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Website Pitches Scientific Solutions In Search of Problems

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the check-with-jay-z dept.

Businesses 39

ananyo writes "In this age of social media, innovators eager to develop high-tech products are tapping into the wisdom of crowds to solve problems, with crowdsourcing sites such as Innocentive and Kaggle offering cash prizes for answers to science or data questions. The launch this week of a site called Marblar is turning this model on its head. Marblar gives scientists a space to tout solutions that have yet to find their problem (it's not in beta, despite the redirect). Members, who can come from any background, are invited to publicly discuss potential uses for patented discoveries made in research laboratories that as yet may not have led to real-world applications. Every suggestion at Marblar is posted on a public forum alongside video interviews with the scientists and explanations of their work. Website visitors suggest applications and vote them up and down, and the scientists behind the discovery are encouraged to take part in the discussion. Popular suggestions are recognized with a points system (denoted by marbles — hence the name) and, in some cases, small cash prizes. A trial run seems to have been pretty successful."

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Is a new use grounds for a new patent claim? (3)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | about 2 years ago | (#41746607)

Is this just a giveaway to the patent owners?

Re:Is a new use grounds for a new patent claim? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41746771)

Which would you rather see: patents being licensed to the benefit of the licensor and licensee, or unlicensed patents falling into the hands of patent trolls to be used for litigation at a later date?

The former is probably more viable to the economy, even if the patents are flimsy, because it offers greater predictability. It may also serve to drive royalties down since alternative solutions to problems will gain better recognition. There is also a potential to expose patents based upon trivial ideas or prior art since there will be more eyes examining them.

Re:Is a new use grounds for a new patent claim? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41747515)

The problem with that is that every one becomes a patent troll when buisness is bad.

I don't get you (2)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 2 years ago | (#41749559)

Which would you rather see: patents being licensed to the benefit of the licensor and licensee, or unlicensed patents falling into the hands of patent trolls to be used for litigation at a later date?

What makes you think that the patents in question won't fall into the hands of patent trolls at a later date?

Take this scenario for example -

I have 3 patents under my name, and I am earning some royalties out of the patents that I owned.

I feel that my patents can do more but unfortunately I can't think of anything else right now.

So ... I tout my patents on Marblar and I, the patent holders, got free suggestions from visitors to the site.

I shift through all those suggestions and found some gems. I immediately start to license my patents to cover the new fields that I hadn't thought of.

Who's winning? Me, the patent holder.

I'm making more money.

Who's losing? The world - now that someone out there has to pay more to do stuffs that was used to do without having to pay anybody.

And that's not all ...

Because my patents are worth MORE with the new applications, some patent troll offers to pay me a lot more for my 3 patents.

I took the $$ and they got my patents, and they immediately file lawsuits against any Tom, Dick and Harry that they can locate.

The existence of Marblar isn't going to help protect patents from patent trolls. It may have an adverse effect - by making patents worth more, and thus, more inventors might start considering selling their patents to the patent trolls.

Re:Is a new use grounds for a new patent claim? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41746935)

Prior Art. Hint: One of these solutions is 42.

"I have this useless toy..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41746619)

" me market it."

Re:"I have this useless toy..." (0)

Tablizer (95088) | about 2 years ago | (#41746777)

There's already plenty of pr0n on the inter-tubes, dude

Third post (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41746623)


Would crowdsourcing really work? (1)

physlord (1790264) | about 2 years ago | (#41746707)

I'm a little skeptic about this idea. The specific skills and knowledge needed to actually understand some concepts and furthermore, the creativity for using that understanding, is not a characteristic in most crowds.

Re:Would crowdsourcing really work? (3, Insightful)

xs650 (741277) | about 2 years ago | (#41746905)

I'm a little skeptic too, but they don't need an intelligent crowd, they only need a crowd with the right intelligent person in the crowd.

Excellent! (0)

Tablizer (95088) | about 2 years ago | (#41746759)

Somebody may finally find a use for my peanut-butter-powered horse launcher!

Re:Excellent! (0)

xs650 (741277) | about 2 years ago | (#41746917)

Apple already has that patented. The iHorse Launcher.

wisdom of crowds (1)

BradleyUffner (103496) | about 2 years ago | (#41746793)

Wisdom is the last thing I think of when I think of crowds.

