×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

189 comments

It would also cut out like... all software patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40632297)

It would also cut out all software patents lol

Re:It would also cut out like... all software pate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40632343)

How so?

As someone (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40632309)

who worked for a company that got sued by a patent troll for some really insane email to fax patent from the 1990s that would NEVER have been a commercial product, I concur.

Make it, sell it, or the patent is tossed. Give them 3 years.

Re:As someone (5, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | about 2 years ago | (#40632365)

who worked for a company that got sued by a patent troll for some really insane email to fax patent from the 1990s that would NEVER have been a commercial product, I concur.

Make it, sell it, or the patent is tossed. Give them 3 years.

Ironically, I once worked for a company, developing cutting edge network technology and internet applications. I dropped the suggestion to a VP that what we were doing was all new terrain and we could patent some of the complex processes and end products we were developing. The VP simply stated, we're a development company, not an intellectual property company, so no patents were going to be considered, even defensively.

That's the way the world was for some people back 12 years ago.

Re:As someone (1)

LateArthurDent (1403947) | about 2 years ago | (#40632417)

Ironically, I once worked for a company, developing cutting edge network technology and internet applications. I dropped the suggestion to a VP that what we were doing was all new terrain and we could patent some of the complex processes and end products we were developing. The VP simply stated, we're a development company, not an intellectual property company, so no patents were going to be considered, even defensively.

I envy the place you worked at, man. Sounds like they had their priorities straight, getting a good product out.

Sucks that the reward for hard work like that is typically to have a patent troll ruin your business.

Re:As someone (3, Informative)

ackthpt (218170) | about 2 years ago | (#40632555)

Ironically, I once worked for a company, developing cutting edge network technology and internet applications. I dropped the suggestion to a VP that what we were doing was all new terrain and we could patent some of the complex processes and end products we were developing. The VP simply stated, we're a development company, not an intellectual property company, so no patents were going to be considered, even defensively.

I envy the place you worked at, man. Sounds like they had their priorities straight, getting a good product out.

Sucks that the reward for hard work like that is typically to have a patent troll ruin your business.

Certainly. Back then all this sort of tit-for-tat fighting over ridiculous "intellectual property" was pretty unusual. If someone was suing it was often because they have put millions of dollars into building a fab to make something engineers had spent years developing, not some bloody FOR and NEXT loop.

Alas, were tha company still around they'd probably be fighting to defend the technology we developed because some other twit filed a patent and was trying to extort money from something which is largely prior art, if not obvious.

Re:As someone (5, Insightful)

SomePgmr (2021234) | about 2 years ago | (#40632779)

[...] not some bloody FOR and NEXT loop.

Yes, this.

While I can appreciate how trolling companies exacerbate the situation, it seems to me like it's also a problem of trivial and obvious things being patented, less than people not being able to implement them.

I mean, Amazon can implement one-click. Apple can implement searching more than one source per query. The problem is that of course they can, and so can everyone else... because it's obvious, not innovation. Defensive or not, issuing patents for that kind of crap stifles real business and innovation.

Re:As someone (5, Interesting)

oxdas (2447598) | about 2 years ago | (#40632907)

The reason there wasn't the tit or tat fighting back then is because the USPTO had spent decades fighting against software and business process patents. While they frequently lost in court, the battle itself was enough to dissuade many companies from filing ridiculous patent applications. This all ended in 1994, when Clinton appointed Bruce Lehman, a former IP lobbyist, to run the patent office. Lehman changed the course of the USPTO to simply become the rubber stamp it is today. It takes time for such changes to be felt though. It took many years for companies to figure out how to game the new system and for the frivolous patents to reach critical mass.

People have always been conniving, greedy, and underhanded, the difference is that patents were not as potent of a weapon as they are now, so people didn't employ them as often.

Re:As someone (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40634071)

Not trolling, just asking... didn't they do away with the 'prior art' clause in the U.S?

Re:As someone (1)

s.petry (762400) | about 2 years ago | (#40634581)

AFAIK that would not be true, but I'm not a patent attorney either so it may be something recent that I'm not aware of. What they did do away with was the originality testing. Prior to business process patents the invention had to be unique from top to bottom. Business process patents allowed modifications to existing patents as long as the patent(s) received mention and the description stated how the patent was modified.

Example, prior to the patent change if I filed for patent on "if() {stuff}, else{stuff};" you could not come file a patent to add "elif()". Under patent changes 20 years ago, that was made absolutely valid.

I do realize that the example is primitive, but it works.

Re:As someone (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 2 years ago | (#40632591)

Wouldn't have helped anyway. A patent troll doesn't do anything useful, so they can't possibly be violating any patents themselves.

Re:As someone (3, Informative)

ackthpt (218170) | about 2 years ago | (#40632741)

Wouldn't have helped anyway. A patent troll doesn't do anything useful, so they can't possibly be violating any patents themselves.

The patent troll's mode of business is suing and hoping you settle, rather then go to trial, but if they win a trial then the troll uses that as precedent to go after more companies. They're completely amoral parasites on the courts and business, but do keep a number of attorneys gainfully employed.

Re:As someone (2)

gtall (79522) | about 2 years ago | (#40632991)

Won't work. As soon as the new rules came out, there'd be brand new companies in China devoted to producing and "selling" whatever wild-ass thing you think you've patented. And they'd knock it in a few weeks. There would be no restriction that it be well-made. And Mr. Ching in China would be selling oodles of it to Mr. Chong in the U.S.

The only thing that will stop the madness is to scrap whole patentable categories. No process patents, that includes software as that is a process. That's for starters. I'm sure others can add more that should go. Oh, and no sneaky making small changes for getting a patent extension like the drug companies have been doing.

Having to produce the patented object... (1)

Quakeulf (2650167) | about 2 years ago | (#40632325)

Sounds reasonable, but might be a bit of a hassle if your company just stopped producing that part of equipment for a variety of reasons. What about checking on the whole company to see what kind of business they are in? It would then be easy to see what kind of patents would be reasonable for that business to hold.

Re:Having to produce the patented object... (1)

Jeng (926980) | about 2 years ago | (#40632437)

Let me get this straight.

You are saying, what if we already had a product but stopped producing it for a variety of reasons?

In which case

Why didn't you patent it while you were producing it?

Also, why should it matter which business you are in? A patent in one sector often has uses in other sectors. Also, it would be trivial for a patent troll to buy a company in a sector to troll with.

Re:Having to produce the patented object... (5, Insightful)

zzyzyx (1382375) | about 2 years ago | (#40632445)

If you stopped producing the object what good does it do society if you're allowed to keep the patent? Other companies should be able to make use of the patent if you don't make use of your government granted monopoly.

Interesting, but... (2)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#40632337)

The prime example of an industry that really does need such protection is pharmaceuticals

This is not the example I would have chosen, considering the way Big Pharma has tried to use its patents to prevent third world countries from giving their populations live-saving medications at affordable prices:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18490388/ns/health-aids/t/brazil-break-merck-aids-drug-patent/ [msn.com]

That's true, but... (2)

langelgjm (860756) | about 2 years ago | (#40632435)

the thing to take issue with there is the policy of expanding US- and European-style patent law worldwide.

