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The Economist on Patent Reform

CmdrTaco posted more than 9 years ago | from the stuff-to-read dept.

Patents 315

ar1550 writes "The Economist recently posted an opinion piece on the state of patent systems, describing not just the mess that is the USPTO but flaws present in Europe and Asia. From the article, "In 1998 America introduced so-called 'business-method' patents, granting for the first time patent monopolies simply for new ways of doing business, many of which were not so new. This was a mistake." The article also describes the difficulty of obtaining legitimate patents. "

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Patents suck. (1)

Imidazole (775082) | more than 9 years ago | (#10820986)

Patents suck. *puts on flamesuit*

Poo poo patent (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10820991)

fart fart fatent

Microsoft sucks! go linux

Who wrote it? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10821000)

Who wrote the op-ed and in what way are they qualified to speak about intellectual property?

A lofty article without some kind of qualifications to back up is pretty useless.

Re:Who wrote it? (5, Insightful)

trigeek (662294) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821183)

Typcially, the name "The Economist" is regarded as qualification enough. It made quite a row when they endorsed John Kerry for President, considering their staunchly fiscally conservative point of view.

Re:Who wrote it? (5, Insightful)

goldspider (445116) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821261)

"It made quite a row when they endorsed John Kerry for President, considering their staunchly fiscally conservative point of view."

Not too surprising, really.

Now I'm no economist, but when it comes to the balance sheet, "Tax and Spend" makes more sense to me than "Just Spend".

Not if you are a supply sider (2, Informative)

HBI (604924) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821530)

The premise is that if you tax the economy, it won't grow, and people will adapt to the new code and hide more income, resulting in less revenue than you expected from your percentage increase. Whereas, if you lower rates, you spur the economy to grow and therefore more revenue is generated.

Laffer, Mundell, et al. can explain this far better, of course.

Re:Who wrote it? (1)

batkins (602341) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821397)

Not too surprising, when the alternative has run up a $7 trillion national debt.

Re:Who wrote it? (1, Interesting)

Matimus (598096) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821277)

The Economist does not list their Authors BECAUSE it does not require them to validify facts based upon the writers qualifications. I listened to an interview with an editor from the Economist on NPR, and that is basically what he said.

I suppose that works if you are a young writer and you back up your statements with facts (as opposed to ethos), but this article doesn't even contain facts. Its some vague suggestions and a lot of fluff. I could have written it right here and now, off the top of my head, without any research. Really, a peace of crap article that happened to have the words "Patent" and "Reform" in the title, ensuring its posting on the front page of /..

I believe the Economist politically has a similar readership demographic to ./ as well.

Re:Who wrote it? (5, Insightful)

yerfatma (666741) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821415)

I believe the Economist politically has a similar readership demographic to ./ as well.

I believe you might be confused. My father subscribes to The Economist. I read /. While you don't qualify your perception of /.'s political "demographics," I would suggest The Economist is somewhat more pragmatic and a little further to the right than /.

I do enjoy the idea random /. posters would be questioning the bonafides of The Economist. I realize they only print on dead trees and they have a weird editorial policy you're unfamiliar with, but last I checked the had a slightly higher barrier to entry than the hoops one has to jump through to post on /.

Re:Who wrote it? (1)

batkins (602341) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821430)

The Economist traditionally does not give the name of an article's author.

Re:Who wrote it? (3, Informative)

yiangouk (721875) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821432)

The Economist [wikipedia.org]
"Articles, which are often heavily opinionated, almost never carry a byline. This means that no specific person or persons can be named as the author. Not even the name of the editor (currently Bill Emmott) is printed in the issue. The author of a piece is named in certain circumstances: when notable persons are invited to contribute opinion pieces; when Economist writers compile surveys; and to highlight a potential conflict of interest over a book review. The names of Economist editors and correspondents can be located, however, via the staff pages of the website."

Re:Who wrote it? (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821543)

A lofty article without some kind of qualifications to back up is pretty useless.

It's the ideas in the article that matter, not who said them. Appeal to authority [wikipedia.org] is a common fallacy.

bona fides... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10821555)

unless they are saying it in a way that shows they understand. Sometimes you don't need an engineer to tell you the bridge is unsafe. AFAICS the 'experts' are working from a corrupted paradigm.

Excellent Article, but Nothing New Here (1)

Onimaru (773331) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821015)

A very excellent and articulate argument, logical and cogent. I hope the right people are listening.

Re:Excellent Article, but Nothing New Here (2, Insightful)

over_exposed (623791) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821123)

I can tell you right now, they most likely aren't. Even if they are, they don't care. If they do care, they're probably not the right people.

One-sided article (5, Interesting)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821018)

The article only presents one side of the picture, albeit, the slashbot side.

But, what about the other side? What was the motivation for allowing business method patents? There must have been some reasoning behind it.

