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FTC Chairwoman Speaks On Growing US Patent Problem

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the ftc-to-the-rescue dept.

Patents 87

ectoman writes "In a recent policy speech, Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez indicated that the FTC might be preparing to seriously address patent abuse in the United States. Mark Bohannon, Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Global Public Policy at Red Hat, has reviewed Ramirez's remarks, calling them 'some of the most direct and specific to date from a senior U.S. Government official regarding "harmful PAE [patent assertion entities] activities."' Bohannon writes that the FTC's proposed roadmap for patent reform 'is both ambitious and doable,' and he discusses how the agency could make its potential contributions to reforms most effective. The piece arrives one week after Bohannon analyzed other patent reform efforts currently ongoing in Washington—in a piece Slashdot readers have been discussing."

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Patents cause progress stoppage (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44161383)

Patents are more and more being used as weapons to stop any and all progress of any derivative idea that results from the base idea being patented. The system has been corrupted to stop many inventions that could save lives, and overall better happiness of mankind for the sake of the patent holders keeping their money-making works owned by their masters... FOREVER.

How can the patent process be used to give influence to create new ideas, works. There is none! no new antibiotics, no cures for illnesses, no new chemicals no nothing as long as the patent process is corrupted the way it is!

Case .. Mickey mouse... Q. E D

Re: Patents cause progress stoppage (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44161437)

I believe you're conflating copyright and patents, two different things.

Re: Patents cause progress stoppage (4, Informative)

electrofelix (1079387) | about a year ago | (#44161589)

Not completely.

One of the abuses with patents is the continuous application for patents on the same area with minor adjustments on previous patents in order to essentially prevent the original invention patented from being free from patents once the initial one has expired.

It's certainly more limited in scope because they can't just wait until the initial patent is almost expired, but it is a problem that could easily be solved if examiners were willing to say that minor alterations do not a new invention make.

Re: Patents cause progress stoppage (1)

N0Man74 (1620447) | about a year ago | (#44165743)

One of the abuses with patents is the continuous application for patents on the same area with minor adjustments on previous patents in order to essentially prevent the original invention patented from being free from patents once the initial one has expired.

And it isn't just minor adjustments, we have patenting of "processes" (that are really just practices or activities), or patenting results rather than means, or obvious methods to those "skilled in the art".

Re: Patents cause progress stoppage (1)

Tough Love (215404) | about a year ago | (#44161607)

You pulled that out of your ass.

Re: Patents cause progress stoppage (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44161717)

The patent system was suposed to help the smaller inventor get his idea going before the rich person out manuvered him on the inventors own idea. Now, the inventor cannot afford a patent; cannot afford to assert his patent; Cannot defend against patents without the help of the rich man.
  Most patents are assigned to the rich. It is rare to be both the inventor and the assignee. If you invent something, you need a rich guy (vulture capitalist) to fund what you are doing if you want to stand a chance against the ever richer guy than he.

Re: Patents cause progress stoppage (0)

Merk42 (1906718) | about a year ago | (#44165017)

No he didn't, the article is about patents, Mickey Mouse is copyright. Disagree all you want about the merits of either, but they are two different things.

Re: Patents cause progress stoppage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44166935)

I agree with you but ultimately they both suffer the same problems (corporations throwing so much money into litigation that even legitimate creators cannot create).

Re: Patents cause progress stoppage (5, Informative)

Camael (1048726) | about a year ago | (#44161697)

No, parent post has a point.

Let me illustrate this with actual examples [arstechnica.com] where patent trolls sued small businesses for using a modern office scanner to scan documents to e-mail.

The Project Paperless via AdzPro letter-writing campaign is a kind of lowest-common-denominator patent demand. Patent-licensing companies are going after the users of everyday technology rather than their traditional targets, the tech companies that actually make technology. Smaller and smaller companies are being targeted. ...Project Paperless and its progeny don’t have any interest in going after the Canons and the Xeroxes of the world. After all, they have patent lawyers on payroll already and are in a far better position to push back. Project Paperless' spawn—AdzPro, AllLed, GosNel, and the others listed above—exemplify the new strategy. They send out vast quantities of letters, mainly to businesses that never could have imagined they’d be involved in any kind of patent dispute. They send them from anonymous and ever-changing shell companies. And at the end of the day, they either file only a few lawsuits—as Project Paperless did—or none at all, which has been the AdzPro strategy thus far.

“Going after the end users may ultimately be more lucrative for them,” said one patent litigator at a technology company that's closely monitoring the AdzPro situation. “If they extract a small amount from each possible end user, the total amount might well end up being a much larger sum than they could ever get from the manufacturers. The ultimate pot of gold could end up being much bigger."

