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Analyzing Congress's Multiple Approaches To Patent Reform

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the none-of-them-very-good dept.

Patents 58

ectoman writes "Patent reform is becoming an unavoidable issue — and the United States Congress is taking note. But the scope and scale of the problem have prompted multiple legislative solutions, and keeping track of them all can be rather difficult. Mark Bohannon, Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Global Public Policy at Red Hat, provides an overview of four important legislative actions currently under consideration, offering clear and concise analysis of their goals and provisions. He also assesses their potential impacts. 'Given the widening attacks by PAEs [Patent Assertion Entities],' Bohannon concludes, 'it is essential that Congress work to produce meaningful legislation on at least the issues identified above in order to begin to stem the tide.'"

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58 comments

Their attempts to reform will last... (4, Funny)

JoeLinux (20366) | about a year ago | (#44096929)

...until the paychecks from the Patent Trolls' lobby clears.

Re:Their attempts to reform will last... (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44096939)

Sad, but true. The fact of the matter is, people are stupid.

Re:Their attempts to reform will last... (1, Funny)

Cryacin (657549) | about a year ago | (#44096955)

The cheque's cleared already. What you're seeing here is a payrise! ;) Ah cheque #2, you'd better have an extra 0 at the end.

Re:Their attempts to reform will last... (0)

rusty0101 (565565) | about a year ago | (#44096961)

annexing zeros to the right of the decimal point isn't going to increase the payoff. They need to right shift the decimal point as well to have any chance of it improving the troll's prospects of success.

Re:Their attempts to reform will last... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44097105)

annexing zeros to the right of the decimal point isn't going to increase the payoff. They need to right shift the decimal point as well to have any chance of it improving the troll's prospects of success.

He said "at the end". He didn't specify what it was the end of. The number left of the decimal point is the generally understood meaning of what he said (which you understood perfectly well).

You're just being a pedantic ass. Stop doing this. It doesn't make you look intelligent. It makes you look like a douchebag. Are you a douchebag? You look like a douchebag. You douchebag.

Re:Their attempts to reform will last... (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about a year ago | (#44097947)

I've already patented annexing of zeros, my lawyers will be in touch with you shortly. Also, be advised I have a patent pending on shifting decimal places.

Re:Their attempts to reform will last... (0)

dgatwood (11270) | about a year ago | (#44096997)

Ob. Futurama:

Add a one and two zeros in front of that or we pass.

How much did we get?

A thousand and one pesos.

Re:Their attempts to reform will last... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44097083)

Patent reform is becoming an unavoidable issue

See, I prefer to fix a problem as soon as I see good evidence that it is, in fact, a problem and is becoming worse. That's why I would never make it in politics.

Maybe your realistic assessment of how politics is done explains this.

Re:Their attempts to reform will last... (1)

Craig Wager (2851053) | about a year ago | (#44098243)

Such a sad irony that what was supposed to encourage innovation has instead stifled it.

Be careful what you wish for. (5, Interesting)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#44096967)

I say the idea of granting monopolies over work which has already been performed is counter to the nature of the Universe, and that we have Zero evidence that Patents and Copyrights are actually beneficial for society. Laborers have unlimited monopolies over their works prior to the work being done, and can leverage this monopoly in the same way that home builders and car mechanics do: Payment Agreement Up Front. Copyright and Patent laws ignore the economic fact that ideas and procedures and information are in infinite supply in the Information Age. Economics 101 states that which is in infinite supply has zero price regardless of cost to create or demand. What's scarce is not the solutions and information; What's scarce is the ability to create new solutions and new works. Market the labor, not the infinitely reproducible output, otherwise you're trying to sell ice to Eskimos; You're letting mechanics charge you for each time you start the car.

Humans and all life are information duplication and refining machines. Laws against human nature should be abolished, especially if they have ZERO evidence to support the assumption that they're beneficial for society -- Especially when the fashion and automotive industries are successful and sell primarily on design, even though these markets are not allowed design patents or copyrights; This is evidence these archaic restrictive systems are unnecessary. No scientist would agree to run the world on unproven hypotheses. What if patents and copyright are harmful? We MUST test the hypothesis and abolish them.

The important thing to be careful about here is that the patent and copyright regimes do greatly benefit the large rich corporations the most. In fact they do give an advantage to the immortal corporations which can simply wait out a patent before using it, or leverage a copyright for three generations of humans. I hypothesize that in a climate where corporations rule via lobbyists that any change to the patent system that is not abolition will be in the best interest of corporations primarily, and secondarily will be detrimental to society as a whole if possible.

Here we have a situation where through a loophole a small entity can leverage patents against small business and big corporations alike without retaliation if they merely do nothing but hold one or more patents and sue over them. If my hypothesis is correct, the patent reform will not address the issue of anti-competitive practices against small companies with small patent portfolios who actually create things, but will merely remove the teeth of patents held by smaller companies in general.

Be Careful. The medicine they're developing is not a cure for the artificial scarcity insanity; It could be much worse than the disease.

Re:Be careful what you wish for. (4, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44097037)

Mostly well reasoned, especially as it pertains to the type of patents being issued today, which amount to nothing more than protection for a mash-up of previously used ideas and objects.

Where your analysis falls down is most easily seen in the world of drug development. Unless a company can make a profit sufficient at least to cover its research costs many simply refuse to do the research at all. Its not petulant behavior of picking up their marbles and going home, its a simple fact of "They can't afford it".