Anyone?

Re:One-sided article (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10821056)

Because it happened in 1998, I blame Bush.

He allowed it to pad Halliburton's profits.

Re:One-sided article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10821126)

Erm, never mind that Clinton was in office in 1998? I don't even know if Bush knew Chaney back in '98.

Re:One-sided article (3, Insightful)

Vicegrip (82853) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821070)

Greed and money. The oldest reasons in the book.

Re:One-sided article (1, Offtopic)

Kenja (541830) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821138)

"Greed and money. The oldest reasons in the book."

So when a lone inventer/devloper wants to rpotect what they've created from large corporaations their just being greedy?

Re:One-sided article (3, Informative)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821220)

The grandparent post was referring to the reason for business method patents, not patents for real things.

Re:One-sided article (3, Insightful)

Kenja (541830) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821423)

"The grandparent post was referring to the reason for business method patents, not patents for real things."

I know, however the same rules apply. If I spend time and money devloping somthing why shouldn't I have a way to protect what I create? The idea of patents is sound, our current patent system is broken with too many 'duh' patents getting the rubber stamp of approval. It should also be noted that I speak from a position where this realy does effect my day to day life. I write software for ISO certification systems. So I'm writting software for buisness methods. A double whammy. According to a number of people on thee forums I shouldn't be able to make money at what I do, I should just hand my work over to IBM or some other jugernaught so that they can run me into the ground. For some reason I just dont agree with that.

Re:One-sided article (5, Insightful)

Scott Wood (1415) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821568)

If I spend time and money devloping somthing why shouldn't I have a way to protect what I create?

The ability to protect what you create is not a right; it is a privilege granted by the public to the creator for a specific purpose. If the public does not feel that a particular sort of creation is sufficiently valuable as to warrant protection, then you don't get to protect it. Keep in mind that one of the major reasons for patents is to prevent secrecy from being used as an alternative; it's a lot harder to keep business methods secret, and thus the public is not getting as much out of granting such patents.

So I'm writting software for buisness methods. A double whammy. According to a number of people on thee forums I shouldn't be able to make money at what I do

You can protect the software itself with copyright. It's the methods themselves that require a patent to "protect".

Re:One-sided article (2, Interesting)

BeBoxer (14448) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821571)

According to a number of people on thee forums I shouldn't be able to make money at what I do, I should just hand my work over to IBM or some other jugernaught so that they can run me into the ground. For some reason I just dont agree with that.

Do you really write software and not copyright it? That is the appropriate protection for software. You will find very few people around here who actually advocate the elimination of copyrights. After all, it's copyright protection which gives the GPL teeth.

The question the pro-patent crowd needs to answer is why is copyright insufficient? Why do you need additional protection above and beyond the protection automatically granted to software?

Re:One-sided article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10821254)

The other kind of patents protected the "lone inventor" just fine. This discussion is strictly about the so-called "business method patents," which disproportionally rewards large business.

RTFA, or, just read the two comments you're replying to.

Re:One-sided article (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821531)

So when a lone inventer/devloper wants to rpotect what they've created from large corporaations their just being greedy?

Given the "quality" of many of those patents, especially business method patents, YES!

There are a few patents out there that are genuinely innovative and non-obvious. Unfortunatly, they are drowned in the sea of money grabs for the blatantly obvious.

Re:One-sided article (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821570)

"There are a few patents out there that are genuinely innovative and non-obvious. Unfortunatly, they are drowned in the sea of money grabs for the blatantly obvious."

Thats a problem with the patent approval process not with patents themselves.

Re:One-sided article (3, Interesting)

dpille (547949) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821115)

Don't trust my non-google-reinforced memory, but:

I think this was a court decision (State Street?). I think the reasoning boiled down to the fact that the court believed a business method satisfied all the statutory requirements for patentable material, saw no prohibition against it, and said so.

The 'other side' in some sense, then, is legal inertia- good luck getting a law passed that says no to business method patents once someone's benefitting from them.

Re:One-sided article (4, Insightful)

Thangodin (177516) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821118)

Actually, they address both sides--the need to encourage innovation as well as the need to reward it. The problem now is that legitimate patents can be too expensive, and too many illegitimate ones get through. The system is buckling under the load of spurious IP speculators. Your likelihood of getting a patent now may have less to do with how good or novel the design or process is, and more to do with how many lawyers you can afford.

Re:One-sided article (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10821157)

Considering you're an obvious troll (you used the word 'slashbot'), I debated whether to answer you..

What was the motivation for allowing business method patents?

Someone convinced the Supreme Court that a business method was "science", and therefore worthy of patent protection.

The problem this faces is that a business method, by definition, is it's own reward.

Patents are supposed to further innovation by rewarding the inventors. The argument is that if you didn't reward the inventor, then they would not spend the time to make the invention.

