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Congress Asks Patent Office To Consider Secret Patents

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the prior-secret-art dept.

Patents 285

Fluffeh writes "The USPTO is considering a rather interesting request straight from lobbyists via congress: that certain 'Economically Significant' patents should be kept secret during the process (PDF Warning) of being evaluated and granted. While this does occur at the moment on a very select few patents 'due to national security' for things like nuclear energy and the like — this would allow it to go much, much further. 'By statute, patent applications are published no earlier than 18 months after the filing date, but it takes an average of about three years for a patent application to be processed. This period of time between publication and patent award provides worldwide access to the information included in those applications. In some circumstances, this information allows competitors to design around U.S. technologies and seize markets before the U.S. inventor is able to raise financing and secure a market.'"

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Blatant corruption as usual (4, Insightful)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843507)

... nothing to see here. The success of the corruption program has reached far enough they can pull blatant shit like this and it's hard to stop them.

So what are the likely consequences of this terrible, terrible idea?

Re:Blatant corruption as usual (4, Funny)

ankhank (756164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843675)

.A patent for Feudalism(TM) has been issued to [not disclosed]

To preserve economic security (not yours, the patent owner's)
your social status will of necessity be adjusted accordingly.

Your new position is at the the top of the heap.
The heap is downwind of the feedlot.

Boots, shovels and pitchforks will be issued.
Gas masks may be purchased at the company store.
Credit against your and your children's future earnings is, of course, available.

Re:Blatant corruption as usual (3, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843939)

Capitalism called, citing prior art.

Re:Blatant corruption as usual (2, Insightful)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 2 years ago | (#39844063)

Obviously feudalism came first ... that said, capitalism is just feudalism with a more even distribution of ownership of productive assets.

Only exponential growth and socialism can keep capitalism from devolving back into feudalism ... and exponential growth has hit the wall of peak fucking everything.

Re:Blatant corruption as usual (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39844109)

According to Marx feudalism is a) a distinct and b) less progressive stage of human development compared to capitalism. And yeah, also historically it certainly came before capitalism. So one should call it neofeudalism at least; but actually most western countries have a system of corporatism which is something different.

Catch 22 (4, Insightful)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843779)

-Sir, you are being accused of violating a patent.
-What patent?
-We cannot tell you that, catch 22.
-But don't you have to tell me what I am violating?
-No, it's the law.

Blatant ignorance as usual (5, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843867)

... nothing to see here. Period.

Likely consequences are absolutely nothing, in the grand scheme of information freedom. Patent protection remains the same, but there's less risk in patenting technologies that are likely to be copied outright by other companies.

Currently, if you file a major patent for a Widget that will change the world, it'll take three years for that patent to be approved. During those three years, a smart businessman will be gathering funding to produce Widgets (or license them off to someone who can) to recoup the research investment. In 18 months, an evil company will likely see the patent application, and start preparing legal battles to screw with the inventor while producing their own FooBarBaz. If the inventor is financially weaker than the aggressor, there's a good chance FooBarBaz will be able to enter production faster and penetrate the market better, defeating the whole point of the patent process in the first place.

By allowing patents to be secret until they're protected, the inventor doesn't need to rush into license and production negotiations, because the cloning company can't sprint past them. When they do start negotiations, the inventor has a bit more leverage, because their technology is patented, rather than just pending.

Re:Blatant ignorance as usual (4, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843975)

By allowing secret patents people could be infringing and have no way of knowing. A applies for a patent, B produces the item not knowing of A's pending patent has good sales for two years and then is sued into the ground.

Re:Blatant ignorance as usual (1)

ATMAvatar (648864) | more than 2 years ago | (#39844197)

And inevitably: A applies for patent without secret protection, B notices the item after 18 months when the patent is revealed, slips some money under the table and declares that they now have a secret patent that was applied 3 years prior.

Re:Blatant ignorance as usual (4, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 2 years ago | (#39844203)

Then company B walks into a courtroom, says "the patent was secret. We had no way of knowing the patented technology. Unless A can prove espionage, the patent should be re-examined and thrown out as being obvious, since our researchers were clearly able to produce the same technology from simply the current state of the art."

Re:Blatant ignorance as usual (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39844259)

Then company B walks into a courtroom, says "the patent was secret. We had no way of knowing the patented technology. Unless A can prove espionage, the patent should be re-examined and thrown out as being obvious, since our researchers were clearly able to produce the same technology from simply the current state of the art."

Ah, we fixed that with First to File.

Re:Blatant ignorance as usual (2)

zalas (682627) | more than 2 years ago | (#39844207)

I'm pretty sure this already happens without secret patents. For example, companies will tell software engineers to never read anything about patents so that if they do infringe, it won't be wilful.

Re:Blatant ignorance as usual (1)

tnk1 (899206) | more than 2 years ago | (#39844447)

The patents aren't secret here, the approval process for one is. Yes, there may be a company that somehow goes from zero to patentable process in the 3 years of the secret process and when they go to patent it, it gets denied due to a secret patent application.

On the other hand, there could be a requirement that the simple fact that the process has been discovered is public, but the details are secret. That way no one knows to bother with investing in it.

There is a real concern that companies in places like China, where patents are blatantly ignored, jump ahead of the actual people who put the investments into research and development by simply learning the details of the process and copying it for minimal investment.

