Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

A Brief History of Patenting the Wheel: What Goes Around Comes Around

samzenpus posted about three weeks ago | from the round-and-round dept.

Patents 36

v3rgEz writes Marc Abrahams, founder of the Ig Nobel Prize, has put together a fascinating history of people patenting the wheel, including one inventor that did it to prove how ridiculous Australia's patent system was and another that put wheels on a wheel so it could wheel while it wheels. From the article: "I discovered today that the Australian patent office has — quietly — revoked the patent it granted, in the year 2001, for the wheel. The patent office had awarded Innovation Patent #2001100012 to John Keogh of Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia. Keogh’s application called his invention a “circular transportation facilitation device.” I became acquainted with Mr. Keogh when we awarded him — and the Australian Patent Office — an Ig Nobel Prize, in 2001."

cancel ×

36 comments

Solution (1)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47420451)

Make 50% of the salaries of the patent office "contestable", so when they get it wrong it comes out of their pay packet

ALSO

Make the fees for failed patents applications high to discourage frivolous patents and make the costs of failure 10 times that for a failed appeal.

Re:Solution (5, Insightful)

HornWumpus (783565) | about three weeks ago | (#47420477)

Clearly, we currently have too many competent patent examiners. We should do everything possible to get them to quit.

Re:Solution (5, Informative)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | about three weeks ago | (#47420951)

Clearly, we currently have too many competent patent examiners. We should do everything possible to get them to quit.

I'm not so sure too few patent examiners is the only problem. According to a patents documentary I watched recently one of the big problems is a piece of legislation passed in the USA during the 80s or 90s in a panic over patent rates in Asia outstripping those in the USA. It caused the number of patents in the USA to rise sharply but it also allowed people to patent ridiculous crap because the patent office was now totally overworked and the restrictions on what could be patented had been relaxed. The Danes have a saying "He just tried to patent hot water" which is equivalent to the English proverb "He's not the sharpest knife in the kitchen", i.e. "he's stupid". The unfortunate thing is that these days you'd actually stand a good chance of patenting hot water if you tried, especially in the US where the rules are very lax. Come to think of it I'd actually like to see somebody try to patent hot water, just to see if they succeed. That being said I'm not generally against patents, I just think the system need major reform. This same documentary I cited above also included an interesting interview with James Dyson, the vaccuum cleaner guy. He described patents as a major pain because they are expensive to obtain and defend and don't really do much to help the small inventor anymore (which is what they were originally intend to do) and because patents have become weapons used by big players to stifle competition. But at the same time he also said he wouldn't want to live without some sort of patent system and took an example in his company's bladeless fan. It took them several years and tons of money to develop and they'd hardly released it when the market was flooded with cheap ass Chinese copies. The problem from Dyson's point of view is firstly that the copies are crappy and don't work very well which reflects badly on Dyson whose product actually works. Secondly the patent system (broken as it is) still helps companies like Dyson to crack down on copycats, even in China and even though the Chinese take significantly longer (years) to process foreign patent applications than they do Chinese patent applications (months) in violation of WTO regulations.

Re:Solution (1)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47421135)

The problems of the US patent office can be summarized in two simple words.

                              Software Patents

It is not feasible to review and examine them properly, due to their number and the tremendous overlap in methods and code bases used to produce the relevant software. Simply eliminating software patents, outright, would cause a short flurry of business plan changes for companies that have invested in them. But the release of pent-up and delayed innovation because of the fears, and necessary research to avoid, patent litigation would release many thousands, if not millions, of technical manpower man-hours to actually work on their tasks rather than on the paperwork of patents.

Re:Solution (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about three weeks ago | (#47421559)