But a "business method" that actually works is it's own reward - no further incentive is required, because the "inventor" gets (wait for it) *BETTER BUSINESS*. There is absolutely *NO* benefit to society for disallowing others to use said 'invention' without paying their competition a license fee.

In this case, allowing patents on "business methods" is actually *retarding* innovation, because it prohibits someone from independantly coming up with a similar method.

Actually (5, Interesting)

Prince Vegeta SSJ4 (718736) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821199)

Business Method Patents have historically been frowned upon. Patents 'traditionally' revolved around a single theory - that they were meant to protect actual devices or physical tech.

One could also argue that there is no need for this type of patent, there have always been innovative accounting methods, financial instruments or services, even without the protection a patent affords. However, teh counter agruments were that due to rising costs, it becomes increasingly harder to create this innovative ideas and processes. Further, one could say that those that create these processes work just as hard as those who create physical technology. Why discriminate solely on the basis of subject matter.

Again, another counter argument can be made. When determining 'the cost' to business, what does cost actually mean. Is it more costly to a single business, when there idea is not patentable? Is it more costly to business as a whole, where they are excluded from using a patented method?

Really, IMHO, there are no definite answers. But I just wanted to inject some of the thoughts which go into this type of patent.

For more info, see: Patent Law and Policy: Cases & Materials, Second Edition by Robert Patrick Merges

Re:One-sided article (4, Informative)

Jumbo Jimbo (828571) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821209)

The motivation for allowing business-method patents, described in this paper from Harvard Law School [harvard.edu] is that innovations were too easy to copy - essentially the same motivation behind the original idea of patents.

It seems that a good idea in principle may have resulted in legislation that is not working in practice because of a flawed framework / companies taking advantage (your choice). Not that I agree with the idea of business-method patents in the first place, but this may make the idea behind them clearer.

Re:One-sided article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10821223)

Well, yes it's a one-sided article because it's an editorial. They're usually one-sided.

Re:One-sided article (1)

ipgeek (551180) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821244)

In a sense, the Federal appellate court officially began to allow "business method" patents because it was having such a hard time trying to distinguish those methods which were worthy of patenting (such as new methods of making a chemical, new methods of making an electrical circuit...) and those methods that probably should not be patented (new methods which are merely mathematical algorithms).

It may help to read the actual cases. They are readable and have only a modest amount of legal mumbo-jumbo. The cases were State Street http://www.ll.georgetown.edu/federal/judicial/fed/ opinions/97opinions/97-1327.html/ [georgetown.edu] and AT&T v. Excel http://www.ll.georgetown.edu/federal/judicial/fed/ opinions/98opinions/98-1338.html/ [georgetown.edu] .

As more and more cases tried to distinguish why certain methods are as a "technical" matter worty of patenting, the courts found more and more of these distinctions too adhoc and artificial.

Re:One-sided article (3, Informative)

3StrangeAllies (691081) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821321)

The big turning point in Business Method Patents, as someone stated, was State Street Bank & Trust Co. v. Signature Financial Group, Inc. - 1998 [umd.edu] . The key point in this change of attitude was, according to Judge Rich, that "business methods have been, and should have been, subject to the same legal requirements for patentability as applied to any other process or method" (refering to In Re Schrader, 2 F.3d 290 (Fed.Cir.1994).
Somehow, it makes sense -- the general set of criteria for patentability should apply to most legal subject-matter (not sure that it would be wise to grant a patent to a new process to produce Cocain ;). Hence it is not the business method patentability in itself that seems flawed but the patent prosecution that let stuff go through without the proper checking. Especially regarding the facts in State Street, the mathematical process and business method really showed an innovative process, and it would have been counter-productive to bar this process from patentability...

Just my two €urocents...

Re:One-sided article (3, Interesting)

lothar97 (768215) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821554)

What was the motivation for allowing business method patents?

Answer: like any other type of patent, the motivation is to protect the invention and allow the inventor to take advantage of having discovered this business method.

I've written several business method patents involving methods of providing life insurance. When the client first came to us, it was tough to figure out what they had discovered. The did find a unique way to fund life insurance, and wanted to make sure they were the only ones who could provide this service. As they had spent several years developing this method, I see no reason why they should not be able to protect their invention.

One thing I was shocked to learn while drafting the patent application- there are many patents involving insurance funding (our client was unique). There were even some that got through in Europe (which will allow a business method to be included if attached to something that is patentable).

While part of me thinks it might retard competition, I do have to say that companies invest time & money into developing these methods- and want rewards.

Patent bubble will lead to burst (5, Insightful)

IgD (232964) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821020)

I see this patent buisness model as no different than the other booms (biotech, dot com) that all busted. Plain and simple, the patent business model means making money without any productivity. Instead of Network Solutions, we will have Patent Solutions so you can patent the 100 different ways to breath. There is no way this business model can succeed. Reform is coming sooner or later.