Pharmaceuticals and chemicals are the prime examples of industries where patents are not only valuable, but also generally thought to be essential to innovation. Posner's suggestion of having different patent terms for different industries is not news, that idea has been circulating for decades, and probably longer. It's something that he's actually endorsing it in public, I guess.

The standard IP hack response to this proposal is that it would be too hard and costly to clearly define what industries and inventions are eligible for patents.

Re:That's true, but... (2)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#40632513)

Pharmaceuticals and chemicals are the prime examples of industries where patents are not only valuable, but also generally thought to be essential to innovation

Sure, but we could be doing things differently. Considering the substantial benefit that a new drug can bring to our society, I am not sure that it makes sense to say that any person or group of people be able to decide who can have the drug and who cannot. I favor a model where publicly funded drug research is expanded and the barriers to such research are lowered, and where drug companies only produce the products of that research. I know that using tax money for anything other than killing and imprisoning people is unpopular these days, so I am not really holding my breath, but I have not seen any good argument for why this would be destined to fail.

Re:That's true, but... (3, Interesting)

langelgjm (860756) | about 2 years ago | (#40632639)

I don't necessarily disagree. Again, the IP hack response is that without the patent and profit, there is no new drug from which to benefit, so the question is irrelevant. In theory, decent health insurance coverage is supposed to solve the problem of access to the drugs, too.

But as you've pointed out there are other funding mechanisms that could potentially work, and might even produce better results. After all, the end result of our current patent system is not that life-saving drugs get made, it's that profitable drugs get made (or at least research for profitable conditions gets done). If they happen to be life-saving, that's nice. Research on drugs for tropical diseases languishes. We've noticed it and try to supplement the incentives of the patent system with prize funds, grants, non-profit money, and the Orphan Drug Act.

The reason it is destined to fail on a large scale is probably because of political pressure from pharmaceutical companies loathe to see anything significantly alter the current system.

Re:That's true, but... (4, Informative)

SomePgmr (2021234) | about 2 years ago | (#40632865)

Posner's suggestion of having different patent terms for different industries is not news, that idea has been circulating for decades, and probably longer. It's something that he's actually endorsing it in public, I guess.

Someone on slashdot recently linked a great TED talk about the general lack of IP protection in the fashion industry, and how it has actually worked out really well for them. Trademarks protect your profit margin, but you can't prevent anyone from making a shoe.

I see software as being somewhat similar. I should be able to make an online store without violating someone's IP, but I shouldn't be able to call it "Amazon".

http://www.ted.com/talks/johanna_blakley_lessons_from_fashion_s_free_culture.html [ted.com]

Re:That's true, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40633351)

The problem here, is that brand names mean everything in fashion. They mean very little in other industries.

Re:That's true, but... (1)

Sique (173459) | about 2 years ago | (#40633743)

No. Only because there are no other protection mechanisms in fashion, brand names mean everything. Other industries with nearly no other protection mechanisms are similar, like the food industry. Also here, the trademark is everything, because about everyone is able to make a sweet, coffeinated and caramel colored soda or put grilled minced meat in a bun.

Re:Interesting, but... (2)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about 2 years ago | (#40632465)

I concur: when Schering-Plough's patent on loratadine expired, the price of the drug went through the floor and suddenly it was available over the counter - but not at $15 per pill.

Sure made my life easier, in recent years I've been travelling around a lot and scheduling to be around my GP surgery one day then again three days later to pick up the prescription is a nightmare. Now I just walk into the first pharmacy I see and pick up a month's supply for change out of a fiver.

Patents on pharmaceuticals is just a license to inflate the price to the point of ridiculous and beyond. It must stop. People die because they *can't afford the drug that will likely save them*.

Re:Interesting, but... (3, Insightful)

Anduril1986 (1908840) | about 2 years ago | (#40632553)

While I agree it is a shame, the reason people say it is a necessity for pharma, is the company that created that drug probably spent hundred of millions of dollars and a decade or more of R+D and testing to produce that drug. I'm not saying its right, but that's the way things are at the moment. If they couldn't get a monopoly on it then once they had spent all the money creating it, some other company would probably reverse engineer it and sell it for a fraction of the price. The end result would be that research and production of new drugs would grind to a halt because companies would most likely not get a return on their investment.

Re:Interesting, but... (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#40632693)

The end result would be that research and production of new drugs would grind to a halt because companies would most likely not get a return on their investment.

That's a false dichotomy; publicly funded research can also develop new drugs.

Re:Interesting, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40633019)

The end result would be that research and production of new drugs would grind to a halt because companies would most likely not get a return on their investment.

That's a false dichotomy; publicly funded research can also develop new drugs.

Because they do such a good job of not cutting funding from all of the other scientific research they support.

Re:Interesting, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40632721)

Patent the process to make the drug for 20 years and the molecule itself for 5. Drug molecules are complex enough that another company will take years but not decades to come up with alternate process that is different enough to be not called a derivative.

If it's a simple alteration of existing molecule and a whole lot of money is spent on just the trials, competitors can come up with alternate process pretty easily. But you still get some benefit (i.e. 5 years).

Re:Interesting, but... (4, Insightful)

Cyberax (705495) | about 2 years ago | (#40633257)

Wrong!

Duplicating existing drugs is easy. It's not completely trivial, but usually doable by a small lab in a short amount of time. And most of synthesis steps are so generic that they can't be patented in themselves. Their combination can be patented, but it would be trivial to work around it. Oh, and effective patent protection for a drug is about 10 years if you consider the time for clinical trials and regulatory approval.

Re:Interesting, but... (3, Insightful)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about 2 years ago | (#40632559)

What's with the term "Big Pharma"? Is there some sort of mom-and-pop pharmaceutical company that is the alternative to Glaxo-Smith-Kline? Aren't they all big? Isn't there just "Pharma"?

Re:Interesting, but... (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#40632615)

Is there some sort of mom-and-pop pharmaceutical company that is the alternative to Glaxo-Smith-Kline?

  1. My pedantic side wants to point to medical marijuana producers
  2. My not-so-pedantic side would point to the small generic drug producers, who are not raking in billions of dollars in profit and who are selling affordable drugs (well, at least more affordable than the name brands)

Re:Interesting, but... (5, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#40632687)

What's with the term "Big Pharma"? Is there some sort of mom-and-pop pharmaceutical company that is the alternative to Glaxo-Smith-Kline? Aren't they all big? Isn't there just "Pharma"?

There are a lot of researchers who don't work for those companies. Trying to do things like develop a cure for cancer, HIV, diabetes... things Big Pharma won't do because the cocktails of medications to treat the aforementioned diseases bring in a lot of money. And that money would go away if there was a way to cure those people, instead of just treat them. I can show you stacks of internal memos and documentation showing that the major pharmaceutical companies purposefully stall and delay research into cures, and there have been several cases where they've sued to prevent universities and private researchers from pursuing testing of certain chemical compounds because they infringed on a patent -- after research showed dramatic and sustained improvements in a patient's health that reduced or eliminated their dependancy on already-existing drugs.

It's called Big Pharma because they're not about making sick people better, they're about making money off of sick people -- as long as they stay sick, Big Pharma stays profitable. None of this nonsense about making lightbulbs that last a hundred years... we all know what happened to the company that solved the problem too well.

