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Taking the Battle Against Patent Trolls To the Public

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the what-do-you-think-grandma? dept.

Patents 107

First time accepted submitter presspass writes "A group of technology and retail groups is beginning a national ad campaign targeting so-called patent trolls. The Internet Association, National Restaurant Association, National Retail Federation and Food Marketing Institute Patent trolls — a term known more among geeks than the general public — are about to be the target of a national ad campaign. Beginning Friday, a group of retail trade organizations is launching a radio and print campaign in 17 states. They want to raise awareness of a problem they say is draining resources from business and raising prices for consumers."

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They're not trolls (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44731141)

It's how patents work. The "fight against patent trolls" is a way of saying who gets to play the game and who doesn't. Painting some parties as trolls isn't exactly great debating, is it?

Re:They're not trolls (4, Interesting)

ClaraBow (212734) | about a year ago | (#44731155)

True! It's the patent system that needs to be fixed! Maybe limit the number of years a patent holder can keep a patent without using it in an actual application!

Re:They're not trolls (1)

sanchom (1681398) | about a year ago | (#44731317)

So inventors without resources to develop that invention are out of luck?

Re:They're not trolls (4, Insightful)

citizenr (871508) | about a year ago | (#44731353)

Inventors are out of luck RIGHT NOW. Patent is just a piece of paper that gives you right to sue someone, but to sue someone big/important you need >$100K for lawyer fees.

Re:They're not trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44731421)

As it is, the inventor can sell to a "patent troll". That's my point: The "fight against patent trolls" is about excluding some people from playing the patent game. The patent trolls are an avenue for inventors who can't (or don't want to) implement their invention and don't have the mental and financial stamina to sue a big corporation for patent infringement. "Patent trolls" don't abuse the system. The way they use it is as designed.

Re:They're not trolls (4, Insightful)

greg1104 (461138) | about a year ago | (#44731779)

What makes you think inventors who "don't have the mental and financial stamina to sue a big corporation for patent infringement" are going to get a good deal out of a patent troll company? They have the same characteristics as other corporations, except they're run by even more shady individuals than average.

The way the patent system is currently run makes it extremely hard for anyone but an expensive patent attorney to navigate too. Your fantasy inventor here is unlikely to get their patent in the first place. Instead it's big corporations who have the resources to file so many garbage patents that the rest of the world is bogged down navigating them, including the small scale inventors. Odds are the mythical lone wolf inventor will be sued into oblivion rather than sue someone else successfully.

Re:They're not trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44731857)

The only foolproof defense against patent portfolios is not to make products, and the only defense against a big company is to have deep pockets, which is why "patent trolls" survive against big companies and do give small inventors a chance at monetization. Will a lone wolf inventor get filthy rich this way? No. Will he get more than by trying to convince a big company to pretty please pay up? You bet. The big companies want the "patent trolls" to go away because they can't deal with them the way they usually do: Mutually assured destruction through patent portfolio war chests, and assured destruction if the opponent is smaller.

Re:They're not trolls (3, Insightful)

reve_etrange (2377702) | about a year ago | (#44732477)

the rest of the world is bogged down navigating them

Yet at the same time we're incentivized not to navigate (research) the existing patents by the willful infringement rules. Not only does it make a mockery of the patent system as an avenue for "disclosure," but you're trapped between the rock of due diligence and the hard place of triple damages.

Re:They're not trolls (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44736561)

You're so naÃve.

What the trolls do is circle you until yo're (financially) dead and then buy all your patents for cheap. From your bank, because at that point "your" assets ain't yours anymore.

Re:They're not trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44738689)

As it is, the inventor can sell to a "patent troll". That's my point: The "fight against patent trolls" is about excluding some people from playing the patent game. The patent trolls are an avenue for inventors who can't (or don't want to) implement their invention and don't have the mental and financial stamina to sue a big corporation for patent infringement. "Patent trolls" don't abuse the system. The way they use it is as designed.

If the net result of all this "patent trolling" is to arbitrarily hold back some function / item from the public for 10/20 years or so, just so some "patent troll" can sit back in his mansion reaping in the dough, then THE SYSTEM AS DESIGNED SUCKS AND DOES NOT SERVE THE PUBLIC AT ALL!

Re: They're not trolls (1, Insightful)

KGB is My Name (930079) | about a year ago | (#44731469)

Well put.

Re:They're not trolls (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about a year ago | (#44732309)

but to sue someone big/important you need >$100K for lawyer fees.

And to litigate successfully, you need a hundred times as much (if not more). Ask Aureal.

Re:They're not trolls (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44731409)

Good idea. Let's brainstorm on this a little!

How about requiring the applicant to submit a plan to monetize the patent either: a) as part of the initial patent application; or b) as a follow-up to an approved patent application before the patent is granted? I'm talking about some kind of business plan or letter of intent to sell a manifestation of the patent, not simply waiting for someone for the patent-holder to sue or license the patent to. Then if the patent-holder doesn't follow through with the business idea within a certain time period, the patent is revoked.