Re:Patent bubble will lead to burst (2, Interesting)

omghi2u (808195) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821057)

Very correct! Most people don't know what a patent is, and most people who do live in countries where they can actively say "screw patens, we don't belong to any international accord on this" and just do whatever they want.

That's why, really, if you have something REALLY valuable you DON'T patent it, you just keep it secret.

Re:Patent bubble will lead to burst (2, Interesting)

perkr (626584) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821319)

Maybe... but how would it burst? A small company may need a patent to get VC fundend, then they get bought by one of these patent portfolio companies that sue the small companies competitors who can't afford to fight in court. Sounds to me, the only way to change that is to change the laws, there is no economics in it that will make things like this go away.

Also, the EU will probably adapt the US patent system. So the mess in the US will probably transfer to Europe and I can't see any reason why any bubble would burst there either (we already got messy patent litigations over here too).

Re:Patent bubble will lead to burst (1)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821405)

Maybe... but how would it burst?
It's already bursting. Listen [ugent.be] (mp4 audio, 3.9 MiB) to what someone [m-cam.com] who knows what he's talking about [m-cam.com] has to say about it (especially from 2m40 and on in the clip).

Re:Patent bubble will lead to burst (1)

ASUNathan (63781) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821400)

I hope that you're right about this model failing, but I'm still worried. Even if the system changes tomorrow, we'll still have all sorts of critical technology lawyered out of existence for the next twenty years.

Re:Patent bubble will lead to burst (4, Interesting)

ites (600337) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821520)

It will burst but the timescales are not the same as for most other bubbles.

The difference is this: other bubbles work by inflating the prospects of future returns on investment, creating a pyramid scheme in which new investors are lured by the prospect of huge rewards while old investors sell out and actually make the rewards. When the pool of new investors runs out, bubble bursts and granny loses her savings.

The patents bubble is not based on this model at all. Rather, it's a scheme by which a small group of people have turned the law into a tool for extortion. As long as they don't extort more from the system than it can bear, the business of patents will continue. At a certain moment the tax that this creates on normal business activity will cause those economies which allow it to become uncompetitive and thus die.

The end-game for the patent players is to get a global hegemony because then uncompetitiveness does not matter any more. But this is highly unlikely: the advantages to small countries of having unfettered technology will outweigh any advantages of being compatible with the USA's "policies".

So we'll see about 5 more years of fighting for positions, then 10-15 years of ruthless extortion during which technology advancement suffers and stagnates, and then revolt by either government as they start to see the impact on economic growth and tax income, or by smaller to middle-sized businesses as they find themselves unable to operate normally.

A better parallel would be the monopolised telecoms industries in the west, which lasted for 50 years or so, and which caused serious hinderence to technological progress until they were dismantled by regulators.

The patent business will be dismantled around 2025, at the earliest. From 2010 to 2025, if you are a small independent technology producer you will have three choices:

1. illegality, black-market.

2. join a patent club and pay the costs (equivalent to merging with a larger business).

3. relocate to a patent haven such as Liberia.

Options 1 and 3 are pretty similar since any business using foreign software which violates patents will be subject to penalties.

And it won't be sufficient to say "this software does not violate patents", you will need a certificate of conformity, period. Like selling a car.

It's a sad prognosis for OSS, which is my main business, but I think it's inevitable. Money talks, and we are seeing a true gold rush here.

Learn what a patent is (3, Insightful)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821024)

The article is a nice opinion piece. But before all you folks start ranting, please learn what a patent is/isn't and how they work. I predict a huge ammount of nonsense is about to be spewed.

Re:Learn what a patent is (1)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821249)

I would suggest that all people who can't stop talking about the endless virtues of the patent system, listed to this speech [ugent.be] (mp4 audio) given by David Martin [m-cam.com] from M-CAM at the FFII conference [ffii.org] on software patents last week (especially from 2m40 in the clip). The full "audio proceedings" (and most slides) of the conference are linked from the conference page.

That person is specialised in figuring out the real value of patents (that's what his company [m-cam.com] does), and the picture he paints is not a pretty one. Not by a long shot. And it's confirmed by the talk given by Ian Lewis given afterwards (sorry, don't have an extract from that, you'll have to download the full Tuesday panel 3 discussion for that). He's from one of the largest UK insurance companies. He told the audience that every single insurer that offers "IP-insurance" is turning in a loss on those insurances, despite the exorbitant rates they charge.

There is something very rotten in patent land. And as far as the current European situation is concerned: extending the scope of patentability is not the solution.

Re:Learn what a patent is (0)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821394)

The article is a nice opinion piece. But before all you folks start ranting, please learn what a patent is/isn't and how they work. I predict a huge ammount of nonsense is about to be spewed.