Re:Blatant ignorance as usual (2)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39844193)

Then the legal process around enforcing the patent itself should be reformed, not the patenting process. In the example you just gave, the inventor could (or should be able to) sue the maker of FooBarBaz and be awarded not only the money from the sales of the device, but also block all further sales. That means the evil company loses all the money from making and selling the device, plus being unable to sell it anymore. That is the point of the patent process. If the inventor can't do that under the current legal climate, then it is the legal system, not the patent system, that is broken.

Re:Blatant ignorance as usual (2)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 2 years ago | (#39844355)

I'm in favor of both.

Currently, suing against FooBarBaz is only feasible if the Widget inventor has enough money to start the legal process. Of course, this isn't restricted to just patent lawsuits, so the entire legal climate will need to change to reduce the starting cost of a suit, which also means better means to expedite frivolous lawsuits, etc...

As a stopgap measure until we revamp the entire American legal system, this helps.

Re:Blatant ignorance as usual (2)

rmstar (114746) | more than 2 years ago | (#39844315)

By allowing patents to be secret until they're protected, the inventor doesn't need to rush into license and production negotiations, because the cloning company can't sprint past them. When they do start negotiations, the inventor has a bit more leverage, because their technology is patented, rather than just pending.

As far as I am concerned, that is a bad thing. I want cloning companies to sprint past "inventors", so that they can keep single players from holding back progress. If sprinting past them is even possible, then the "inventor" has no business getting a patent. Period.

What you want is further empowerment of trolls. This is downright evil, and I have no choice but assuming that you work for a patent troll or are one yourself.

Further, I reject the notion that making things more convenient for "inventors" is a good thing. As it stands, it is possible to corner huge markets with pretty minor contributions by just being shrewd in ways that have nothing to do with the technology itself. This type of privilege is something that has to be taken away sooner rather than later, not made more convenient for the budding patent troll.

Trade secrets (5, Insightful)

bradley13 (1118935) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843515)

If you want to keep you sooper-seekrit advantage, it's called a "trade secret" and you don't patent it.

If your technology is so non-useful that someone can easily design around it and capture the market in 18 months, it is either useless, or so trivial that it shouldn't be patented in the first place.

Sound like the patent trolls are funding lobbiests.

Re:Trade secrets (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39843609)

If it is cheaper to design around a patent than it is to license it, the license cost is too high. This is very common for patent that are worth next to nothing. Being awarded a patent is no guarenty that it is worth more than zero.
Interestingly, the "design around" is worth _exactly_ as much as the license cost of the original patent, and your competitor can patent and market this work-around.

Re:Trade secrets (5, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843799)

Yet these are exactly the kind of thing patents were invented for.
Patents are meant to publically disclose specific solution in exchange for a short period of exclusivity.
Ideas should not be patentable.
Problems should not be patentable.
Implementations of a solution should not be patentable (copyright applies in this case).
Any protection stretching beyond the period of commercial viability of the solution should not be allowed (IMHO, it should be less).

Patents were not meant to reward the act of inventing. They were meant to compensate for act of sharing.

Re:Trade secrets (1)

iPaul (559200) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843981)

I can't mod you up more, but totally agree. The enlightenment beliefs underly to the US constitution believed that sharing scientific and industrial information would allow for greater progress.

Re:Trade secrets (4, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 2 years ago | (#39844093)

Implementations of a solution should not be patentable (copyright applies in this case).

Yes they should, and no, it doesn't.

A patent covers the mechanism of an implementation: Lever A pushes toggle B changing path C...

Copyright covers the details: Lever A (which is built of steel truss and painted royal blue, whose fulcrum is an axle mounted between two oak panels) pushes toggle B (built of brushed aluminum, and attached to a platform holding so a little statue of a German holding a full beer stein, raised to chin level as in a toast) changing path C (which is a semicircular track made from copper mesh, which carries blue marbles made of recycled glass, at a 5% incline)...

Or, to put it another absurd way, copyright covers Star Wars. A patent would cover the monomyth. You can write a different story using the same design by changing the characters and circumstances, but the underlying design is still the same.

Copyright and patents have entirely different intents. Neither one solves the other's problem.

Re:Trade secrets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39844463)

Neither solves any problem really... we're living so deeply entrenched in a broken system that we have no idea what daylight even looks like anymore.

Re:Trade secrets (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843613)

Mod parent up...
That is what trade secrets are for. To use food examples, coke has never patented it's formula.. all the copies and generics are just guesses. The same is true of General Mills. I remember watching a documentary a year or two ago, where no one was allowed in the area where they design new breakfast cereals. Simply for the fact that they are very closely held trade secrets, and to patent them would allow others to derive similar but different recipes much more easily.
If you need the protection a patent affords then it should also be something non-obvious. Unlike rounded corners or a slightly different bluetooth headset. Unfortunately, the patent offices is flooded with and routinely grants patents to obvious applications as will. Things that should have never even been submitted.
The real suggestion should be to throw out the entire USPTO and most of the paper it holds and start from scratch. Perhaps with a GIT or CVS style patent system where all similar patents are grouped and pieces owned by their contributors.

Re:Trade secrets (-1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843693)

If you need the protection a patent affords then it should also be something non-obvious. Unlike rounded corners or a slightly different bluetooth headset. Unfortunately, the patent offices is flooded with and routinely grants patents to obvious applications as will.

... except that the "rounded corners" weren't patented. Rather, the entire and specific aesthetic design of a tablet computer was patented, in a very narrow design patent.

If this is your justification for "throwing out the entire USPTO," you're going to need to work a lot harder to convince anyone.