Or other cases where frivolous suits were filed against small businesses for the use of technologies like WIFI [eff.org] .

In typical patent troll style, these shell companies (with names like AdzPro, FanPar, and HunLos) are asking businesses and users for a few thousand dollars—far less than what litigation would cost—as a licensing fee for using this basic technology. Unwilling or unable to lawyer up, most choose the more convenient route of settling ...
Over the past few years, we saw Lodsys threaten and sue a number of app developers for using technologies provided that companies like Apple and Google require their app developers to use. More recently, a patent troll called Innovatio has been suing restaurants, hotels, and companies for using WiFi. Yes, that’s right. WiFi.

My point is twofold: 1) Patents are being abused by patent trolls, who do not create, nor provide any incentive to creators and 2) Patent abuse is spreading to cause great distress to the general public. I'm sure that some of these businesses, when threatened, would opt to forgo the use of technologies such as scanners, WIFI etc. Scaring people off with frivolous lawsuits from using technology that could improve their performance, efficiency, efficacy or make their lives better is blocking progress.

Re: Patents cause progress stoppage (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44161899)

GP ended his/her post with "Case .. Mickey mouse... Q. E D" which shows real confusion.

That's not a small error.

Re:Patents cause progress stoppage (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44161817)

Mickey Mouse is protected by copyright, not patent.

Copyright relates to works regarding mostly publication and display.
Trademarks relate to logos, names, slogans, and such.
Patents relate to inventions. You make a good point, but your example is inadequate.

Re:Patents cause progress stoppage (4, Insightful)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#44161911)

All 3 are IP, all 3 are broken (though to differing degrees).

Re:Patents cause progress stoppage (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year ago | (#44162667)

What is broken about Trademarks?

Re:Patents cause progress stoppage (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#44163041)

Re:Patents cause progress stoppage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44163123)

How many cases like there are there? Just a few people _breaking_ the rules (fraud) doesn't prove trademarks are broken. Note:

The prosecution has asked for Stoller to be sentenced to 37 months in prison, based on Stoller's "egregious and ceaseless abuse of the federal court system" and because there is "nothing about the defendantâ(TM)s history and characteristics that suggests that he will not re-offend in the future.

Patents are broken. Copyright is broken. When you can abuse the rules (not break them like the Leo guy) to extort money and slow progress, it's broken.

The day I see prosecutors asking for patent trolls to be sentenced to 37 months in prison is the day I'd say the patent system is getting better.

Or patent trolls actually being required to sell actual products (or do something significant in trying to "bring the future to us" - and thus increase the rate of progress):

The court also found that Stoller failed to provide adequate proof that his company and its licensees had even sold baseball-related merchandise at all

Re:Patents cause progress stoppage (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#44163183)

How about Nissan.com?

That you took the fact it took hundreds of cases and decades before he was prosecuted for bankruptcy fraud doesn't mean the system works. He won plenty before he started losing. He was just too insane to stop.

Mickey is copyright, not patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44162883)

Yes, yes. Technically you're spot on.

Still, this confusion tells us something: the IP forces are winning

This whole IP thing, which at first blush seems like a small "language convenience" is trying to hammer into our heads that you can regard "intellectual property" like physical, trade in it, speculate. It's just annoying that it tends to evaporate after some time (patents take 15 to 30 years, copyrights 90 years plus, trademarks are more complicated).

But with enough creativity ("on a computer", or "for white males between 33 and 39") and enough Congress-massaging and obscure international treaties, this is being fixed.

Soon the distinction will be moot and all will be IP. Brave new world.

Re:Patents cause progress stoppage (1, Insightful)

EzInKy (115248) | about a year ago | (#44161963)

Yes, that is the nature of patents, but you have to admit that they are far better than copyrights. Patents only deny humankind of advances for 20 years or so, copyrights prevent others from building upon previous work for lifetimes plus more.

Re:Patents cause progress stoppage (2)

t4ng* (1092951) | about a year ago | (#44162867)

The music industry is a good example of that. With a single song you have a copyright for the owner of the musical score and a copyright for the owner of the lyrics (not necessarily the creators of the music and lyrics or the same owner for both). If anyone performs the song, you would need to pay a license fee to the owners for 75 years beyond the death of the author in some cases (often the owner had nothing to do with creating the music and none of the licensing fees go to the real artists or their families).

Next, you have a phonogram copyright on recordings of a performance (donated by a circle with a letter P inside it). This is the one that can go on forever. Record companies can release new copies of old music just before the old recording's copyright expires. The license fees to the owner of the song were already paid for the original performance, and since they are just re-releasing the same performance they don't have to pay another license fee. But they can claim a new extension to the phonogram copyright.