Re:They're not trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44732027)

If I could uprate this, I would. Brilliant.

Re:They're not trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44737783)

So if I design a new medical device and license it to the VA to test and produce, you consider me a troll? You think I should raise the $100M needed for FDA approval on my own?

Re:They're not trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44737913)

I wouldn't necessarily consider you a troll but the problem is that patent trolls engage in similar behavior. It would complicate things, but I'm just brainstorming anyway, so provisions could probably be made for certain licensing plans.

That said, medical devices are a special sort of technology with their own regulations that should probably have their own IP system as well, but I would rather force you to look for investors and develop your medical device idea than have hundreds or thousands medical-device patents buried around the field of medical research like landmines lying in wait for an entrepreneurial researcher to step on them.

Re: They're not trolls (1)

lsatenstein (949458) | about a year ago | (#44739389)

Its time to do like New Zealand. Software in NZ can't' be patented, only their product that is a commercial software (eg. Word processor) can have a patent. Algorithms cannot be patented.

Re:They're not trolls (4, Informative)

jbolden (176878) | about a year ago | (#44731181)

Of course they are trolls. The definition of patent troll is clear cut:

a) Owns a patent
b) Didn't do the work personally
c) Doesn't make products using the patent.

Re:They're not trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44731243)

And how does that make them a troll? That's the patent system working as designed: You own an exclusive right and get to monetize it. Making the thing described in the patent is not a requirement, neither is being the original inventor. Selling and buying exclusive rights isn't unique to patents.

Re:They're not trolls (5, Informative)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | about a year ago | (#44731313)

The Constitutional rationale for patents is not monetisation, that's why:

[Article 1, Section 8:] To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

Now please inform us as to how patent trolls promote the progress of science and/or useful arts.

...

(Warning--Spoiler ahead:) They don't.

Re:They're not trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44731363)

Suppose you invent some way to make an existing product better. You don't sell that product and you're not into fighting lawsuits, so without selling to a "patent troll", you can neither implement your invention nor monetize your invention. Why does the lack of monetization matter? Because making money is the reason why you invent. The "patent trolls" provide a service to inventors, and thereby enable inventors to keep inventing. At least that's the way the patent system is supposed to work.

Re:They're not trolls (3, Informative)

joss (1346) | about a year ago | (#44731663)

If the only way to monetise the invention is to sell it to a patent troll then it does not deserve any money.

The only way a patent troll makes money is if someone willing to actually make the thing has the same (usually pretty obvious) idea so the original 'invention' offered zero value to society.

Said as someone with a few patents ( http://www.patentmaps.com/inventor/Jocelyn_M_Earl_1.html [patentmaps.com] )

Re:They're not trolls (0)

sanchom (1681398) | about a year ago | (#44731711)

How do you know that "the only way a patent troll makes money is if someone willing to actually make the thing has the same idea"? Patents are published, so the person willing to implement the invention could have just read the published patent and decided they want to make it. That is one of the mechanisms that patents promote the progress of science and useful arts: the public gives the inventor an exclusive right (which they can assign or licence), and the inventor gives the public his/her knowledge. It's a trade.

Re:They're not trolls (4, Insightful)

greg1104 (461138) | about a year ago | (#44731873)

The language used in patent applications is extremely hard to decode. The idea that people might be mining for innovation by reading patents has to clear that hurdle. They need to make sense of that mess with less work than developing the same idea from scratch.

Back when patents were disclosing major technical advances, there was some evidence people were doing that. I re-read Portraits in Silicon [amazon.com] lately. One of the recurring themes among early computer researchers was the idea that they'd get a patent on some very fundamental and non-obvious technology. Could you reinvent the transistor faster than you could read about it its construction? Probably not.

But lately, there's a lot more evidence that people are concurrently discovering obvious advances that someone patented instead of that sort of thing. And even those old fundamental patents turn out to be not such a big deal after all. The actual history of the transistor [wikipedia.org] shows the concurrent development of its ideas as being really inevitable.

Concurrent discovery is far more likely than unique innovation. The patent system is burdening what turns out to be one of the most common situations seen in scientific advancement: that the next step to build on any innovation will be co-discovered by multiple researchers in parallel. This happens far more often than the fantasy of the lone inventor working in isolation to create something no one else thought of before.

Re:They're not trolls (1)

sanchom (1681398) | about a year ago | (#44731889)

This is mostly an argument for raising the bar on the non-obviousness requirement.

However, even if concurrent discovery is common, that may only be because of the concurrent incentive to discovery. Any of the hard-working, innovative, inventors could come up with the invention. Each is being spurred on by the promise of the exclusive right waiting at the end of the tunnel. Just because one gets to the patent office before the other doesn't mean that the patent didn't provide the incentive to do the work.