Re:Trade secrets (4, Informative)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843891)

I remember in the good o' days when companies rushed their products to market and marked certain parts of it "patent pending". Now days venture capitalists are using these patents as collateral betting that the inventor's lack of business experience will allow the portfolio to fall into the VC's hands. Afterwards the VC will be free to profit from selling or licensing the patent to others. It seems this new "requirement' to maintain secrecy for "competitive reasons" is really a ploy to give venture capitalist more time to market the patent to others.

You'd think the patent itself would be protection enough and that this need for secrecy goes against the reasoning behind patents to begin with...

Re:Trade secrets (0)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843919)

It seems slashdot has posted my reply to a different thread.... nice.

Re:Trade secrets (2)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843927)

... except that the "rounded corners" weren't patented. Rather, the entire and specific aesthetic design of a tablet computer was patented, in a very narrow design patent.

If this is your justification for "throwing out the entire USPTO," you're going to need to work a lot harder to convince anyone.

Um, no.

Here's the actual design that Apple is basing its case on: http://www.scribd.com/doc/61944044/Community-Design-000181607-0001 [scribd.com]

Nothing about that is new, novel, or "specific".

If they were worried about the little hidden magnetic strips for attaching covers or stuff like that you might have a point. They aren't, they're arguing about the rounded corners.

Re:Trade secrets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39844285)

And it's still a design patent, not a utility patent. They're different things with different requirements, so trying to apply the standards of utility patents is pointless and wrong.

Also, the EU version of the design that you linked isn't actually any kind of patent at all, in name or otherwise. It's a registered design (or in EU terms, a "community design"): it covers non-functional design in a more general way than a trademark. The US happens to call it a "design patent", but it's still got more in common with a trademark than a utility patent.

Design vs. utility patents (4, Informative)

dtmos (447842) | more than 2 years ago | (#39844453)

Are we confusing design patents [uspto.gov] and utility patents? From the link, "A design consists of the visual ornamental characteristics embodied in, or applied to, an article of manufacture. Since a design is manifested in appearance, the subject matter of a design patent application may relate to the configuration or shape of an article, to the surface ornamentation applied to an article, or to the combination of configuration and surface ornamentation."

"In general terms [uspto.gov] , a “utility patent” protects the way an article is used and works (35 U.S.C. 101), while a “design patent” protects the way an article looks (35 U.S.C. 171)."

Re:Trade secrets (4, Interesting)

Moryath (553296) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843897)

Hate to spoil a few things for you but:

- Colonel's original recipe:chicken grease salt.
- Coca Cola recipe: right here [snopes.com] , most likely genuine.

Now as to the USPTO, the problem is that they are no longer paid to DENY patents. In the late 1970s/early 1980s, republicans in key positions began playing games with the system, setting up metrics for the patent examiners that judged their performance not by the number of processed patents, but by the number of APPROVED patents. Examine several patents a week, deny most of them, and your "job performance" was not as good as the moron who just rubber-stamped stuff a few cubicles down.

To top that, corporations came up with the idea of "patent slamming." The idea was to overload the patent system; every time the tiniest change to a system was made, it was filed as a new patent by the giant companies like IBM, Microsoft, Apple, GM, GE, etc. Particularly nauseating about it have been certain software houses, where it seems every new line of code ends up farted out by some shyster in the legal department as a new patent application.

The result has been that for about the last 30 years, the USPTO has been pointless. Not to say that meaningful patents are denied, but so many meaningless patents are granted that any patent in the past 30 years is suspect.

Patents like making a rectangle [forbes.com] . Or turning a playing card sideways [gatheringmagic.com] , a patent so fucking stupidly absurd it should have been laughed out of the office and shipped back to the fucking morons at WOTC/Hasborg along with a copy of Hoyle's Rules for Card Games as century-old prior art.

Re:Trade secrets (2)

cvtan (752695) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843683)

You mean "lobbeasts".

Re:Trade secrets (2)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843725)

If you want to keep you sooper-seekrit advantage, it's called a "trade secret" and you don't patent it.

If your technology is so non-useful that someone can easily design around it and capture the market in 18 months, it is either useless, or so trivial that it shouldn't be patented in the first place.

The problem is that a new invention (patentable) is often tied to a business idea (not patentable). Disclosing the invention means implicitly disclosing at least part of the idea. The inventor is forked: either his business idea is revealed to the market before time, and can therefore be copied approximately before launch; or he keeps it secret but foregoes all legal protection and the thing can be copied almost exactly after launch.

Re:Trade secrets (2)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#39844017)

Sound like the patent trolls are funding lobbiests.

The problem, of course, is that it seems to be working. With the lobbyists in turn funding Congress.

Congress is basically rubber stamping things from their 'real' constituents and letting them write drafts of laws that they never read.

American government is now basically a paid arm of corporations to help further stack the deck in their favor.

Which, of course, the American government then tries to export to the rest of the world via things like ACTA -- it won't be long before the US is demanding the rest of the world honors these secret patents so people can be sued for violating patents they're not allowed to know about.

If USA cannot compete without artificial limits... (-1, Offtopic)

apk1 (2628805) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843523)

If USA cannot compete without artificial limits on copyright and patents then they deserve to lose. For example, I live in a country that has many avenues for live music. They play popular US and non-US songs too, and to be frank, live music sound and feel a lot better than listening to some cd without the environment. I always have fun time going out with friends and my girlfriend and we do so pretty much every night. USA is a country of artificial limits and non-social people.

