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Patent Trolls Getting the Attention of the Feds

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the who's-that-tramping-over-my-bridge? dept.

United States 92

crazyvas writes "The New York Times has published an article on the FTC's plans to investigate the patent system, and likely patent trolls such as Intellectual Ventures. From the article: 'To its defenders, Intellectual Ventures is a revolutionary company unfairly viewed, in the words of its co-founder Peter N. Detkin, "as the poster child of everything that is wrong with the patent system." To its critics, it is a protection racket otherwise known as a patent troll. This summer, the Federal Trade Commission is expected to begin a sweeping investigation of the patent system after the agency's chairwoman, Edith Ramirez, urged a crackdown. She has singled out a particular kind of miscreant, one that engages in "a variety of aggressive litigation tactics," including hiding behind shell companies when it sues.'"

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How about investigating East Texas (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44313575)

They should invent a rule that requires you to file your patent lawsuit in the county the business has its headquarters located in.

Re:How about investigating East Texas (4, Informative)

norpy (1277318) | about a year ago | (#44313617)

They already have that rule, all the shell companies are headquartered in east Texas.

Where to sue (5, Interesting)

Firethorn (177587) | about a year ago | (#44314071)

I think the AC was talking about making the suing company sue the business in the business's home county.

IE let's say the patent troll wants to sue Bobcat. Given that, as best as I can tell they're incorporated in West Fargo in North Dakota, that would mean that the troll would have to sue them in West Fargo, ND not East Texas.

It means that the patent trolls can't judge shop anywhere as well.

Re:Where to sue (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44314111)

Q5: What are women?
A) Human beings.
B) Objects.
C) Things that exist to pleasure us men.
D) Insolent insects that exist solely to pleasure us men! Man, if a woman isn't pleasuring a man, she's utterly worthless! Just vanish already!
E) B, C, and D

Correct answer: B, C, and D.

Re:Where to sue (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44315129)

Looks to me like E) B, C, and D is the correct answer. Ya can't have B, C, and D, if ya don't choose an E). How can you have any pudding if you don't pick choice E)?

Re:Where to sue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44314123)

Except then they'll find a way to get sued in a place that won't bother them.

Re:Where to sue (1)

bdwebb (985489) | about a year ago | (#44322875)

No no...the patent trolls sue the company they identify as infringing. Therefore what the parent was trying to say was that the patent troll has to sue that 'infringing' company in the company's home county so that they cannot judge shop and present the suit in the area most likely to give them the judgement they want.

Re:Where to sue (2)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#44315499)

Wouldn't that bias the system against legitimate small inventors whose invention was ripped off by a giant corporation? They wouldn't be allowed to file suit near their home, but would have to travel to the state where the corporation is headquartered to sue them. And the corporation could itself judge-shop by placing its headquarters in districts known to be friendly to corporate defendants.

Re:Where to sue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44317419)

Ahh, the mystical small inventor ... The small inventor doesn't have the money to defend her invention against a giant corporation, so it doesn't matter.

Captcha: trapped

Re:Where to sue (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about a year ago | (#44318651)

Wouldn't that bias the system against legitimate small inventors whose invention was ripped off by a giant corporation?

Perhaps, but as the AC notes, there's not actually a lot of small inventors anymore, and I guess it becomes what you consider a larger problem at this time - patent trolls or patent violators?

One more complicated option would be to require you to sue* where the corporation has a 'business presence'. It would indeed be very complicated, but would avoid some problems - if Amazon has no real presence in 'East Texas' other than mailing stuff people order there, then you can't sue them there. Walmart has stores there, so you could sue them in those courts.

Roughly speaking, while it does give the company some limited advantages in 'home court' advantage, it's mostly advantageous to people - who 95% of the time only have 'presence' in one state & county. If you don't have a presence - IE do you own property there? Are you physically there? It might not be the most favorable, but at least it's close. I think it sucks that I could theoretically be sued in Maryland while I'm living in Alaska.

The actual rules would end up even more complicated if you have some sort of rule where if the incident was of a physical non-interstate nature(and mailing something to them wouldn't count), you could sue there even if neither party normally has a physical presence there.

*Remember, suing somebody is the initiating act; I believe it fair to treat it a bit like a duel. Sure, you can challenge somebody to a duel, but they then get to set at least some of the duels. One of them is that if you're suing somebody outside of your own local area I think it's reasonable that you be the one forced to travel.

Re:Where to sue (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#44320683)

Since a patent suit will run into millions anyway, it seems unlikely that travel would be a deterrent to the 'small' multi-millionaire.

Re:Where to sue (1)

Charles Duffy (2856687) | about a year ago | (#44317045)

That gets you the opposite problem. Look at how Microsoft's home-court advantage has been favoring them in Seattle.