Re:Interesting, but... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40633245)

None of this nonsense about making lightbulbs that last a hundred years... we all know what happened to the company that solved the problem too well.

Citation needed. It's hard to believe that no one would have made a fortune selling hundred year bulbs if it were that easy.

Note also, it's hard to believe no company would push the cure for AIDS if they found it. You'd make a fortune, and if you don't, someone else will.

Re:Interesting, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40633287)

Yes. Interestingly enough the aids cure discussion illustrates a common argument against corporations and profit in general.

It is said that they have no long term planning. Only short term profit is of interest, and this is true. This is also exactly why an AIDS cure is interesting. Or cancer. The short term profits are amazing.

Re:Interesting, but... (5, Interesting)

Cyberax (705495) | about 2 years ago | (#40633305)

I can show you stacks of internal memos and documentation showing that the major pharmaceutical companies purposefully stall and delay research into cures

Please do. The biggest known case was the use of antibiotics to treat ulcers. But that was about 50 years ago.

Speed to release (1)

DrYak (748999) | about 2 years ago | (#40632573)

well on the other hand, drug patents is still interesting because between an idea and an actual drug, there are years of research, clinical studies and certification, all of which cost a lot, and a high risk of failure/rejction (out of several idea, only a few drug see the light). (that also the indirect reason why drugs are so expensive: only big pharma can afford the cost, the efforts and risks to developp drugs, therefore it's not a free market but an oligopoly, and thus the few players can practice the bat-shit crazy prices they want and rip tons of money)

on the other side of the spectrum you have software development, whereas the difference between an idea and a proof of concept implementation is about 1 week-end of intense coding. Maybe two if you need some preliminary datamining or pre processing. But anyone with half a brain and a good idea can produce something with minimal costs (time, hardware, etc.)

the time requirement before a "use it or loose it" dead-line should take into consideration the relative ease or difficulty in releasing a proof of concept.

Re:Interesting, but... (2)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 2 years ago | (#40632707)

So what is your solution? How would you allocate money to drug R&D?

Patented drugs send a clear signal market signal if we are overspending / underspend on drugs in general or on specific types of drugs. Do I have specific issues with the current system that I would like to see reformed? Yes. Do I want to throw out the baby with the bathwater? Not until I hear a better idea.

Like democracy, it is a horrible system whose only saving grace is that it is better than all others.

Re:Interesting, but... (2)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#40633097)

So what is your solution? How would you allocate money to drug R&D?

Publicly funded research; the role of drug companies should be in producing drugs discovered by scientists funded with NIH or NSF money; they are free to do their own research if they want, but we should not be giving them a monopoly and raising the price of drugs just for that. Drug research should not be focused solely on those drugs which are most profitable, and cures should not be ignored in favor of maintenance drugs.

Yes, the market has a purpose here: to determine the price level of the drugs we buy, through competition. That's how generic drugs work. What advantage is there in having private companies do the research, and then gouge us for twenty years?

Re:Interesting, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40632883)

third world countries should focus on making sure their citizens aren't so poor as to depend on charity/piracy.

Re:Interesting, but... (1)

cas2000 (148703) | about 2 years ago | (#40633507)

Yep. That section of the article was a glaring contradiction to the rest of it.

The pharmaceutical industry is not an example of an industry that needs special patent protection. rather, it is an industry that needs to be nationalised.

pharmaceutical companies do very little actual research, anyway. That is done in (mostly government funded) universities. BigPharma gets involved only *after* there is a new drug 'invented', they buy up the patents to the research, and then spend the money required to complete the safety testing and bring it to market.

it seems to me that they're an unnecessary middle-man, they add nothing of value, they're just rent-seeking parasites. The public is already paying for the research, we should reap the benefits as well - the safety testing can and should be done by government-owned non-profits.

The private sector's role should be in mass-production and distribution of the end-product, with production performed according to strictly designed and enforced quality standards - much as the "generic drug" part of the industry works now.

i.e. once developed, tested, and approved for human use, *all* drugs should be "generic".

Produce? (0)

glop (181086) | about 2 years ago | (#40632353)

What is producing? Many patents can be implement with a couple lines of javascript or similar. So a troll would just need to have a coder write a proof of concept implementation, put it on the troll's production server. And voila, it's produced.
For easy combination of hardware and software, you can probably do something similar. Have a geek put together a prototype from a PC or tablet, some software, put it on a website for sale for 5000$. Make sure to keep a prototype that works.
I am not sure that would be really onerous to patent trolls as apparently they are getting away with 29 billion dollars every year.

Re:Produce? (4, Insightful)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 2 years ago | (#40632613)

So a troll would just need to have a coder write a proof of concept implementation

fair enough, at least that's far more effort than they currently have to go to. Once they've done that though, you have a defence that you are not infringing - if you perform your task in a different way.

See, there are thousands of mousetrap patents in the US patent files, but in software terms, 'catching a mouse using a device utilising mechanical or electronic or other means' is what is patented, which stops anything remotely related to the vague idea that is part of the patent.

So making the patent holder create a working version would help a lot. Patenting GSM radio networks, for example, would be valid. Patenting a way of sliding an icon to unlock a screen would also be valid - but you could create your own slide-to-unlock as long as it used a different mechanism, just like people can continue to patent their own ways of catching mice.

Re:Produce? (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 2 years ago | (#40632649)

How about adding a licensing clause which allows patents to be licensed based on it's actual market value.
They if they put a product on sale for $5000 on their website and nobody buys it, the market value of the license is next to zero and it could easily be licensed.

Re:Produce? (1)

thoughtsatthemoment (1687848) | about 2 years ago | (#40632823)

Production is still a matter a procedure, which builds on other procedures. But each procedure must serve its own purpose, just like the final product has to serve a purpose.

So patent should be awarded if a procedure is the only way to serve its purpose at the time of intention. The question still remains as to what the purpose is. If finding any energy is the purpose, no invention is needed. If the purpose is to achieve cold fusion, the first procedure to do so in a cost efficient way is an invention.

I think the patent office got caught up in technology terms too much instead, like the classical patent troll of imbedding a live video in an html document. This is a procedure combining so many prior procedures, but what purpose does it have on its own? Displaying a video on a screen. Many of Apple's patents fall into this category as well, as if we didn't know how to use our fingers.

I still believe there are software patents. The problem is people who can recognize such things are most likely neither working at a patent office nor as a lawyer fighting a war many wish never to end.

Re:Produce? (1)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#40632941)

What is producing? Many patents can be implement with a couple lines of javascript or similar. So a troll would just need to have a coder write a proof of concept implementation, put it on the troll's production server. And voila, it's produced.

Presumably, the Judge was thinking that "Produce" means make available for society via sales of a product incorporating your patent.

The failure here is that some patent never appear in a consumer product, rather they are patents cover only machines or tools or processes used in house but which lend a manufacturing advantage to the company using it. If the Judges proposal was expanded to cover that eventuality it would be reasonable. If society benefits indirectly (a cheaper car, fresher fruit

Your example of an embedded line of code that serves no societal purpose other than to block other meaningful use of the invention would not be protected under this scenario, because it produced nothing, rendered no benefit to society.