Yeah, they should grant a monopoly on nonsense to reduce its spread.

glad that an important mouthpiece is taking notice (1)

krayfx (694332) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821030)

... but is this enough ? right now patents are nothing but clout of the mighty. anyone small is bought outright! fairplay doesnt stand a chance. so much for the patents protecting the rights !

How to benefit the consumer. (5, Funny)

rice_burners_suck (243660) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821034)

I have an interesting idea: Pass new legislation that makes it ILLEGAL for an individual or small business with less than 1000 employees to obtain a patent. Then, only large businesses can obtain them. Further, some additional clauses in the legislation will require that such small businesses, if they wish to license the patent, will have to pay additional monies besides the license fees, such as additional taxes, penalties, and fines, which the government will spend on fancy furniture and catering for patent office employees. Any patent application filed by a corporation with 20,000 employees or more, or at least 5 billion dollars in liquid assets, will be automatically approved. Corporations smaller than this will have to go through a patent approval process, the complexity and expense of which will be inversely proportional to the size of the corporation. Thus, a corporation with the minimum 1,000 employees will have to endure the most difficult patent approval process, and a corporation with, say, 10,000 employees will go through a process only half as difficult.

This will balance out the patent system and make the system fair for all involved. Clearly, such a patent system will benefit the consumer.

Re:How to benefit the consumer. (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821065)

WTF came to mind, until my sense of humor kicked in. Nice one ... you got me.

Re:How to benefit the consumer. (0, Redundant)

jedaustin (52181) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821265)

I have an interesting idea: Pass new legislation that makes it ILLEGAL for an individual or small business with less than 1000 employees to obtain a patent.
[Sarcasm]
Great Idea! Lets just kill the small business innovation protection. Lord knows that you must have 1000 employees to be creative these days. Gone are the days where a single individual can come up with new ideas that reshape the world.

With your idea in place:

Henry Ford would have needed at least 1000 employees before he could create the assembly line (and lay off at least 500 of them)!

Thomas Alva Edison would have to have 1000 employees before he could patent the light bulb!

Orville and Wilbur Wright would have to have 1000 employees before patenting the "Heavier than air flying Machine"!

Just think of a world where only rich companies could patent things.. Simply Heaven!

This will balance out the patent system and make the system fair for all involved. Clearly, such a patent system will benefit the consumer.
Yes! You know when you have 1000 employees the world is so unfair. Finally a fair system for companies with 1000 employees or more!
[/Sarcasm]

Re:How to benefit the consumer. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10821362)

You placed your tags incorrectly. Let me help:

[Sarcasm]
I have an interesting idea: ... a patent.
[/Sarcasm]

[Humor Impaired]
[Sarcasm]
Great Idea! ... the world.
[/Sarcasm]
With your idea in place: ... or more!
[/Humor Impaired]

Re:How to benefit the consumer. (1)

jedaustin (52181) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821440)

That was the point.
When I replied to the parent it was moderated +5
Informative, now it's rated +5 Funny.

Re:How to benefit the consumer. (1)

zx75 (304335) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821291)

Sorry, I'm afraid your idea has already been patented as a business process by the USPTO and implemented.

Your fines come to $97,000 based on RIAA lawsuit settlements for infringement (on the reasonably assumption that you make more than that much per year, but that it will also serve as a deterrent to future infringement) OR 30,000 pages of patent applications to provide work for USPTO employees to justify laying off an additional 12.5% of their workforce.

In developing countries... (3, Interesting)

MichiganDan (720608) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821035)

A bit of research and theory suggests that, while these patents are a big pain in the US, there might be a case for implementing them in developing countries, in order to reward entrepreneurs who find successful business models and practices. Currently, there are few incentives for discovery of new industries in developing countries, since as soon as they are discovered, everyone rushes in and the original entrepreneur is put out of business.

And rule one of capitalism: without incentives, there's no innovation.

See for example Ricardo Hausmann and Dani Rodrik, "Economic Development as Self-{Discovery" [nber.org]

Re:In developing countries... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10821060)

Oh there's always an incentive in a capitalist marketplace: money. No need to hand out monopolies.

Re:In developing countries... (4, Insightful)

Anita Coney (648748) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821120)

The first rule of Capitalism: Without competition, there is no Capitalism.

Re:In developing countries... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10821347)

I thought it was "You don't talk about Capitalism."

Re:In developing countries... (1)

Vicsun (812730) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821485)

"rule of capitalism: Without incentives, there's no innovation." "rule of Capitalism: Without competition, there is no Capitalism." Now we just need to find the balance between those two ;-)

Re:In developing countries... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10821541)

Trolling karma whore...