Re:How about investigating East Texas (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44314491)

I can't wait till you invent something and are required to find an attorney in Seattle who wants to take a contingency case against Microsoft. Good luck with that.

Re:How about investigating East Texas (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44314965)

I can't wait till you invent something and are required to find an attorney in Seattle who wants to take a contingency case against Microsoft. Good luck with that.

TFA suggests the FTC will be investigating Microsoft and Apple soon, so maybe that attorney will be a little more interested then than they are now.

Re:How about investigating East Texas (1, Informative)

hairyfeet (841228) | about a year ago | (#44315157)

Are you serious? Given the fricking HATRED that most have for corps I seriously doubt you'd find a landshark that would give up a shot at a big fish like that and since I'm sure they'd have rules against somebody who works for the corp being on the jury you could pitch the whole "David versus Goliath" angle, people eat that kind of underdog story up.

Of course that just illustrates why East Texas is a haven for trolls, lots of poor folks that don't like those with more money than them that are more than happy to screw a big evil corp, easy pickings. So I'd argue if anything its the big corps like Apple, Google, and MSFT that have to worry under the current system which is why you see them building patent warchests and signing cross license deals with each other, because we have seen plenty of times trolls like intellectual Vultures go from one to the other to the other, grabbing the loot off the corps thanks to a "Patent to something with something else" vague as hell patent some moron at USPTO handed out.

I personally am just worried that it will go too far the other way, I live in one of those states where the MSM beat the "tort reform" drum a decade or so back and all the "reform" did was make it so a doctor can show up drunk and butcher somebody and not have to worry about a suit because no lawyer will take the case, the insanely low caps mean that the years of work it'll take to get a medical suit through the courts won't show a ROI so they won't touch it. I think we can all agree the current system is broken but as we saw with Obamacare trying to get healthcare for the uninsured and instead watching every business cut everyone to part time, just because you have good intent does NOT mean what comes out on the other side will be good.

Re:How about investigating East Texas (2)

rijrunner (263757) | about a year ago | (#44317929)

Back in the early days of automobile and aircraft manufacturing, there were similar problems to this. In aircraft manufacturing, the Wright-Curtiss lawsuits held back aircraft development by a couple decades.

There automotive industry came up with a fairly decent solution fairly quickly, which is interesting as the Ford Company was well on its way to becoming a monopoly when it agreed to the terms set out. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) was formed as a licensing and technology sharing organization. Any member of that organization could license the technology of any other member of that organization.

-----------
http://www.sae.org/about/intelproperty/faqs.htm

"Q. What is the SAE patent policy with regard to standards in development? What must be disclosed, by whom and by when during the standards development process?

A. SAE's IP Policy provides the following guidance:

2.3 Patents
It has been traditionally the position of SAE to avoid the use of patented technology in Technical Reports where the principal objective is conformance to the Technical Report as defined by the SAE Technical Standards Board. However, with the advent of more complex technologies, it is not always possible to provide Technical Reports that meet today's needs without incorporating technologies that are patented. It has become difficult, if not impossible, to develop standards that do not take advantage of or otherwise incorporate the use of products, systems or process that implementation would necessarily infringe a claim of such a patent. Accordingly, SAE Technical Reports may include the known use of patent(s), including patent applications, if there is in the opinion of the committee developing the Technical Report technical justification and provided that SAE receive assurance from the patent holder that it will license applicants under reasonable terms and conditions for the purpose of implementing the standard. This assurance shall be provided without coercion and prior to the approval of the standard or reaffirmation when a patent becomes known after the initial approval of the standard. This assurance shall be a letter that is in the form of either:

2.3.1 A general disclaimer to the effect that the patentee will not enforce any of its present or future patent(s) whose claims would be necessarily infringed by implementation of the proposed SAE Technical Report against any person or entity implementing the mandatory provisions of the Technical Report to effect compliance or;

2.3.2 A statement that a license will be made available to all applicants without compensation or under reasonable rates, with reasonable terms and conditions that are demonstrably free of any unfair discrimination."

---

The problem now is that people are a) allowed patents of pretty basic concepts that are quite obvious and b) using patents to stifle competition rather than license technologies.

If I were looking at reforming patents, I would look at the "obvious" clause and how to address license agreements. I don't have anything against patents as long as someone is bending hardware and selling products based on it.

Oh Yeah Be Afraid of The Fed (4, Insightful)

al0ha (1262684) | about a year ago | (#44313587)

Let's see, how many Wall Street executives are in jail due to the Fed investigating the irrefutable evidence of fraud at the highest levels perpetuated by Goldman and others which led to the collapse of the economy.

Oh yeah; 0

Re:Oh Yeah Be Afraid of The Fed (2)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about a year ago | (#44314489)

Uh, almost 1. Rajat Gupta [reuters.com] has been convicted of insider trading, ordered to pay a $13.9 million fine, and sentenced to 2 years in prison. He's also been banned from serving as an officer or director of any publicly traded company.