Re:If USA cannot compete without artificial limits (5, Funny)

busyqth (2566075) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843547)

I always have fun time going out with friends and my girlfriend and we do so pretty much every night. USA is a country of artificial limits and non-social people.

Look, you are not going to get any sympathy around here if you keep going on about nonsense like a "girlfriend" and a "fun time".
We are not going to let you trick us into weirdo "socializing". We prefer to live our lives within reasonable, although perhaps somewhat artificial, self-imposed restraints.

Re:If USA cannot compete without artificial limits (2)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843555)

How else are we expected to subjugate other countries? What, did you expect us to have people make our toys domestically, where there are laws forbidding child labor, where there is a minimum wage, where workers cannot be locked in their factories? Now that is just crazy talk. Of course we need copyrights and patents -- we need to be able to trade our ideas for the physical labor of other nations.

Re:If USA cannot compete without artificial limits (5, Interesting)

apk1 (2628805) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843597)

where there are laws forbidding child labor

Just to take out this part out of the comment, what is wrong with "child labor"? I'm not talking about forcing kids to work in unsafe conditions or things they are not capable to do, but for example around here many family-owned businesses have their kids to do some work too. For example cleaning, or other simple things. It's good thing to teach your children about working, responsibility and how to take care of things, even at young age. This way those kids don't become lazy and losers later. Maybe this is one of the reasons USA is falling - the people have been taught to be lazy.

Newt? Is that you? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39843627)

Guess you're bored after the primaries, eh.

Re:If USA cannot compete without artificial limits (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39843721)

I grew up on a farm in the uk in the 80's, we were climbing in grain silos to shovel them flat whilst filling from the age of 7 or 8 - also climbing in the combine to help grease it daily and even from the age of 10 or 11 driving tractors around the farm tracks ferrying grain from field to dryer.

For small holdings - child labour is a matter of economic neccessity

Re:If USA cannot compete without artificial limits (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39843925)

The irony is that sort of work is in fact exempt from child labor laws. As long as they're YOUR kids you can do that. I knew a kid in elementary school who used to handle the register for his parent's burger stand. I've also heard similiar stories from people in the US who were raised on farms. Hell most of the kids I've known on welfare did whatever odd jobs were needed to help their family get by. Strictly speaking the only group in the US being hindered by child labor laws at this point is the middle class law abiding citizen. If you're not law abiding you've 'working' regardless of the labor laws and if you ARE law abiding, unless you have some supernatural talent that can be leveraged for millions of dollars (or to sell drugs) then you're going to find the opportunities to get work before you're 16 slim to nil (there are exceptions, but the paperwork for it is a huge pain and most employers want it filled out beforehand, and the state/feds want it filled out afterward. A catch 22 for juvenile employment, even in high school.)

If I seem bitter, this particular limitation led to my NEET-ness. Now like japanese, british, and some of my fellow americans I've succeeded in making it to 30 without any signs of future self-improvement/employment.

Re:If USA cannot compete without artificial limits (0)

dark12222000 (1076451) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843729)

You should look into what the common definition of "Child Labor" is. You clearly don't know it.

Re:If USA cannot compete without artificial limits (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39843859)

"many family-owned businesses have their kids to do some work too"

Are they being paid at least minimum wage for their work? Not just being used as convenient unpaid slave labor by parents?

Responses such as "we feed and house them" miss the point. Slaves are fed and housed, too.

There is a huge difference between doing household chores and "I use my kids do work for my business that I would otherwise have to hire someone to do."

Re:If USA cannot compete without artificial limits (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39843915)

It's called "chores". Doing work around the home or in the family shop is fine, because of exactly the reason you said.

Child Labor is something entirely different. It is "your reason for living is to provide us with money. You don't get decisions. Get us money." Sure, you can dress it up sometimes, but that's what it boils down to when you're talking genuine labor.

Oh, and while you're working like this, you'll be paid crap and you depress adult wages, your money goes to your family so you don't get much benefit from it, and you're sure as hell not being educated so in the long run this is going to bite you in the ass. It's trading education for 5-10 years experience at the equivalent of a McJob. Because the 9 or 10 year old kid is not gonna be able to do anything BUT a McJob.

Really, go do some research.

Re:If USA cannot compete without artificial limits (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843983)

"your reason for living is to provide us with money. You don't get decisions. Get us money."

- so why are these laws enforced against employers rather than against parents? This is fucked up nonsense, the reason child labour was stopped wasn't laws, same with slavery. Slavery didn't stop because of laws. Women got rights not because of laws.

All of those things, and more (gays, whatever), have to do with social changes. So child labour stopped being profitable and society stopped using it by the time capitalism made it increasingly necessary for the workers to have special knowledge and skills that are acquired over a long period of training, so children are not good as labourers without all that knowledge. Free market capitalism stopped child labour, not any amount of laws.

Re:If USA cannot compete without artificial limits (0)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39844115)

family-owned businesses is on thing.

foxconn china is a other and they have unpiad internships where you work the the factory floor same hours as other works with no pay.

"National security" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39843525)

I like how they can just throw that out there to excuse anything they do. Sorry we murdered that innocent US citizen, but it was a matter of national security!

Re:"National security" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39843647)

"Troll"? In what way? They've refused to give someone due process by claiming it was a matter of "national security." It's an absolutely retarded excuse. How is this a troll?

Re:"National security" (0)

hackula (2596247) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843999)

Are you commenting on this article? I think you must be lost.

Sickening! (2)

busyqth (2566075) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843529)

All this beating around the bush just makes me sick.