Re:They're not trolls (1)

greg1104 (461138) | about a year ago | (#44733433)

Drawing the line between obvious and less obvious may only be possible in a historical context. If you break down innovation into small enough pieces, each step always seems obvious given everything that came before. That's how the world advances: with a series of small steps that build into larger works. It's rare you can give someone an exclusive right to any one of those next steps without blocking some inevitable advance forward that comes next.

If there such a thing as non-obvious advances--the rich history of co-discovery suggest there might not be--the only people who are really qualified to make that call are the competitors of the person submitting the patent. Someone working at the patent office certainly can't do it successfully. You can't say what's obvious to a skilled worker in a field without having those skills yourself.

The only industry where it's clear the patent is motivating research that otherwise might not happen is in drug manufacturing. Next steps there take so many resources that it's not clear they would happen without the exclusive profit motive. But there we're only talking only about big company jobs; there are no small inventors to protect in that field.

Re:They're not trolls (1)

N0Man74 (1620447) | about a year ago | (#44739155)

I'm not sure big Pharm is really a good example of an industry where patents are beneficial to society... There's a lot of patent abuse and absurdity in those industries too.

Is it that big of a difference between patenting something as new because it's "on a phone", vs "with a time release"?

Re:They're not trolls (1)

WaffleMonster (969671) | about a year ago | (#44732279)

How do you know that "the only way a patent troll makes money is if someone willing to actually make the thing has the same idea"? Patents are published, so the person willing to implement the invention could have just read the published patent and decided they want to make it.

Most crap I've seen is intentionally written to be as confusing, obtuse and useless as possible. The last thing they want is competition or anyone in the patent office to understand what "circular transportation facilitation device" really means.

That is one of the mechanisms that patents promote the progress of science and useful arts: the public gives the inventor an exclusive right (which they can assign or licence), and the inventor gives the public his/her knowledge. It's a trade.

What is actually happening in the real world companies doing all the work implementing obvious aggregations of technology without any external help and getting randomly dinged by speculators who didn't do any of the "fucking work". Obvious ideas should be worthless instead USTPO has turned them into goldmines.

Re:They're not trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44731741)

Patents are public information. If I come up with an idea on my own and its already patented by someone else, then I'm screwed. It doesn't make a difference to me if that someone has actually implemented it. What you're actually arguing against is u-boat patents: Where the patent holder keeps quiet, and only when the patented invention has been widely implemented, hopefully even entered industry standards, then the patent holder starts suing. But that of course is not exclusive to "patent trolls". Big companies do that all the time.

The "fight against patent trolls" really is about getting rid of opponents by excluding them from the game. This would be an easy thing to do if there were a clear-cut definition of whom to exclude and why, but there isn't, because the patent trolls play by the rules and everybody does the same things as they do, but they feel superior because they also do something else. That's like forbidding online shops if you don't also have a brick-and-mortar store, or forbidding stock investments if you don't also run a business.

Re:They're not trolls (0)

Lil'wombat (233322) | about a year ago | (#44732001)

Your comments would be given more weight , if you were not an AC. Perhaps thou are a shill?

Re:They're not trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44732159)

How so, Lil'wombat, if that is your real name? There is a comment that reads "Well put." It's modded "Insightful." My factually correct first post is still at -1, which limits my ability to respond. Do you think the moderation would be any different if I had logged in? Except for the first response, none of the supportive arguments on the "pro" patent troll side have been modded up, not even those from logged in posters. I put "pro" in quotes, because that's not how I see this argument. I'm not pro patent trolls. What I'm saying is that they are playing by the rules of the same game that the big companies play, and excluding them means further rigging the game. Doing so by using rhetoric like calling them trolls is crude and unfair debate. This is my last comment on this matter, because Slashdot makes me wait too long before I can respond. It seems that most people around here have already made up their mind anyway.

Re:They're not trolls (1)

reve_etrange (2377702) | about a year ago | (#44732499)

Do you think the moderation would be any different if I had logged in

Yes, when you're logged in your comments start at Normal: 2.

Re:They're not trolls (1)

EzInKy (115248) | about a year ago | (#44733129)

Only if you choose to check the box adding the extra point.

Re:They're not trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44733855)

Yes, when you're logged in your comments start at Normal: 2.

Not entirely correct. With neutral or positive karma, yes. With bad karma, like this fucking asshole [slashdot.org] , moderation starts at -1.

Re:They're not trolls (1)

fast turtle (1118037) | about a year ago | (#44734405)

Poor Thinking:

Example

Idea for a product that requires 20 million to begin production yet offers billions in potential profits. The only problem is, I don't have the 5 million to build the factory, the 15 million for payroll and other business expenses plus the 5 million for the marketing to reach the target market. No patent gets filed, I don't make any money and the idea doesn't ever reach anyone else.