Unless or until you transfer ALL research into the hands of tax payer funded entities (universities) there appears no other common mechanism to induce people to pay for billions in research with no sure way to pay for it in the end.

Its not just drugs, but it is easiest to see the direct linkage in that field. In Electronics and computers you have the same situation. Why would anyone develop some totally new technology at the expense of years in the lab and millions of dollars of salary and equipment with no way to assure a payment?

Comparison to a laborer is just tot simplistic to work, and i suspect you knew that when you wrote it.

You need to restructure virtually the entire methods of funding research before you can totally remove any protection for inventors. (And there is nothing so dangerous as a man with a plan to restructure society).

I just can't see any situation where you watch your family starve because you want to spend the next few years trying to invent a new widget or a new drug instead of planting a garden or getting a brick laying job. Sooner or later, you plant the garden, swing the hammer, and forget about new drugs.

Until you solve that patents aren't going away.

Re:Be careful what you wish for. (5, Informative)

Naish0ze (2961925) | about a year ago | (#44097375)

Health and Wellness should not be patentable - the drive to produce medicines will of course take dedicated researchers and the finances to power them, however this does not NEED to be aprfitable enterprise in order for it to happen. There exist a small group of very wealthy individuals who commit vast sums of money to the saving of lives with no other motive than 'it being the right thing to do' and self organizing groups of like minded donor can fill the shoes of profit motivated Big Pharma.

The argument made by Big Pharma - if we cannot monetize it, noone will do it - is as facile and pretentious as the MPAA/RIAA assertion that without their involvement music would cease.

Case in point, Sabin declined to patent his inventions in the search for a cure to polio; "costing" him an unknowable amount of revenue from all of the direct and indirect results from vaccination techniques and science. However, because of his unwillingness to patent, MILLIONS of people were and continue to be spared from debilitating and fatal diseases.

Yes, if we abolish medical patents, there will be a loss of future revenues for Big Pharma investors and speculators. Investors and speculators should be aware that there is risk of loss of any and all of thier funding through unforseen but inevitable changes to the marketplace. Tuff Shit! thats what happens to investors.

But how many lives will be saved in the short and long term by the transfer of medical research from patent hungry, financially motivated, greedy investors and replaced by TAX EXEMPT donations to medical research teams dedicated to a cure?!

I can't wait to see

Re:Be careful what you wish for. (0, Flamebait)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44097511)

Yes, if we abolish medical patents, there will be a loss of future revenues for Big Pharma

Yes, if we abolish medical patents, there will be a loss of millions of lives.

Fixed it for you.

It seems obvious you want to hand-wave this problem away as if it didn't exist or would be easy to solve
by pointing to a few shoe string cases through history. Salk and Sabin ALWAYS had government funding
of one form or another, and their expenses were actually quite trivial compared to the research requirements
of today.

It seems doubtful you will be dissuaded from your confiscatory views, and your child like solutions. I realize the
futility of the conversation.

Re:Be careful what you wish for. (3, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | about a year ago | (#44097985)

What I find interesting is that every patent discussion always seems to be exalting the huge costs involved in patenting new drugs and why pharmaceutical companies must get some special protection for all of their effort.

All of this discussion seems to miss that there are millions of patents that are filed that have absolutely nothing to do with drug processing or manufacturing... many of which are causing a huge problem because they are overly broad and in some cases likely have outlived their usefulness. Frankly, I think all of the issues about helping the drug industries should be moved over to a completely separate law where the issues about pharmaceutical development can be dealt with separately from other kinds of patents. Trying to paint everything equally is exactly why this issue has blown up in the way it has... not to mention the gross expansion of patented concepts like "business method patents" and software patents.

I seriously doubt that millions of lives will be saved because of Amazon's 1-click shopping patent, and there are thousands if not millions of similar patents that will likely not matter worth a damn in terms of actually helping with the progress of technology and science.

Here is something else as food for thought: The supposed reason for granting patents is that information about the invention being patented is preserved for posterity through the patenting process. Having read more than my share of patent grants and the documentation provided to obtain a patent, there is absolutely nothing in the current process that would preserve any detail of a genuinely novel concept for posterity.... thus even the supposed rationale for why it is happening simply doesn't happen. Yes, somebody who has received a patent may publish details about their invention outside of the patent process that somebody skilled in the technology could recreate the concept, but it certainly isn't required. You can't possibly suggest that patent applications as they currently exist could possibly get that accomplished as well.

At best all they do is suggest that there might have been an invention that did something according to the claims.... but even that isn't true. Far too many patents simply violate the basic laws of physics like FTL communications or perpetual motion machines. Yes, patent examiners try to dismiss those kind of patents, but plenty slip through the cracks and get granted anyway. A patent doesn't even guarantee that the invention even works as promised or is even capable of being made.

Re:Be careful what you wish for. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44098321)

Here is my principle for patent reform:

Have a regular patent application fee and then an additional retention fee charged annually. This fee is X^Y where x is the base fee and Y is the years post patent. Regular patent? $4 or so base. (don't forget it takes 7-10 years to even get to market with a new drug).