The Judge suggests that the Purpose of Patents is not fulfilled until an inventions is rendering a benefit to society. Simply inventing something and sitting on it like a spider waiting for a bug to fly into its net serves no societal purpose.

Side note:
This view is not universal. The US Constitution mentions furthering the useful arts, but this is not a universally accepted reason for patents the world over. Even the Constitutions language is there as a thin wrapper around the fact that the reason Patents exist is to preserve the inventors monopoly. Patents historically, world wide, are a commercial device, wrapped in language that attempts to justify the monopoly they grant by making a (often weak) case that it is for the betterment of society as a whole. Some countries dispense with that pretense all together, as did the English system prior to the 1700s.

Because the USA is pwned by lawyers? (4, Insightful)

fantomas (94850) | about 2 years ago | (#40632355)

Why are there too many patents in the USA? because the country is owned by lawyers?

Something doesn't work: find somebody to sue! Not sure if whether to sue? A lawyer will recommend you do! Got an idea which might be worth a couple of dollars, keep you fed for a couple of months? patent it and claim anybody using the idea is putting you out of the equivalent of the GDP of an average European country!

Where do these people get the figures from?

Maybe that's not the case but it looks like it from outside ;-)

Re:Because the USA is pwned by lawyers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40632467)

patent it and claim anybody using the idea is putting you out of the equivalent of the GDP of an average European country!

Where do these people get the figures from?

Well, you know the music the kids listen to these days (from the RIAA), probably having a deep influence on their brains.

Hey, it worked in the 80s when everybody was terrified of "satanic" messages.

Re:Because the USA is pwned by lawyers? (5, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#40632503)

Why are there too many patents in the USA? because the country is owned by lawyers?

It's not that we have too many patents. It's that patents are used to lock out competitors, inhibit free trade, and are used offensively to protect and expand business. Patents are not used to advance the state of the art, or to make available for public inspection true advances in science, technology, or methodology... they're used solely as weapons of mass distraction.

And it has utterly destroyed our ability to compete globally. There is no more innovation in this country -- building a product now has to be done overseas, not because it's cheaper as much as because it's necessary: Basing your operations domestically means that if your competitor wins in a patent suit, your entire business could go tits up -- you can't export something that's in violation of a patent. This way, you can continue to sell your product in other marketplaces while going through our endless appeals process. Your manufacturing process can't be threatened if its based in a country that doesn't have a corrupted patent system.

Re:Because the USA is pwned by lawyers? (3, Insightful)

s.petry (762400) | about 2 years ago | (#40633877)

I'm not sure if you read the article, I believe the judge to be very correct. There are too many patents, and I believe the indicators are that we have so many "Patent Trolls", an over taxed Patent office, and an over taxed judicial system trying to deal with them all. Patents are being submitted and received for things that should not have a patent. Whether it's obvious, or previously patented, there are simply to many.

What I tend to not give much thought to, and what the Judge so elegantly points out, is that Pharmaceutical companies are actually shafted by the patent system. It still works fine for mechanical invention, but mechanics is a small fraction of the patents being submitted to the US PTO each year.

He also gives some possible solutions. I think most of what he wrote I have seen before from various sources discussing the issue. His presentation is well thought out and not over the top.

Re:Because the USA is pwned by lawyers? (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about 2 years ago | (#40632581)

The real problem with lawyers is all of the lawyers that get elected to office and then pass laws favoring lawyers. I can't get a home loan in this country (or at least my state) if I don't have a lawyer, the loan isn't valid. Lawyers also enjoy an unusual amount of immunity from prosecution.

Re:Because the USA is pwned by lawyers? (1)

Grond (15515) | about 2 years ago | (#40632773)

If there were fewer patent lawyers there would be just as many patent suits. The only difference would be that the remaining lawyers would all be hired by the richest clients and the less rich clients would get raked over the coals. I'm not saying more lawyers would help, but fewer certainly wouldn't.

And remember, behind every sleazy lawyer is a sleazy client.

Go farther (5, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#40632393)

I do not find many people that disagree with the idea of patents: Namely, that you publish how something works, and then for a limited period of time, you are allowed exclusive rights to sell that something. Then everyone is allowed to do it. When the patent system was first invented (pre-industrial era), new inventions came out every few years. The steam engine, which became the locomotive, which became the combustion engine, which became the car, etc. Technological progress from decade to decade wasn't that fast. Ford created the assembly line, and 14 years later, it was still a novel concept. Today, much of the equipment and processes we had a decade ago isn't worth much more than scrap. 10 years is a very long time. But patents still have the same timeframe; 7 to 14 years. 14 years ago, broadband internet was a luxury item only the rich and a few people lucky enough to be in the right neighborhoods could get... Today, it's just assumed you'll have access to it, and at a reasonable price.

The patent system needs to take into account the industry in which the patent's primary use is: Metallurgy, for example... not exactly a fast-moving industry. Software design... very fast moving industry. It's stupid that the time limits are the same for a new computer algorithm, or a new metal deposition technique.

The other part of this is the originality of the invention; A hundred years ago, every invention was novel, because few people had the resources to research, prototype, develop, and market something new. Today, there are hacker spaces in most metropolitan areas. Anyone with an idea for a new idea, process, or concept, can plunk down a few thousand and develop a new invention. A lot of it isn't even original; it's repurposing technology designed for a different use. And that's where the patent system fails miserably -- today, they take a patent for encoding binary data over copper wires (original idea), and when it expires, they submit a new patent for encoding data over the internet. Same tech. Same concept. Slightly different application. New patent. BZZZZT! No. No new patent should be given. Only truly original, game-changing technology, something that advances the state of the art, should be awarded a patent. Otherwise, it's just re-engineering... anyone with a basic grasp of the concepts could do it.

Fix those two problems, fix most of what's wrong with the patent system today. Most.

Re:Go farther (3, Interesting)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 2 years ago | (#40632755)

Agreed.

Oddly enough, one of the rules for patents states that a patent "must not be obvious to a person skilled in the art.". Most software patents these days are quite obvious to an average software engineer, yet this rule is seemingly completely ignored.

I also think part of the patent problem is that many patents these days seem to patent the problem itself rather than a specific solution to the problem.

Variable time patents (1)

erice (13380) | about 2 years ago | (#40633043)

I do not find many people that disagree with the idea of patents: Namely, that you publish how something works, and then for a limited period of time, you are allowed exclusive rights to sell that something. Then everyone is allowed to do it. When the patent system was first invented (pre-industrial era), new inventions came out every few years. The steam engine, which became the locomotive, which became the combustion engine, which became the car, etc. Technological progress from decade to decade wasn't that fast. Ford created the assembly line, and 14 years later, it was still a novel concept. Today, much of the equipment and processes we had a decade ago isn't worth much more than scrap. 10 years is a very long time. But patents still have the same timeframe; 7 to 14 years. 14 years ago, broadband internet was a luxury item only the rich and a few people lucky enough to be in the right neighborhoods could get... Today, it's just assumed you'll have access to it, and at a reasonable price.

The patent system needs to take into account the industry in which the patent's primary use is: Metallurgy, for example... not exactly a fast-moving industry. Software design... very fast moving industry. It's stupid that the time limits are the same for a new computer algorithm, or a new metal deposition technique.

