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White House Announces Reforms Targeting Patent Trolls

timothy posted about a year ago | from the setting-the-tone dept.

Patents 124

andy1307 writes "According to Politico (and, paywalled, at The Wall Street Journal), the White House on Tuesday [released] plans to announce a set of executive actions President Barack Obama will take that are aimed at reining in certain patent-holding firms, known as 'patent trolls' to their detractors, amid concerns that the firms are abusing the patent system and disrupting competition. The plan includes five executive actions and seven legislative recommendations. They include requiring patent holders and applicants to disclose who really owns and controls the patent, changing how fees are awarded to the prevailing parties in patent litigation, and protecting consumers with better protections against being sued for patent infringement."

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What is patentable? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about a year ago | (#43903991)

Do these measures address arguably the most fundamental problem: too many things are patentable in the US and patents are awarded too easily in the first place?

Re:What is patentable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43904049)

Yep. This is the problem. I have no love for patent trolls, but if you provide a breeding ground, it happens. Patent Office: You Need To Get Better At What You Do.

What is spendable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43904115)

Yep. This is the problem. I have no love for patent trolls, but if you provide a breeding ground, it happens. Patent Office: You Need To Get Better At What You Do.

MOR MONEY!

Re:What is spendable? (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about a year ago | (#43906229)

More Money! [youtube.com]

Re:What is patentable? (1)

Vlad_the_Inhaler (32958) | about a year ago | (#43904305)

That would cost money. Taxpayers' $$$. So they offload the problem onto the courts and the consumers end up paying for it that way.

Re:What is patentable? (4, Insightful)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | about a year ago | (#43904417)

Not necessarily tax payers dollars. In fact, the patents already force people to pay hidden taxes on products. You could charge the patent trolls more for their patents, have a "flood-penalty" for entities holding more than a few patents, etc. It would be extremely unfair to make the tax payers bleed for being ripped off. Punish the wrongdoers, not the victims.

Re:What is patentable? (4, Insightful)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about a year ago | (#43906241)

Not necessarily tax payers dollars. In fact, the patents already force people to pay hidden taxes on products. You could charge the patent trolls more for their patents, have a "flood-penalty" for entities holding more than a few patents, etc. It would be extremely unfair to make the tax payers bleed for being ripped off. Punish the wrongdoers, not the victims.

A related issue is that the USPTO is a net contributor to the budget. They don't even get to use all of the patent examination fees that they generate, with some being "diverted" [wikipedia.org] to the general budget.

A "flood-penalty" along the lines you propose would punish those corporations which generate and use a large number of patents, such as IBM, Toshiba, Siemens, and so forth. A better idea would be to take the ratio of implemented patents (in products produced and marketed by the patent holder) to unimplemented patents (whether licensed to others or not), and use that as the basis for a tax per patent or per unimplemented patent more than a few years old. This would still hit patent licensors such as ARM, but if the tax were relatively low, it would not hinder them much while the trolls would find it a great inconvenience.

Re:What is patentable? (1)

HiThere (15173) | about a year ago | (#43907705)

Those "corporations which generate and use a large number of patents" generate a HUGE number of trivial, stupid, or even bogus patents BECAUSE there is no "flood penalty". Yes, the ones you mention also generate a large number of reasonable patents. But because of the rules of the game they generate an incredibly large number of stupid and trivial patents. There needs to be SOME sort of "flood penalty". Perhaps it could be partially offset for every item that you produce that you validly claim is using any particular one of the patents (which no patent being allowed to be claimed more than once for the offset), but that seems to be a pernicious incentive to claim trivial patents. Perhaps there could be a limit on the number of patents that you can claim as enforceable. (You get to hold all your patents, but you must list no more than, say, 100, that you are allowed to enforce in that year. You can change the list once a year...or maybe you can switch 3 patents/month after you reach the limit.

I'll admit that the details of how this should be designed are not well thought out. Perhaps patents should be non-transferable, and only issued to some individual human. This, of course, would tend to impact employment contracts, but IIUC the current employment contracts already generally contain extensively overreaching claims on all patents you create while employed. So this probably wouldn't get any worse. But sub-licensing needs to be made explicitly illegal. Each license should need to approval of the inventor. And there should be provision for invalidating a patent (with fines and revocation of prior license agreements) if a non-inventor is listed as the inventor. (Multiple people could be listed as the inventor, if it was the work of a team, but they should each be granted independent license).

Additionally, independent invention should be recognized and allowed, with each of the independent inventors being granted a separate patent. No more arbitrary picking of winners when two or three people invent something independently before a patent was granted. And if four independent inventions occur, the patent should be automatically be invalidated as "obvious to those skilled in the art".

I'll admit that I'm dubious about the entire patent system anyway. It appears to be designed to increase centralization of power and control into as few hands as possible. SOME sort of inventor's bounty needs to be available, but I think patents are a bad idea on how to do that. If I were king, I might put more thought into it, but since I have no implementation authority I haven't puzzled out what the right system should be.

Re:What is patentable? (5, Interesting)

DickBreath (207180) | about a year ago | (#43904537)

There are multiple ways to improve the USPTO without spending taxpayer money.