This creates a few problems, but on the whole I think it solves more than it creates. It means that a patent that is actually earning a company money is retained, while smaller less substantial patents are lapsed into the public domain. Want to keep Mickey Mouse? Totally worth that 100,000 dollars. It means drug companies prefer to whip out new dosage forms and novel applications earlier in the patent life rather than sitting on them like the do now until things are about to expire. It makes massive portfolios of patents unwieldy, but lets assume you can pay x years at a time to save paperwork. It means no more patents just for the sake of patents, it will be perferrable to make a few good patents rather than dozens of vauge ones that would cost you exponentially more money per patent to maintain, but it also doesn't penalize researchers for hanging onto new things for a few years that they aren't sure will pan out. It could also serve as a good judicial marker for the value of a patent when determining damages and an effective substitution for tax on intellectual property.

Re:Be careful what you wish for. (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | about a year ago | (#44099637)

A patent tax seems the most reasonable course to patent reform today, and an escalating cost per year will also make them less likely to be held if they're non-profitable. A second clause - a patent that is used to sue without having created anything is immediately void. This would significantly reduce patent trolls. The justification for this one is that no harm was done as you did not lose any potential sales.

Re:Be careful what you wish for. (4, Interesting)

dgatwood (11270) | about a year ago | (#44097385)

In Electronics and computers you have the same situation. Why would anyone develop some totally new technology at the expense of years in the lab and millions of dollars of salary and equipment with no way to assure a payment?

They do now. Have you seen how blatantly China and other developing nations ignore patents and produce blatant knock-offs of American goods? And before that, it was Korea, then before that, Japan, and I'd imagine somebody else before that, and at some point, if you look back far enough, it was America making knock-offs of patented continental goods.

So throughout pretty much the entire history of the industrial world, you had some developing nation ignoring patents and making the products anyway, and before very long, those nations were the ones doing much of the innovation, because they weren't content to just make exact copies for long, unlike the lumbering companies with patents, who basically sat on their butts and tried to milk their inventions for every penny they could while doing as little as they could to improve things. All of modern technology, ultimately, exists in large part because patents were ignored.

Re:Be careful what you wish for. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#44099199)

So throughout pretty much the entire history of the industrial world, you had some developing nation ignoring patents and making the products anyway, and before very long, those nations were the ones doing much of the innovation, because they weren't content to just make exact copies for long,

How, then, do you explain China? They remain content to make copies. I hesitate to say exact copies; their best copies are relatively exact, down to flaws, because they don't understand the things they're copying. But instead of branching out into innovation, they simply make perfect copies and inferior copies.

Re:Be careful what you wish for. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44101189)

That's a cultural divide that will ensure that China doesn't lead the world, pretty much ever.

I first noticed this when I was in college. The Chinese (and Indian) students viewed the world as though everything had been discovered, and you just needed to ask the right person the right question to learn it. This lead to rampant copying and a lack of individual thought. They did great in collaborative discovery efforts, and did poorly in creative or constructive things. If they had to act alone or think of something new, these students were pretty much lost. The same held true in the work force. That attitude is common (but not universal!) among those from Asian countries, and no amount of education gets rid of it.

Contrast that with American-style NIH syndrome. If it wasn't done by the lone wolf in his garage, it's just a "product" that "they" expect the "sheep" to buy without thinking. The common philosophy is that "corporations are bad". We even see it in movies, like in MIB when Agent K says, "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky animals." The individual is good enough, but the group is useless and troublesome.

The attitude among east-Asian populations is almost like something out of a sci-fi dystopia: You, as an individual, are small and unable to do big things. You, as an individual, are not worth much. You, as an individual, are unimportant. The other bajillion people around you, as a group, can do big things, are worth something, and are important. Be part of the group and you can be something other than worthless. Conform. Obey. Of course, this ignores that individuals can rock the boat, upset the apple cart, or otherwise disrupt corrupt leadership.

Meanwhile, European cultures, and American culture as a modern offshoot, celebrates individuality, individuals, and the accomplishments of individuals or small groups. It's why the Renaissance happened, why the churches underwent the Reformation, and how the modern industrial ages were born. This is why there's so much cultural blowback against corporate robber barons and spooks that collect everyone's data. It violates how we think. It also becomes a liability when it leads to a refusal to trust a group that actually can make things better or do good work. And it makes "volunteering" or "charity" into a villain, because, well, why can't those people help themselves? So, it's not all rosy either.

Re:Be careful what you wish for. (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about a year ago | (#44102137)

How, then, do you explain China? They remain content to make copies.

They're starting out further behind than those other countries, under a regime that doesn't really encourage free thinking, so for now, they're still trying to catch up in areas like process improvements. Give them another decade.

Re:Be careful what you wish for. (1)

André Rebentisch (2962925) | about a year ago | (#44100023)

Patent regimes are territorial. If you don't patent in the Chinese jurisdiction they can do whatever they want over there. Same for other industrialised nations where you have not applied for a patent.

Re:Be careful what you wish for. (2)

Anomalyst (742352) | about a year ago | (#44097411)

The falacy of your argument is that we must rely on Big Pharma companies for appropriate r&d. Given their failure to address non-profitable therapies and cures and their preference for ongoing cash cows of therapies inteas of cures not to mention their manipulation of the patent system to maintain monopolies on drugs that should have passed into generic manufacturing. Big Pharma should be PROHIBITED from performing R&D or in the case of foreign companies selling self researched drugs/therapies in the USA. Drug R&D should be done in by government funded institutions and licensed by the goverment for manufacture to a minimum of three US based sources. Let them compete for their corporate dollars instead of gifting them with more biribe money to feed the congress critters.