We just need to start declaring war on any country which hosts terrorist corporations, by which I mean specifically foreign corporations that seek to undermine the American way of life by doing "end runs" around American inventors and by "seizing marketshare" from the rightful American owners of said market share.

How about not making a silly workaround (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39843533)

...and fixing the apparent actual problem instead? The USPTO should make the process faster and/or the US should become more innovative in general, if they don't want to be overtaken by "non-US" competitors.

Trying to slow (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39843551)

down progress to the speed of money.

Just Say No (2, Informative)

shawnhcorey (1315781) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843559)

An excellent example of why patents should be eliminated. The main problem with patents is that they are relatively easy to get but very, very hard to get rid of. This means they will expand and encroach into very corner of business. Look at the illegal patents we have so far: software patents and genome patents. It's time to get rid of them completely.

Re:Just Say No (1)

Lorien_the_first_one (1178397) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843775)

The only way that is going to happen is through jury nullification of patent law. http://fija.org/ [fija.org]

Re:Just Say No (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 2 years ago | (#39844123)

...which is like using a wrench to nail a door closed so it won't squeak when someone opens it. It's the wrong tool to do a job that's the wrong solution to a relatively minor problem.

Your ignorance is astounding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39844261)

Sorry ... a jury cannot "nullify" a power of Congress (to set up a Patent and Copyright regime) that as specifically enumerated in the US Constitution.

Your only chance of getting patent law overturned is through an amendment to the US Constitution. Good luck with that. The only people who dislike patents are people who are more into copying other peoples ideas than creating their own (e.g., many writers of software) and downloading content (e.g., songs/movies/games) that they did not purchase. I know this is the slashdot demographic but society, as a whole, tends to like inventors and dislikes thieves.

The Chinese would love for the US to abolish patents. No intellectual property favors the copiers and the Chinese are the biggest copiers out there.

Playing into the hands of the patent trolls (5, Insightful)

loren (2875) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843561)

Sounds like they're playing right into the hands of the patent trolls... The whole point seems to be to hope someone accidentally infringes so they can go after them later. I thought the goal of the patent system was to foster innovation. How does this do anything but impede it?

Re:Playing into the hands of the patent trolls (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39843611)

Who do you think the "lobbyists" in this case are?!

Re:Playing into the hands of the patent trolls (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843943)

Venture capitalists who wants the patents to remain secret as long as possible so they may have a chance to market the patent after their initial investment defaults.

Re:Playing into the hands of the patent trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39843709)

Well, one could make a deal: The patents may be kept secret until granted, but then everything done during that period of secrecy which would otherwise violate the patent is instead automatically considered prior art and thus invalidates the patent.

How can they decide? (2)

jenningsthecat (1525947) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843587)

Totally aside from the gob-smacking, appalling stupidity of this proposal, if they did implement this cosmically bad idea, how in hell would they determine which patents are 'economically significant'? And if some patents are secret from the outset, what's to prevent the government from falsely claiming to a new patent applicant "Sorry, that one's already in the pipeline", and then backdating an application and stealing some poor schmuck's idea?

If there was ever any doubt in anyone's mind that we now have 'government by the corporate sector, for the corporate sector, and individual citizens' rights be damned', this ought to dispel them.

Re:How can they decide? (1)

xtal (49134) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843637)

There's no deciding. There's just some new paperwork on my desk, as I describe to the legal staff what the far-reaching economic impacts of whatever it is I'm patenting.

In short, just about every patent will fit under this new proposed scheme.

If you don't want to benefit from patent protection, it's called a trade secret.

God is just (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39843589)

All you have to know is God is just. God is the source of all ideas. God gives ideas, God blocks ideas.

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perverting frequently shaken consumed things worship thwart
rejoicest avenues Elect stature meet greaves relics IX
Monad excuses thirdly sites condole ball Colorado impute
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cottage mutability kindred overspread Had mysteriously
supplied debts sold sufficient Orestes wheel admit tutor
ofThe severely space discourse manifestly mistaken thanks
considering balls joined bring haphazard adorning desirous
mainly luminaries wantonness strengthened forethinking
expense measuring Homer wounded useful truly immediately
estranged painful alternatively palate incline move assail
flashedst ground dully rising beholds

Any 'Economically Significant' Patent (5, Informative)

Wdi (142463) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843595)

will be filed simultaneously (*) in Europe, Japan, and increasingly in BRIC countries to protect world-wide market potential.

So what is to be gained if the US text is kept secret, but the essentially identical application is in the open in three dozen other countries?

(*) especially after the recent changes in the US patent system to use the same principles as the rest of the world

All about "parity" (2)

TimTucker (982832) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843677)

- Bring US patent law in line with other countries
- Emphasize just how much easier we're making it for inventors in other countries to file in the US
- Add a little more to US patent law
- Put pressure on other countries to follow our lead
- Wake up and all the world has adopted our model

Re:Any 'Economically Significant' Patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39843689)

mod parent up!!!!!

Trap (5, Insightful)

glorybe (946151) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843617)

If secret patents are in the works how are others with similar product ideas protected? To not be able to discover that a patent or art work exists for an invention and then be forced to pay for violating the patent seems like an outrage to me.

Re:Trap (2)

djmurdoch (306849) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843625)

It's not an outrage, it's a business model. The submarine patent industry needs to increase its profits.

Re:Trap (1)

jeti (105266) | more than 2 years ago | (#39844161)

We only need to combine this with another initiative to make patent infringement a crime. Then finally people will realize the value of patents and the US will become a leader in innovation again.