For example, the USPTO could charge large patent application fees for patent applications that are rejected; but charge low fees for patents that are granted. That would change the incentives for both the examiners and the filers of patent applications. If a patent is later re-examined and is found that it should not have been granted, then there should be an even larger penalty, and additional penalties for litigating based on an invalid patent.

Another approach would be to simply scale up what the patent office is currently doing, but not use so much human labor to do it. Simply throw all patent applications into a large room full of cats with PATENT GRANTED stamps attached to their feet.

Re:What is patentable? (2)

Infiniti2000 (1720222) | about a year ago | (#43904655)

That makes no sense. Application fees occur at the time application, typically many years before rejection or approval is known. Instead, perhaps apply a large Post-processing Rejection Fee and leave the application fees somewhat untouched.

On the other hand, they could look at the provisional application process. Maybe provide a cursory review, require certain fields be filled out so that these unpatentable patents get short-circuited at the beginning. For something that gets initially "rejected" through this new process, require a significant re-application fee.

Re:What is patentable? (2)

thomasw_lrd (1203850) | about a year ago | (#43905001)

A sliding scale patent fee might be useful. If you own a lot a patents or make a lot of money off of the patents you own, you pay more. If you don't already own a patent, then maybe no fee? Or maybe a percentage fee for whatever you make off the patent? A big question in my mind is is the USPTO solvent? Does it require tax payer funds or is it funded completely by the fees? I'm sure I could google it, but I really should get some work done today.

Re:What is patentable? (1)

Score Whore (32328) | about a year ago | (#43905401)

Yeah, let us discourage the creative people who have lots of ideas and are covering new ground from advancing the state of the art and bringing new products, medicines and technologies to society.

Re:What is patentable? (1)

thomasw_lrd (1203850) | about a year ago | (#43905577)

My idea wasn't to discourage people from having a lot of patents, but that if you have a bunch of patents and make a lot of money from them, you can afford to pay more. Oh wait, when you read that way, it's very socialistic. Back to the drawing board.

Re:What is patentable? (5, Interesting)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year ago | (#43905761)

It's property is it not? Then start treating it like property.

TAX IT.

That's not socialist. Property taxes predate socialism but at least 1000 years. So if these people want virtual property created out of thin air then let them pay taxes on it like I do on my house.

Tax it. Assign it a known value. Make it easy to assess tort claims like patent violations and software piracy.

Give some incentive to put things in the public domain after they are no longer worth the tax bill.

Re:What is patentable? (1)

thomasw_lrd (1203850) | about a year ago | (#43905833)

Now that makes even more sense than my original un-thought out plan.

Re:What is patentable? (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | about a year ago | (#43906705)

That a good idea - not only do you pay a yearly tax based on the assigned value, to keep the assessed value realistic, anyone can offer more than the assessed value - if you sell the patent, that's the new value, if you don't, then the value is set to the new value. If they offer 5 or 10 times the value, you either must sell it or it gets assessed at double what they offered.

The first five years, unless a patent is used in litigation, there will be no tax. This protects the small business folks. If you don't want to pay the tax, it becomes public domain.

Re:What is patentable? (1)

Score Whore (32328) | about a year ago | (#43906985)

The alternative to the patent system isn't everything becomes public domain. It's no one tells anyone else what they've discovered. Which is better do you think: a) you need an anti-biotic and you can go to your doctor in your town and get a bottle of penicillin, or b) you need an anti-biotic and you have to travel half way around the world where you are escorted alone into a room where you are fed a pill and then you sit there for two hours while the pill dissolves into your system then you are let leave. If you happen to be unable to afford the travel or any of the other costs you just get to die instead.

The patent system has delivered enormous amounts of social value and allows the middle and lower class access to things that would otherwise be restricted to the wealthiest individuals.

Re:What is patentable? (3, Insightful)

Waffle Iron (339739) | about a year ago | (#43907101)

The alternative to the patent system isn't everything becomes public domain. It's no one tells anyone else what they've discovered.

Yeah, if Amazon hadn't revealed their revolutionary one-click ordering brainstorm to the world on their patent application, then we'd still all be sitting here wondering:

  "How the hell did that Amazon order happen so easily? God, I wish I could figure that out! There must be some trick to it."

Re:What is patentable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43907729)

The patent system has delivered enormous amounts of social value

You are a liar. We have not been without a patent system, so you cannot make such a claim. In order for a bill to become a law, you should have evidence, and what is it that you people are lacking? Evidence.

Also, freedom is more important than social value or safety, so stuff it.

Re:What is patentable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43906899)

>Assign it a known value.

I heard an idea I liked. Have the owner set what he considers it worth. Based on that and his income level, tax it as property. If ANYONE offers that amount or more, sale is compulsory OR a new, higher value must be claimed and back taxes paid.

Re:What is patentable? (4, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year ago | (#43905711)

No one believes that tired old bit of propaganda anymore.

Necessity is the mother of invention, not avarice.

This is the problem when you start treating creative work as "property". You get obscene rhetoric that implies that any restrictions on the virtual land grab is some sort of theft.