Re:wisdom of crowds (3, Informative)

nnnnnnn (1611817) | about 2 years ago | (#41747209)

Right, because 1 person is better than a 1000 at problem solving and arriving at the correct solution. Are you that 1 person by any chance?

----At a 1906 country fair in Plymouth, eight hundred people participated in a contest to estimate the weight of a slaughtered and dressed ox. Statistician Francis Galton observed that the mean of all eight hundred guesses, at 1197 pounds, was closer than any of the individual guesses to the true weight of 1198 pounds.[4] This has contributed to the insight in cognitive science that a crowd's individual judgments can be modeled as a probability distribution of responses with the mean centered near the true mean of the quantity to be estimated.[3]

----"Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" was a simple show in terms of structure....she could poll the studio audience, which would immediately cast its votes by computer. Those random crowds of people with nothing better to do on a weekday afternoon than sit in a TV studio picked the right answer 91 percent of the time.

----The sociologist Kate H. Gordon asked two hundred students to rank items by weight, and found that the group's "estimate" was 94 percent accurate, which was better than all but five of the individual guesses. In another experiment students were asked to look at ten piles of buckshot—each a slightly different size than the rest—that had been glued to a piece of white cardboard, and rank them by size. This time, the group's guess was 94.5 percent accurate. A classic demonstration of group intelligence is the jelly-beans-in-the-jar experiment, in which invariably the group's estimate is superior to the vast majority of the individual guesses. When finance professor Jack Treynor ran the experiment in his class with a jar that held 850 beans, the group estimate was 871. Only one of the fifty-six people in the class made a better guess.

Re:wisdom of crowds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41748039)

I guess it depends if it comes down to answering questions based on not being a retard or having an average IQ, rather than guessing about useless shit

Re:wisdom of crowds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41748055)

--- Every Black Friday, people die.

Re:wisdom of crowds (1)

BorisSkratchunkov (642046) | about 2 years ago | (#41750261)

As a counterpoint, you could consider Solomon Asch's conformity experiments. If enough people believe something to be true, even if it isn't, they can still sway the rest of the group to their position. Crowd wisdom is more or less a matter of consensus among members of a time period and its culture. If you went back to 18th century Europe, I'm pretty positive you would find that 90% of people "correctly" identified blood-letting as a valid form of therapy.

Re:wisdom of crowds (1)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#41751747)

That's one of the advantages of markets. It is financially rewarding to be among the minority running counter to an erroneous consensus.

wait... what? (2)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 2 years ago | (#41747141)

How did they file a patent for an invention if they don't know what they're inventing?

Re:wait... what? (5, Interesting)

nnnnnnn (1611817) | about 2 years ago | (#41747369)

See Gorilla Glass

----Corning experimented with chemically strengthened glass in 1960, as part of an initiative called "Project Muscle". Within a few years it had developed what it named "Chemcor" glass. Corning could find no practical use for the glass at the time and the predecessor of "Gorilla Glass" was never put into mass production, excepting its use in approximately one hundred 1968 Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda race cars, where the reduced weight was key.[5]

In 2006, while developing the first iPhone, Apple discovered that keys placed in a pocket with the prototype could scratch its hard plastic surface – and resolved to find a glass sufficiently scratch-resistant to eliminate the problem.[6][7] When Steve Jobs subsequently contacted Wendell Weeks, the CEO of Corning told him of the material the company had developed in the 1960s and subsequently mothballed. Despite the CEO's initial concern over whether the company could manufacture sufficient quantities for the product debut, Jobs convinced Weeks to produce the glass, and Corning's factory in Harrodsburg, Kentucky supplied the screens for the product's release in June 2007.[5] Corning further developed the material for a variety of smartphones and other consumer electronics devices for a range of companies.[8][3][9]

Re:wait... what? (1)

AnotherAnonymousUser (972204) | about 2 years ago | (#41748691)

Mod parent up!

Re:wait... what? (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about 2 years ago | (#41750209)

I find it hard to believe that highly scratch-resistant glass didn't find any other uses between 1960 and 2006. Presumably it was very expensive or something?

Re:wait... what? (1)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | about 2 years ago | (#41750653)

Chicken before the egg, as with many things. It is expensive to produce because not much is made, there is low demand because it is expensive to produce. The CEO seemed to lack vision, and never made the leap to find uses for it and reduce cost.