So, say you digitize a record whose copyright has expired and give it away for free on the internet. Record companies can muddy the waters enough to claim you just copied one of their re-releases instead of a public domain record. You are guilty until you can prove yourself innocent.

On the other hand, record collectors would say that without this behavior, old public domain recordings would be lost forever.

Re:Patents cause progress stoppage (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44164451)

A more clear example would be "happy birthday".

This woman gets it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44161403)

Edith Ramirez - remember that name. Maybe a future SCOTUS justice.

Focus should be on the granting of patents (3, Insightful)

Camael (1048726) | about a year ago | (#44161807)

If you read her policy speech, her focus is on the need to rein in "Patent Assertion Entities" ("PAE"), defined as "a firm with a business model focused primarily on purchasing and asserting patents". And she talks about solutions such as making it easier/cheaper to defend against frivolous lawsuits etc.

She does not appear to address, or even acknowledge the key underlying problem with the patent system, namely that right now it is too easy to file for and obtain frivolous, undeserving, non-novel or obvious patents. All the powers the patent trolls have stem from the patents they are granted. Cut down on the number of patents issued and you cut down on the abuse that follows.

This will not only cut out the PAEs, but also lessen the ability of legitimate companies to kill off their competition by abusing their patents, such as when Samsung/Apple/HTC/Huawei/Motorola try to block the importation/sale of each other's products on the basis of patents.

Re:Focus should be on the granting of patents (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44161865)

From TFA:

IV. PAE Harm is a Symptom of a Larger Problem

But Commission activity should be just one piece of a broader response. Flaws in the patent system are likely fueling much of the real costs associated with PAE activities. PAEs are good at monetizing patents. But effective monetization of low quality patents imposes a de facto tax on productive economic activity with little or no offsetting benefit for consumers

Re:Focus should be on the granting of patents (5, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#44162143)

From TFA:

IV. PAE Harm is a Symptom of a Larger Problem

But Commission activity should be just one piece of a broader response. Flaws in the patent system are likely fueling much of the real costs associated with PAE activities. PAEs are good at monetizing patents. But effective monetization of low quality patents imposes a de facto tax on productive economic activity with little or no offsetting benefit for consumers

Expecting that parliament of whores, the US House, to pass anything meaningful while they wring their hands over how it might reduce their campaign warchests by $1 million, or less, is like believing the Tooth Faerie exists.

Re:Focus should be on the granting of patents (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44161971)

Nonsense. This is not insightful. What if the patent is entirely worthwhile and then sold to a troll?

The laws governing patentability and patent assertion are not the same.

All patents = bad is not driving the conversation forward.

And as for those tech companies "abusing their patents" do you have a cite for abuse versus assert?

Slashdot troll and patent troll. More similar than different.

Re:Focus should be on the granting of patents (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about a year ago | (#44162523)

Bingo. So often when you read the backstories of the biggest patent trolls, you find out that the key patent at the heart of the battle is one that was issued to a legitimate inventor and was later sold. The patents that were never that good to begin with tend to be the ones that get invalidated at the first sign of resistance.

Re:Focus should be on the granting of patents (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44162729)

Bingo. So often when you read the backstories of the biggest patent trolls, you find out that the key patent at the heart of the battle is one that was issued to a legitimate inventor and was later sold. The patents that were never that good to begin with tend to be the ones that get invalidated at the first sign of resistance.

most of the time they don't seem so good or novel patents.. if they were they would have been sold to an operating entity and not a patent troll - and inventor being some dude who swapped "with a cassette" to "with a computer"..

Re:Focus should be on the granting of patents (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about a year ago | (#44165465)

A lot of the time they are sold to an operating entity...who happens to go bankrupt for other reasons and then sells it to a patent troll. I've read a few different articles about just that sort of thing happening, though I'll admit I can't think of the examples off the top of my head.

Re:Focus should be on the granting of patents (1)

Camael (1048726) | about a year ago | (#44172597)

What if the patent is entirely worthwhile and then sold to a troll?...All patents = bad is not driving the conversation forward.

Wow. Did you even read? My argument was, in bold mind you, "...right now it is too easy to file for and obtain frivolous, undeserving, non-novel or obvious patents...Cut down on the number of patents issued and you cut down on the abuse that follows." Show me where it says all patents are bad.

And as for those tech companies "abusing their patents" do you have a cite for abuse versus assert?

Sure. You only had to ask.

Motorola is guilty of patent abuse [theverge.com] .

So is Apple [guardian.co.uk] .