He's never seen the inside of a jail though, and he's still out on bail, pending appeal, so we'll see.

Re:Oh Yeah Be Afraid of The Fed (2)

vlad30 (44644) | about a year ago | (#44316461)

Rajat Gupta sounds like they outsourced the punishment or at least trying to

Re:Oh Yeah Be Afraid of The Fed (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#44320903)

So the guy who spied on Goldman is convicted (pending appeal).

Re:Oh Yeah Be Afraid of The Fed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44314833)

Our economy has these problems built into it. There is no fix, way out, or blame. Its all of us. Our basis of value for our money is debt. In that way, debt is created prior to the money being printed. Therefor, those that have the power to create debt, are the ones that are ruling the world.

The only way out of this is to learn what truly has value in the universe. For me, it's time. In order to have time, you need food to sustain your ability to proceed with life. So maybe food is true currency. Hell food grows on trees.

my .02

Re:Oh Yeah Be Afraid of The Fed (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about a year ago | (#44315763)

Everyone has the power to create debt. Money is just readily transferable debt, which is the entire point of it: I do some work now for someone, and they don't produce anything that I need right now, then they give me some tokens representing the debt. I can use these tokens to exchange for some useful product or service from someone else who doesn't directly want anything that I produce.

Saying that money is backed by debt is a nice libertarian talking point, but it doesn't actually convey any information. Money exists so that you can balance unequal trades with a promise that they will be equalised in the future, and any promise of future balance is debt.

Re:Oh Yeah Be Afraid of The Fed (1)

radiumsoup (741987) | about a year ago | (#44316575)

to be fair, I don't think the Libertarian position is that money is backed by debt (indeed, precious metal coins with USD face values are valuable in their own right), it's that the Federal government's issuance of debt is backed only by debt (its promise to pay), which is absolutely true. Not all spenders of US Dollars are the Federal government, and not all USD transactions are debt transactions, so not all debt issued in US Dollars is unbacked by assets. Big difference from what you insinuated, there.

Re:Oh Yeah Be Afraid of The Fed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44314855)

The FTC can be effective when it needs to be. No bankers are going to jail because the government has been brought and paid for by banks. However, in this case, big companies with deep pockets that are tired of patent trolls may be pushing for this. So something may come of it.

Beware what you ask for... (4, Interesting)

dpilot (134227) | about a year ago | (#44313593)

Sounds like this may trigger legislation. When legislation is written, big corporations frequently have at least a virtual seat at the table, "helping" to get it written.

The true fear hear is that any sort of reform to solve the problems of patent trolls will tend to favor those big corporations in ordinary matters. The problem is the new person or company with something new and disruptive to the existing market. Though it's a little painful, in the longer run it's for the better when the market gets disrupted this way, because new opportunities emerge in the process. If the "reforms" give big corporations more power to "manage" the disruption, preserving their own markets and business models, we all lose. (The disruption will happen anyway, outside the US.)

Re: Beware what you ask for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44313739)

This a thousand times. I was pleased when China was ignoring copyright and patents. This was a form of protectionism that's been killing the free market here in the US. There are ways of proving a product is genuine from the fakes. This is a solved problem. It's up to the consumer to figure it out and the market to provide to means to do so. So rather then relying a protection racket, let markets stand on business relationships.

Re:Beware what you ask for... (3, Insightful)

foniksonik (573572) | about a year ago | (#44314257)

Which is more likely? A small guy invents something truly unique or a small guy invents something with a unique quality but incorporates lots of industry standard technology?

In the first case the small guy should have a clear patent that is not disputable.

In the second case one of three things can happen. He can file and be awarded an overly broad patent which is clearly just a rewrite of prior art at which point he sells it to a patent troll or he can file and be awarded a small patent on something unique but unfortunately can't do anything with it because a patent troll already laid claim to the industry standard stuff he built it on top of.

The third thing that could happen is that the guy realizes he's screwed and his idea will never make it past the startup phase - so he gives up and goes back to work to a corporate gig.

This third possibility is becoming more and more common. This is the chilling effect of patents and patent trolls. People are afraid to do anything new for fear of being sued, even when the new thing is a simple improvement on something that's been done for decades. Worse yet, companies are afraid to buy new stuff from small guys because they can be sued just for using the invention (no indemnity against IP lawsuits, no sale).

Re:Beware what you ask for... (4, Interesting)

Teancum (67324) | about a year ago | (#44314997)

The purpose of patents, supposedly, is to help protect the garage tinkerer that comes up with a really cool idea to have exclusive rights over that invention.