I like this idea but let's generalize it a bit. Instead of trying to categorize by industry, a submitted patent must give an estimate of how time was spent to develop the technology and how much time would be needed to produce a product based on this technology. Patent duration would be some arbitrary but predefined multiple of this. Let's say "4". So patent_duration= (tech development time + product development time) * 4;

A cost estimate should also given and all of this information should be publicly visible in the patent itself.

Now, of course, people will try to game the system and say it takes 10 years a billion dollars. The catch is that if a competitor can document that they independently developed and productised the technology in greatly less time without massively increased budget, the whole patent gets thrown out. The safe plan is to be conservative with your estimates at the expense of duration.

This allows patents on time and capital intensive areas to remain long while Internet software patents practically disappear.

Re:Variable time patents (1)

pipedwho (1174327) | about 2 years ago | (#40634265)

Along with your above ideas, I'd also factor in the 'obviousness' of the method(s) under application.

Rather than the present system of drawing a hard line between 'obvious' and 'novel' (and getting it far too wrong far too often); a duration moderating factor would mitigate the 'damage' a bad patent could do, by instead granting it with a much shorter time frame.

At the moment, if an idea is barely patentable (and would be considered obvious to anyone that really knows what they're doing), it gets 20 years. Imagine if the idea was deemed of low (but not zero) novelty, then the patent could grant for 2 years instead. If, however, the idea is highly novel, took a lot of time/money to develop, and is well documented with good examples, then the full 20 years could issue.

The same ideas could be applied to copyrightable works. A full novel/movie/song taken in its entirety could be issued the full reasonable duration (and by reasonable I don't mean the current 70+ years). For short works or works that substantially draw on prior art, the duration could be reduced, possibly significantly in cases where the work took little to no effort (eg. a 4 line jingle).

Re:Go farther (1)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#40633045)

I do not find many people that disagree with the idea of patents: Namely, that you publish how something works, and then for a limited period of time, you are allowed exclusive rights to sell that something. Then everyone is allowed to do it.

Then you haven't been paying attention to Slashdot for very long.

The under 25 generation has pretty much repudiated that entire concept, and often voice the opinion here on Slashdot and elsewhere that a bell once rung can't be un-rung, and an idea once published can't be owned by anyone. As justification they point to the Life Plus 70 years extension of copyrights and paint patents with the same brush.

As for originality: Slide to Unlock existed since the first dead bolt was created. Does that mean Apple's slide to unlock idea should not be patentable because it was simply a slightly different application?

Re:Go farther (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40633267)

The under 25 generation has pretty much repudiated that entire concept

It's not just them. I'm 43 and I'm against patents and copyright.

and an idea once published can't be owned by anyone.

It can technically be legally owned, but in practice, it's pretty much impossible to control. And I think it quite arrogant to claim the bits on someone else's hard drive as your own.

As justification they point to the Life Plus 70 years extension of copyrights and paint patents with the same brush.

I certainly don't do this, and I suspect there are many others who don't as well.

Does that mean Apple's slide to unlock idea should not be patentable

Definitely.

Re:Go farther (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 2 years ago | (#40634267)

Today, much of the equipment and processes we had a decade ago isn't worth much more than scrap.

This it true in the IT world due to the rapid advancement, but Moore's law cannot hold indefinitely and it will eventually slow down. Most industries advance much more slowly such that it's not uncommon for a factory worker to be using equipment that was installed before they were born. Also most large factories are basically giant machines with a concrete exoskeleton, modernising the machine often means rebuilding the entire factory and reskilling the entire workforce, it is simply not worth doing every 10yrs because the improvement in productivity is not enough to justify the costs of a new factory. Same thing applies to most everyday stuff, electricity companies plan for their generators and transmission lines to last 30-40yrs, all this stuff is "sunk cost" and business types want as little of that as they can get away with while still remaining competitive.

Once a corporation has found a profitable way to do something they turn into luddites and actively prevent others from messing that up with new technology, they see new technology and methods that don't fit with their existing model as a threat. Two shinning examples of this behaviour are the entertainment industry and the fossil fuel industry, both have tossed ethics under the bus in their attempts to "protect their bussiness". To see this in one person, look no further than Murdoch, he gained noteriety and a gigantic pile of money back in the 80's by breaking the Fleet St unions and modernising their presses (inovator), the same guy is now basically crying to parliments around the world that the internet is "not playing fair" (luddite). ie: the internet is doing to Murdoch what Murdoch did to the unions, dragging him kicking and screaming into the modern world where the printing press itself is heading the same way as that other iconic tool of journalisim, the typewriter.

Re:Go farther (1)

bzipitidoo (647217) | about 2 years ago | (#40634287)

I disagree with the exclusivity part of the system. That's a monopoly, and I have yet to hear of a monopoly that benefited the public more than fair competition. Everyone should be allowed to do it immediately.

The goal is to encourage innovation. Money is a powerful encouragement by itself, we don't need to hand out absolute control. Should an "owner" have the "right" to deny the entire world the use of an invention? Particularly in cases where the invention is not original and the patent should never have been granted? To dictate what licensees may or may not do even over activities that are only peripherally related? To unilaterally set the price beyond all reasonable expectation of value? Can't expect inventors to fairly value their own work. People seem to think such power is necessary to turn a profit, but it need not be and often isn't. Or that absolute control is somehow the best way of determining what an invention is worth, and that it could be unfair to inventors if they couldn't extract the maximum price the world is willing to pay. This thinking assumes they can figure out what price to charge, and most times, no one can. They ask too much, and end up selling only a few licenses, or none.

What's worse is that this power is too easily concentrated. Once large entities gain control of significant patent portfolios, they enter an exclusive club in which they may have occasional spats among themselves, but collectively, they could squash any and every small time inventor if courts were just a little more sympathetic. It's not possible to do anything without violating dozens of patents. It's like IBM told Sun: "OK," he said, "maybe you don't infringe these seven patents. But we have 10,000 U.S. patents. Do you really want us to go back to Armonk and find seven patents you do infringe?" At that time, Sun was not yet a member of the club. Microsoft got entirely too far in their attempts to harm Linux through their puppet, SCO. Fortunately, the public and the courts don't blindly support extreme positions on intellectual property matters, so much of their threats are bluster and bluff. SCO lost, but I wonder how things would have turned out if P. J. hadn't been helping us all. Even East Texas doesn't always decide in favor of the plaintiffs. But the threats are still too effective, as the mere expense and time of a lawsuit can be enough to bankrupt or fatally distract a fledgling business even if they win.

We ought to remove all basis for such threats. We can expand what we have in the way of patronage if it seems worthwhile to do so. We already have such things as the X Prizes and other contests and awards. Nice, but ought to do much more. I don't care for winner take all contests, another bad aspect of patents.

modI do3n (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40632407)

you. The tireless maggot, 7omit, shit minutes. At home,

Good Idea, Bad Example (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#40632411)

I definitely wouldn't have used Big Pharma as my example, since a large portion of the research they benefit from is publicly funded.