Re:What is patentable? (1)

Score Whore (32328) | about a year ago | (#43906913)

What propaganda? That research is expensive? If your itch costs a billion dollars to scratch, you need a billion dollars to scratch it regardless of how necessary you feel it is to scratch.

Re:What is patentable? (5, Interesting)

KingMotley (944240) | about a year ago | (#43905215)

Sure it makes sense, you are sweating the implementation. You could for example charge a large up front Application Fee, that the bulk of it gets refunded if the patent is accepted, or not if it's rejected. Pretty simple.

You make the Rejected Fee large enough and sure as shit you'll see some commercial entities pop up that will pre-scan your patent for less than the reject fee, and make sure all the i's are dotted and t's crossed before they submit it to the USPTO (for a fee of course). This shifts the burden of dealing with junk patents to the free market, and increases the quality of patents the USPTO sees, and with the higher fees, they can even staff better, and now they have an incentive to make sure bad patents get rejected, and like all things, money is a great motivator.

Re:What is patentable? (2)

fast turtle (1118037) | about a year ago | (#43905387)

My kingdom for modpoints. This would actually work and be in line with capitalism in general. Hell the Republicans should be all over this becuase it does two things - creates more industry and reduces governmental interference of business

Re:What is patentable? (4, Insightful)

loneDreamer (1502073) | about a year ago | (#43906367)

Sincerely, I doubt it would work. First, you are adding yet another middleman, increasing practical costs and bureaucracy for no reason. Second, there is a huge incentive for the USPTO to reject things to cash the fee. Third, it would imply a process of appeal that will never be used by the little guy.

I mean, the end result might well be less patents, but the mechanism is equally flawed and a burden for those who should get one. I would love to see less patents around, hell, after reading this [ucla.edu] long paper on the topic I'm convinced no patents are needed at all, even for pharmaceuticals. But unless you abolish patents completely, you need some system that minimizes abuse.

Re:What is patentable? (2)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about a year ago | (#43906087)

...and in the revolving door of free-market and government, there would never be any kind of collusion or bribery to make sure that a patent got through! Genius!

Re:What is patentable? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43906127)

Sure it makes sense, you are sweating the implementation. You could for example charge a large up front Application Fee, that the bulk of it gets refunded if the patent is accepted, or not if it's rejected. Pretty simple.

Actually, that's pretty stupid. Even if you make the cost of filing patents 10 times more expensive, this still won't be prohibitive to trolls who earn millions from abusing patents. For them it's just a little extra cost of doing business.

The small time inventor on the other hand is screwed. Even if they have zero doubt about legitimacy of their filing (which is in most cases impossible) they still won't be able to afford the collateral.

You just made everything worse for the good guys and the bad guys for the most part didn't feel the pinch. In fact the trolls can now approach inventors and buy them out much easier as the average inventor is now stuck behind a paywall.

Re:What is patentable? (1)

Infiniti2000 (1720222) | about a year ago | (#43906349)

That's a terrible idea for two reasons. (1) It kills the little guy. Now, only the big patent trolls or large corporations will be able to afford the fee. (2) Who thinks giving the government an interest-free loan for a several years is a good idea? If it's not interest-free, then who pays for the management of all this money?

Re:What is patentable? (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year ago | (#43904633)

Taxpayers don't make the laws. But the ones that get profit from those patents do. Is not what they will have to expend, but what they stop to win.

Re:What is patentable? (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year ago | (#43905155)

No, it should be offloaded on to the applicants.

Re:What is patentable? (4, Insightful)

gtall (79522) | about a year ago | (#43904315)

No, the President cannot simply change the rules about what is patentable. That would take an Act of Congress. Now if only Congress could produce some worthy Acts instead of sharpening their daggers for the next partisan attacks.

Re:What is patentable? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43904639)

How about demanding that current rules be enforced? We don't need new laws, we just need the current ones enforced.

Re:What is patentable? (3, Informative)

KingMotley (944240) | about a year ago | (#43905279)

The president can quite literally change the rules about what is patentable through an executive order, however, if that would stand up in court would be questionable. The fact that changing patent law wouldn't really go against anything in the constitution directly would probably hold a lot of weight. Of course, if the president is found to have overstepped his bounds, he can always be removed from office for it as well if the offense is big enough.

Re:What is patentable? (5, Insightful)

Luckyo (1726890) | about a year ago | (#43904663)

No. The measures are going to be designed by same people who designed the current patent laws, and therefore will have the same goal: to enforce position of incumbent powerhouses against small disruptors.

Therefore patents will likely be allowed to use as a method of suppressing competition for big companies. However small company use of patents to defend and attack anti-competitive practices will likely be destroyed in the name of "defending against patent trolls".

The actual patent reform would take power from incumbent companies, and as a result will simply not happen.

Re:What is patentable? (1)

melikamp (631205) | about a year ago | (#43907933)

You are almost certainly right, about the motives as well as about the likely effect.

To this I may add, the submitter's bias (or complete lack of effort to present the NPoV) is clear in the blurb. Patent trolls are "disrupting competition"? Really? The whole point of the patent system is to disrupt the competition, by giving out almost life-time exclusive rights for implementing ideas. Yet patent lovers keep repeating the same nonsense: in their world, monopolies spur the competition.