Re:Be careful what you wish for. (0)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44097547)

That is a valid viewpoint, as long as you some how come up with the Government Funded Institutions that you so blithely assume into existence. And then you would have to prevent this from becoming yet another boondoggle wasting money pushing paper around while people are dying from heart disease. Your faith in government is cute.

Re:Be careful what you wish for. (2)

Anomalyst (742352) | about a year ago | (#44097669)

I have no faith in the government, but I doubt we could be raped worse by an R&D bureacracy than we are by sociopaathic corporations. Given how beholden the critters are to them, theyd never stifle the cash flow from them to make it happen, regargdless of how much better it would be as a solution for their constituents.

I now work for the govt, the waste is obscene (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44097851)

About a year ago I started working for a government agency, one that is lauded for it's enforced efficiency compared to other agencies. The waste is absolutely. obscene. We spend ten times as much money and yen times as long to do anything compared to a typical company. For the same cost, corporations will save ten times as many lives. Government in America was designed to be fair, rewritable equitable, and accountable, not effective or efficient. If you wanted to cease any progress in medicine, the best way to ensure no new treatments are developed may be to assign the task to the government.

Re:I now work for the govt, the waste is obscene (1)

Anomalyst (742352) | about a year ago | (#44097979)

yet the health needs of the American people is clearly underserved by Big Pharma. Perhaps research prizes for solutions to specific goals, but the Imaginary Prperty rights are retaained by the prize authority for licensing. I dont have any information on how cost efficient NASA Xprizes are administered, but a tunnel vision focus on next quarters profits has not provren to be an optimal path for medical research. Could money lost to waste and inefficiencies be that much worse than puting it into corporate/critter coffers?

Re:I now work for the govt, the waste is obscene (1)

Teancum (67324) | about a year ago | (#44098063)

Government in America was designed to be fair, rewritable equitable, and accountable, not effective or efficient.

As a matter of fact, government in America is explicitly designed to be inefficient. It is in the blueprint that is the U.S. Constitution that there will be multiple overlapping authorities having jurisdiction over the planning and operation of the government. If you need to report to multiple supervisors, each of them insisting on different goals and objectives, it is a wonder that anything gets done at all.

And that is just the overlapping authority you can point to in terms of the tension between Congress, the White House, and the Supreme Court. Add in other "dotted line" authority that is common in most government bureaucracies, and then the need to record every action with supervisors signing off on everything with the possibility that a congressional delegation might come by to investigate, you have the current state of the federal government. As you suggest, this is how "efficient" and "well run" government agencies work. For those that are poorly run, you have simply blatant corruption that redirects massive amounts of money for purposes that Congress never intended.

I used to work as a researcher for a group that was under a federal contract. I would dare say that only about 10% (if even that) of the money was actually used for the purpose it was originally handed out for. When I sat through a conference/class about how to report waste and fraud, the examples in the video presented almost described our research group perfectly.... as in we were doing exactly what it is that the training class said we were never supposed to do. The laughs in the meeting were unbearable. Sadly, much of that "overhead" was even built into the contract and expected. The amazing thing was that something even got produced in spite of the fact that all of that money was spent on frivolous and nonsense purposes.

Re:Be careful what you wish for. (3, Insightful)

foniksonik (573572) | about a year ago | (#44097749)

How about a non-profit endowed by public funds but supported by private investment? Let the manufacturers propose some of the research and even fund it but with the caveat that the result will be public domain. Then they can compete on quality and efficiency of production rather than by fiat.

We do already have something like this. The University system was made for it.

Re:Be careful what you wish for. (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44097975)

I'm all for this, with or without patent reform.

It will ruffle a lot of feathers, but there are a hundred things they could work on immediately.

Re:Be careful what you wish for. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#44099219)

The falacy

Fallacy has two Ls in. Turn on spell check, and/or don't use words you don't know.

of your argument is that we must rely on Big Pharma companies for appropriate r&d.

Bullshit. Basic drug research is already done at universities, most drugs currently on the market are inferior versions of existing drugs which were made to do an end-run around patent lifetimes, and the majority of Big Pharma's outlay is spent on advertising.

Wait, did you mean "the fallacy in your argument"? Guess I should have read your whole comment before replying, then I would know that you simply don't speak English.

If English is your second language, you're doing quite well, but you should consider paring back your verbosity. It may help you with accuracy. If it isn't, you should probably give up on this slashdot thing now.

Re:Be careful what you wish for. (4, Interesting)

nbauman (624611) | about a year ago | (#44097567)

Where your analysis falls down is most easily seen in the world of drug development. Unless a company can make a profit sufficient at least to cover its research costs many simply refuse to do the research at all. Its not petulant behavior of picking up their marbles and going home, its a simple fact of "They can't afford it".

Unless or until you transfer ALL research into the hands of tax payer funded entities (universities) there appears no other common mechanism to induce people to pay for billions in research with no sure way to pay for it in the end.

The best argument against that is that some of the most important drugs weren't patented.

Alexander Flemming didn't patent penicillin. He generously shared it during the war with the Americans, who took process patents on their contributions so they could charge the original inventors royalties.