So is Google [macrumors.com] .

Even Microsoft and Nokia are joining the bandwagon [zdnet.com] .

As an aside, I find it hilarious that someone posting as an AC is accusing others of being a troll. Man up and post under your own account.

china hinge (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44161431)

that's scaring----said by awesum hardware
wwww.as-hardware.com

I patent the letter E be used on online (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#44161461)

only $0.00.005 pre use*

* each payment must be at least $1.00 and payment must be made weekly.

Re:I patent the letter E be used on online (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44161485)

You e-sshole!

Re:I patent the letter E be used on online (4, Funny)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year ago | (#44162683)

Haha, I outsmart your IP. Sucks to am you!

Re:I patent the letter E be used on online (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44163017)

Your screenname contains two of them. Pay up.

Titl (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44166893)

Your titl contains it also. Twis.

Patents, not trolls, the problem (1, Offtopic)

michaelmalak (91262) | about a year ago | (#44161483)

Due to Slashdot's "lameness filter" you can read what I was intended to post here over on reddit [reddit.com] .

Re:Patents, not trolls, the problem (3, Insightful)

Tough Love (215404) | about a year ago | (#44161615)

Patents and scumbags are both problems.

Re:Patents, not trolls, the problem (1)

White Flame (1074973) | about a year ago | (#44161767)

The patent system allows scumbags to exploit it, with all the rubber-stamp granting of vague, non-novel, and non-unique crap.

Patents need to be abolished (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44161497)

Trade secrets need to come back in a big way.

Re:Patents need to be abolished (0)

sydbarrett74 (74307) | about a year ago | (#44161649)

Oh, so protection can be perpetual? I hope you're being ironic, otherwise you're a fucking moron.

Re:Patents need to be abolished (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44163847)

Trade secrets get leaked and there isn't much that can be done about it other than NDAs, but even those require absolute proof of who did it. Anyway, most patents are obvious. Very rarely is a patent so hard that no one else can figure it out, and people who tend to have special patents that are truly unique, tend to be the eccentric kind of person that shares their ideas.

Re:Patents need to be abolished (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#44161919)

They never will. Too many people work on too many pieces, even Microsoft's source code was leaked. And once leaked, without copyright, they wouldn't be able to even pretend to put the genie in the bottle.

Oooh Yeah, We Have a Problem (0)

Greyfox (87712) | about a year ago | (#44161511)

Let's put a band-aid on it instead of addressing the underlying causes of the problem, and kick the can down the road!

Re:Oooh Yeah, We Have a Problem (1)

Nyder (754090) | about a year ago | (#44161543)

Let's put a band-aid on it instead of addressing the underlying causes of the problem, and kick the can down the road!

That is Governments answer to everything. Short term crap to please people and let someone else worry about the long term problems.

Re:Oooh Yeah, We Have a Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44161701)

That's everybody's solution to everything. It's called life.

Patents are totally bogus. See "Against Intellectual Monopoly", which surveys quantitative economic analyses of patents to disprove the myth that they're necessary to incentivize capitalization of research and development. (The authors also promote minimizing copyright, but unfortunately there's not as much data--beyond anecdote--available there to support their conclusions.)

But the fact of the matter is that there's a tremendous number of people (not just corporations) pushing to make patentability easier, and to make subject matter more expansive. Frankly, I only expect things to get worse long term. I don't think people realize how strong and entrenched the patent lobby is, from academia (because of the ridiculous myth about capitalization) to industry to regular folks fantasizing about making it rich by patenting something to be sold on TV.

Re:Oooh Yeah, We Have a Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44163875)

That's everybody's solution to everything. It's called life.

Don't lump me in with that retarded group of "everyone". They're strait up idiots.

don't throw the baby out with the bathwater (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44161779)

As the FTC noted, patent trolls have become a serious problem IN RECENT YEARS. The patent system worked rather well for a few hundred years. Just recently there have been problems big enough, often enough, to offset the benefits.

What that tells me is that some things need to be fixed.
Throwing out a system that worked so well for so long would be dumb. That would be like trying to reduce the cost of medical care by getting rid of doctors.

Re:don't throw the baby out with the bathwater (1)

Arker (91948) | about a year ago | (#44161867)

" The patent system worked rather well for a few hundred years."

Eh, even back in the days of the steam engine and the cotton gin and before it was hardly a clear cut benefit to the general welfare. It's just become more and more destructive as the pace of technological advance has increased, that's all.