Re:In developing countries... (1)

learn fast (824724) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821550)

You're talking about business methods not business products. By your logic, since historically business methods have NOT until very recently been protected by patent law, then until the recent past there was no incentive for people in this country to discover new industries. Someone could just steal their business model, so there were no incentives or innovation in the US until very recently. Take a good look at history: it must have been like the dark ages some 20 years ago, what with no incentives to innovate and whatnot. Thank god we have history's lessons to teach us to correct that awful mistake.

If we got rid of currency and patents and lawyers (4, Funny)

omghi2u (808195) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821040)

If we got rid of currency and patents and lawyers, think how happy the world would be.

We could do things for the sheer GOOD of doing them, people would be creative for creativity's sake. Just think Star Trek and don't tell me I'm wrong.

Thanks, commrade!

Re:If we got rid of currency and patents and lawye (0)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821076)

If people took what they needed, didn't take what they didn't need, and simply shared everything, the world would be a better place. But so far this kind of thing hasn't worked out I guess.

Look at how many politicians that are also lawyers.

I think slashdot.org or something else once led me to the USPTO.gov which showed a patent for a comb-over. (The following is meant to be funny.) Imagine if we patented having hair over four feet long. Or if a baseball player patented how to hit a homerun a certain way. Or patent how to say a certain word a certain way. Or patent a political method, like how politicians move their hands during speeches.

Re:If we got rid of currency and patents and lawye (2, Funny)

omghi2u (808195) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821095)

I will bring your issue up with the United Federation of Planets immediately!

Re:If we got rid of currency and patents and lawye (1)

goldspider (445116) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821195)

"If people took what they needed, didn't take what they didn't need, and simply shared everything, the world would be a better place. "

And it would be even better if all people contributed equally to society, instead of some choosing to be supported by it. The utopia of socialism ends where human laziness and greed begin.

Re:If we got rid of currency and patents and lawye (1)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821241)

Laziness is a problem. It's in my honest opinion that most people aren't laziness. It's in my opinion most people want to work and contribute to society.

Patent issues, tax issues, etc., are going to keep piling up until society can't ignore it anymore. How long this takes, I don't know. Hopefully something is done within the next 20 years.

Re:If we got rid of currency and patents and lawye (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10821097)

Why in the world did someone with mod points think that this should be modded up? How about mod down for super-ultra-mega redundancy?

And poster, don't just put up simplistic answers that add NOTHING to the thread. We are all a bit older and no wiser for having read your drivel.

Re:If we got rid of currency and patents and lawye (1, Insightful)

omghi2u (808195) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821128)

Star Trek is not drivel.

They don't have patents in Star Trek. They don't have copyright problems.

The only times I saw where a lawyer was absolutely needed in Star Trek was Star Trek IV when Kirk is in trouble for disobeying orders, and Star Trek VI (But remember, these were the Klingons, not part of the UFP, so not really an issue)

Star Trek *IS* the perfect model.

Star Trek is life.

Re:If we got rid of currency and patents and lawye (1)

macsuibhne (307779) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821240)

Not only that, in Star Trek, no one ever needs to take a leak (or a dump). Think how much time that would save!

Re: Trek bathrooms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10821472)

Not only that, in Star Trek, no one ever needs to take a leak (or a dump). Think how much time that would save!

In 'First Contact', Zephram Cochrane said that he had to "take a leak" ... but used it as an excuse to sneak away from Geordi.

As far as I know, the only time it was ever mentioned anywhere.

Re:If we got rid of currency and patents and lawye (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10821344)

I thought 'Star Trek' and got as far as Seven of Nine.

I tried again and thought 'Enterprise' and got as far as T'Pol.

Mmmmmmmmmmmm.

A different angle (4, Funny)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821066)

Give these guys a break ;) They're just trying to help out the ailing hordes of patent lawyers. I mean if one could no longer patent the very process of 'post-factum patent squatting litigation', what would happen to the poor folks?! Personally, I have filed a patent for the "process of gaining permission for sexual activity with a previously unknown person through the use of mood-altering and/or intoxicating substances". Upon the patent being granted I expect to file no less than 10'000 lawsuits/day for patent infringement, mainly around college campuses.

This a nice smoke screen (5, Interesting)

Balaitous (126540) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821081)

IMHO, this editorial piece is a strategic smoke screen to put the emphasis on "patent reform" in front of the growing movements that challenge the scope of patentable subject matter. In the recent Geneva Conference on the Future of WIPO [tacd.org] , the USPTO, WIPO and US Trade representative all supported "tuning generic patentability criteria", while critics supported excluding software, information processing, gene sequences and vegetal varieties from patentability. Guess which has more chance to bring the system back to reason ? Guess which is supported by the big patent portfolio holders ?

the problem isnt so much the system (4, Insightful)

Phil246 (803464) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821110)

its the people who willingly abuse it
patents, when applied for and granted PROPERLY are a good thing. However when they`re just used to cover your bases, so you can wait for some unlucky person to come along and try to do what youve patented, you can slam him with a lawsuit.

i think it was suggested a fair few stories like this back by someone for a use it or lose it style system, although it would create more lawsuits short term. it might just reduce the lawsuits which wait for a company or person to become nice and fat, for skimming.