Dean Wormer to head up USPTO (1)

pbrooks100 (778828) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843621)

I will only submit after the creation of a "double-secret patent application" becomes available. Darn, I just gave away my patent idea...

Interesting framing of the argument (2)

bazmail (764941) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843623)

They make it seem like its helping the US vs the rest of the world. Much like the loftily titled "The Patriot Act!!!", how could that possibly be bad?
FTA: "In some circumstances, this information allows competitors to design around U.S. technologies and seize markets before the U.S. inventor is able to raise financing and secure a market"


In reality it will be used to stifle commentary of the sheer ridiculousness of the current patent system.

Wrong Solution (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39843631)

The answer is not 'Secret Patents'.

It's to fully staff the US Patent Office with sufficient qualified researches that granting patents does not have an average three-year schedule.

'Secret Patents' are one of the worst ideas I've ever heard. You thought the NPE problem was bad -before-?

Re:Wrong Solution (4, Insightful)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843785)

I agree that secret patents are a stupid idea. However,

fully staff the US Patent Office with sufficient qualified researches that granting patents does not have an average three-year schedule

This is also the wrong solution. We could do without yet even more federal employees.

The correct solution is to not allow stupid shit like software patents and one-click business model patents in the first place. Then BAM, watch the number of patent applications plummet.

AFAIK, all of the software patent insanity stemmed from *one* activist judge in the early 80's who interpreted existing patent laws to encompass software. Again AFAIK, patent laws do not (yet) explicitly state whether computer software is patentable or not... it was a court ruling that said it is.

Re:Wrong Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39844027)

Oh, for that, Software Patents and Business Method patents tend to be....asinine. Especially since a lot of the examiners aren't particularly qualified in dealing with it.

But, y'know, can you leave the "Federal Employee = Needless Waste" angle? It really makes me cringe. There are individual sects, agencies, and teams in the government that are wasteful, and we REALLY need a top-down cleaning out of the deadwood. My sister has been working as a prison shrink, and sees coworkers who are counting down to retirment but haven't done a damn thing in 14 years.

Meanwhile, their computers and IT teams are horribly underfunded and frankly don't have what they need to do their jobs. They use a lot of paper records because they can't rely on electronic records, eating up more time and money.

So just because we have too many defense contractors and mid-level bureaucrats (We sure as hell do), doesn't mean we can't use more patent examiners. Two totally different schticks. Lumping them together as 'federal employees' just doesn't work.

Re:Wrong Solution (1)

hackula (2596247) | more than 2 years ago | (#39844117)

How about remove all the staff. Never feed the trolls.

Patent office is the problem here (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39843655)

My claims:
1. The problem is the patent office takes 18 months to evaluate a patent,
2. It takes that long because the patent office is swamped with spam patent requests from non-inventors.
3. It's swamped with spam patent requests because it made patents so easy to get that every patent troll files patents on existing inventions.
4. Thus real inventors are outnumbered by the spam competitors, who often clone their ideas knowing the patent office gives patents for everything.

The fix therefore:
1. Reject more patents for obviousness
2. Reject patents if the inventor doesn't actually make the thing they claim to have invented, because if they haven't physically made it, they haven't physically solved the real world problems with their invention. Anyone can draw a flying car, but an inventor is the one who actually MAKES the car fly.
3. Reapplication requires repeat fees, you want to waste the patent office time with an obvious idea, then pay and pay again.
4. That will dissuade the trolls for swamping the patent office with spam patents for inventions they haven't made. Reducing the delay.
5. Thus the patent will be approved before the publish date and the inventor will have had the chance to obtain financing to go into production.

Whereas:
1. Hiding patents makes it impossible for others to show prior art at an early stage.
2. It makes the submarining problem worse. Where a troll files a vague patent, then watches as technology is developed, and tweaks the wording to be more like the devices the real inventors are inventing.
3. It encourages trolls to set traps around genuinely inventive companies. e.g. flying car used for school trips, flying car with shopping trolly attached etc. etc.

Patent trolls cost US $80 billion per year (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39843937)

http://www.bu.edu/law/faculty/scholarship/workingpapers/documents/Bessen-Ford-Meurer-no-11-45rev.pdf

Patent trolls cost real companies making real exportable goods and services $80 billion. Each true R&D company needs to earn significantly more per invention to make it viable in order to pay these trolls.

The patent is protection for an invention, not a *concept* for an invention. The patent is the DESCRIPTION of the invention. You can't describe something that does not exist. If you haven't made the invention then the patent is a work of fiction describing a fictional invention.

So when the patent office started handing out patents for everything they really created the problem. It's not unusual that a parasitic industry lobbies in its own interests, but they need to realize that parasite is killing the host.

You have no f'n idea what you are talking about (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39844167)

Getting a patent is hard and expensive. If you think it is so easy to do, go ahead and try to file a patent on an existing invention. Once you disclose that the invention is preexisting, your attorney will throw you out the door.

"because if they haven't physically made it, they haven't physically solved the real world problems with their invention"
I create a new design for (or improvement to) an airplane/ship/jet engine, why do I have to build it and spend hundreds of millions of dollars doing so? What a stupid idea.

"Anyone can draw a flying car, but an inventor is the one who actually MAKES the car fly."
Another comment that evidences you have no idea what you are talking about. The law already requires that the inventor enable one skilled in the art to make and use the invention.