Re:don't throw the baby out with the bathwater (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44161889)

"Throwing out a system that worked so well for so long would be dumb"

This is the standard assumption, but totally unfounded. I suggest the book "Against Intellectual Monopoly", which looks at hard economic analyses of the effects of patents. The theory that patents are necessary to incentivize capitalization is not supported by the empirical evidence. The only area where empirical evidence tends to show patents are necessary is to recoup development costs of pharmaceuticals. But drugs patents are only necessary to cover the marginal cost of adhering to strict government protocols; arguably we'd have a net social health benefit by relaxing the protocols, relaxing patents, and allowing more and cheaper drugs to reach the market.

It's always amazed me that anybody who believes that the free market works better than communism or nepotism would support patents. I mean, just stop and think about what patents are for a moment. Seriously. Stop... and... think.... Ready?

The only possible economic justification for patents involves the free rider problem with the use of non-rivalrous goods (knowledge). However, that's just a theory that doesn't even, by itself, necessitate patents; it only hypothesizes the necessity of patents under some potential circumstances. But _all_ the empirical evidence suggests that there exist almost no _actual_ scenarios where patents are required, all things being equal. Rather, they appear to be a net social cost and a net drain on innovation.

And yet people continue to parrot the necessity of patents, as if it's just intuitive. It's not intuitive if you stop and think about it. Modern free market systems don't give out patents on your labor, as governments once did through the guild system. Nobody needs a patent on the sale of gasoline on a street corner, to prevent competitors. Why? Because, by some cosmic magic, people can still make money in the face of competition, and only the barest of legal guarantees are needed to reach peak efficiency in the form of very basic private property rights, etc.

Re:don't throw the baby out with the bathwater (1)

pepty (1976012) | about a year ago | (#44172473)

The only area where empirical evidence tends to show patents are necessary is to recoup development costs of pharmaceuticals. But drugs patents are only necessary to cover the marginal cost of adhering to strict government protocols; arguably we'd have a net social health benefit by relaxing the protocols, relaxing patents, and allowing more and cheaper drugs to reach the market.

I don't know about that. More drugs doesn't necessarily mean better drugs. Successfully navigating the government protocols also frees a drug maker of significant liability. Would or should drug makers still enjoy that freedom from liability if they haven't gone through the FDA approval process?

Personally, I think any relaxation in phase III clinical trials should be accompanied by strict requirements to run post-approval trials for efficacy and safety.

Re:don't throw the baby out with the bathwater (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#44161923)

And the no-patent system worked fine for the thousands of years before patent was invented.

think about what you said. progress (2, Interesting)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44162473)

Think about that for a second. You want to trade the pace of progress in the sciences and useful arts that we've had for the last 300 years for the rate of progress for two thousand years before that? Really?

Three hundred years ago, 1713, life was much the same as it was in 300 BC. Our quality of life has improved so much more in the last few hundred years than it improved in the thousands of years before. Are you really wanting to go back to the days when everyone just worried about feeding themselves, because there was no hope of changing your life by creating something new that everyone could benefit from?

Granted, there were certain times, in certain places, where people made real progress long ago. Greece, for example, was unusually productive. It was also unusual in that Greece had patents 2,500 years ago, and it had citizens rather than subjects.

Re:think about what you said. progress (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44163225)

How much of that progress is really because of the patent system?

Some people think a lot of that progress is because of tea:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_in_the_United_Kingdom#Industrial_Revolution [wikipedia.org]
Others think it is because of the potato: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/How-the-Potato-Changed-the-World.html [smithsonianmag.com]

With the potato more people could stop worrying about feeding themselves. When one farmer can feed more people it means those people can do other things.

Back then patents in the USA were for 14 years. If nowadays the rate of progress is really getting faster and communication & distribution is more efficient I would think patent and copyright terms should be getting shorter and shorter rather than longer.

agreed, patent terms should be shorter now (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44164125)

Agreed, in 1850, people were using thousand year old technology for the most part , so a twenty year lead was reasonable.
  These days, 3 years might give a roughly equivalent advantage. The only problem is, since the patent office is government bureaucracy, it takes three years for them to approve it.

Re:think about what you said. progress (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44166811)

I have a rock that hastens technological progress too.

Re:think about what you said. progress (1)

UltraZelda64 (2309504) | about a year ago | (#44173423)

You seriously contribute *everything* humanity has ever done in the last 300 years to patents? Are you serious? Patents are a tool, nothing else. And more recently they've been a tool of choice for abuse, encouraging stagnation by being used as a weapon against everyone else even for the most obvious ideas. And fucking math, for that matter. They are less needed than ever before, especially in software--they just never really worked well for software. But certainly software is not the only area that needs a complete reform or total abolition.