I've asked this question repeatedly on Slashdot and elsewhere, and I fail to get any sort of realistic reply:

Do you personally know somebody (aka a close blood relative, somebody you knew in your youth and considered a "best friend", somebody who would be at your bedside in a hospital if you got into a serious accident merely by hearing you by name were hurt) who has ever earned more than the patent filing fees on any patent they've developed?

I know personally (including my grandfather... who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in patent attorney fees over the course of many years) several people who have earned a patent, and many others who have invented some pretty interesting devices that definitely are worthy of patents. I also know of several people personally who have filed for patents due to work they've done for companies they worked for. Note: If you are an employee as an engineer, it is a standard contract that you will turn patentable inventions over to that company... often even if you come up with the idea outside of work. Certainly for stuff you invent "on the job". Some companies offer royalties on those inventions, but most companies simply assume your salary is compensation for those inventions.

I do know some people personally who have earned money from copyrighted content (mainly books, although some movies). I don't know a single person who has even earned "pizza money" (aka a few bucks "profit" to buy a pizza or something very cheap.) above and beyond even the filing fees from patents. I also know of several very prominent people (notably Philo Farnsworth and Nikola Tesla, not to mention the Wright Brothers) who spent an insane amount of time in courtrooms trying to defend their patents, often without effect, and in the mean time these incredibly prolific inventors wasted literally decades of their life in a fruitless attempt to earn money off of ideas that "the system" said they deserved.

Re: Beware what you ask for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44315531)

Right 100%
Especially after Ebay decision small inventors can forget about patents
Back to middle ages...

Re:Beware what you ask for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44318679)

The purpose of patents, supposedly, is to help protect the garage tinkerer that comes up with a really cool idea to have exclusive rights over that invention.

No. The purpose of patents is clearly stated in the constitution:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts

Helping out the little guy is only a side effect and shouldn't be done if it doesn't help society as a whole. Just like helping the big guys.

Re:Beware what you ask for... (1)

Teancum (67324) | about a year ago | (#44320627)

What progress of useful science or "the arts" (meaning further research into new ideas) happens with patents? I agree that is supposedly the reason why Congress was given the authority to be able to grant patents in the first place, but the rationale given by members of Congress as to why they pass certain pieces of legislation is to give the "little guy" protection.

I'm certainly not worried about the big guys, as they will clearly make money even without patents or even under a communist government and especially under a fascist government. The question is if patents will grind down individuals from making society a better place or will they prevent innovation from happening.... thus being counter to that process of trying to "promote the progress of science and the useful arts"?

A good point, but that doesn't seem to be the point of a patent as currently constituted under the United States Code, Title 35. That may make the entire code technically unconstitutional, but since when does Congress or for that matter anybody else in the federal government care about the U.S. Constitution?

Re:Beware what you ask for... (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | about a year ago | (#44317165)

In the second case one of three things can happen. He can file and be awarded an overly broad patent which is clearly just a rewrite of prior art at which point he sells it to a patent troll or he can file and be awarded a small patent on something unique but unfortunately can't do anything with it because a patent troll already laid claim to the industry standard stuff he built it on top of.

The third thing that could happen is that the guy realizes he's screwed and his idea will never make it past the startup phase - so he gives up and goes back to work to a corporate gig.

The fourth thing that can happen is he gets a patent on his invention of a "unique quality" and then sell that to a patent troll or a large corporation manufacturing the relevant device. Your second point seems to ignore this possibility.

Re:Beware what you ask for... (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | about a year ago | (#44319253)

Good luck trying that route. I've seen people getting bankrupt, but I've never heard about anybody that made any money this way.

When a patent troll decides to sue you because he owns the invention, and your patent is invalid, or when the manufacturing corp decides to ignore your patent and just build whatever you invented without licensing, you'll feel what it is like to go to a court.

Re:Beware what you ask for... (1)

dpilot (134227) | about a year ago | (#44317487)

What you say may be the norm, but it is worth mentioning that market disruption has happened, and it has happened reasonably recently. It's just not that common, and probably shouldn't be.

Market disruption is (probably correctly) frequently squashed by reality - I'd rather not see it squashed by law, as well.

Re:Beware what you ask for... (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44314811)

Politicians have been paying attention to patents a lot lately. My guess is because tech companies have been ramping up the lobbying...

Re:Beware what you ask for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44315925)

... disruption will happen anyway, outside the US. ...

Why can't the US corporations use the same stand-over tactics in other countries? Even if you're correct, the US big corporations can buy or steal the new technology. The system works, just not fairly and efficiently.

In other words... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44313595)

Enough people who own congress are getting pissed off.

Re:In other words... (1)

dcollins117 (1267462) | about a year ago | (#44314199)

Enough people who own congress are getting pissed off.

Well it's about fricken time. Took them long enough.