Milstein and Kohler invented monoclonal antibodies. Can't get much more innovative and significant than that. They didn't bother to patent them either. In the spirit of scientific collaboration, they generously shared their work with Hilary Koprowski, who -- fool me twice -- took out his own patent. http://www.whatisbiotechnology.org/exhibitions/milstein/patents [whatisbiotechnology.org] Those Americans!

Most of the original, creative drug research in the US is done first in academic laboratories, funded by the National Institutes of Health. Thanks to the Bayh–Dole Act, these patents are now owned by the inventor, who usually sells his rights to a private company.

One contribution of the private pharmaceutical companies, scaling up a drug from the research bench to pilot plant and industrial production, is not trivial, and it's often creative, but it's mostly textbook chemical engineering that the Indian pharmaceutical companies have proven themselves to be capable of doing. The New York City health department developed its own vaccines.

Another contribution of the private pharmaceutical companies is the job of bringing drugs through phase I, II and III clinical trials, which establishes their dose, efficacy and safety. However, there are several government agencies, notably the Veterans Affairs agency, which has run some of the best-designed and most important clinical trials of all. In the UK, the government medical research agencies also ran important trials.

The pharmaceutical companies, and particularly their lobby PhRMA, claim that it costs $300 million to bring a drug to market. This is not based on actual company data, since the drug companies never gave researchers access to their internal data, but on inferences by clever economists. If you trace that number to its source, it turns out to be what is known in the industry as a scientific wild-ass guess. Marcia Angell, the former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, has written several articles and books, which you can find with a Google search, arguing for much lower figures.

I've been to medical conferences. Yes, if you're going to spend $10 million on a product launch party at ASCO, and if you're going to invite doctors to football games and marketing dinners at the Waldorf Astoria, and if you're going to pay your high-prescribing "thought leaders" millions in consulting fees, and run multi-million dollar direct-to-consumer TV and print campaigns to "ask your doctor" about prescription drugs, those marketing costs can add up. But outside the US they don't have marketing costs like that.

The private pharmaceutical companies do turn out some important drugs, and I don't want to kill a goose that lays even an occasional, high-priced golden egg. I don't think it would be a good idea to nationalize Merck and send its executives to the rice paddies for re-education. (It might be a good idea for URL Pharma.) But if these companies keep selling their new drugs, based on university research, for $20,000 or $100,000 a year, and it starts bankrupting individuals and the health care system as well, then it certainly would be possible from a technical and production perspective to call their bluff and turn their job over to the government, which can do it for a fraction of the cost.

Re:Be careful what you wish for. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44098571)

... Alexander Flemming didn't patent penicillin ...

He didn't think penicillin was important. He just noted its anti-bacterial properties and forgot about it. When Oxford university developed a mass production process and started treating infections, Flemming told everyone he pioneered the process and got a Nobel prize for it. It's Oxford university that refused to patent (the process for) penicillin.

Re:Be careful what you wish for. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44100999)

Where your analysis falls down is most easily seen in the world of drug development. Unless a company can make a profit sufficient at least to cover its research costs many simply refuse to do the research at all. Its not petulant behavior of picking up their marbles and going home, its a simple fact of "They can't afford it".

That's a horrible example for your case. Currently the only drug research done is aimed at what is profitable under the current patent system. This is an extreme corruption and costing society a fortune. We pay huge prices for drugs which is funneled into massively failing research, while unpatentable ideas are ignored almost entirely. The current system is a total failure. Just because it's not "tax payer" money going down the drain, it's okay with anti-government types. I don't see how the government could do a worse job. We're currently taxing the sick to pay for poorly planned research. I'd rather see research money spent on maximizing the benefit for society than maximizing patents and sending sexy men and women to push the wrong drugs on doctors.

Re:Be careful what you wish for. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#44099187)

I say

Well if you say so, the matter is settled.

the idea of granting monopolies over work which has already been performed is counter to the nature of the Universe,

Forget all that nature of the Universe crap. We have surveyed an infinitesimally small portion of it. The truth is that we have defined that which exists without us as natural, and thus what is natural is irrelevant, since we are here. All that remains is to discuss what is good or bad for us, since we're speaking from our own point of view.

Also, that's not even what patents do. Patents grant a monopoly over specific work to be performed.

Patents should be intelligible (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44096977)

Patents should be readable and understandable to people with typical proficiency in the industry or science under question. Now, maybe some of the specifics of the invention may require more expertise, but the parts of interest to business managers should be written to be understood.

As an example, think of 3D systems patenting stereo lithography 25 years ago. They would have no problem stating what their invention was, why it is unique and non-obvious, etc. It's only when you have a trollish type invention that you have to write it in a language so that even an expert in the field would have trouble figuring out what the claims are, or make so many claims that nobody would bother reading it all (comparable to the "terms of use" and "user's agreements" drafted by lawyers for banking and software products).

Re:Patents should be intelligible (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#44097231)

On that, the name should be binding. The ones where the name bears little relation to the patent are misleading, and generally done to scare competitors or garner public support for a bad patent.

Re:Patents should be intelligible (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44097293)

A good (valuable) patent _is_ written to be understood. If you ever intend to take a patent to trial in front of a jury, you had better make it understandable by that jury. If it ain't writ, they will acquit. Any patent trial has an initial phase where lawyers from both sides argue about what the patent claims actually mean (a Markman hearing). The Judge's ruling after the Markman hearing can often be enough to bring the defendant to the bargaining table, as it makes clear how the patent language is going to interpreted at trial.