No, he attributed non-progress to lack thereof (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44181143)

> You seriously contribute *everything* humanity has ever done in the last 300 years to patents? Are you serious?

No, the person I replied to attributed the fast paced progress a thousand years ago to the LACK of patents.
I pointed that progress has accelerated greatly since patents began to be commonly used, so he was wrong
to say that the creation of patents a few hundred years ago caused progress to stop.

Additionally, in places where patents were strong, such as the US, those were exactly the places doing most of the
invention in the last 300 years. (Of course the US lead in innovation had begun to wither in the last 25 years or so.)

> And more recently they've been a tool of choice for abuse

Which is my point. Recently, in the last 5-10 years or so, certain people have started abusing them in a specific way.
What you want is to get back to the system that worked so well from Edison in 1859 to Shockley and to Noyce in 1956.
Edison didn't spend years trying thousands of different prototypes for usable light bulb because he had nothing better to do.
He hoped to invent a workable electric light so that he could live off the earnings his R&D would produce. We should keep
that, while getting rid of the recent "business plan" of systematic abuse.

Re:No, he attributed non-progress to lack thereof (1)

UltraZelda64 (2309504) | about a year ago | (#44181849)

No, the person I replied to attributed the fast paced progress a thousand years ago to the LACK of patents.
I pointed that progress has accelerated greatly since patents began to be commonly used, so he was wrong
to say that the creation of patents a few hundred years ago caused progress to stop.

Ah, I see. It must have been a slight misunderstanding.

Additionally, in places where patents were strong, such as the US, those were exactly the places doing most of the
invention in the last 300 years. (Of course the US lead in innovation had begun to wither in the last 25 years or so.)

I think this is nothing more than a coincidence. I wouldn't attribute it to patents.

Which is my point. Recently, in the last 5-10 years or so, certain people have started abusing them in a specific way.

I think it's been going on for much longer than the last 5-10 years. It's just that in that time, the abuse has just increased heavily, to downright ridiculous proportions. But it is most definitely not something that started, or even started to get bad, just ten years ago. It was already being abused pretty badly before that--just not on the scale that it is now.

Re:No, he attributed non-progress to lack thereof (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#44265013)

Additionally, in places where patents were strong, such as the US, those were exactly the places doing most of the invention in the last 300 years. (Of course the US lead in innovation had begun to wither in the last 25 years or so.)

And I thought it the opposite. The US patent system was weak in the 1800s. The US didn't recognize foreign patents, so people would "discover" something in the US that was already discovered elsewhere. Hollywoodland was in the west, far from the patent and copyright enforcers. China has weak patents and has caught up to the US and others quickly, and is starting to pass us in many things. Abolishing patents now will bring a renaissance of innovation and progress. Within a few years of Velcro, a "better" fastener was created, but not shared because it was "better" to hide it away as a secret and let Velcro earn the most before the improvements were released.

Re:Oooh Yeah, We Have a Problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44161663)

Let's put a band-aid on it instead of addressing the underlying causes of the problem, and kick the can down the road!

And let's not read TFA, but instead repeat the same tired old rants that have been posted several times a week on this site for the past 15 years.

Re:Oooh Yeah, We Have a Problem (0)

arbiter1 (1204146) | about a year ago | (#44161735)

That is standard Democrat ploy, Not to fix the problem and just put it off for someone else. That or throw a ton of money at the problem with no idea were the money is gonna come from to pay for it.

Re:Oooh Yeah, We Have a Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44161845)

That is standard Democrat ploy, Not to fix the problem and just put it off for someone else.

I listen to those same radio programs you listen to every night and let me tell you, as a thinking American I am getting madder and madder.

Re:Oooh Yeah, We Have a Problem (1)

arbiter1 (1204146) | about a year ago | (#44161861)

I don't listen to any radio programs, Republicans yea aint much better, but recently they least been trying to cut the "spend now worry about how to pay for it later" democrat ploy.

Re:Oooh Yeah, We Have a Problem (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#44170575)

Republicans yea aint much better, but recently they least been trying to cut the "spend now worry about how to pay for it later" democrat ploy.

What Republicans have you been looking at? They are borrow and spend, which is all about worrying about how to pay for it later. The Democrats are tax and spend, which matches paying for it with spending it. The current administration has been particularly bad about borrow and spend because the Republicans aren't interested in holding down expenses, but fight every tax resolution tooth and nail. So up go expenses, and up goes borrowing.

Re:Oooh Yeah, We Have a Problem (1)

Greyfox (87712) | about a year ago | (#44162107)

as a thinking American I am getting madder and madder.

Well there's your problem! Have you considered drinking heavily? I'd rather have a bottle in front of me, than have to have a frontal lobotomy!

