be fine if someone's bringing down a million dollars a year, and now they'll earn $100,000 a year, but most creators are earning a lot less than that and it ultimately results in gutting the industry of people.

If this ever happened to the consumer software industry, the only thing we could do in defense is put everything on servers behind a paywall. In other words: create a techical barrier to prevent people from getting our work for free when "free" means going bankrupt.

Further, the article is completely off base when it argues that somehow peer-to-peer offers all these increased opportunities for small creators who can't afford a webserver. There's plenty of places that will host your music for free (like MySpace, Rapidshare, Grooveshark, etc), and bandwidth is getting cheaper and cheaper. It seems like it would be a lot more effective to put your music on a website (with band pictures, videos, tour dates, etc) than to put it up on Napster or a torrent or something.

Many of the author's examples didn't seem that solid. For example: "Here's something wonderfully innovative that OtherOS on a Playstation made possible before Sony shut it down: The US’ Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) recently unveiled a supercomputer made out of 1,760 PlayStation 3 consoles" (I'm pretty sure the US Air Force can work out something with Sony) Or: "Here's an example of what one successful company, Google, does about hackers -- it puts them to work and pays them to tell them what to fix" (Gee, you mean a company that gives away its software doesn't worry about hackers/pirates?)

"I'm trying to answer the question asked -- what is blocking innovation in the US -- and the answer is that all the energy has been going into locking everything down, with the law tilting away from users and innovation, and that's not creating a fertile field for innovation. " When pirates harm a creator's profitability, then pirates are undermining innovation. Things like DRM and paywalls are a defense against those pirates. Complaining about companies "locking things down" is a bit like complaining about the money society spends on locks and alarm systems for their houses and cars. Yes, in some sense, it's a waste of money, but the problem isn't with spending the money on locks and security it's with the people who won't treat you fairly - i.e. the thieves. In the context of intellectual property, those are the pirates. Throw the blame at them for their degrading effect on innovation.

* "By 1990, sales of Britannica's multivolume sets had reached an all-time peak of about $650 million." http://www.capitalismmagazine.com/culture/books-non-fiction/807-how-encyclopedia-britannica-was-blown-to-bits.html [capitalismmagazine.com]

What exactly is it, legally? (2)

Krishnoid (984597) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182068)

Current intellectual property laws are blocking innovation.

To be absolutely clear, 'intellectual property' as a term comprises copyright, patents, and which other things that have actual laws and legal definitions? The quote comes from groklaw, but for those not in the know, it might help to be unambiguous about it

Dismantle the USPTO and repeal Copyright law (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35182108)

Seriously, the USPTO has become a bureaucratic cesspool that is little more than a feeding trough for lawyers and litigators. Time to reset the USPTO back to it's origins. Ban all software and business practice patents, require working models and market delivery of a tangible good and above all, enforce the patents with tax payer dollars. Yes, that's right... time for the USPTO to be accountable and enforce the patents it issues instead of a certification authority that shows no authority at all.

No more "one click" or "a way upon a child may swing upon a swingset" patents, but honest to god stuff that requires the innovation of a tangible product that can be protected and the patent duly enforced.

As far as copyright, bring it back to 1950 levels, the current state of Copyright affairs is insane.

Easier said than done? Yes.
Actually achievable? Most certainly, as long as you're willing to do the right thing no matter the pain.

So... I guess that's a no then.

The real problem is money in politcs (1)

jacobsm (661831) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182130)

Politicians need money to win the next election. Corporations have the money to give. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the connection and obvious solution to the problem, remove the need for money.

1) Pass a constitutional amendment that states that money does not equal speech.
2) Give all the candidates equal and free access to the public airwaves. If the cable, satellite and TV companies don't like it revoke their license. Someone else will gladly take it over.
3) Let the US Government printing office provide print materials for mailing their fliers, signs,...
4) Post office provides free, or paid by the treasury (new election tax) services.
5) Forbid any candidate to spend a cent on their election.

FINI.

Re:The real problem is money in politcs (2)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182424)

Politicians need money to win the next election. Corporations have the money to give. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the connection and obvious solution to the problem, remove the need for money.

1) Pass a constitutional amendment that states that money does not equal speech.
2) Give all the candidates equal and free access to the public airwaves. If the cable, satellite and TV companies don't like it revoke their license. Someone else will gladly take it over.
3) Let the US Government printing office provide print materials for mailing their fliers, signs,...
4) Post office provides free, or paid by the treasury (new election tax) services.
5) Forbid any candidate to spend a cent on their election.

FINI.

Swift Boaters and the like then show up to do all the dirty work that the candidate can't do themselves any more. There are plenty of huge and powerful interest groups not directly connected to the politicians willing to speak for them.

Patensts & copyright... (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182134)

... are too easy to game by way of ignorance and overwhelming the staffs ability to approve them. Not to mention lobbying, bribes and kickbacks. People just do not have the skills to properly assess patents/copyright, I mean come on amazon's 1 click patent and others relating checkout? I mean seriously.

They will just be abused endlessly, they should be junked. What really needs to be innovated is the business model, laws that grant legal monopolies would merely force innovation on the business model end, instead of through the legal system. The idea that there are no solutions or "there would be no incentive" suffers from a complete lack of imagination on the part of the critic.

Already closed for comments. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35182146)

What the hell... it's already closed for comments.

Yay Slashdot timeliness!

let's hear from patent holders (1)

rritterson (588983) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182158)

The people I want to hear most from are not the IP intellectual discussions about moot points of IP policy, but from actual patent holders who have innovative technologies that have been blocked from innovating by the patent system.

I used to be against most forms of US IP, but now in a position where I may be able to actually capitalise on some of my own IP, I find the system much more friendly than I thought. While I still find my own knowledge lacking, here are the two things I wish were reformed:

-A patent does not give freedom to operate, it only gives the right to exclude. For example if you patent A, and then I patent B, but B is a subset or derivative of A, I can't actually bring B to market because A blocks me, but the holder of A can't do it either because B blocks it. This ends up stifling innovation. To correct this problem requires an entire re-think of the rights given to patent holders.

Second, patent holders get the standard term to block others, regardless whether the holder intends to or ever does bring the innovation to the market. I wish we had a system that gave 22 years of protection, but only if the holder uses the patent within 2 years of granting (with an appeals process that allows extensions if reasonable work is still being done on it). Essentially, eliminate defensive patent library weapons of mass destruction.

Intellectual Property is all we have left!! (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#35182240)

Nearly all industry in the US seem to be either intellectual property or service oriented. Manufacture and agriculture are critically diminished and everything it getting outsourced and sent overseas. What we have left is IP which, as we know thanks to the secret ACTA negotiations, IP has become a matter of national security.

But Obama doesn't want to know the truth. He is in the pockets of those who want to keep their arsenal of intellectual property... and arsenals they are as we see an increase in IP's use as a weapon against other companies. It's as if they know something is about to change and they are trying to cash in on their IP while it still has some value.

There is no need for innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35182398)

Just copy another country innovation, get a patent and voila! new cash cow.

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