So sorry mr poor but although you had a great idea that could have saves millions of lives, you didn't have the money to patent it. Because of this, I'm sorry but you don't qualify for heaven - Pulls lever and drops you straight to hell for eternity.

Re:They're not trolls (1)

GrumpySteen (1250194) | about a year ago | (#44732009)

You don't sell that product and you're not into fighting lawsuits, so without selling to a "patent troll", you can neither implement your invention nor monetize your invention.

First, the logic in your example is fallacious. "You don't sell that product" may a true statement, but there's nothing preventing you from selling the product other than your own unwillingness to do so. Your conclusion that "you can neither implement your invention nor monetize your invention" is false. "You're not into fighting lawsuits" is irrelevant since an improvement to a product does not give you the ability to sue someone making that product.

Second, a patent troll wouldn't buy your hypothetical patent. Patent trolls are only interested in filing lawsuits to take money away from those who actually make and sell products. Your hypothetical couldn't be used to sue the maker of the existing product, so it would be useless to a patent troll (unless, of course, you patented some aspect of an existing product, in which case you are also a patent troll).

Re:They're not trolls (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a year ago | (#44732361)

Yeah. I still don't think you get what a patent troll does, or more accurately, doesn't do. The problem as stated is the product won't get to market. Your solution? Sell it to someone who won't take it market! Surely, now that I've pointed out the problem with your reasoning you will understand it and stop claiming that patent trolls solve a problem that couldn't otherwise be solved.Right? I mean unless of course that you are, yourself, a troll of some sort or another.

Re:They're not trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44731371)

That's the rationale behind the mandate, not the mandate. Sucks, but there you have it.

Re:They're not trolls (2)

sanchom (1681398) | about a year ago | (#44731397)

The level of scrutiny that applies to patent legislation is the "rational basis" test. That is the lowest level of scrutiny that the Supreme Court applies. Basically, if the government can show that the legislation is rationally related to the purpose (promotion of the progress of the science and useful arts), it is within the scope of power enumerated in the constitution.

Article 1 Section 8 "empowers Congress to determine the intellectual property regimes that, overall, in that body’s judgment, will serve the ends of the Clause." (Golan v. Holder, 565 U.S. ____, and Eldred v. Ashcroft 537 U.S. at 222).

Congress isn't required to keep its copyright and patent legislation within what *you* think promotes the progress of the science and useful arts.

Re:They're not trolls (1)

Aidtopia (667351) | about a year ago | (#44731999)

In general, I agree that the patent system is broken and creates perverse incentives that undermine the intent of the system. Nevertheless, allow me to play devil's advocate here.

Now please inform us as to how patent trolls promote the progress of science and/or useful arts.

Developing a technology requires an investment of time and money and possibly other resources. That investment may result in an invention that is useful for the investor, or it might not pan out at all.

Patent trolls provide a marketplace for inventions patents that the inventor may not be able to use but that might have value to others. The existence of this marketplace reduces the risk of investing in R&D because some of the "failures" might be valued by the troll marketplace.

Reduced risk possibly spurs more investment in R&D. More R&D investment likely promotes the progress of science and the useful arts.

Re:They're not trolls (1)

Stan92057 (737634) | about a year ago | (#44732995)

When its far too expensive to fight for a patent and far easer and less costly to settle it the major problem not who owns the patents. There should be justice no matter how much money you have because if you have no money you get NO Justice in the United States and thats a fact.

Re:They're not trolls (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | about a year ago | (#44731361)

Making the thing described in the patent is not a requirement, neither is being the original inventor. Selling and buying exclusive rights isn't unique to patents.

In addition, the clause I quoted above speaks of "securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries"; so, if you please, also tell us how it provides justification for buying, selling, or otherwise assigning these rights to someone other than the originator.

Re:They're not trolls (1)

sanchom (1681398) | about a year ago | (#44731447)

Article 1 Section 8 "empowers Congress to determine the intellectual property regimes that, overall, in that body’s judgment, will serve the ends of the Clause." (Golan v. Holder, 565 U.S. ____, and Eldred v. Ashcroft 537 U.S. at 222).

Re:They're not trolls (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year ago | (#44731815)

Congress has quite clearly failed.

Re:They're not trolls (1)

sanchom (1681398) | about a year ago | (#44731865)

Perhaps, but the question Zontar asked was how the clause provides justification for the current patent regime.

Re:They're not trolls (1)

slick7 (1703596) | about a year ago | (#44732267)

Congress has quite clearly failed.

Not really, thry're still in office and not in prison, they have their own non-Obabacare health plan for life, they're richer than sin considering their government paychecks, they have no term limits so they can continue this BS until they die with no legal repurcussions, how is that failure?
If you mean watching out for their voters interests rather than the special interests, reducing pork barrel politics to zero, limiting terms to two, divesting themselves of Swiss and Vatican secret bank accounts, then yes, they have failed and failed miserably.