Re:Patents should be intelligible (1)

Teancum (67324) | about a year ago | (#44098111)

Of course a problem with the patent process is that the role of the patent application is to provide enough information, and a typical application will provide barely enough information, to demonstrate that it is novel thus meriting patent protection.

Advocates of the patent process claim that the role of the patent application is to document the invention so future generations can have details about the invention. Even if you provide sufficient information in a patent application to document that a particular device or invention is covered under the patent (thus dealing with the needs of a typical court room trial for patent infringement), there is no possible way to use the information to actually create the device in question or even the sub-assembly for which the patent has been granted.

Patent Pending (1)

teaserX (252970) | about a year ago | (#44097091)

Method for keeping track of multiple legislative solutions of differing scopes and scales for patent reform on the internet.

Re:Patent Pending (2)

foniksonik (573572) | about a year ago | (#44097771)

Your behind the times good sir. Amend that claim to "on a mobile device" or get back on the bus.

Cost shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic (4, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44097135)

Most of the proposals in TFA deal with cost shifting as a way to reign in the Patent Trolls.
These proposals tend to make it easier to extract money from the trolls that lose their case, but that seems hardly enough.

If there were no patent trolls, we would STILL have a problem with pointless and obvious things being patented and
these patents bought and sold with the sole intent to prevent others from using the "invention" and import bans etc.

If Patents are to benefit society as a whole, perhaps we should be investigating MANDATORY Licensing of patents.

Then develop a framework of deciding what that should cost. Maybe it would take the form of a Court of Cost Recovery, or a methodology of evaluating the value that each patent contributed to the wholesale price of the item. But such an evaluation would have to start from the position that the invention
MUST be licensed, for the good of all human kind. And the remuneration must be in line with some realistic value.

Inventions couldn't be used solely to prevent another party from producing something.

Bounce-Back patents (reaching the end of a scrolling action), if forcibly licensed would not prevent the inventor from making
phones, or add a great deal of value to other manufacturer's phones. The harm is very little for one side, the gain is vary little
for the other side if such a patent is abused.

So why should import bans be on the table at all?

If you start from the basis that all inventions MUST be licensed, all that drama goes away, and it becomes
a simple matter of price determination.

If you want to deny some item to society, you should find another way to use your invention, because you
gain your patent protection only if you license it.

Re:Cost shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44097249)

By referring to the Bounce-back patent - we can presume you're referring to the litigation betwen Apple and Samsung - in this case, it's not about the damage awards, though they are of a considerable amount - each is trying to interfere with the other's ability to do business. By stopping the other guy's products, they hope to sell more of their own. This is directly based on the Constitutional purpose of a Patent - to give inventors an "exclusive right to practice" their invention.

The whole concept of licensing patents is to trade the "exclusive right," which has no direct monetary value, to others in order to get money for that right. It's where the whole idea gets wickedly complicated. If patents were a monetary award instead of an exclusivity award, the whole system could be much simpler.

Re:Cost shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44097377)

This is directly based on the Constitutional purpose of a Patent - to give inventors an "exclusive right to practice" their invention.

Actually, the text is this:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

There is no "right to practice", and no expectation that the inventor must "practice" his invention. They are guaranteed something but that something can take the form of money.

I don't disagree with your assessment, simply that the form that "exclusivity" must take in the modern world.

Exclusive RIGHTS might mean that royalty payments would satisfy this right. Judges have already found that if you can be made whole by money [groklaw.net] , then you normally don't get an import ban. (see first para of linked article)

So it seems that monetary transfer is already considered sufficient in the eyes of the court.

Re:Cost shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44097601)

...which is the point. The constitution says nothing about money, only "exclusive right". Royalty payments aren't in the constitution - it's a judicial and legislative creation. OK, practice isn't in the constitution - but it's the term for what anyone does with an invention - and I agree that the Constitution doesn't require the inventor to practice the invention to retain their exclusivity.

Re:Cost shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44103061)

The constitution was written as a guide, a mere framework. It was never intended to spell out every detail. (Unlike the constitution of the EU which not only spells out in detail what you must do but what you must THINK).

The Constitution left a lot to be defined by Congress, and just about EVERY detail concerning the Copyright clause is an act of congress, and as such can be changed and molded to our times.

The original text in the constitution says nothing at all about patents, doesn't in fact require an actual invention, (merely discoveries), recognizes in passing that you can't own it for ever (Limited Time) and grantes "exclusive rights" (which wasn't a concept that was well defined even in that time, let alone for all time since).

Most scholars believe that Exclusive meant exactly that, you couldn't copy another persons invention for a horse drawn carriage brake and put it on the carriages you produce until the limited time had passed. No one else could take your book down to the printer and have 100 copies made without you getting any profit for a limited time.

Most also agree that a patent or copyright was never intended to last long enough to hold back progress in the arts and sciences. It was always intended as a running head start. They didn't expect patents to live long enough to be sold period.

Patent "Reform" Kills Patent Value (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44097159)

Speaking as an inventor of more than 50 patents - the current system _is_ broken, but not in the way that these reforms are trying to fix. The real problem is that companies do not and will not negotiate with patent holders until they are taken to court. Before filing a lawsuit, companies won't take any discussion seriously. Licensee's don't negotiate outside of litigation because (1) the record of such negotiation might be used against them in litigation and (2) there is no penalty for refusing to negotiate. The "stick" of treble damages for wilful infringement is never awarded in court, and licensees know that.