Not just software patents. Patents on having your cat chase a laser pointer dot. A million people can come up with the same thing, and not bother to patent it, then one guy decides to patent it, and the other million have to pay him for it? It's ridiculous, because ridiculous things should not be patented. They should have very strict rules on what can be patented, such as a drug, a technical manufacturing process, or a technical device, that's novel. I came up with the same idea, with a playful cat, and later I found out there was a patent. So what, now I'm supposed to negotiate with the intellectual property holder about royalty fees? And he can charge me anything he feels like as back-dues? Couple million dollars for playing with a cat and a laser pointer? Or is the patent office gonna step in and regulate royalty fees now too? How about Microsoft/IBM screwing Gary Killdall out of DOS. Or copying the look and feel of Apple in Windows? Even with patents and intellectual property about them, things get circumvented in an oh, come on, the original guys deserve some credit for their inventions, so to speak. How much money did Gary Killdall get from the Microsoft/IBM gang for DOS? Diddly squat, instead he got killed in a Kain-like jealous style, for wearing a Harley Davidson jacket in a bike bar where that was a nono. Yes, in the US of A there are places where wearing Harley clothes is a big mistake. Really? Is that the best excuse you could come up with to kill him? Was he such a saint, you couldn't find any other fault with him? How about Apple, for creating the visual interface the Windows plain old copied? How much did Apple get paid? Wait, they did get paid by MS around 2000 that rescued them from bankruptcy, in a way to create a sock puppet make believe competition to the government antitrust lawsuit, because a company like Apple was better than Linux as the only other choice for computing, before the rise of pay by the minute or pay by click smart phones, There were a ton of people testifying about gangster practices of Microsoft. So under such circumstances, where the biggest moneymakers make their money by pretty much just raping other people's ideas how do you even claim to have intellectual property protection. You claim intellectual property, the gangsters show up and take it from you, and they forbid you and everyone else from using it. That's all intellectual property is in today's world. We no longer live in the times of Watt, where some kind of decency was expected, in fact even then it had a major retarding effect on the progress of the world. Back in the day you had "secrets." Like the secrets of paper making by Chinese, or porcelain making, that were subsequently rediscovered and duplicated by Europeans too, without paying royalty intellectual property fees to the Chinese over it. And in fact why would they? It was like competition, and whoever can come up with something, or copy it off someone else, go at it as much as you can. Which is what Microsoft does anyway with any new software trend - they killed Netscape dead with Internet Explorer, they dominated Apple's visual interface, Lotus 123, Wordperfect, now they are trying to kill Oracle's Java with Dotnet. Intellectual property? What intellectual property? It's all out competition, copy all ways of doing things that you can. That's what happens anyway, just like back in the day with Chinese porcelain. And what's wrong with such a world?

Re:Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47422923)

I came up with the same idea, with a playful cat, and later I found out there was a patent. So what, now I'm supposed to negotiate with the intellectual property holder about royalty fees?

No, there are already laws for this. The patent can be contested for being obvious. The problem is that the law isn't applied.

Re:Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47423657)

How much money did Gary Killdall get from the Microsoft/IBM gang for DOS? Diddly squat

Correct. And only just too, since Kildall created CP/M, and not DOS.

In fact, he is remembered especially for NOT licensing CP/M to IBM (it was Gary's wife actually who turned them down, after being advised so by DR's lawyer, because they wanted her to sign an NDA before even beginning talks).

Re:Solution (1)

operagost (62405) | about three weeks ago | (#47424161)

How about Microsoft/IBM screwing Gary Killdall out of DOS

Uh... he didn't create DOS. He created CP/M. You could say MS screwed DR out of a _deal_ with IBM, but it's likely he did that to himself.

Re:Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47424615)

Pretty sure he meant Tim Paterson, the guy who wrote QDOS. The CP/M guy pretty much just lost out because he wasn't home when IBM called.

Re:Solution (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about three weeks ago | (#47435737)

I didn't mean to imply that the guys that make a lot of money on software had anything to do directly with Gary Kildall's death. It was probably similar in situation to how a Stefi Graf women's tennis fan stabbed Monica Szeles in the shoulder muscles back in the 90's. Kain is everywhere, killing Able, simply because he's able - when you're supposed to make smoke that rises to the sky, the fastest way to winning is to kill everyone whose smoke rises up more than yours. Are you your brother's keeper?

Re:Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47422129)

I did engineering at the University of Canberra back when it had an engineering degree or two. I recall 2 of my very underwhelming classmates joining the patent office in Canberra after graduation. I knew at the time it was in trouble if it employed those graduates.

Re:Solution (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about three weeks ago | (#47422597)

Not possible. I have it on good authority that all Australians major in philosophy and are named Bruce.

America trade agreement is to blame (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47422809)

Did you even read the article.

"He felt that the Australian patent office had loosened its regulations (due to the free trade agreement with the US) in a way that made patents too easy to obtain."

America Fuck Yeah... AND Patents to protect innovation! Clearly this is effective

Re:America trade agreement is to blame (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about three weeks ago | (#47424893)

You must be new here. I barely read the summary. Karma whoring ain't easy.

Yo dawg (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47420479)

I see you like wheels.

no problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47420525)

grant 'em all and let the courts sort 'em out

What? (1)

zoomshorts (137587) | about three weeks ago | (#47420621)

Marc Abrahams. LOL

Yeah... duh! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47420625)

They probably found my prior art

Sue me! (2)

Tablizer (95088) | about three weeks ago | (#47420851)

I invented the "One Click" wheel.

Re:Sue me! (2)

gmhowell (26755) | about three weeks ago | (#47423059)

I invented the "One Click" wheel.

Pfft. I invented the wheel with round corners.

Re:Sue me! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47424177)

Double pfft. I invented the wheel based on an infinite regression of approximations of 3.1415926535 (and I invented pi, the greek letter, the American, and the Perimeter Institute...while sleeping...on a unicycle).

Re:Sue me! (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about three weeks ago | (#47425497)

...underwater in a thunderstorm while blindfolded.