Re:They're not trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44732535)

they have their own non-Obabacare health plan for life

False. They're required to purchase a plan off of one of the exchanges. This is in contrast to the rest of America who is free to purchase directly from a provider or shop on the exchanges.

Re:They're not trolls (1)

reve_etrange (2377702) | about a year ago | (#44732551)

they're richer than sin considering their government paychecks

No way, man. $174,000 [wikipedia.org] is hardly "richer than sin."

They are richer than sin, but it's because they constantly accept bribes (under various euphemisms) and rotate out to highly lucrative private sector positions bribing other politicians.

Re:They're not trolls (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a year ago | (#44732341)

"And how does that make them a troll? "

Well there you have it. The exception to the "it takes one to know one" rule that proves the rule.

Re:They're not trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44731993)

Like GNU's zero'th law, you missed the most fundamental one

  • #) tries to block people using a patent; probably demanding money

But you haven't really answered the fundamental question. Troll implies someone who hides under a bridge and demands money they haven't a right to. That's true of many patent trolls, but it seems to me that bundling them all together is a trick.

There are bad trolls - those working to pick on small companies and individuals in order to screw money out of them for big companies and ensure a market blockade. These allow big companies like Microsoft to attack smaller companies to ensure their market monopoly continues (think "intellectual ventures" and co).

On the other hand, in the current system it's practically impossible for a small inventor to get their money out of a patent they make. If they try to produce a product they will find it infringes tens of patents held by their competitors and will never be able to get into the market at all. If they try to sue they will find that they are out-financed hundreds to one and will be litigated to death.

There's a reason why acting against patent trolls is suddenly becoming fashionable with our legislators. This is because their big company buddies can also be threatened by them. Beware of any "solution" to the problem that is designed to allow big companies to continue suing the small guy whilst stopping the small guy getting money out of the system.

Re:They're not trolls (1)

garyoa1 (2067072) | about a year ago | (#44732049)

Not totally true. The troll sees a product someone created but didn't patent and patents it himself.

Now why wouldn't someone patent an invention? Cost, time, hassle. Not everyone has the deep pockets to do it. And along comes the troll. If the law said that the troll could be sued if it could be found the product was already in production, that would be a welcome change.

Re:They're not trolls (1)

slick7 (1703596) | about a year ago | (#44732181)

Of course they are trolls. The definition of patent troll is clear cut:

a) Owns a patent
b) Didn't do the work personally
c) Doesn't make products using the patent.

d) Lives under a bridge
e) Eats billygoats

Re:They're not trolls (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44731267)

Oh look, the famous "-1, disagree" moderation option...

Re:They're not trolls (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#44732705)

Wikipedia disagrees with you. I'll take wikipedia's word before I'll take an AC's word.

Re:They're not trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44733827)

Wikipedia is mostly written by trolls. So, for you I assume it's like your personal Holy Bible.

Surprising (0)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | about a year ago | (#44731165)

"Williams notes that from the Government Accountability Office found that only 20 percent of patent litigation was brought by so-called trolls."

That frankly surprises me, I would've thought it was higher.

Re:Surprising (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44731235)

20% is more than high enough when it comes to parasites.

And patent trolling doesn't just cost resources. It reduces options and choices the public get.

Re:Surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44731251)

Makes sense though. Most of these will only send lawyer letters to get a quick settlement. They never want to go to trial since that will expose their practices. Even then, there are a lot of patent cases, most of which will never find their way here.

Re:Surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44731417)

It's not too shocking. I can easily imagine that much litigation comes from people who don't make it their whole business to patent troll, but still realize that it's advantageous to abuse the awful system we have once they find themselves in a position where they can do so.

Re:Surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44731763)

The question is how much makes it to litigation, or do people just settle with the first threatening letter.

Re:Surprising (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year ago | (#44731823)

The other 80% was Apple.

Re:Surprising (2)

squiggleslash (241428) | about a year ago | (#44732297)

"Trolls" has a narrow definition and to be quite honest, I'm not entirely convinced there's any principled reform that eliminates so-called "trolls" while allowing manufacturers to sue the pants off each other, still less one that would be effective.

A better question though is whether patents are actually necessary, or rather, whether a monopoly is the best way to encourage publication of inventions.

Missing a period (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44731247)

The summary makes it sound like those groups are the trolls, rather than the associations beginning the campaign against trolls.

Why Bother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44731255)

Why bother with this attempt to publicly call out or shame these patent trolls? They have no shame and would take the last dollar from a poor baby's mother if they thought they could sue her for breast feeding.

The politicians don't care. The public is powerless in this matter. The trolls fear nothing.