Another piece of nonsense which is not in the blurb, but certainly is in TFA, is the assumption that patents improve innovation. How can they possibly do that? A patented thing can only be improved by the rights holder, usually a very small entity, of which the R&D team is again a tiny fraction. Libre things can be improved and brought to the market by researchers, engineers, and manufacturers anywhere in the world. Even a dummy can understand that the only serious incentive provided by the patent system is to misappropriate as many broad ideas as possible, so that no one can even sneeze without paying royalties.

Wake me up when they start tearing down this house. This law is almost certainly another step backwards for the consumer and the small inventor.

Re:What is patentable? (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year ago | (#43905245)

Do these measures address arguably the most fundamental problem: too many things are patentable in the US and patents are awarded too easily in the first place?

No, because that would be idiotic and stupid. Having one person dictate what is and isn't patentable opens a huge can of worms that can hinder innovation because government cannot adapt to changes and innovations in other fields.

For example, let's say the current patentable stuff includes stuff for a carriage drawn by a horse, given the technology of the day. Now you have a horseless carriage - it's unpatentable. No one foresaw that horseless carriages would become real, but now the government has to get together to declare those are patentable.

Anyhow, IT is not the only sector that has experienced patent wars. Automobiles used to have them all the time - over many things, including the ICE. Go into any field and you'll see that IT is no longer special. Perhaps the latest sector, but calls to reform the patent system have been coming in since the 19th century.

Re:What is patentable? (5, Interesting)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year ago | (#43905797)

> Having one person dictate what is and isn't patentable opens a huge can of worms that can hinder innovation

That is MORONIC.

The lack of a patent does not "hinder innovation". People can still choose to bring new products to market even if they don't get to benefit from a virtual land grab.

You're just repeating the same old tired megacorp propaganda.

Avarice is not the mother of invention.

Re:What is patentable? (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about a year ago | (#43906173)

Having one person dictate what is and isn't patentable opens a huge can of worms

I think you're reading too much into what I wrote that isn't really there.

I am not talking about specific cases, I am talking about general principles and what the scope of patent protection should be. I have no problem with saying that, for example, patents should not apply to any information-based "invention" such as software, business methods, or scientific data. I also think it would be wise not to grant patents for any physical invention whose novelty is primarily or entirely in the information it embodies; for example, you can't just add "on a computer" to an otherwise information-based invention to overcome the intended exclusion.

It doesn't need one person to dictate that these things aren't patentable on a case-by-case basis. Just define what constitutes a patentable invention in a way that isn't absurdly broad. Clearly you can't dictate in advance which specific inventions are patentable, because you'd have to invent everything before it was invented, so you're going to need some sort of generic statement of the scope of patent protection whatever you do (unless you abolish patents altogether, which is a different question).

Re:What is patentable? (1)

Jockle (2934767) | about a year ago | (#43907761)

Having one person dictate what is and isn't patentable opens a huge can of worms that can hinder innovation because government cannot adapt to changes and innovations in other fields.

You're saying that limiting patents or leaving the decision of what is and is not patentable to one person can hinder innovation? And you're talking about patents, a government-enforced monopoly over methods? That is simply too comical; it is patents that are disgusting, not the act of limiting them or making it more difficult for people to obtain them.

Re:What is patentable? (1)

skovnymfe (1671822) | about a year ago | (#43905593)

I'd like it if everything you invent is patentable insofar as you produce a product containing or consisting of your invention, and the moment you stop doing so the patent becomes null and void.

"reining" (5, Funny)

sessamoid (165542) | about a year ago | (#43904001)

"aimed at reigning in certain patent-holding firms"

"Reining", not "reigning". Think horses, not kings.

Re:"reining" (0)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#43904283)

Are you sure? This is the president of the United States we're talking about...

Re:"reining" (3, Funny)

SpaghettiPattern (609814) | about a year ago | (#43904297)

"aimed at reigning in certain patent-holding firms"

"Reining", not "reigning". Think horses, not kings.

Shirley you mean "raining".

Re:"reining" (3, Funny)

Dishevel (1105119) | about a year ago | (#43904755)

I do not mean raining and don't call me Shirley.

Re:"reining" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43904363)

Oh, I don't know, some of the solutions applied to Kings might be well applied to patent trolls. Beheading would be a reasonable and modest solution to the problems they make.

Re:"reining" (2)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year ago | (#43904707)

"aimed at reigning in certain patent-holding firms"

"Reining", not "reigning". Think horses, not kings.

The king reigns because he holds the reins.

But did you lose your loose change? And can you tow a line to where people can toe it?

Key words (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43904021)

"the White House" ... "certain... firms"...

Translation: if you have the wrong politics, we don't want you making money.

Re:Key words (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43904881)

This will not apply to google, apple, or facebook.

Huh? (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about a year ago | (#43904025)

... and protecting consumers with better protections against being sued for patent infringement.

How's that new? I thought consumers were exempt from these type of lawsuits.
Should I have been reading patents before wasting money on my iPhone?