"It makes the submarining problem worse. Where a troll files a vague patent, then watches as technology is developed, and tweaks the wording to be more like the devices the real inventors are inventing."
No. Publishing patent applications doesn't solve that -- it can easily be done with a published application. Setting the term for patents from 20 years from filing (as opposed to 17 years from issuance) solved the problem of submarine patents.

"Reapplication requires repeat fees, you want to waste the patent office time with an obvious idea, then pay and pay again."
Reapplication??? What the F is that?

"It encourages trolls to set traps around genuinely inventive companies. e.g. flying car used for school trips, flying car with shopping trolly attached etc. etc."
Just try to get an invention on any of that -- all that will get rejected at the patent office.

Listening to geeks talk about patent law is like listening to someone who studied philosophy in college discuss the specifics of Maxwell's Equations. I don't care how smart they are -- they still sound really stupid talking about things they don't know.

Re:Patent office is the problem here (1)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | more than 2 years ago | (#39844393)

As to fix 1, clearly you've never read or seen a patent before. There is nothing obvious in the legalese and obscure terminology used to describe potential inventions. It isnt as easy as waving your hands at a document to determine originality. Besides that, there is the Columbus egg problem.

A typical patent, where i work costs somewhere around twenty thousand dollars to file when legal fees are taken into account. Pennies for ACME Corp, but a lot for average Joe patent troll.

Then take names (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39843665)

Who exactly is asking for it ? not some "lobby" but an individual, get a name and then call them out on their bullshit

Landmines? (1)

Robert Zenz (1680268) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843671)

So, basically those are Patent-Landmines, easily usable for Trolls? Slogan: "They'll not know what him 'em!"

They are called: Submarine Patents (2)

Cassini2 (956052) | more than 2 years ago | (#39844231)

Submarines patents [wikipedia.org] are when a patent is deliberately kept hidden until the competitors develop competing products. They are particularly effective when they allow a company to patent an industry standard, as in the Rambus lawsuit against DDR-RAM. [wikipedia.org]

This proposal would allow lawyers to easily create submarine patents. Because of the secrecy, it could even happen that more than one company has submarine patents on the same industry standard technology.

Submarine patents block industry standards and free software.

Congress for sale (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39843695)

The lobbyists could instead have asked for a competent USPTO, or at least a reasonably quick one. Instead they ask to formalise submarining. Tells you how honest these people are.

Bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39843711)

LOBIEST are pushing this?
"certain 'Economically Significant' patents "?

Everything about this indicates that it has nothing to do with some poor guy who invented something in his garage, and has to do with what big corporations want.

Patents are useless? (1)

sureshot007 (1406703) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843731)

Doesn't this just go to illustrate that patents are now useless?

Rip off (3, Interesting)

X10 (186866) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843771)

The patent office just wants to make more money. Currently, I don't apply for a patent if I can see that someone else has applied recently. When they keep the applications secret, dozens of people will apply for patents that in the end, are replaced by the one who was first. It's kind of a rip off.

We should abandon the idea of patents altoghether.

Re:Rip off (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 2 years ago | (#39844119)

If you apply for a patent for something that already has a "secret" patent pending, your patent should not be simply rejected, either they both ought to be (as the solution must be at least somewhat obvious as multiple people came to it), or you should get a stub patent that protects you from having to license the "original" patent that you never had the opportunity to see.

Neither of these things will probably happen, though....

Must stress this again (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843807)

Must stress this again [slashdot.org] and again, just like in all those previous cases there will be people opposing to the idea that all patents and copyrights must be abolished and government must be explicitly prohibited from issuing them and from dealing with them.

Well, that, and government must be prohibited from meddling with business, money, economy, it must be prohibited from collecting income taxes, starting illegal wars.

But thats not a patent. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39843827)

A patent is a 'limited monopoly right' in exchange for the filing of the patent details with the patent office to which to the public has access inorder to encourage the exchange of ideas.

Take away the access to the filed patent and for what is the 'limited monopoly right' given.

Yes, with one addition, if someone else sends in.. (1)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843839)

I would be all for this as long as if someone else sends in a patent application for the same/similar invention both are then considered "obvious for those practicing the art", and thus, unpatentable.

As much as id like to ash the patent office.... (1)

who_stole_my_kidneys (1956012) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843861)

This is a valid point. For example, let say I, myself not being affiliated with any mulit-billion dollar company come up with a great idea and file a patent. In the time it would take me to find investors , create prototypes, test prototypes, create alpha , beta and a final release of the product, some one with massive amounts of cash on hand can hire an army of people to do all this is a quick turnaround time and send it to market. Or even release a very crappy version of my idea an thus giving the public a bad example of the technology and not wanting to try something new.

RIP FTA (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39843869)

Its time Australia tore up its free trade agreement with the United States... as we've seen with copyright, trademarks, patents and more recently price gouging (been going on for a long time - but only recently put in the spotlight).

Can anyone actually point to anything substantially beneficial that Australia's Free Trade Agreement with the US brings to Australians?

"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 2 years ago | (#39843885)

"This period of time between publication and patent award provides worldwide access to the information included in those applications. In some circumstances, this information allows competitors to design around U.S. technologies and seize markets before the U.S. inventor is able to raise financing and secure a market.'"

As James Boswell noted of Samuel Johnson in his Life" [gutenberg.org] (1791):" Patriotism having become one of our topicks, Johnson suddenly uttered, in a strong determined tone, an apophthegm, at which many will start: "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." But let it be considered, that he did not mean a real and generous love of our country, but that pretended patriotism which so many, in all ages and countries, have made a cloak of self-interest."(p.253).