Re:Why Bother? (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | about a year ago | (#44731391)

Didn't take the "you can't do anything about it so just bend over already" shills very long to show up, did it?

Re:Why Bother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44732271)

That's not what I'm advocating at all. Just stating the fact that publicly shaming a patent troll won't make a bit of difference. Hell, even a whitehouse.sucks petition did no good.

I'm all in favor of making an example out of a few of them. Since their actions directly affect the public why not a little vigilantism? Why wait for 'patent reform' when a little 'patent revolution' will get the job done?

For the consumer! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44731329)

Because you just know the prices would come down across-the-board if these things were shut down, right? The difference certainly wouldn't go into the pockets of all of these now-oh-so-concerned trade groups.

But that's patented! (1)

solidraven (1633185) | about a year ago | (#44731477)

Patent infringement on their patent on ad campaigns against patent trolls!

Software a special case (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44731629)

If you accept that mathematics is not patentable then
you must accept that computer programs are not patentable.
Regardless of what lawyers would like to believe; computers are machines
that read and utter mathematical expressions.

This particular patent problem is just another denial of scientific fact!

You should be able to patent a process that contains a computer
program but the program itself is out of bounds.

so there!

Re:Software a special case (1)

sanchom (1681398) | about a year ago | (#44731691)

You are correct, and that is exactly how software is patented. The algorithm itself not patentable.

The only things that are patentable are processes, machines, manufactures, or compositions of matter.

People patent processes. People patent machines that run those processes. People patent manufactures that consist of computer-readable storage media containing instructions to run those processes.

See http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/images/stories/opinions-orders/11-1301.Opinion.5-8-2013.1.PDF [uscourts.gov] for a good review of the case law leading to these strange constructions and the current disagreement at the CAFC regarding whether or not this is all just draftman's art trying to patent an unpatentable algorithm.

Re:Software a special case (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44731801)

So, in other words, patenting an algorithm is as simple as adding "on a computer" after it, thus making it a process.

Re:Software a special case (4, Interesting)

sanchom (1681398) | about a year ago | (#44731855)

So, in other words, patenting an algorithm is as simple as adding "on a computer" after it, thus making it a process.

It's not that simple. In Gottschalk v. Benson, the US Supreme Court considered a method for binary conversion, and said: "The mathematical formula involved here has no substantial practical application except in connection with a digital computer, which means that if the judgment below is affirmed, the patent would wholly pre-empt the mathematical formula and in practical effect would be a patent on the algorithm itself."

The idea is that the patent claim must "add “significantly more” to the basic principle, with the result that the claim covers significantly less." If the patent claim is co-extensive with an unpatentable algorithm, the claim is not eligible for patent.

What "significantly more" means, and what it means for an invention to be coextensive with an unpatentable abstract idea (mathematical formula, or algorithm) are points under contention at the CAFC right now. I expect this to reach the Supreme Court for clarification in the near future.

but math *is* patentable. so we need a law (1)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | about a year ago | (#44733051)

> If you accept that mathematics is not patentable then you must accept that computer programs are not patentable.

Ok. But since UK and USA courts have upheld patents on math, this mantra doesn't get us as far as people think.

* http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Software_is_math#Some_judges_say_math_is_patentable [swpat.org]

We need laws to exclude software from patentability. Like what New Zealand did last week (but with a bit of work we can write a better text).

Here's a page I'm in the process of writing:

* http://en.swpat.org/wiki/How_to_write_a_law_banning_software_patents [swpat.org]

Re:but math *is* patentable. so we need a law (1)

Carewolf (581105) | about 10 months ago | (#44733677)

Both the US and the UK have laws that prohibits software patent. In the US the special court setup to deal with patents suits just decided it didn't agree with the law and has chosen to ignore it, the US patent office has since started accepting more and more software patents. The supreme court has indicated they would overturn the lower patent court's decision to ignore the ban on software patents, but so far no software patent case has gone all the way to supreme court.

developers receiving fines say they're real (1)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | about 10 months ago | (#44734043)

If there's a law, and you interpret it as saying X, and the courts that are trying people interpret it as saying Y, then in all senses that matter, Y is the law.

I mean, I agree that the law prohibits software patents. But my opinion doesn't stop software developers from receiving fines and injunctions.

Until the US Supreme Court takes a software patent and throws it out the window, software patents are real and we need a law. It's also not certain that the Supreme Court would do what we hope. They could rule that some software patents are invalid and others valid, and maybe their distinction would be substantial or maybe it would be reduced to nothing by patent lawyers drafting their applications a little differently.

We probably agree on these points, I'm just less optimistic about the courts doing what we're hoping they'll do.

New national motto (1)

Required Snark (1702878) | about a year ago | (#44731697)

America: Corrupt and Inefficient in the 21st Century

Can you say DCMA? Can you say takedown? I knew you could.