Re:Huh? (5, Informative)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about a year ago | (#43904111)

The you clearly haven't read the law.

Section 271 of Title 35:

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this title, whoever without authority makes, uses, offers to sell, or sells any patented invention, within the United States or imports into the United States any patented invention during the term of the patent therefor, infringes the patent.

The "uses" part covers customers who have bought the infringing product. It is not common to go after the customers but it is legal and there are examples.

Re:Huh? (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about a year ago | (#43904207)

... you clearly haven't read the law.

Why does that make me feel enlightened?

Re:Huh? (4, Informative)

devjoe (88696) | about a year ago | (#43905077)

The you clearly haven't read the law.

Section 271 of Title 35:

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this title, whoever without authority makes, uses, offers to sell, or sells any patented invention, within the United States or imports into the United States any patented invention during the term of the patent therefor, infringes the patent.

The "uses" part covers customers who have bought the infringing product. It is not common to go after the customers but it is legal and there are examples.

As an example of going after customers, see the story about patent trolls extorting money from business who use scan-to-email functionality [slashdot.org] . There are more recent stories on this subject, but this one from January is what I can find right now.

Re:Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43906123)

No kidding! I would let them take me to court and reach out to Xerox for help or sue them just to get them into the fight.

Re:Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43905231)

The "uses" part covers customers who have bought the infringing product.

Thats the fun for the Law: in a language you can mostly find different meanings for the same word.

In this case, is the person manufacturing something knowingly incoorporating a patented something the "user", or is the consumer who just bought the product to wield it the "user" of the patent ?

My guts tell me its the former, not the latter. But than again, I regard the Law as a roulette: absolutily anything can come outof it. :-\

Re:Huh? (4, Informative)

earlzdotnet (2788729) | about a year ago | (#43904277)

... and protecting consumers with better protections against being sued for patent infringement.

How's that new? I thought consumers were exempt from these type of lawsuits. Should I have been reading patents before wasting money on my iPhone?

Do you not remember that case of the people who "invented wifi" in patent form? They went around suing small businesses using wifi. They did an interview where they were asked "have you gone after any home users?" to which they replied "not at this point".

No one is safe from the reach of their filth. It's just that suing home users probably isn't profitable. I would be curious though as to what would happen if you acquired an obvious patent and tried to sue a politician with it

Re:Huh? (1)

FunPika (1551249) | about a year ago | (#43904435)

That depends, how much punitive damages could they possibly get on it? If its anything like copyright infringement (RIAA suing people for downloading music), it probably would be profitable for a patent troll with a patent that the iPhone infringes to try to sue all iPhone owners. IANAL, but would they even be able to pull something like have a court order the carriers to release the information of all known iPhone users on their network so they would have their list of targets?

Re:Huh? (1)

HiThere (15173) | about a year ago | (#43907837)

I think you're confusing copyright and patent law. I'll admit that you might just be drawing an analogy, however.

OTOH, remember that the RIAA bought special laws that gave them the right to claim those huge damages. I'll grant that they were strengthened by (corrupt? stupid?) court decisions, but the older forms of the copyright law would not have enabled them to have a profitable business suing people.

The (corrupt? stupid?) court decisions that I'm aware of were the ones that allowed ephemeral copies to be considered the same as permanent copies. I suspect that this was actually a stupid decision, but I don't find this certain. (I believe that those were eventually thrown out, but not until after a large body of precedent was established that could not have been formed without them. And the precedent was largely maintained...IIUC much of it was formally independent of the original ruling, even though the decisions that established it were based on the original ruling.

OTOH IANAL. I could easily have misunderstood the details of what was going on. Perhaps the courts aren't really as corrupt and stupid as they appear. (But consider what's involved in rewriting some old code that uses some subroutines that were written in assembler. Perhaps if I actually understood their problems I'd be more sympathetic. But from my point of view it looks as if calling them stupid is giving them the benefit of the doubt.)

Re:Huh? (1)

loneDreamer (1502073) | about a year ago | (#43906417)

I would be curious though as to what would happen if you acquired an obvious patent and tried to sue a politician with it

The obvious would happen. You would lose, but it would probably not change much for the common guy. The main problem on your train of though is that you are expecting a rational, constitutional, response. Real life allows for solutions that are neither.

Suck my kiss! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43904039)

Hope and change, mother fuckers! Bend over and suck Obama the Magic Negro's big black cock!

I'm not sure their the problem (4, Interesting)

gr8_phk (621180) | about a year ago | (#43904079)

I've been thinking patent trolls are more a symptom of the problems. I see as reasonable:
1) You don't need to produce a product to have a patent (think small inventors looking for partners).
2) Patents should be transferable (can sell them)
3) You can sue for infringement

Simple as that you can now have companies that buy patents and sue for infringement. I suspect the real issue is #2 - if they are non-transferable then the inventor will have to license them. I think there would still be some troll law firms that represent a pool of inventors, but they'd have to share the "profits" and I suspect it would be less of a problem.
Another issue is probably the duration - 20 years is a long time for a patent, but primarily they should not be transferable.