The best solution would be to have those staff at the US patent office especially, but also other patent offices around the world to have the time, staff, training and ability to scrupulously check every single application.
perhaps barring those who apply for dodgy patents for a year or two? might be a little extreme to do that but its an idea at least.

Re:the problem isnt so much the system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10821198)

While people may be the problem we can't change people, but we can change the system. Any system that leaves itself open to abuse will be abused.

Re:the problem isnt so much the system (1)

lukewarmfusion (726141) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821246)

Gun violence isn't the fault of the guns, it's the fault of the idiot users. That doesn't mean we shouldn't reform the system that allows idiots to get guns. Background checks, mandatory waiting, etc. are all in place because you'll never fix "the person." We can't get rid of patents altogether, just as we can't rid the world of guns. But we can certainly improve the process through which they are obtained.

I would like to see the courts smack some of the these ridiculous patents around, hopefully setting precedents that make this kind of patent monopoly business model less attractive.

Frivolous Patents (4, Interesting)

P-Nuts (592605) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821129)

As TFA seems to state, the principal problem in the patenting system is that it is too easy to get a patent granted on what, after a lengthy legal trial will probably turn out not to have been patentable. The difficulty is that patenting stuff is already a bit expensive, putting off people who aren't big corporations. So how can a better vetting system be introduced to force patent offices to look harder at each application for obviousness/prior-artiness?

The article suggests that competitors could perform this task if the application process were made more open. This makes the patent process somewhat similar to obtaining planning permission (putting up notices saying what you plan, and giving people a chance to object in some period of time).

One thing seems certain, that only if more patents are rejected by the patent office, will people file fewer frivolous patents. But as the system stands, the patent office has little incentive - they just want to collect their fee without too much hassle. Only by changing the system so that the patent office suffers each time a patent it granted is later found in court to be dubious, will they be motivated to improve the quality of the vetting procedure.

Crazy idea: accept all patents (5, Interesting)

srowen (206154) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821137)

I'm not the first to propose this idea, but...

Today in the US, patents are submitted to the USPTO, where they are researched and approved or rejected. If approved, they are presumed valid, unless/until someone else challenges it and requests a review.

The USPTO is overwhelmed and in no position to accurately judge the validity of every one of these patents.

So why try? why bother reviewing them upfront? The USPTO could accept all patent applications, catalog them, make them public, but do not endorse them as valid until proven otherwise.

When patent conflicts arise, as they do today, companies can ask the USPTO to rule on the existing patents. At that time, all parties have a chance to supply relevant evidence to the USPTO about the patent's validity or invalidity.

The plus side is that the USPTO stops pretending it can deal with all this work effectively. It only spends effort on patents that companies think are worth fighting over (and before litigation).

The downside is that companies must publicly submit information about their patentable ideas without a guarantee that they will receive a patent. But, that is a healthy incentive to avoid spurious patents, which is missing today.

What do you guys think?

Re:Crazy idea: accept all patents (3, Insightful)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821258)

I think this 1) isn't going to happen and 2) isn't going to fix the larger problem at hand, that being that patents are being approved and fought out in court at great expense to everyone involved. Your plan in fact helps to encourage the latter, as now everyone, valid patent/infringement claim or not has to hash it out and throw lawyers at a technology problem.

Re:Crazy idea: accept all patents (4, Insightful)

srowen (206154) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821385)

The hope is that this all goes through the USPTO first, not the courts. Let's say I think your patent is invalid -- we ask the USPTO to review the patent then. The USPTO doesn't bother reviewing your patent until someone cares about it, that's all -- thereby saving the expense of reviewing the 99% of patents that nobody ever looks at again.

Hopefully the USPTO then has more resources to really make good patent decisions about the "important" patents. Plus, under this system, the challenger can present evidence agains the patent's validity, and cheaply.

It's not going to avoid lawsuits entirely -- if the USPTO thinks your patent is valid but I still don't, I can still throw lawyers at you. But hopefully the USPTO decisions will be more informed, and therefore, more easily upheld in litigation, and therefore reduce the amount of litigation over bad patents.

Not a complete solution, but an intriguing proposal I think!

Re:Crazy idea: accept all patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10821278)

It's an interesting idea, but it screws over the garage inventor (not the inventor of the garage, the entrpreneur working in one). Why? How could I afford to spend the time fighting for the validity of a patent against, say, Microsoft?