Re:New national motto (1)

slick7 (1703596) | about a year ago | (#44732317)

America: Corrupt and Inefficient in the 21st Century

Can you say DCMA? Can you say takedown? I knew you could.

With the ability to eradicate dissent with the NDAA and comercially (i.e. Halliburton) operated drones.
FTFY

Just a thought (3, Interesting)

coolsnowmen (695297) | about a year ago | (#44731707)

Any thoughts on how the following rule would help the patent system?:
Make patents non transferable.

Now if you are working for a company, or with someone, patenet ownership can be split how ever initially agreed on (I'm a 5% owner of a patent from a pervious job), but this stops a single company, with no product, history, or karma backing it, from buying up bunched of patents and suing major companies trying to sell their product.

Re:Just a thought (4, Insightful)

sanchom (1681398) | about a year ago | (#44731739)

Then, how do I, as a poor inventor without the means to implement my invention, how would I be rewarded for revealing my invention to the world?

I would normally just sell the patent to an entity with the resources to actually develop the patent. If I can't transfer the patent, then I hold an exclusive right that I don't even have the resources to protect. I'll never cash in. I'd probably just keep the invention secret and not tell anyone.

However, if patents are transferable, like they are right now, I would have incentive to publish my invention in a patent in exchange for the exclusive right to make, sell, or use it. Then, I'd sell that right to somebody else who could bring it to market or have the legal resources to run a proper licencing scheme. I'd get rewarded for my invention. The public would get the knowledge of the invention. And the invention may be more likely to reach market.

Re:Just a thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44732115)

Leave the US. There are plenty of countries where the protection does not default to the larger corporations.
Nowadays it is much safer and cheaper to build up a product-line in i.e. the EU and request protection from there. It also makes your product be ready for the real world (meaning: multi-language and multi-culture).

Re:Just a thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44732117)

I don't agree either that patents shouldn't be transferable, but that shouldn't stop you from patenting your invention and making money from it. You could just as easily negotiate a licensing scheme with a manufacturer or a middle-man. Something like "I'll let you use my invention for $x per product manufactured, or for $y a month for the next 2 years."

I think the underlying problem is this often-quoted sentence:

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

Which I think should be changed to:

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

Although I get the feeling that in the American legal system the term "reasonable" is never used. Which is another part of the problem.

Re:Just a thought (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44732269)

You'll hear this mantra a lot -- especially in software, but it's true everywhere: Ideas are worthless. Implementation is what matters.

Patents are a monopoly on an idea. Patent trolls use them to extort money from others who have done the hard work.

IMHO, you do not deserve compensation for coming up with an idea unless you also spend years building a worthwhile implementation. Patent filings should require a working implementation, and patents should only last 3-5 years (about twice as long as it takes to develop a competing implementation).

Re:Just a thought (1)

sanchom (1681398) | about a year ago | (#44732573)

IMHO, you do not deserve compensation for coming up with an idea unless you also spend years building a worthwhile implementation.

Patents don't reward the coming-up-with of an idea. They reward the disclosure of that idea.

and patents should only last 3-5 years (about twice as long as it takes to develop a competing implementation).

This is not universally true. It might take 10-12 years to clear the regulatory hurdles in the pharmaceutical industry.

Re:Just a thought (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#44732625)

Then, how do I, as a poor inventor without the means to implement my invention, how would I be rewarded for revealing my invention to the world?

If you're poor you have no means of patenting your invention. Patents are damned expensive.

Re:Just a thought (2)

sanchom (1681398) | about a year ago | (#44732663)

The USPTO introduced a micro-entity status that lowers the filing fee for a patent application to $70, $180 for the examination, and $445 for issuance. Just because I can pay $700 doesn't mean I have the means to implement my invention.

Re:Just a thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44732635)

If you are a poor inventor, you could license your patent even if you cannot transfer it.

That means licensing will remain distributed, and possibly that anti-trust laws apply quite strictly once a 'patent pool' is formed. Heck they should already apply now: 2 inventions of doing the same thing in a standard should compete with each other, not sold in a single bundle in an 'easy to use pool'.

Patent pools as applied to the car market: when you buy a car you get (and pay for) one each of all brands.

Re:Just a thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44732715)

a poor inventor without the means to implement my invention

If you didn't implement it, you didn't invent it. Go look for handouts somewhere else.
I suggest investing in cardboard boxes and felt tip markers—you could at least invent a sign to help you beg for money.

Re:Just a thought (1)

sanchom (1681398) | about a year ago | (#44732751)

If you didn't implement it, you didn't invent it.

I meant implement for mass market production. I may have the resources to build a working model, or a proof-of-concept, but not the resources to bring the invention to market.

If you didn't implement it, you didn't invent it.

That is not consistent with patent law.

Re:Just a thought (1)

spasm (79260) | about a year ago | (#44733319)

"Then, how do I, as a poor inventor without the means to implement my invention, how would I be rewarded for revealing my invention to the world?"