I'm not a fan of Intellectual Ventures (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44313625)

But at least they made the mosquito laser zapper before they patented the hell out of it and are apparently demanding enough royalties that nobody's even bothering to try.

Re:I'm not a fan of Intellectual Ventures (1)

Xicor (2738029) | about a year ago | (#44313697)

there are a lot of patent trolls out there... and they are ridiculous. it is about damn time that our government is getting around to revamping the ages old system that doesnt work right in modern times... now if only they would go through and rewrite ALL of the ridiculous laws that were created in an age before electricity that somehow apply to our current technology.

Re:I'm not a fan of Intellectual Ventures (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44313869)

I'm no fan of IV either, but I'm surprised that the summary doesn't link to the /. interview with Nathan Myhrvold that was all of three months ago,
    http://features.slashdot.org/story/13/04/03/1219259/nathan-myhrvold-live-qa [slashdot.org]

16 trolls brought 62% of suits (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44314359)

> there are a lot of patent trolls out there

When you said that, it got me wondering, how many patent trolls are there? A little research suggests there are about 16. They filed 62% of the patent suits last year. It shouldn't be too hard to take a look at how those 16 trolls operate "successfully" and find a few ways to ruin their business model.

That's encouraging to me because it means that a) it should be quite fixable and b) we don't have to take the risk of screwing over all the hard working people by adopting some new, untested system. We just need to throw a monkey wrench into what those sixteen companies are doing.

Re:16 trolls brought 62% of suits (1)

Xicor (2738029) | about a year ago | (#44314555)

you must not know about the huge conference about the patent system a couple months ago. companies all over the country sent delegates to talk with the guys making the patent rulings(i cant remember what it is called). they came in and discussed the problems of patents in their current forms(this included huge AND small businesses). big companies are tired of being trolled for settlements, and small companies cant afford the lawsuits and are afraid to make new software because they are afraid of being sued. it isnt jusnt the large companies that want a new system, it is also the little guys

replied to the wrong post? (2)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44314771)

Did you click Reply to the wrong post?
I didn't say anything about large versus small defendants. I just thought it was interesting that 16 patent trolls file most of the suits - that the patent troll problem is a problem of a very few major assholes causing a lot of problems.

To your point, while researching how many trolls there are, I learned that they are targeting smaller companies than before. Most defendants had sales of under $10 million (meaning profit less than $1 million, probably). I also found that fully 90% of the cost to defend is discovery.

Putting those numbers together:
16 nasty trolls are causing major problems by bullying small companies with abusive discovery tactics.

One part of a solution, therefore, would be to limit discovery appropriately so companies can reasonably defend themselves. Maybe have plaintiffs put up a bond for the discovery cost, which they have to pay if the suit is ruled meritless.

Re:I'm not a fan of Intellectual Ventures (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44314643)

You can't patent the idea of laser mosquito zappers. They only have patent on one implementation of it.

Re:I'm not a fan of Intellectual Ventures (1)

dargaud (518470) | about a year ago | (#44315809)

I thought of that mosquito zapper a DECADE ago while I worked in sound detection and ranging. When I saw the price and complexity for a patent for a lone inventor, I said screw it. I'm not jealous that they made it, I'm bitter that they are not selling it.

hopefully some sense, great cases make bad law (3, Interesting)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44313767)

Hopefully they'll come up with some sensible changes that will address 96% of the problem.
All too often, a headline grabbing bad guy like Intellectual Ventures results in a demand for HUGE new laws, smashing to bits a system that needed a tune up. The Patriot Act is an example - a few words needed to be changed in the law regarding how the NSA, CIA, and FBI can and cannot share information. 9/11 was big though, so people demanded big change, and ended up with the constitution shredded.

Re:hopefully some sense, great cases make bad law (2)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year ago | (#44313891)

The system needs far more than a tune-up.

Re:hopefully some sense, great cases make bad law (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44313941)

Once again the sig makes its point...

The Zeidman Troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44313773)

Oh, little self-professed "Patent Troll" Bobby Zeidman [linkedin.com] isn't going to like this one bit. Not.One.Bit.

software patents need to be cut down as well (3, Informative)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#44313785)

software patents need to be cut down as well as well the patents on basic stuff.

Re:software patents need to be cut down as well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44314267)

patents should belong to individual people, not corporations.

Re:software patents need to be cut down as well (1)

Scarletdown (886459) | about a year ago | (#44315055)

software patents need to be cut down as well as well the patents on basic stuff.

They should be eliminated completely, since software is already protected by copyright.

Re:software patents need to be cut down as well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44315445)

Whether software is covered by copyright or not, is irrelevant to whether patents should exist. Copyright does not cover function, but rather the modicum of creativity fixed in a medium. They are entirely different things.