I would argue that they should not be transferable from inventor to employer either, but that's a bit off topic - short version: your employment papers might include automatic licensing of inventions to the company under some terms. The US does not recognize companies as inventors - and rightly so IMHO.

Re:I'm not sure their the problem (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43904601)

All that is needed is "new" laws on Champerty and Trial-by-Combat, and patent trolling could become a new spectator sport! What could possibly go wrong?

Re:I'm not sure their the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43904675)

Your idea does not work :(

I think there was one a few years ago where the real owner of the patent just hired a known troll firm.

Also the real root of the problem is these things are treated as assets. In a legal way they are. So they are sold off with the office furniture. Otherwise companies would never 'go away' and just become zombies anyway.

Re:I'm not sure their the problem (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about a year ago | (#43904823)

The response to your proposal that patents cannot be sold: "Since I can't sell my patent to you, I'll just grant you an exclusive, lifetime license to the patent for any use for X dollars instead."

If you can license a patent, then it's effectively transferable, and no profit sharing needs to be taking place, nor could we expect profit sharing to act as a deterrent.

The real problem is that unpatentable items are being granted patents. Algorithms (and data, for that matter, such as genetic sequences, since that's what trade secret rules are intended to protect) shouldn't be capable of being protected by patents in the first place, and even if they were, there are a number of obvious ideas being granted patents. The "one-click" patent is probably the most well known of these, but it's merely one among tens or hundreds of thousands being granted by patent examiners who are either out of their depth or have grown far too lenient.

Re:I'm not sure their the problem (1)

ketomax (2859503) | about a year ago | (#43904913)

Wouldn't the drones (incorporated ones) get new geeky targets if patents are made non-transferable?

Re:I'm not sure their the problem (1)

aztracker1 (702135) | about a year ago | (#43906823)

Then you just register an LLC for every patent, and then sell the "company" that owns the patent... People should own IP, not non-living entities.

So in reality: Nothing will change (2)

hsmith (818216) | about a year ago | (#43904095)

"Executive Actions" mean diddly squat. Executive Orders are nothing more than directions to executive agencies how to enforce the existing law. He can't create new law (well I guess he can try) by fiat. So, unless Congress gets off its lazy ass and fixes patents, this does nothing.

Re:So in reality: Nothing will change (2)

Titus Groan (2834723) | about a year ago | (#43904619)

very true, however there's a good chance that many patent trolling companies are in violation of RICO so a fire lit under the DoJ might be a good start.

Seems hollow. (2, Interesting)

GWRedDragon (1340961) | about a year ago | (#43904145)

From the same administration that rammed through first to file, now we're supposed to believe they're out to help innocent patent victims? Seems more likely that someone decided that patent trolls were getting dangerous to the big boys. Expect to see no steps to prevent monopolists from using obvious patents to destroy potential competition.

Re:Seems hollow. (4, Informative)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43904251)

How does first to file change anything for small inventors? If anything it makes it easier for them as they will likely not be able to prove their date of invention nor afford a costly legal battle to do so.

You do know it just means that if You and I attempt to patent the same device the patent goes to the first to file not to the first to invent right? If either of us disclose the patent first, like say publish some FOSS software, no one gets a pantent.

Re:Seems hollow. (2)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about a year ago | (#43904473)

The problem is that the people who rail against first-to-file are ignorant of what the system is. Many somehow think it means that prior art, etc. no longer apply when nothing could be further from the truth.

Re:Seems hollow. (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43904515)

Why would anyone think that?
That would be total insanity. I would go patent eating right now.

Re:Seems hollow. (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about a year ago | (#43904525)

I don't know why but many people here on Slashdot still think that no matter how often it is corrected.

Re:Seems hollow. (1)

L. J. Beauregard (111334) | about a year ago | (#43905451)

First to invent made sense a century ago when an inventor in California might need several days to reach Washington. It really doesn't make sense today.

neither makes sense (3, Interesting)

Chirs (87576) | about a year ago | (#43905809)

If two people independently invent something, then I think it should be non-patentable by definition.

The whole point of patents is to make public information on how to do something *that would otherwise be lost*. If multiple people independently invent something, then it seems to me that it is not in danger of being lost.

If the only reason something is patentable is because nobody ever had that specific problem before, but the solution is obvious to an expert, then it shouldn't be patentable.

Re:neither makes sense (1)

canadiannomad (1745008) | about a year ago | (#43906877)

If two people independently invent something, then I think it should be non-patentable by definition.

Here we go... That sounds about right... The mere fact that two people tried to independently patent something at the same time ought to be clear proof that there is enough out there that the patent ought to be rejected. I'd even go further, if it can be proved that a person independently invented the same thing years into the life of a patent without ever having heard of the patent, then the original should be revoked (because that would mean that the ability of the world has caught up and now can do said thing with sufficient ease that it should be set free).

Breaching a patent by accident should, by definition, mean that the item is no longer patentable, and the original should be revoked.

Things that are actually complex and really hard to reproduce without the information in the patent could remain protected, and things that are trivial would lose their patents about as fast as they could file them. Patent fees would become an disincentive for trivial things.