You license the right to use the protected invention. My father patented an improvement to a piece of mining equipment in the 1970s in Australia; I remember my mother doing the drawings for the patent application on the kitchen table. A couple of years later a large Japanese firm who made said equipment contacted him about it, and their lawyers and a lawyer my father hired for the purpose hammered out a licensing-with-royalties agreement which lasted for the remaining life of the patent. He never 'sold' the patent, and the license he granted that particular company was not exclusive, so he could easily have entered into similar licensing deals with other manufacturers. ie he was most definitely financially rewarded for releasing his invention to the world, despite not having the resources to actually manufacture or otherwise directly exploit his invention, and none of this required him to sell the patent.

The only even semi-legitimate reason to buy a patent is if you want to make sure no competitor can ever use the patent while you're exploiting it (by refusing to license it to anyone else), and to make sure any possible extension to the life of the protection offered by the patent in your jurisdiction is taken up (which some backyard inventor like my father might slip up on).

Re:Just a thought (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year ago | (#44736113)

Any thoughts on how the following rule would help the patent system?:
Make patents non transferable.

The problem is, they currently ARE NON-TRANSFERABLE.

They are issued to the inventor(s) and are completely owned by the inventor(s). The people named on the patents (who cannot be companies) own the patent permanently.

Instead, what happens is the inventor, as part of their employment contract, agrees to license the the company full exclusive use of the patent. Which means the company (that sponsored the patent) is the only one that can use the patent.

And the problem is, that's the way the patent system is supposed to work - patents belong to individuals who are free to either implement their patents, or to license the patent to those who can implement the inventions.

Except that now companies have, because it costs over $10,000 to file a patent, effectively contracted inventors to exclusively license their patents - they file patents in return for exclusivity.

When you see companies buying and selling patents, that's what they're trading - the rights to use the patent. If you want to troll the patent system, you can do the same, except get an exclusive license to software licensed AGPLv3 or something.

Problem Isn't Trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44731799)

People who hold patents should be able to enforce them. Inventors should be able to sell their patents instead of risk everything by trying to implement them. What if you invent an improvement to chip fabrication? Are your only options build your own chip fab or nothing?

The problem isn't trolls it is the patent office issuing patents that don't represent legitimate inventions. The patent office is overworked and under budgeted. They have little ability to research outside of the patent database. Their motto seems to be "grant 'em all and let the courts sort 'em out" By the time the patent is issued, it costs millions to fight it.

Hie thee to an attorney (1)

David Govett (2825317) | about a year ago | (#44731883)

I hold the patent trolling patent, so I'm going to sue the ass of every last patent troll.

The actual problem is software patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44731913)

not "patent trolls". You cannot fix an amputated limb no matter how much bandaid you use.

http://endsoftpatents.org/ [endsoftpatents.org]

So... (1)

Turminder Xuss (2726733) | about a year ago | (#44732235)

Examine harder. The US has absurdly low thresholds for utility and prior use.

Layman Alert! (1)

vomitology (2780489) | about a year ago | (#44733111)

Seems to me there's an easy fix. In order to hold a patent, you must demonstrably make, sell, support or otherwise profit from whatever the patent is for*. That incentivizes patent owners to use them for more than bargaining chips, and discourages people from hoovering up patents with only the intent to troll.

* 'Profit' does not include litigation.

Re:Layman Alert! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44738559)

Which then completely fucks over all independent inventors who cannot afford to produce such products themselves. I see nothing wrong with selling patents to companies who *can* do something with them.

Patenting Court Procedure/ Steri Decesis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44735829)

Why do lawyers forbid patenting court procedure and why don't they subject Stare Decisis to their little patent system, if previously won court decisions were patent-able (only usable by those specific win attorneys). Oh that's right, they wouldn't wish the system they impose on us on their worst enemy (whatever other attorney). Imagine how much the courts would get done if lawyers had to put their trials on hold to sue each-other over "stolen procedural ideas/using stolen court decisions" every time a trial went to court.

They'd probably have as many fresh ideas as Microsoft or Apple are having these days. Which, reminds me it's really silly that journalists are blaming AppleMicrosoft's size / business structure as the reason they can't innovate new products, when really it's because they know R&D is fiscal suicide, putting out 10 new apps would mean they'd have 20-30+ new law suits.

Law isn't the only thing that builds upon previous ideas.

Print ad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44737313)

I always thought the term "troll" used in this context and for internet trolling referred to fishing, as in catching something with bait. Wouldn't the ad be better with some suits sitting in a boat, dangling a line? I'm not sure how this got mixed up with the mythical monster kind of troll.

Possible solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44737347)

Seems to me that the best way to fix the patent system is to make the patent office liable for the costs involved if a patent is defeated in court. That would give them an incentive to only grant proper patents.

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