Are you also then going to exclude copyright where trademark applies? Or exclude copyright where trade secret applies? The slippery slope makes no sense.

Re:software patents need to be cut down as well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44316199)

> Are you also then going to exclude copyright where trademark applies? Or exclude copyright where trade secret applies? The slippery slope makes no sense.

Actually you are the one introducing the slippery slope argument and use it as a strawman. Nice

Re:software patents need to be cut down as well (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | about a year ago | (#44317171)

software patents need to be cut down as well as well the patents on basic stuff.

They should be eliminated completely, since software is already protected by copyright.

Software isn't adequately protected by copyright. Just ask Zynga competitors like NimbleBit.

wouldn't be thinkable under Romney (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44313813)

O's administration might be a cluster fuck.

The this wouldn't even be considered under Romney's administration.

Remember the last Republican's administration?

The preceding Democrat had a conviction and breakup against Microsoft. But the Republican administration said "The case is without merit". and rolled over.

Reagan appointee ordered breakup, Clinton dismisse (-1)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44314117)

You've got things backwards yet again. Penfeld Jackson, a Reagan appointee, ordered the breakup of Microsoft. Clinton's appointee dismissed that verdict against Microsoft.

While we're at it:
Communications Decency Act - signed by Clinton
COPA - Clinton again
Voting rights act - filibustered by democrats
Longest serving democrat senator - Robert Byrd
Robert Byrd's first elected office - KKK leader

Re:Reagan appointee ordered breakup, Clinton dismi (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about a year ago | (#44314713)

Reinventing history I see. The DC Circuit Court that ruled unanimously that the case be remanded was made up of 1 Carter appointee, 3 Reagan appointees, 1 Bush Sr. appointees and 2 Clinton. So blaming Clinton is quite disengenuous since the majority of the justices were Reagan and Bush appointees. Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the district judge it was remanded to never heard the new case because the Bush DoJ dropped the breakup plans and chose to settle 2 months after the Circuit Court's ruling.

Robert Byrd's KKK membership that he dropped 6 decades ago? Strom Thurmond's fibuster from 1957? What relevance do either of those have to do with anything the GP said? Also what do the CDA and COPA have to do with anything? Especially when both passed with huge Republican support and COPA was defended by John Ashcroft when the ACLU brought a lawsuit against it.

Re:Reagan appointee ordered breakup, Clinton dismi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44316565)

John Ashcroft, the Attorney General, the person in charge of carrying on the lawsuit, was the one who said the case was without merit.

And Ron Paul, the 1988 Libertarian Candidate, had the most conservative Post WW II voting record in congress at until 2002. That puts him to the right of Robert Byrd and the KKK.

Re:wouldn't be thinkable under Romney (1)

msmonroe (2511262) | about a year ago | (#44318491)

....and we would have kool aid flavored water and eat cotton candy for breakfast, lunch and dinner Republican = Good Democrat = Satan

Campaign contributions (1)

dccase (56453) | about a year ago | (#44313819)

Another "industry" will have to start making them if they want to survive.

“patent assertion entities”...I looke (1, Informative)

tuppe666 (904118) | about a year ago | (#44314019)

I came to a different conclusion(spin) to the summary presented by the New York Times; this is not about protecting "software designers, smartphone makers and the like" (and definitely not in the case of Microsoft, Apple and Nokia who are both PAE as described in the article and form have created mega patent pools with each other).

This is about those same companies (Microsoft, Apple and Nokia) attacking start-up companies; stillborning competition; competition within the IT industry or as the linked article describes outside the industry for simply purchasing consumer products...or building a web page(the example is one that includes a calorie counter). Ballmer threatening Linux users...like that.

I find it depressing that Intellectual Ventures are being scapegoated...when as I see it the worst offenders of the computing Industry(with their own PAE) are portrayed as Victims when they are the worst offenders, and is not the thrust what Edith Ramirez says http://ftc.gov/speeches/ramirez/130620paespeech.pdf [ftc.gov]

Re: “patent assertion entities”...I lo (1)

foniksonik (573572) | about a year ago | (#44314343)

Here's my favorite quote:

PAEs may generate even greater indirect costs by distorting incentives to innovate. Patents asserted against existing products raise the risk of patent hold-up, which can discourage investment in product development. Particularly in the high-tech sector, where patent notice is notoriously difficult, licensing fees are likely to reflect investments the implementer has made to bring a product to market, rather than the true economic value of the patent. And because licenses are always negotiated in the shadow of the law, the problems the Commission has previously identified with the framework for patent remedies – including the uncertainty associated with damage awards and the threat of an injunction or exclusion order – add to the risk of hold-up associated with PAE activities.