Instead, I would have pointed out individual inventors, like my own father. Without the patents he holds on his inventions, a large, well-funded corporation could easily steal his idea, mass manufacture his product, and essentially use his own invention to drive him out of business without so much as breaking a sweat.

Re:Good Idea, Bad Example (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40632481)

What makes you think that this isn't the case?

Protection only happens if you have money.

Re:Good Idea, Bad Example (1)

countach (534280) | about 2 years ago | (#40632487)

As laudable as your father's need for patent protection might be, the reality of the 21st century is that only a very tiny proportion of patents, and only a very tiny proportion of new and interesting products are developed by guys tinkering in their garage. Jobs and Wozniak created a new industry in their garage. That happens less and less. And even when it does happen, its rarely because of some new patented idea. I'd hazard to say that 95% of patent cases in court are mega corporations battling each other. This is where the problems need to be discussed.

Re:Good Idea, Bad Example (1)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#40633117)

Jobs and Wozniak created a new industry in their garage.

The created a new industry to market a product that was neither unique nor revolutionary at the time.

Creating a new industry is not the standard upon which we issue patents.

The newness and uniqueness of the invention is what counts (or should count). Adding a digital display to a telephone once both the display and the telephone are already invented is not particularly inventive either. Its simply recombination of existing parts. Recombination is what most patents cover these days.

Re:Good Idea, Bad Example (3, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#40632561)

Instead, I would have pointed out individual inventors, like my own father. Without the patents he holds on his inventions, a large, well-funded corporation could easily steal his idea, mass manufacture his product, and essentially use his own invention to drive him out of business without so much as breaking a sweat.

A noble picture of patents, but an unrealistic one. The world's major patent holders are not individual inventors, they are wealthy, powerful corporations, and their patents are keeping "the little guy" out of the game.

The problem is that we have too many patents in too many fields, and we have basically forgotten the original restrictions on what was patentable. When algebra, biology, and ways of doing business can be patented, you know something has gone terribly wrong. The bar is too low, the patent examiners are too overworked, and the system is starting to discourage useful innovations that could benefit society.

Re:Good Idea, Bad Example (2)

Grayhand (2610049) | about 2 years ago | (#40633153)

But the example is still valid. Take away patents and individuals are at the mercy of well funded companies. Already you have to fight cheap Chinese knock offs. I've dealt with companies that opted against making products because they knew they'd be buried by cheap knock offs before they became profitable. Patents won't stop companies from stealing, trust me I know first hand without a lawyer you have no rights, but it does make some hesitate.

Re:Good Idea, Bad Example (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#40633467)

Individuals are at the mercy of wealthy corporations as a result of patents, at least when it comes to software, drugs, plants, etc. The real question is which option has a greater benefit for society: the current system, or a system where patents either do not exist or are greatly curtailed (compared to now)?

Re:Good Idea, Bad Example (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40633953)

I respect your father for being an inventor.

However, I still think patents should be eliminated.

Here's my reasoning about patents: the idea of a patent is that if something is really non-obvious to people in the field, it should be protected by the government.

To me, the only way that an idea could really be non-obvious is if it were produced, it wouldn't be apparent how the product were implemented if somone hid the means of manufacturing, production, or development from the public.

I.e., if you hide your production or development process, no one could re-implement it easily.

To me, what this says is that it's better to have someone produce their product in secrecy than have the government grant a monopoly. Otherwise the patent shouldn't have been granted in the first place.

I recognize many wouldn't agree with me on this, and I do sympathize with the argument that patents should be severely limited, but I do feel strongly about certain things. E.g., I think patents should only be limited to physical products (e.g., no software or process patents), should be limited to the specific specifications in the patent (e.g., any slight change in length dimension, material, etc. would not violate the patent), and should be granted for a very limited time, like 2-5 years.

This would include things like drugs because a molecule doesn't really work the same if something about it is changed slightly (things like enantiomers illustrate this nicely, because it's a slight change that would probably need a different patent anyway). I also think certain design patents that would be eliminated would still be enforceable under fraud legislation--e.g., if it's slightly different but confuses the customer in terms of who it comes from, that's a different issue.

Copyright law needs an overhaul too--nothing longer than 30 years.

Another Simple Solution (1)

tunabomber (259585) | about 2 years ago | (#40632431)

Just cap the number of patents issued each year (to say, 2000), and develop a much more thorough review process to ensure that only the most novel, useful and non-obvious applications are approved. Every patent we issue represents an increased burden on our legal system and a roadblock to other inventors who need to worry about infringing upon it, so it makes sense that the government shouldn't be making an open-ended offer to protect everything that can be protected.
This also means we wouldn't have to continue the futile search for a consistent set of guidelines of what constitutes "novel, useful and non-obvious". Instead we can just settle for deciding whether one invention is more novel, useful and non-obvious than another invention, which should be much easier.

Re:Another Simple Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40632575)

Just cap the number of patents issued each year (to say, 2000), and develop a much more thorough review process to ensure that only the most novel, useful and non-obvious applications are approved.

Hm, sounds like a good plan. I'll assume you have a legally rigorous definition of "novel, useful, and non-obvious" whose objectivity would survive the generations-long entrenchment of entitled old white people with money they can spend frivolously on lawyers hungry for blood in an attempt to convince the judges and congresscritters they bribed to maintain their power, then?

Re:Another Simple Solution (1)

Grond (15515) | about 2 years ago | (#40632913)

Instead we can just settle for deciding whether one invention is more novel, useful and non-obvious than another invention, which should be much easier.

Really? How easy do you think it is to compare the novelty, utility, and non-obviousness of a new drug with the novelty, utility, and non-obviousness of a better mousetrap? Or a new metal alloy? Or a new kind of medical imaging device? Or a new method for making smaller integrated circuits? These are completely unquantifiable and highly subjective comparisons.

Too much dirty money involved in patents (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40632471)

Judge writes:

One of his thoughts would be to require a patent holder to produce the patented item within a certain time, to cut out patent trolls.

Why this will NEVER happen:

1) The United States Supreme Court recently ruled that politicians can accept an unlimited amount of lobbying money and they don't have to tell anybody about who is paying them off.

2) The biggest multi-billion dollar companies are in the patent troll business (i.e. Microsoft and Apple, to name just two such companies)

I am somebody who is very interested in open source operating systems and software, but I will NEVER volunteer my free time and expertise to help in such projects because Microsoft is forcing companies to way them money for MY hard work. I don't work for free, and I won't be giving Microsoft my free labour, so no open source software from ME!

References:
http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/07/two-vendors-pay-microsoft-for-the-right-to-sell-cheap-android-tablets/ [arstechnica.com]

Re:Too much dirty money involved in patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40632887)

Again a bullshit patent. Want to send 1000-char message over SMS. What do you do? (1) Break it up, (2) decorate with reassembly metadata, (3) send the fragments, (4) reassemble the fragments. The whole fucking internet works on this principle. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maximum_transmission_unit

The idea is literally thousands of years old: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pagination

"use sof" ?? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40632547)

It would be easy to blame the editor, but cut 'em some slack. The typo checker was shut down due to a patent dispute filed by Apple for the way it used rounded letters.

Hard to get past his defense of pharma patents... (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 2 years ago | (#40632583)

[quote]The prime example of an industry that really does need such protection is pharmaceuticals. The reasons are threefold. ...