Re:Oooh Yeah, We Have a Problem (1)

similar_name (1164087) | about a year ago | (#44162225)

What's the competing plan? I'd like more info on alternatives.

Choices (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44161577)

1) Ambitious
2) Doable

Pick one.

Marshall TX = mafia (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44161715)

The court in Marshall Texas is acting like an organized-crime operation, plain and simple.

Good Start (4, Interesting)

amiga3D (567632) | about a year ago | (#44161731)

Getting rid of software patents would go a long way towards correcting the problem. That's where the biggest abuse is.

Let me guess - get rid of doctors too (-1)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44162031)

Let me guess, your solution to reducing health care costs is to get rid of doctors, right? Do you have zero knowledge of history, or are you just stoned?
In the past few years, patent trolls have figured out the right loopholes and strategies to be able to work an abusive "business model".
A couple of fairly minor tweaks would fix that. Then at we'd be back to enjoying the benefits of the system that worked rather well for hundreds of years.

Re:Let me guess - you dont understand software (4, Insightful)

mjwx (966435) | about a year ago | (#44162345)

Software is almost entirely a mathematical construct. We dont allow patenting mathematical constructs because they are far too logical and replicable. Anyone looking to do the same thing will logically take the same path with no knowledge of any prior art.

So you dont understand patents, software or more likely, both.

Patents are meant to encourage innovation by providing a limited monopoly. The key words in there are "encourage" and "limited". Patents are not meant to provide a means of extorting other businesses nor are they meant to last for ever. The price of the limited monopoly is that the patent passes into the public domain after a set number of years. Patents are also required to be unique, code is too easily replicated by someone with no knowledge of the patented code to meet this requirement.

Then at we'd be back to enjoying the benefits of the system that worked rather well for hundreds of years.

LoL, you also dont know your history.

Patent systems are radically different to the systems you claim "worked" and we haven't had the same system for 100's of years. The current iteration started around 50 years ago with most of the abusive changes added in the last 20.

Re:Let me guess - you dont understand software (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year ago | (#44163011)

Patent systems are radically different to the systems you claim "worked" and we haven't had the same system for 100's of years. The current iteration started around 50 years ago with most of the abusive changes added in the last 20.

They might be changed substantially, but they've been abused heartily for hundreds of years.

The whole "yeah but on a computer^W^Wthe internet^Wcloud" patents used to be "yeah but on a steam engine".

No kidding.

Look up some pictures of an old Watt steam engine. Note the rather odd sun and planet gear arrangement insteadof a crank, because some numpty patented the idea of using a crank on a steam engine.

Not that Watt didn't retard the further development of steam engines by 25 years by vigorously pursuing patents or anything...

Oh the irony (0)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44166211)

> Let me guess - you dont understand software

ROTFL at the irony. You didn't notice who you were replying to, did you. Hint - you're talking to a kernel contributor, and an Apache contributor.

> Patents are not meant to provide a means of extorting other businesses nor are they meant to last for ever. ... Patents are also required to be unique

Agreed.

> We dont allow patenting mathematical constructs because they are far too logical and replicable.

A common misconception. We don't allow patenting the laws of nature of of mathematics, because they predate their "invention" - mathematical equations which are "true" are discovered, not actually invented. On the other hand, using a few pages of newly created math to say, detect and eliminate Slashdot trolls, is patentable. 1 = 2 -1 isn't patentable because it's a mathematical fact. On the other hand:
trollscore = sin(posts) / cos(points) ... days * replies .... blah blah
isn't mathematically true, it would be a newly invented way of rating trollishness, and therefoe patentable.

> Anyone looking to do the same thing will logically take the same path with no knowledge of any prior art.

We can quickly determine whether or not that's true. Consider how you'd make a captcha, a web device to prevent bots from posting spam all over slashdot al day long. If you know anything at all about programming, in about 30 seconds you can sketch out how you might do that in your head. if you're intellectually honest, take 30 seconds to think about so we can see if you're right that you and I come up with the same implementation. I'll wait a few line feeds while you do that.

30 seconds later ...

Having seen a captcha before, you might have imitated prior art and make a really annoying captcha. This is what I came up with:
http://bettercgi.com/images/face-turing-captcha.png

In testing, everyone has been able to quickly solve my captcha while standing ten feet away. It leverages a skill that's been very finely tuned for millions of years - spotting attractive women. Did you come up with the exact same thing? Of course not. ChickCAPTCHA is a new invention. It happens to be implemented in software.