Re: “patent assertion entities”...I lo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44316341)

I think it depends on your definition of patent assertion entities (aka patent trolls). The NYT article and the speech by Edith Ramirez define PAEs as "non-practicing entities", or entities primarily involved in patent monetization. Unlike Microsoft, Apple, and Nokia, Intellectual Ventures doesn't produce any products and therefore can't even be sued or served with discovery. (I consider Apple and Oracle to be patent trolls over their Android litigation, but many people don't consider them to fall under the strict definition.)

A suggestion (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44314033)

Cancel any patent that contains the word "plurality" in the claim section.

I can see it now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44314053)

Next season on White Collar....

If the FTC wants to cut bullshit patent suits (2)

L. J. Beauregard (111334) | about a year ago | (#44314203)

it can start by not issuing bullshit patents.

Re:If the FTC wants to cut bullshit patent suits (1)

jfengel (409917) | about a year ago | (#44314715)

The FTC doesn't issue patents. That's the Patent Office. They're not even in the same department. The USPTO is in Commerce; the FTC is an independent agency.

The whole point of an independent agency is to provide checks and balances, so that the departments don't feel compelled to cover up for each other and can try to compensate for each other's mistakes. Unfortunately, that can also mean that the left hand doesn't know, or like, what the right hand is doing.

"The government" isn't a big monolithic entity. Even the President has limited ability to interfere with many of the agencies. That has advantages and disadvantages.

Re: If the FTC wants to cut bullshit patent suits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44315201)

Tss...

Bs patents are needed by large corps to keep all newcomers out....

What about large companies' patent portfolios? (1)

guanxi (216397) | about a year ago | (#44314391)

If the FTC is serious about innovation, they'll look into everyone who uses patent portfolios to block innovation by competitors.

If they are merely helping large corporations with a problem, they'll focus on patent trolls only.

Re:What about large companies' patent portfolios? (1)

static0verdrive (776495) | about a year ago | (#44317243)

I can't imagine corporations with all their money and control (thanks largely to their money) will allow the system to be changed toward anything they don't like.

Fundamental issues (4, Interesting)

Skapare (16644) | about a year ago | (#44314765)

Patenting software is not a fundamental problem. Patent trolls are not a fundamental problem. Instead, these are the results and effects of the true fundamental problem, which is that the patent system itself is patenting anything that comes along that has no obvious conflicts, if even that. It considers its duty to be simply to record the patent ... and take all the money. It's real duty is to separate truly innovative inventions from all the junk.

If something is truly innovative, then without the inventor having done it, it is likely to not have been done at all for many years (when based to genius thought), or for a substantial investment into the work needed to come up with it (when based on a huge amount of work). The vast majority of patents are not true innovation. Most of them are just broad brushes of things they see as inevitable and coming, anyway.

It doesn't matter if it is done in software or hardware, if it is innovative. We should reward true innovation either way.

It doesn't matter if someone comes along and buys out the inventor of true innovation. It's just like getting a cash advance on a time payment you expect to receive.

The real problem in the system is all the junk patents that get issued.

Re: Fundamental issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44314995)

Right

And who owns thr majority of junk patents?

Hint: not patent trolls

Big corporations - ibm, google, mshit etc

Re:Fundamental issues (1)

laffer1 (701823) | about a year ago | (#44316339)

I think the patent office shouldn't get the money for patent applications. They should have a budget independent of the number of applications they process with a minimum goal for each year to get through that's reasonable.

Sure we'll have a backlog, but when you can't get everything through and the patent office doesn't have a financial incentive to rubber stamp patents anymore it might cause change.

Another idea, give patent reviewers an incentive (bonus) when they find prior art for a patent.

Re:Fundamental issues (2)

Theaetetus (590071) | about a year ago | (#44317275)

I think the patent office shouldn't get the money for patent applications. They should have a budget independent of the number of applications they process with a minimum goal for each year to get through that's reasonable.

Sure we'll have a backlog, but when you can't get everything through and the patent office doesn't have a financial incentive to rubber stamp patents anymore it might cause change.

Another idea, give patent reviewers an incentive (bonus) when they find prior art for a patent.

The patent office makes money off of rejections, and therefore has a financial incentive to reject applications and have people re-file new ones. This explains why, for example, they initially rubber-stamp 85% of patent applications "REJECTED". This is as opposed to your implication that they allow everything.

Also, patent examiners are graded on a point system, and they receive points for rejecting applications. It seems like your suggestions are all already implemented, and therefore may not actually address the problem.

bad patents are a problem, trolls made bigger prob (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44316395)

Certainly you're right that the source of the problem is bad patents.
Also, there have always been bad patents. It's become such a big problem recently because of big trolls. If 16 trolls file 62% of the patent suits, dealing with the trolls would eliminate at least 62% of the problem. Actually more, because some of the non-troll cases aren't a problem. So those 16 trolls are maybe 80% of the problem.