The direct consequence of licensees refusal to negotiate outside of a lawsuit is that patent holders MUST file a lawsuit to have any hope of negotiating a license. Patent holders must pay enormous costs to lawyers and expert to file such a lawsuit, and these costs are never recovered in settlements - the pro forma settlement has each side paying their own costs. Potential licensees will pay millions in litigation costs before they are are wiling to negotiate a license - to them, anything that costs less than a license is just "good business" - even when any reasonable person could see that extending litigation would be fruitless. It is only when they've exhausted all the time leading up to trial that it becomes time for licensees to come to the table - since there is no penalty for delaying negotiations by extending litigation - in fact, since it delays payment, it can be seen as reducing expenses.

REAL reform would be to have a "safe harbor" where patent holders and patent infringers can realistically negotiate licenses. In order to do so, infringers have to provide truthful information about production volume and projected volume, and patent holders would have to provide truthful information about previous license arrangements. Upon entering a good-faith negotiation, both sides need to have the facts at hand to make a fair settlement. If one side or the other fails to negotiate in good faith, such a fact should be material to a resulting lawsuit. Having a penalty at trial for forcing the patent holder to file suit in order to negotiate a license instead of engaging in good-faith negotiations is the way to avoid lawsuits in the first place. Likewise, forcing patent holders to negotiate first instead of filing suit first also avoids expensive lawsuits.

If we are to value intellectual property fairly, reducing the "friction" in negotiating intellectual property licenses is key. At the moment, even for patents which have been examined by the patent office, "examined" by bringing those patents to court in prior cases, and re-examined by the patent office with senior patent examiners, and ruled on by patent appeal boards with several senior patent officials, the cost of litigation to negotiate a license can be tens of millions of dollars. What this means is that if you have a patent worth less than tens of millions of dollars, you can't get _anything_ of value for your patent. If your patent is more valuable than than, it's still a tremendous drag on patent value.

The current system is rewarding lawyers, not inventors, and the AIA and these further "reforms" are making the problem worse.

Re:Patent "Reform" Kills Patent Value (4, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44097403)

Speaking as an inventor of more than 50 patents - the current system _is_ broken, but not in the way that these reforms are trying to fix

You say this, but then you document the practices that might indeed be fixed by some of the proposed legislation. Specifically I suggest you reread some of the proposals in the Cornyn bill. These are aimed precisely at adjusting tie imbalance.

Re:Patent "Reform" Kills Patent Value (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44097681)

I've read the Cornyn bill and it has nothing in it that fixes the problems I've described. As I said, the problem is that companies don't negotiate licences because there is no penalty for refusing to enter good faith negotiations. The Cornyn bill does nothing to fix this - it only creates additional obstacles for patent holders in litigation. For example, by suppressing information about previous license arrangements, it just makes it harder to express the value of patents at suit.

Re:Patent "Reform" Kills Patent Value (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#44099229)

The real problem is that companies do not and will not negotiate with patent holders until they are taken to court.

Why is that the problem? Why doesn't the law force such negotiation? Or, why don't we have a system of law that doesn't permit case law to override what is written in the books? A bad law should be eliminated and/or changed, not moderated by precedent. That's how we got to our bullshit proliferation of lawyers who get to claim that they are necessary... yeah, because of all the bullshit hurdles placed in the way of progress by lawyers.

Jail time; no monetary rewards for trolls. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44097387)

Say it's radicaly and mod me down, but I think this would deter these jackaniddies:

A) Instead of just slapping people on the wrist who DO infringe on patents, give them jail time INSTEAD of monetary compensation. Not sure if jail time is already included, but what can patent-trolling lawyers and companies get if they just send one or two guys to jail?

B) No monetary rewards for obvious trolls. If you have a patent portfolio over, say, more than 30 patents, and you're not doing anything with ANY of them, the, fuck you. No money because someone else DID something with it.

In fact, on that last note, I might add, if some jerkoff troll has been sittin' on a patent for more than a three years, and not made any effort to get it to be useful, then any lawsuit regarding it's "noble" cause should be tossed out and the patent invalid.

Re:Jail time; no monetary rewards for trolls. (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44097555)

In fact, on that last note, I might add, if some jerkoff troll has been sittin' on a patent for more than a three years, and not made any effort to get it to be useful, then any lawsuit regarding it's "noble" cause should be tossed out and the patent invalid.

I'm much more generous than you. I'd give them 5 years to start producing something or hiring it done. After that, its fair game.

Re:Jail time; no monetary rewards for trolls. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#44099249)

I'm much less generous than you. I'd give them a patent for five years, and then it's fair game. What fucking year is it? Shouldn't a company be able to go from conception to product in short order? I keep hearing about how our modern industrial economy demands massive power production all day every day, but then I find out that we can't even manage just-in-time production? (Well, not find out, I've known this.)

I realize we're some way from being able to cost-effectively 3d print "everything" but sooner or later we've really got to step it up. Taking years to bring a product that doesn't require fundamental R&D to market just doesn't make sense in our supposedly productive culture.