Gears and pulleys can be put together in the same old ways to build the same old machines. Gears and pulleys can also be used to make completely new inventions. The same is true of for loops and if statements - most of the time, they are used to build traditional software. Occasionally, they are used to build entirely new inventions which are much better than what was available before. ChickCAPTHA is an example - it's much, much less annoying than old fashioned captchas, much quicker and easier, and therefore better.

It took significant R&D time to figure out what humans are incredibly good at, much better at than computers. (It turned out we're very, very good at spotting hot babes). Then more time figure out just the right way to use that so it was really easy for humans, but hard for computers. (Subtleties in the images make it harder for computer vision than you might think). I think it's fair than instead of Microsoft or Google ripping off my research, they have to throw me a bone if they want to start using ChickCAPTCHA on gmail. (WIth a reasonable time limit, as you said.)

PS - if any readers think ChickCAPTCHA is cool, don't steal it, contact me. I'll do a very reasonable license if contacted. If you steal my R&D/idea, I will ask my friendly lawyer to help me find some truly evil lawyers.)

Re:Let me guess - get rid of doctors too (1)

amiga3D (567632) | about a year ago | (#44164453)

Not seeing the analogy of Doctors to software patents at all. But to help out with healthcare my solution would be more like get rid of the lawyers.

Re:Good Start (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#44170599)

And abandon patents and copyright on mathematics and natural phenomenon. Monsanto can patent a manner of injecting bacterial DNA into corn, but not the sequence of either component or the result, nor copyright it and prosecute people who "find" it later.

FAILZORS... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44161795)

Are inherently surveys sHow that

Patent Stupidiity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44161815)

If you could get past the overwhelming documentation of prior art by the government alone, you could become the wealthiest person on earth by licensing it. Heck, just imagine how many would sign a deal just to quietly get you to go away rather then drag their company or ogovernment agency into court for violation of your patent on stupidity? Works for political contributions don't it?

"Patent Assertion Entities"? (1)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | about a year ago | (#44161885)

Okay, apparently you can spell TROLL without LOL...

Anyone know what happened? (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | about a year ago | (#44161893)

I can't figure out why the powers that be seem to care about patent trolls now. Big corps used to love them because it kept upstarts like google from upending whole industries. Investors didn't seem to mind them since like bookies they make their money either way so long as the market stays reasonable stable. The only ppl I know that get the short end are little guys like me.

Re:Anyone know what happened? (1)

Neppy (673459) | about a year ago | (#44162255)

Two things happened. 1. The patent trolls are no longer in just the tech industry. Major retailers etc. that can make a lot of noise are now under attack. These are companies that themselves hold no/few patents and thus have no interest in holding the status quo the way major tech companies do. 2. The situation has gotten so wildly out of control at this point that even mega corps are no longer benefiting from it.

Re:Anyone know what happened? (2)

peragrin (659227) | about a year ago | (#44163451)

There is a third point the other commentator missed.

Right now even big companies are spending tens and hundreds of millions of dollars fighting these trolls. Patent Trolling is a multi billion dollar industry.billions that are costing even big companies like microsoft enough money to show up on upper management's radar.

chairwoman? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44161937)

This isn't an episode of duckman is it? PC goes too far I think

Problem, what problem? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44161939)

The corporations with lots of money and lots of patents are making lots of money. The lawyers are making lots and lots of money. Fuck inventors! So what's the problem? Oh, and if you actually look at fixing things, know that patents on software should have remained illegal, patents must actually do something non-obvious, and while you are at it, copyrights are more fucked than patents: 20 years (1 generation) should be the term limit, and if its sold, the time should be cut in half.

patents are not just being abused by trolls (4, Insightful)

litehacksaur111 (2895607) | about a year ago | (#44162055)

Compaines are filing patents and then forming subsidiaries in tax haven countires. The companies licence the patent to the subsidiary and book all the profits in that low tax country. The companies then just show operating losses in the US.

Re:patents are not just being abused by trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44169551)

That's a problem with taxing profits in general:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollywood_accounting

In addition to their impracticality, taxes on profits are unfair - does a corporation which wastes money somehow receive less of a benefit from our legal system? Why aren't they entitled to reimbursement if they lose money instead of profit? Why can corporations deduct all costs from their income taxes, but individuals can deduct only some costs? What message does it send when more efficient companies pay more taxes?

Taxing the consumption of natural resources would be much more fair/simple/efficient than taxing success.

Sounds to me like they have forgotten... (1)

3seas (184403) | about a year ago | (#44163615)

... what the single most import reason was for starting up such property rights,

I Was Just An Innocent Observation (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about a year ago | (#44167293)

It appears that Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez discovered this uncomfortable reality when she violated an Google patent for speaking up in public.
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