Any citation for "the vast majority of patents aren't true innovation"? It appears to me that of the hundreds of thousands of patents in force, a few dozen are being horribly abused.

Re:Fundamental issues (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | about a year ago | (#44317247)

Patenting software is not a fundamental problem. Patent trolls are not a fundamental problem. Instead, these are the results and effects of the true fundamental problem, which is that the patent system itself is patenting anything that comes along that has no obvious conflicts, if even that. It considers its duty to be simply to record the patent ... and take all the money.

If true, you would expect to see 99% of patent applications immediately allowed. Instead, 85% are initially rejected [patentlyo.com] . Apparently, the system considers its duty to reject patent applications until they're properly narrowed.

If something is truly innovative, then without the inventor having done it, it is likely to not have been done at all for many years (when based to genius thought), or for a substantial investment into the work needed to come up with it (when based on a huge amount of work).

I disagree with that definition. "Truly innovative" things may be due to a spark of insight, and then not require significant work. For example, I bet most any engineer now could draw a schematic for a working internal combustion engine on a napkin. Does that mean it wasn't truly innovative when it first appeared?

This "truly innovative" definition of yours has no support in the patent statutes, nor in case law. As a purely subjective definition, it also creates a tyranny of intellectualism, in which inventions may be judged unworthy simply because we dislike their field. Maybe we see a new cancer drug as "truly innovative", but not a new children's toy, regardless of the actual invention.

The vast majority of patents are not true innovation. Most of them are just broad brushes of things they see as inevitable and coming, anyway.

In hindsight, everything looks obvious. The difficulty is in proving that something is inevitable before it's already here.

Re:Fundamental issues (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about a year ago | (#44317751)

The real problem in the system is all the junk patents that get issued.

The real problem with a bridge made out of pudding is that people tend to get wet. Oh well, let's build it anyway.

feds wasting money and resources to support corps (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44315029)

news at eleven.

mshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44315145)

When mshit was threatening android they wouldnt even disclose patents allegedly infringed
How is this any different from worst patent troll ???

Business processes are the problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44315187)

http://yro.slashdot.org/story/09/05/08/2046215/ibm-invents-40-minute-meetings. In the EU, for software to be patentable it must result in a new/unique/original physical enhancement to physical device.

What about Apple? (2)

Fettnabb (2988103) | about a year ago | (#44315463)

Apple is the biggest douchebag trolls of them all. The way they aquire patents and sue everybody is kind off disgusting. The Samsung case is in recent memory.

Re: What about Apple? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44315621)

Tss
Apple Ceo is behind all of this
See patents are only bad when they are not owned by apple
Apple on the other hand can sue competitors on patents for rectangles
Thats perfectly find - protecting innovation the Apple way

Re:What about Apple? (1)

static0verdrive (776495) | about a year ago | (#44317285)

Is that worse than buying competition to create a monopoly the way corporations like Microsoft do? IMO Patents aren't as much the issue so much as the laws surrounding corporations and their free run on power. Power derived from money. A good example is how they can do illegal/dangerous/harmful things if they want because often a fine is less than the profit they'll make. Shouldn't they be put out of business and their cash given back to the public or shareholders rather than scolded mildly so they can repeat the offense?

Sounds promising in theory (1)

korbulon (2792438) | about a year ago | (#44315489)

In practice: "We'll go after you if you're not big enough to fight back."

More and more I see the actions of the federal government, and in particular those of the DOJ, as being largely career-driven and opportunistic. Which is why you'll never ever see them go after really big fish: because that could be a future employer.

It's about time! (1)

Janette Shavers (2859555) | about a year ago | (#44315721)

Ironic how something that was meant to promote innovation is instead abused by these greedy entities to increase their wealth while stifling innovation.

Intellectual Ventures (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44317461)

Am I the only one who read the name of company as "Intellectual Vultures" the first time?

Can they make producing something a criteria? (1)

swb (14022) | about a year ago | (#44319019)

I've always wondered if they could make it a requirement of patent infringement that the entity claiming infringement has to prove that the patent is a component of a product they make or can substantively prove they are going to make within two years?

Or make patents a two step process -- patent application and product verification. You get granted a provisional patent but have to come back and demonstrate the use of the patent in an actual commercial product. Failure to do the second step means no patent.

The idea behind patents is to promote USEFUL innovation -- ie, in the creation of products for the marketplace. Not for creating monopolies or extracting money from people for products the holder has never or will never make.

The problem (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | about a year ago | (#44319423)

You can not comercialize your invention before your patent is at least registered, otherwise it counts as prior art. So it can be a two step process, but the one step option is clearly not viable.

Also, I'd disagree that this solves anything at all. Big corps (the ones that can create manufacturing lines fast) don't need more protection against small inventors. Extinguishing the patent system has a much better outcome.

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