Secret patent. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39843887)

Let's ponder that for a second, shall we?

Suppose it exists, is it secret or patent (since patent means evident)?

As an aside, is it not already working that way? I mean, sometimes people even advise against reading patents to make a legal case that one didn't know about it...

Actually, it's naive of me to suppose the USPTO wouldn't be biased... that's why it has the "US" before the "PTO".

I believe an international organization should be in charge of patents, much like the WTO allows other nations to kick US' ass now and then. Someone please correct me if I'm misinformed, but is there a way to invalidate a patent globally, from the outside of the United States?

PDF Warning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39843903)

Seriously? Probably one of the most accepted formats of documents today and someone really feels the need to state "PDF Warning"? Get real.

Invisible legal landmines? Why that's brilliant! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39843985)

What a wonderful collection of invisible legal landmines to place in front of anyone else who dares to try to independently innovate in the same area as a company that already holds these sorts of patents.

Idiots. The patent process needs to be more open, not less, so that people can point out how obvious the patent is and so they can help patent examiners find prior art during the review process, rather than years later as a patent troll decides to come out from under their bridge. Part of the problem is how closed the process is currently. More ways to hide what is going on are not needed.

Can I get a patent on political corruption? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39844031)

It wouldn't even have to be secret. Then I can just license it widely and rake it in.

Slashdot approves secret comments (1)

iPaul (559200) | more than 2 years ago | (#39844037)

The contents of this comment are secret for national security purposes.

Useless for world wide policies (1)

aglider (2435074) | more than 2 years ago | (#39844045)

There's still a bunch of countries that are not members of the WIPO [wikipedia.org] .
And then I ask myself: what if I ask for a patent and the answer that it's already patented but I'm not allowed to know the details?
From that point on I do know at least a part of the details of the secret patent!

It the last "thing" of the US... and the cheapest (2)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#39844085)

Ideas and even great ideas are a part of our humanity. They are born from the ideas that came before them partnered with need or want of something better than we have now. With or without the patent system in place, they will happen just as music and the various arts do.

The problem is and always has been that there are people who think they should be able to take ideas and horde and control them as they do physical resources. Worse still, lots of people in all walks of life think it's a great idea. "I worked hard coming up with..." No you didn't. If you did, you're doing it wrong and it's probably not all that great and even if it were, it's till built on and born of ideas that came before yours and you are simply failing to credit them. The people who are good at inventing things do it for the joy of having done it. Profiting from it is just nice, but the people who love working and doing that sort of work would die sooner if they stopped working.

But here we are, at the beginning of the end of US dominance. We've sold off and farmed out all the tangible things that made us great. They are too expensive to maintain, after all, we have quarterly gains to measure! We've industrialized food production and we import our fresh fruits and vegetables from other parts of the world now. Manufacturing was a short-lived career because the unions forced business to pay a fair wage to workers in the US. We have to Sell More and spend less. The people of the US are demanding lower prices for everything. [Mostly because they can't afford as much any longer because of the afore mentioned cuts from increasing quarterly gains.]

We are in imbalance. The wealth and cash flows are flowing mostly in one direction. This cannot last forever even if the Fed prints more money. Somehow the "markets" seem to believe they create money from thin air and create value through the magical practice of buying and selling things at carefully timed moments.

This has been going on a LOT longer than most people realize. We would have seen it long, long ago but people were told "you have to have credit! You aren't a real person unless you have credit! And you can't have credit unless you are in debt are carrying a balance!" (And you're a complete idiot if you think paying off the balance every month gives you a good credit score. Want a better score? Don't pay it all off.... run a balance. Your "score" is what you are worth to them. You aren't worth as much if you aren't paying them interest.) So now we're all living on debt financing instead of using a savings account. And we don't feel the sting as because "credit" is bottomless while savings are always finite. But here's a clue to measure how badly you are actually doing: Account for your total debt today. If you tried to pay it off now, would you be able to? Could you liquidate and come out with money in your pocket? If not, you have to admit to yourself that you and pretty much every "commoner" has been living in the red for decades and for many, their whole lives.

And what does it all mean? The original idea which I seem to have moved away from is "The last 'thing' of the US." We're exporting intangible things -- patents and copyrights and we're exporting our laws to support our failing business models to the world in hopes of indebting the rest of the world the way they have done the population of the US. By controlling ideas and creativity, they control production. Production: where the real work and costs of goods sold are found.

The world is resisting this push with everything it can. Their governments are being bought and we all see it happening anyway. But eventually, those few countries that can't be bought will be destroyed through violence. This is imperialism.

Welcome to the new world... same as the old world...

Re:It the last "thing" of the US... and the cheape (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39844321)

I agree but most people don't see it that way.

Compare Apple to Samsung. Apples creates ideas and concepts. They buy the core components ordered to spec and some other compaines assemble final product. Apple sells the end product and gets the most profit from that end product. Samsung actually makes products, has large factories, owns lots of real estate and employees, R&D in developing new desings and core components, they have large inventories and distribution channels and owns a significant amount of real estate and factories for the entire wide range of products they make (phones are one of dozens of things they make). They make much less money than Apple does. The US wants the Apple model where US companies can design and reap or skim profits from those ideas. The US needs to have it that way because the US can not maintain factories and the raw material sources without lossing money. Eventually people will realize that actually having the ability to produce something will be more valuable than the idea behind producing something and the scales will tip. The US is trying to prevent that from happening with patents and copyrights.

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