Re:wait... what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41752817)

It was ordered for a few safety glasses, but was abandoned because of the way it would fail on impact (explosive shards). It was also more expensive.
Wired just wrote an awesome article on it:

Re:wait... what? (1)

relikx (1266746) | about 2 years ago | (#41748043)

They specifically point out patents made in research labs so I'm hoping these are cases in materials sciences, biochemistry, etc.

Since we're talking about the internet here, I'm reminded of an article where the physics of how a cat licks water when observed in ultra slow-motion cameras. Although I have fears of patent trolls muddying this website, hopefully it can work effectively.

Re:wait... what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41749649)

Trolls like Intellectual Ventures also claim they are research labs [] : "Intellectual Ventures Laboratory discovers, invents & develops advanced technology solutions in a wide variety of fields"

Re:wait... what? (1)

Xest (935314) | about 2 years ago | (#41749925)

Easy, you just be as broad as possible and hope that some day you can apply it to some infringement claim by making up a load of nonsense as to why it's the same.

This is why I'm going to patent "A thing to do stuff" and win the patent wars.

XML (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41748375)

What problems does it solve? Anything? (sound of crickets).

Re:XML (1)

Richy_T (111409) | about 2 years ago | (#41748699)

csv for starters.

Re:XML (1)

irkmaan (1725824) | about 2 years ago | (#41748701)

Having recently worked on a project where I had to produce fixed-length fields in ascii files, XML doesn't sound so bad any more.

Re:XML (1)

Let's All Be Chinese (2654985) | about 2 years ago | (#41751465)

Having worked on a project done in XML (XML-in-SOAP actually, for double the XML, without specifying where and how to switch to quoted-xml-in-xml input), sort-of, by people who obviously had no fscking clue about specifying anything, much less interop standards, I'm pretty sure that fixed-field ascii would've been a massive improvement over that steaming pile of crap.

There are very definite requirements to specifying interop formats, and the things XML imposes are almost completely orthogonal, making it not a solution for the problem it's supposed to solve.

What you need is people who understand what interoperability entails and how to specify it, in any format. Those are very rare, and none of them are at the W3C. Just read their specifications: They're incredibly one-sided, written entirely for the "website author", and not for the browser writer. No wonder no two browsers act entirely the same on identical input.

There's a big secret that most spec writers fail to grasp, but I'll let you in on it here: For a computer interop format to be of any use, you need both an encoder and a decoder. So, provide reference encoders and decoders along with the spec, so people can check their implementations.

Ideally also provide faulty input so that it may be rejected. For an even more advanced approach there are model checkers that take a state machine representing your protocol and tell you where it'll break down.

But fail to do even the most basic reference designing, and you get something that may never parse. As was the case with above "SOAP" project. XML actually seems to have worsened the interop hell, as well as made processing and storage requirements worse. So, on balance, it's snake oil.

Protections... (1)

skelly33 (891182) | about 2 years ago | (#41748911)

... are there any protections for the "crowd" in case one of the scientists loses their marbles?


Re:Protections... (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 years ago | (#41749615)

Ugh. You know that trope where someone is taking a drink when they hear something funny and shoot said beverage out of their nose? I have a cold.

Marblar! (2)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 years ago | (#41749593)

Marblar sounds like a great marblar. I was just talking to Marblar the other marblar, who has always wanted a marblar for his marblar.

Re:Marblar! (1)

RealGene (1025017) | about 2 years ago | (#41750211)

“Marblar, these marblars want to change your marblar. They don't want Marblar or any of these marblars to live here because it's bad for their marblar. They use Marblar to try and force marblars to believe they're marblar. If you let them stay here, they will build marblars and marblars. They will take all your marblars and replace them with Marblar. These marblar have no good marblar to live on Marblar, so they must come here to Marblar. Please, let these marblars stay where they can grow and prosper without any marblars, marblars, or marblars.” -- Kyle Broflovski

Re:Marblar! (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 2 years ago | (#41758743)

"Marblar sounds like a great marblar."

It's a dumb name. Sure, "" was already taken. But they could have come up with something better than just a bad mis-spelling.

From the makers of.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41749943)

unpaid science, we bring you are our latest creation: unpaid applied science

they want.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41751555)

to harvest our marbles as a raw material to produce marblar. Surely, marblar is some evil compound made up of everyones unpaid marbles..

Reminds me of the brain-sucking bug from Starship Troopers

Sooo, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41752163)

Does this mean I can patent my problems to charge these scientists a licensing fee for their solutions?

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