  Second, and related, the patent term begins to run when the invention is made and patented, yet the drug testing, which must be completed before the drug can be sold, often takes 10 or more years. This shortens the effective patent term, ...[/quote]

Huhwhat? Big pharma needs patents because they can't exploit the current patent system enough? An article that starts off which such a blatant example of circular reasoning isn't something we should give much credence to, even if the rest of it validates our opinions.

Another idea (5, Insightful)

SoftwareArtist (1472499) | about 2 years ago | (#40632659)

How about this concept. Currently, the default assumption is that anything can be patented. Devices, processes, visual styles, anything. There are a few things that explicitly aren't allowed to be patented (such as mathematical algorithms - yes, laugh everyone), but as long as something doesn't fall into one of those categories, and meets some very minimal requirements (being original, useful, and non-obvious to a patent lawyer), it's patentable.

Let's reverse it. By default, things cannot be patented. The government shouldn't give out monopolies by default. Then we should consider specific categories and decide whether there's an overwhelming social interest in letting that type of invention - and only that type - be patented. And we should use a very high standard for making that decision. If there's any uncertainty in whether patents for a category of invention would really help society, we should err against giving out monopolies.

Re:Another idea (1)

Grond (15515) | about 2 years ago | (#40632869)

One problem with line-drawing like that is that it leads to edge cases and gaming the system. So, for example, if you say that widgets are patentable, then you'll get the companies that make widget accessories, alloys used in making widgets, business methods involving the sale of widgets, devices that compete with widgets, etc all claiming that their inventions likewise need protection. Or if you say that drugs are patentable then you'll get companies that make medical devices, vaccines, biologic drugs, gene therapies, diagnostic tests, drug discovery methods, laboratory equipment, etc all saying that their inventions should likewise be patentable since they either fulfill the same purpose (treating disease) or are closely related to the pharmaceutical industry. And it spirals out of control from there.

Further, we have international treaty obligations that would make it very difficult to go to such a restrictive view of patentable subject matter. Not to mention the millions of patents that would either still be in force for a couple decades or, if they were retroactively revoked, would result in a massive takings claim against the government.

And anyway, the natural experiment that happened between the US (biotech patentable) and Europe & Japan (more restrictive view of patenting biotech) has shown that taking an expansive view of patentable subject matter seems to be beneficial.

being original, useful, and non-obvious to a patent lawyer

This is a misstatement. It must be non-obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the art at the time of the invention. And patents are examined by people with technical backgrounds, not patent lawyers.

Re:Another idea (1)

SoftwareArtist (1472499) | about 2 years ago | (#40633059)

One problem with line-drawing like that is that it leads to edge cases and gaming the system.

We already have that problem. It's just that currently everything defaults to being on one side of the line, and I'm proposing it should default to the other side of the line.

Further, we have international treaty obligations that would make it very difficult to go to such a restrictive view of patentable subject matter

Treaties, like everything else in the world of law, can be changed. Let's figure out what the law (including treaties) should be, and then try to make it that way.

And anyway, the natural experiment that happened between the US (biotech patentable) and Europe & Japan (more restrictive view of patenting biotech) has shown that taking an expansive view of patentable subject matter seems to be beneficial.

Many people would dispute your conclusions, but putting that aside: all it shows is that patents are beneficial for this one specific type of invention. It doesn't automatically follow that they're also beneficial for computer algorithms, user interface gestures, business methods, agricultural techniques, or anything else. Each of those needs to be considered independently.

This is a misstatement. It must be non-obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the art at the time of the invention.

It's known as "irony". But the reality is that patent lawyers have defined the word "obvious" to mean something completely different from what it means to most people. A patent lawyer once defined it for me as follows: "If you had to solve an engineering problem to do something, then it wasn't obvious." If it was a trivially easy engineering problem, and any competent engineer could have solved it in two minutes and produced a similar solution, that's irrelevant. That is what patent lawyers consider "obvious" to mean, and it's not what most people "having ordinary skill in the art" would consider it to mean.

Re:Another idea (1)

pipedwho (1174327) | about 2 years ago | (#40634363)

It's known as "irony". But the reality is that patent lawyers have defined the word "obvious" to mean something completely different from what it means to most people. A patent lawyer once defined it for me as follows: "If you had to solve an engineering problem to do something, then it wasn't obvious." If it was a trivially easy engineering problem, and any competent engineer could have solved it in two minutes and produced a similar solution, that's irrelevant. That is what patent lawyers consider "obvious" to mean, and it's not what most people "having ordinary skill in the art" would consider it to mean.

This pretty much sums up the entire problem with the patent system: scope creep. Patents would not be a problem if the underlying patented methods couldn't otherwise be developed/discovered by someone else without a copy of the patent in front of them. The problem arises because far too many (most?) patented methods are routinely independently developed by engineers that have never seen or heard of the original patent in question. And in many cases with trivial effort / time / cost for anyone with ordinary skill in their respective fields of discipline.

Re:Another idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40632911)

Why can't a mathematical algorithm be patented? What if I make a mathematical algorithm to track motion in a video for example? Sure that's a process, but the underlaying algorithm might have other uses and I may want to patent it by itself not necessarily in that context. I don't understand the issue there. You act like the fact that something is based on logic means it already exists before anyone creates it, that's just not true.

USE IT OR LOSE IT (3, Insightful)

emagery (914122) | about 2 years ago | (#40632661)

We need this; use your patent or lose it... period. I understand rewarding an inventor who has made the world a little better through invention by giving him or her (or it, as the case may be) the initial windfall of profit from it... but sitting on patents as a means of thwarting competition, et cetera... should be criminal for the damage it does the world.

pharmaceuticals are an odd case (2)

khipu (2511498) | about 2 years ago | (#40632663)

So pharmaceuticals are the poster child for the patent system.

If you want pharmaceuticals to be developed by private industry, then patents are essential.

However, pharmaceuticals are also a poster child for bad patents because we don't really have a free market in drugs; drugs have a few large buyers, and the largest is the government. This means that drug prices are subject to rent seeking and price manipulation. In addition, drug companies have little incentive to explore finding cheap and effective cures, they want expensive long term maintenance drugs for lifestyle-related illnesses of the rich; in different words, for pharmaceuticals, market incentives and desirable outcomes don't necessarily coincide.

So, although patents are quite effective at financing drug development in the narrow sense, they tend to encourage the development of the wrong kind of drugs for the wrong kind of people. It might be cheaper for everybody to drop patent protection for drugs altogether and have the government and researchers choose what drugs to develop and then place them in the public domains after development.

Re:pharmaceuticals are an odd case (1)

lbbros (900904) | about 2 years ago | (#40632925)

To be honest, developing a drug is really expensive. And the most expensive part is not the actual R&D, but the testing (the phase I-II-III clinical trials). In particular, phase III clinical trials are one of the largest money sink in the whole operation.

And you have consider that only a fraction of the developed drugs make it to the market for a number of reason (efficacy not larger than existing alternatives, side effects, etc.).