That way things like massively complex manipulation of disk sectors on a harddrive (a software patent) could remain in effect for a long time, while one-click purchases would be revoked/rejected almost as soon as it was filed. Or a chemical that targets a certain protein would be patentable until someone else could find that chemical via alternate research methods (eg crowd sourced protein folding).

That would likely give their R&D departments a few good years of protection via patents and once the world has outstripped their ability to compete, they would be washed away with the markets (as well they should in any real capitalistic society)

Re:Seems hollow. (1)

GWRedDragon (1340961) | about a year ago | (#43906965)

I hate how anytime anyone makes a negative comment about first to file, there is an overwhelming response of "you don't know what you're talking about."

First to file is bad for the little guy, because the little guy doesn't have a legal team standing ready to churn out a patent. Assume a guy in his garage and an employee at a big corp invent the same thing. The guy at the big corp invents it a little after the guy in his garage. The result will be that the big corp gets the patent, because they will be much quicker to generate the patent application. The little guy will have to go through many more steps, such as obtaining a patent lawyer, obtaining funding for the application, etc. The process is also likely unfamiliar to him, which will slow him down.

Under a first to invent system, at least that guy has a chance. Under first to file, he's just screwed. A better solution would be to simplify the legal process rather than simply declaring the winner ahead of time according to some meaningless paperwork that big corps are always going to be better at.

In a sense, first to file goes perfectly with the current trend towards statutory non-intent crimes with trivial to prove elements. Lazy justice is justice denied.

Re:Seems hollow. (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about a year ago | (#43904375)

What exactly is wrong with first-to-file? The rest of the world uses it just fine. Do you even know what the first-to-file means? First-to-file is just the way its decided who a patent goes to if muliple parties try to patent the same thing. Why you rail against the change is bizarre but sounds like your one of the many idiots on Slashdot who misunderstand the concept. Also, you should be all for the change since it also briught along an increased scope of what can be used as prior art to invalidate a patent.

Re:Seems hollow. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43904669)

If multiple separate parties all try to patent the same thing, then the idea was too obvious to be patented in the first place.

Re:Seems hollow. (1)

devjoe (88696) | about a year ago | (#43905147)

If multiple separate parties all try to patent the same thing, then the idea was too obvious to be patented in the first place.

You say that, but exactly this situation has occurred with inventions as original and important as the telephone (1876) [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Seems hollow. (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year ago | (#43905829)

Clearly then the telephone wasn't nearly as novel as you would like to have us all believe.

The idea of the lone inventor also feeds into the idea of the benevolent dictator or Robber Baron in the style of Any Rand. The idea that the little guy exists in isolation from the state of the art also allows for granting the "captain of industry" far more power and influence than he deserves. Apply to the "corporate person" if no obvious figurehead is available.

Re:Seems hollow. (1)

MouseTheLuckyDog (2752443) | about a year ago | (#43906195)

If multiple separate parties all try to patent the same thing, then the idea was too obvious to be patented in the first place.

You say that, but exactly this situation has occurred with inventions as original and important as the telephone (1876) [wikipedia.org] .

Yes and because of that the government spent more then 100 years suing AT&T for antitrust violations. Until finally AT&T agreed to diversify.
Now we are still dealing with AT&T as a large entity though it is mainly over internet.

Note to patent trolls (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43904217)

Better not mess with the WH and Capitol Hill staffers' iPhones and Androids.

Unfortunately, the likes of Nathan "See I'm a geek like you" Myrhvold are too smart for that.

serious patent question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43904247)

In the U.S., could I patent a process for using one's hand to cause ejaculation while looking at online porn? Or would this be considered obvious to the patent examiners?

Re:serious patent question (4, Funny)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year ago | (#43905079)

Just call it "System and Method for use of a Combination of Reciprocating Frictional Motion and Visual Stimuli for the Production of Half-Sequence Genomes in a Saline Solution."

They'll approve that in no time.

This could get interesting: (0)

fredrated (639554) | about a year ago | (#43904351)

Can't Obama just drone-assassinate patent trolls?

Good ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#43904361)

Allowing customers to be sued for patent infringement has always struck me as stupid.

If I buy a product from a vendor, and *they* infringed on a patent, there's no way I should be in a position to get sued by some asshole who thinks he owns a patent on a "system of connecting two machines with a network".

Even more so if the product is something I bought at a retail store -- if I can walk into Wal Mart and buy it, and you think that infringes on your patent, take it up with someone else. NMFP.

Re:Good ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43904539)

A company could set up a shell company to make infringing widgets and sell them and promptly close.

Re:Good ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43907817)

Even if you think patents should even exist at all, why can't they simply use their brains and realize that the company is trying to skirt punishment by setting up a shell company? Surely it would not be impossible to right the laws in such a way that doing such a thing with malicious intentions in mind becomes useless?

Re:Good ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43904787)

Sorry, but Obama can't fix that. It would require a rewrite of current Patent law, which say that anyone who makes *or uses* a patented technology without license is infringing.

Obama is not a dictator, though he does play a good game of make believe.