Innovation patents are not true "patents" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47420903)

The system is not so silly when you look at how it works in practice, http://www.ipaustralia.gov.au/get-the-right-ip/patents/types-of-patents/standard-vs-innovation-patent/

The greater flexibility does not restrict innovation, and that should be the key test of it's usefulness.

Re:Innovation patents are not true "patents" (3, Informative)

pipedwho (1174327) | about three weeks ago | (#47421541)

The system is not so silly when you look at how it works in practice, http://www.ipaustralia.gov.au/... [ipaustralia.gov.au]

The greater flexibility does not restrict innovation, and that should be the key test of it's usefulness.

This is because an "innovation patent" is not examined until it is challenged, at which point, the ones that don't meet patentability requirements will only be rejected at that point and not before. The duration of an Innovation Patent is also much shorter than a standard patent.

mh (2)

fisted (2295862) | about three weeks ago | (#47421085)

That omni drive seems pretty legit [chiefdelphi.com] , not sure why it is in TFA's list

Re:mh (1)

Stoutlimb (143245) | about three weeks ago | (#47422183)

You took the words right out of my keyboard... but then I did a quick web search, and found quite the prior art going back to at least 1974.

Re:mh (3, Informative)

sjames (1099) | about three weeks ago | (#47422475)

Because it was already [wikipedia.org] patented [wikipedia.org]

Australian Wheel Patent (2)

crioca (1394491) | about three weeks ago | (#47421217)

On closer inspection the Australian patent that was granted is less absurd than it seems, as it was more of a quasi-patent:

Innovation patents last for a maximum of 8 years, whereas standard patents last for maximum of 20 years

Innovation patents are granted without examination, usually within 1 to 3 months,

whereas standard patents are examined only after paying the examination fee, and usually take 2 to 4 years.

After an innovation patent has been granted, the owner or any person may request examination, and such examination must occur before the owner can commerce or threaten to commence infringement proceedings.

Re:Australian Wheel Patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47422931)

On closer inspection the Australian patent that was granted is less absurd than it seems, as it was more of a quasi-patent:

Innovation patents last for a maximum of 8 years, whereas standard patents last for
maximum of 20 years

Innovation patents are granted without examination, usually within 1 to 3 months,

whereas standard patents are examined only after paying the examination fee, and
usually take 2 to 4 years.

After an innovation patent has been granted, the owner or any person may request
examination, and such examination must occur before the owner can commerce or
threaten to commence infringement proceedings.

Where the examination will be the usual rubber stamp, even more so than usual because it is a fait accompli, and the onus will be on the patent "infringer" to prove that they haven't infringed. It is completely absurd and the fact that it is "only" 8 years is irrelevant. It should be zero. And "not threaten"? You must be joking. The people working at IP Australia are nasty pieces of work more interested in pretend than reality and don't care how much it costs others. A "patent" "protects" somebody? Sure. At a significant cost to literally millions of people.

Re:Australian Wheel Patent (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | about three weeks ago | (#47424225)

On closer inspection the Australian patent that was granted is less absurd than it seems, as it was more of a quasi-patent:

Innovation patents last for a maximum of 8 years, whereas standard patents last for maximum of 20 years

... which is why the article quote "I discovered today that the Australian patent office has — quietly — revoked the patent it granted, in the year 2001, for the wheel" is even more absurd. It expired in 2009. This was "revoked" in the same way that the moldy cheese in the back of your fridge with a best-by date in January has been "quietly revoked".

everyone marvels at the wheel. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47421335)

The axle, now that was worthy of a patent. Well, maybe not, but a much more complicated thought process.

Much as MicroSoft tatics (1)

Trax3001BBS (2368736) | about three weeks ago | (#47422705)

Can't interest them in facts baffle em with bull sh!t.

As far as I know MS still holds the patent to smiley faces, the fact they have been around since the keyboard made no difference..

A rock "rolling" downhill has the same features of a wheel, when it hits and kills someone can I patent a new weapon?
I'll make much mention of the fact it was revolving to maintain accuracy.

A sling doesn't require a rock/stone to spin, in fact can't really pull it off.

Design patent (2)

AC-x (735297) | about three weeks ago | (#47423143)

US patent D690249, granted on September 24, 2013 to Mark Finnie of La Palma, California, for a “Motorcycle wheel with seven bifurcated spokes”.

But that's a design patent which just protects the cosmetic look of the product, which is perfectly legitimate for designer alloy wheels.

Design patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47424639)

Yep. Design patents are essentially trademarks for physical objects.

Re:Design patent (1)

TsuruchiBrian (2731979) | about three weeks ago | (#47425487)

I think design patents are stupid. I highly doubt that the quality of designs would suffer if design patents did not exist.

The US patent for toast (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47424623)

Look at US patent 6080436, for toast ("Bread Refreshing Method").

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...