Re:pharmaceuticals are an odd case (2)

rodarson2k (1122767) | about 2 years ago | (#40633143)

I suppose this is as good a time as any for me to go on a rant:

A few weeks ago, I got to sit in on a few meetings on the emerging topic of "Bio-Similars". A biosimilar is a generic version of a drug, but not a small molecule drug like all of the generics you see - a generic version of a biotech product. A protein, antibody, or what have you. Some of these patents are about to expire, and some of these drugs are worth billions of dollars in sales.

The FDA finally opened up a way to apply for them, buried somewhere in the health care act. So how do you get one?

0) Make your own version of the original, then submit to the FDA AND the original company all of your documentation on the manufacturing process/etc.
1) Buy millions of dollars worth of the original drug
2) Do clinical trials to prove they're the same

Problems:
0) You're going to get sued for patents on EVERY step of the process, and you're disclosing everything to your competitor.
1) The original manufacturer will not let you buy millions of dollars worth of the original drug. They will claim that the supply is exhausted, or any of a million other things. You have to set up shell companies to buy thousands of dollars worth of the drug and then pool it all together later.
2) It's actually quite a bit more difficult to prove that two things are the same than to prove that one thing works, statistically.

Until something changes, there will not be a license granted for a generic version of any biotech-created drug. It's easier to get a completely new patent on the exact same thing (after you find some way to make an exact copy in a way that is "new" and "non-obvious" enough to get patented...). Except that's something that the original company will have already done as soon as their first patent expired.

Were I dictator: (2)

NoobixCube (1133473) | about 2 years ago | (#40632951)

The way I would have the patent system work, were I in a position to change it, is thus:

A patent application would grant five years of exclusivity prior to implementation. If the company implemented the patented idea before the five years expired, this period would end.

The next phase would be a further five years of market protection. No company would be permitted to sell a product or service using this patent for a further five years from market launch of the patentor's idea, without paying appropriate royalties or licensing fees.

If the first period expires without a marketable product being released, nobody gets the market protection. This cuts down on patent-trolls who just store up patents for later weaponisation, and encourages constant innovation and development. Five years is a huge lead time to have on your competition in the market, huge, and to try and snag this five year lead, developers will always want to be the one to launch the next big thing.

Re:Were I dictator: (3, Interesting)

NoobixCube (1133473) | about 2 years ago | (#40632973)

To construct this, I built it the way you would the rules of a game, or the rules text on, say, a Magic: the Gathering card. Sometimes i think game designers should write the law, because their job is to ensure everything interacts predictably.

Re:Were I dictator: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40633987)

I think you need to decrease the time limits from 5 years total, with an actual implementation at the time of the patent.

Better yet, limit damages to the *actual cost of development to the specific entity holding the patent.* Not acquisition costs, but the costs to the current holder. E.g., if you buy a patent but didn't develop it, you can't claim any damages.

Re:Were I dictator: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40634233)

The time period should be categorized by industry. 10 years for metallurgy, 2 years for software, 1 year for "visual styles", etc....

Working requirements (2)

Grond (15515) | about 2 years ago | (#40633029)

What Posner is suggesting is called a working requirement, and many countries have it already (e.g. Turkey and India). Working requirements are necessarily so full of exceptions and holes that they are almost completely ineffective. There are many legitimate reasons why a patentee might not be able to produce the patented invention (beyond, perhaps, a prototype or demonstration). The patentee may need additional funding. It might need regulatory approval. It might be waiting for upstream suppliers. It might require an as-yet uninvented technology to make the invention practical or profitable. The market might not exist yet or might not be large enough to make the invention profitable. It might be building large, expensive factories. It might be negotiating with licensees or still looking for licensees. The list goes on.

So, you might say, let's just set a strict deadline and to heck with the excuses and exemptions. The result, then, is that the system favors technologies and industries with low startup costs and quick time to market and disfavors technologies and industries with high startup costs and long lead times. I'm not sure we want to encourage even more short-term thinking in business than we have already.

Re:Working requirements (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40633373)

Yes, but if you can't actually produce something that you have "invented" then society is not really getting any benefit from it. Patents are there to encourage the development of things that are useful - not to allow people to make money. Making money is just the way we encourage what we want. No actual use = no benefit = no patent. Simple.

Non obvious is the key (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about 2 years ago | (#40633163)

I hate software patents, I really hate software patents. They are a giant parasitical suck on the vitality of the tech industry but I believe there is one area where they are potentially good and that is in the really non obvious which is already a requirement for getting a patent; a requirement that seems to be obviously ignored. So if you come up with an algorithm that factors 1024 bit numbers with a 486 in 2 seconds then maybe you deserve a patent. If you make a one click checkout then holy smokes no patent!

Also there should be a limited transferability to patents. Some sort of rule that the only owners of a patent can be either the original inventor or someone who is equipped to implement it; basically no patent lawyers. As part of the reform there should be a requirement that the people named on the patent should get a percentage of any money made from the patent regardless of their relationship to the owners. So when the Nortel patents were bought for billions the people on the patents should have received a percent or two.

Lastly there should be a bureau of patent invalidation which has no relationship with the original patent office. All they do is quickly review and kill patents. The problem now is that after years of fighting in court and probable settlements the patent might be killed, too little, too late.

Let's actually think it through... (1)

Absolut187 (816431) | about 2 years ago | (#40633409)

It is scary to hear a respected judge like Posner saying such silly things.

The proposal to add a manufacturing requirement is just awful.

First of all, the quid-pro-quo of the patent system is that the patentee must DISCLOSE the invention in exchange for exclusive rights, not MANUFACTURE.
(And a job for Congress, NOT the Judiciary, but that's a whole nother can of worms).

Let's discuss the details of this proposal, shall we?

Who EXACTLY has to be the manufacturing entity? Does it have to be the inventor himself? What about a licensee?

Will there be an exception for universities? And if so, will it only apply to non-profit research institutions?

What about garage inventors?

What about an inventor who just enjoys inventing, and doesn't want to run a manufacturing company?

When must manufacturing commence? What if the invention is so ahead-of-its time that its not commercially viable until 5 or 10 years from issuance?

These are just some of the many problems with this proposal.

If the problem is "too many patents" then a better solution is to increase the rigor of the examination process.
For example, increase the threshold for obviousness, require better disclosures, etc.

Re:Let's actually think it through... (1)

pipedwho (1174327) | about 2 years ago | (#40634471)

For example, increase the threshold for obviousness, require better disclosures, etc.

You'd have thought that these would have already been requirements. But, sadly, you're far too correct.

And it is indeed scary to hear a judge make a ridiculous statement like this, when the real problems (and therefore solutions) are almost completely unrelated to what he perceives them to be.

Stating the obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40633429)

Kudos for the judge! It is irresponsible to give exclusive rights to a patent holder (such as a pharmaceutical/biotech company) for a discovery and the see them sit on it for the next 20 years because the market for the potential product is less than 300 million dollars. Meanwhile, people die because no other company can use the discovery to make a product unless they pay huge amounts of money to the patent holder, which most startups cannot afford to do. This is an actual real life example, and the name of the company begins with A and ends in N.

sex uwith a h0mo (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40634547)

give other people project returns posts. There7ore backward and said operating systems take a look at the can really ask of SURVEYS SHOW THAT website. Mr. de a previously
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...