Re:Good ... (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#43905389)

Sorry, but Obama can't fix that. It would require a rewrite of current Patent law, which say that anyone who makes *or uses* a patented technology without license is infringing.

If he can ignore the 4th amendment, occasionally the 1st amendment, and target citizens for assassination why should patent law be any different?

When I buy something, I do not enter into a license with everyone who owns a patent on every aspect of what I buy. I buy a friggin' product -- the pissing contests aren't my problem.

Like I said, by the time I can walk into Wal Mart and buy something, you need to indemnify the consumer. Because at the check out, there isn't a place where I initial a license with some company I've never heard of. If the vendor isn't compliant, well, that's their problem.

Good (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year ago | (#43904713)

Apple will get into deep waters if this happens to them at the same time as being sued for price fixing ebooks [guardian.co.uk] . This kind of abuses [paidcontent.org] should be targetted by the law, after all.

Re:Good (1)

Quila (201335) | about a year ago | (#43905695)

Apple makes almost all of its money selling product, not through patent threats. Pretty much the opposite of a patent troll.

Re:Good (2)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year ago | (#43906231)

Making the competition paying them 1b dollars, or limit their distribution, over patents should count. And trolling with patents won't make you a patent troll, after all?

Coporate Policy Stifling Innovation Also (5, Interesting)

caffeinejolt (584827) | about a year ago | (#43904729)

This is indeed one aspect of the many problems with our patent system,. Another is the corporate strategy, initiated over a decade ago, which has virtually eliminated the interaction between innovative small firms and larger firms with the need for innovation and the deep pockets required to drive innovative products to market. After my small firm was purchased in 2000, I was ordered to inform all engineers that it would be a major (i.e. firing) violation of corporate policy if they let themselves become aware of the intellectual property of any other firm. I was told that this had recently been adopted as corporate policy by most major firms as a brilliant defense against the feared "triple damages" awards for patent infringement. Corporate policy explicitly banning any effort to learn about other firms' patents currently eliminates any possibility of a court awarding triple damages - even if patent infringement were proven. Since most innovative small firms lack the financial resources needed to take on a multi-year legal battle, even if they were able to show infringement on their patent, this new corporate policy amounted to a free pass for large wealthy firms to simply steal innovations from innovative small firms. The worst thing that could happen would be that the small firm won in court, at which point the worst-case punishment would be to pay 'damages' - which are defined as simply the amount that the stealing firm would have had to pay had they properly licensed the patents from the small firm in the first place. While this is considered a brilliant legal strategy, it is a disastrous national policy for technological innovation. It virtually eliminates the financial incentive for small firms to invest in innovation, by providing carte blanche for larger firms to simply steal that innovation; the logical large firm strategy in this case is to never discuss intellectual property with any small firm - simply steal it and defy them to take you to court. We do indeed need to make war on patent trolls, but even more importantly, we need to make war on patent thieves - by punishing deliberate ignorance of patent theft with large penalties. If it is proven that infringement occurred, and that the infringing firm had a policy of deliberate ignorance, the damage award should be at least tripled. Or - we should start letting speeders go free if they claim ignorance of the speed limit because they chose to deliberately avert their eyes every time a speed limit sign came near.

Re:Coporate Policy Stifling Innovation Also (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43904833)

If it is proven that infringement occurred, and that the infringing firm had a policy of deliberate ignorance, the damage award should be at least tripled.

This is retarded. Given that virtually everything (certainly virtually every non-trivial computer program) infringes some sort of loopy general patent, *any* company big or small would be insane to have any policy other than deliberate ignorance. So a policy of deliberate ignorance does *not* imply "evil intent" as you seem to think.

Re:Coporate Policy Stifling Innovation Also (2)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year ago | (#43905889)

The policy of deliberate ignorance also destroys the entire point of the Patent system to begin with.

Patents exist to encourage the disclosure of interesting trade secrets so that everyone can benefit from them. If everyone is scared away from the patent database, then those patents really have no legal basis to exist.

The same goes for patents that are useless as documentation.

Every creative work is meant to be "pirated" sooner or later.

Re:Coporate Policy Stifling Innovation Also (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43905233)

Increasing fees is not going to do the job. Just make it a felony, and include jail time. Thievery should be illegal, shouldn't it? I never understood increasing the fines. That never does anything.

Computer testable patents, and a sticker price (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43905353)

It would seem rational to require that patent applications be computer validated against all the rules. Also, id like to see a purchase price affixed to the patent for licensing, as well as contact information. Make the sticker price reflect how easy it is to get the patent, and how much the patent fees are.

patent law is the goatse of legal structures (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43905715)

Small inventors are so screwed in America.
"First to file rather than first to invent" passed as patent law reform last time?

IBM == I've Been Misled.

final blow for Apple (-1)

csumpi (2258986) | about a year ago | (#43906175)

Wow, that would deal the final blow for Apple. Taking away their way of innovation, I mean patenting the obvious and free, filing suits for rounded corners.

Strategies:

1. Sell all AAPL.

2. Don't panic, there are enough shitheads paid by Apple to pay off politicians, like Al "only your private jet causes global warming' Gore, so nothing will happen (while Al circles the globe a couple times, private jet style).
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