Ex post facto sucks (2)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year ago | (#44097913)

It REALLY sucks that companies that clearly knew they were doing something immoral and shady like outsourcing their patent lawsuits to shell companies that are just lawyer pool patent trolls can't be prosecuted retroactively. There should be some sort of penalty that can be applied to them. The only loophole I know is modifying the current year's tax laws to include a massive penalty for sale and repurchase of the same patent for example. That's effectively retroactive.

The Man Behind the Curtain (1)

Bremic (2703997) | about a year ago | (#44097997)

It's the guy with the Patent on PAEs that's really raking in the dough.

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss. (1)

tambo (310170) | about a year ago | (#44098295)

1) News flash: Competing patent reform bills have been trudging through and/or stuck in Congress for most of the past two decades. It's a constant race among snails to see which one actually crosses the finish line.

This isn't surprising, because patent law serves multiple industries that widely differ in their characteristics and ideal uses of patents. The result is competing bills by big pharma, GMOs, big oil, the semiconductor industry, software companies, etc. The big players in each industry want to skew the whole system in their direction, and don't much care if it adversely affects other industries. (Contrast this with the copyright industry, which is a struggle between ALL media owners and ALL consumers... guess which side wins those struggles, every time?)

2) Like any piece of hotly contested and highly profitable legislation, many of the "reform" bills are intent on "reforming" the patent system straight into the trash. case in point: Many of the initiatives suggested by Barack Obama a few weeks back would rapidly exacerbate the troll problems that they suggest solving.

Screw it, why resist anymore..... (1)

3seas (184403) | about a year ago | (#44098387)

just make everything patent able...Its what corporate wants.... and corporate is everything to the law makers bank accounts
Fact is the patent system causes bias and handicaps advancement and this is against the original intent of the idea of patenting.
There are solutions to problems that are suppressed because they are not patent able for corporate to make a profit off of so instead we get non solutions to medicate the symptoms of the problems.

.

We need patent reform that eliminates bad patents. (2)

dweller_below (136040) | about a year ago | (#44098613)

The proposed reforms attempt to improve the process of litigating patents. Senator Cornyn's bill seems quite beneficial. They all say that we need to reduce the number of bad patents. But none of the proposed bills do anything to change the incentives that cause the patent office to grant poor patents.

It is possible to reform the patent office and mitigate the incentives to grant poor patents. But, first we must acknowledge that we have made some fundamental mistakes. In my opinion, they most critical mistakes are:

  • 1) More patents are not better than fewer patents. Patents are not Innovation. Patents are not Progress. Patents are simply grounds to file a lawsuit against an industry. More Patents are simply more grounds for more lawsuits. An occasional lawsuit might possibly spur innovation. BUT LAWSUITS DO NOT PRODUCE. Lawsuits are parasitic on innovation and production.
  • 2) Running the US Patent Office as a cost-recovery operation is a mistake. The US Patent Office is a very small, but critical component of the US economy. It's purpose was "..to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.." (US Constitution Article One, Section 8(8).) But, once the USPTO became completely cost recovery in 1990's, that primary goal became overshadowed by the more pressing goal of securing funding via patent fees. The primary effect of cost recovery is to guarantee continued regulatory capture by the patent industry.
  • 3) It is a mistake to organize the US Patent Office to create economic incentives to grant poor patents. Currently most of the revenue of the US Patent Office comes from GRANTING patents. See the USPTO FY 2013 President's Budget page 37: www.uspto.gov/about/stratplan/budget/fy13pbr.pdf "..More than half of all patent fee collections are from issue and maintenance fees, which essentially subsidize examination activities." A recent study by the Richmond School of Law found that the US PTO's actual grant rate is currently running at about 89%. In 2001, it was as high as 99%. See http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2225781 [ssrn.com] page 9. In 2001, it didn't matter if an application was overbroad, obvious, trival, a duplicate, or unreasonable, they ALL got granted. Things haven't improved much since then.
  • 4) Scaling up the Patent Office to produce more poor quality patents is a mistake. Currently, we expand the number of patent examiners based on demand. See the USPTO FY 2013 President's Budget, page 60, Gap Assessment: "Meeting this commitment assumes efficiency improvements brought about by reengineering many USPTO management and operational processes (e.g., the patent examination process) and systems, and hiring about 3,000 patent examiners in the two-year period FY 2012 and FY 2013 (including examiners for Three-Track Examination)." Again, the assumption is, more patents are better, even if it means decreasing examination, and increasing the number of untrained examiners. Poor quality is an inevitable result of this patent process.
  • 5) It is a mistake to grant all patents that meet minimum standards. A review of the last couple decades changes in the patent approval criteria will reveal that the minimum standard for granting a patent has consistently shifted downwards during the past few decades. We must abandon the idea that any patent that meets minimum standards is granted. Over time, the standard always degrades. Reform is easy. You rank Patent Applications according to an agreed measure of quality, and only grant the top few percent. Over time, the pressure will be to improve the quality of patent applications, instead of degrade them.

Real patent reform is possible. The pressures that currently give rise to bad patents are fairly obvious. We can mitigate those pressures and institute processes that tend to increase patent quality. If we can somehow summon and maintain the political will to admit our mistakes.

Don't tell us... Tell congress. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44103379)

Please write a letter to your congressman, or to to those who are handling patent reform bills, containing the above information. Slashdot members generally can't vote on proposed legislation.

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