Re:Crazy idea: accept all patents (2, Insightful)

Freedom Bug (86180) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821350)

The same way any poor person pays for a lawyer: give the lawyer a cut. If you've got a good case, many lawyers would be happy to take the case: they stand to make much more money by taking 40% of the winnings than by being paid per hour...

Re:Crazy idea: accept all patents (1)

srowen (206154) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821408)

If Microsoft wants to challenge your patent, the first step is not litigation, but simply the first review by the USPTO. This is just suggesting that the USPTO wait to initially review a patent until someone cares enough to question it. No lawyers.

This system isn't any better than the current one in protecting small companies from big companies' lawyers, if they want to fight, but hopefully it enables the USPTO to spend its limited resources much more wisely, to make better patent decisions in the first place, and when those patents do go to small companies, to make them more robust to challenge since they are better reviewed in the first place.

Re:Crazy idea: accept all patents (3, Funny)

zx75 (304335) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821345)

Innocent until proven guilty? What a novel idea, one thinks this might have applicable usage in other areas of law as well as it seems move obvious by the day that the system does not follow any such noble ideal.

Re:Crazy idea: accept all patents (2, Insightful)

srowen (206154) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821426)

... a more precise analogy might be "neither innocent nor guilty until someone cares enough to press charges"!

Re:Crazy idea: accept all patents (1)

FerretFrottage (714136) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821506)

Businesses/corporations have bigger "guns" as in lawyers so individuals would havve a tough time defending patents against the likes of IBM, MS, HP, etc. Justice may be blind, but it knows the scent of money. Just think, a poor old soul would have to devote his/her entire time and money in defending the patent while the bigger corps can just assign an intenting lawyer to the case. I wonder who would really when when you count the "chips" in the end.

Just steal it anyway (3, Funny)

g0hare (565322) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821146)

Base your corporation in Delaware, use the patents illegally, and pay yourself huge sums of money. If people get mad they can sue the corporation, but you don't care because you aren't the corporation.

Re:Just steal it anyway (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821279)

Courts usually see through that kind of nonsense when a corporation isn't organized for a bona fide business purpose.

um... no (1)

tommck (69750) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821292)

The liability shield for corporations does NOT include negligent behavior. Blatantly stealing patented technology is negligent. You'd be f*cked.

T

Good News (5, Funny)

dfn5 (524972) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821152)

business-method' patents, granting for the first time patent monopolies simply for new ways of doing business

I'm going to patent the business model of treating employees like shit. Then I'll sue every company for patent infringement.

Re:Good News (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10821522)

Sorry, EA have prior art on you there...

One simple patent reform (4, Insightful)

Anita Coney (648748) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821163)

Keep business and software patents, but put the burden on the patent holder to prove it's valid (i.e., useful, novel and not obvious) in any subsequent trial or hearing.

And if the patent holder loses, it has to pay all of the challenger's legal costs.

Re:One simple patent reform (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10821280)

put the burden on the patent holder to prove it's valid (i.e., useful, novel and not obvious)

It's logically impossible to prove that something is novel. Even if you restricted it to proving that it had not been published before, you'd have to submit every publication ever made as evidence.

I have a patent idea (4, Funny)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821203)

I have an idea for a robbery technique. I was thinking to patent it, as it depends on a recent change and so there cannot be any prior art. I don't see why the criminals should be the only ones making money out of crime! Let them steal goods and money, for sure, but they'll have to pay me royalties if they want to do it the way I thought up.

However, then I thought it might be better to phrase the claim as a technique for being robbed instead. This ought to be more lucrative. The perpetrator may not get caught after all, and the victim probably is insured anyway.

Superficial article (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10821215)

The article is very superficial as far as it concerns the European Patent. 1. It address the European patent policy in one line with the European Parliament. Clearly, the author is unaware of the complete separation between the European Patent Office and the European Union. Therefore, the European Union as such (and even less the European Parliament) can issue any decision with respect to the European Patent Convention. 2. The concepts of languages is wrong: It is true that after a grant of a European Patent, that translations for each country must be filed. However, there is a great advantage for having a single granting procedure: one of three languages (English, French or German), instead of a procedure for each individual country. Furthermore, it should be noted that Europe does not consist of a federation of states (like the USA), but of individual countries. Furthermore, quite a few countries which do not belong to the European Union have ratified the European Patent Convention. In the Americas, it is still common practice that a patent application must be filed in each of the countries individually (US, Canada, Central American countries, Latin American countries), whereby the European Patent offers a single granting procedure. Finally, the author has completely overlooked the possibility of a World patent (PCT, WIPO), which offers a granting procedure for a large number of countries all over the world. Instead of superficially evaluate these patent systems as "embarrassments", it would be more interesting to indicate what could be improved in more detail.

Re:Superficial article (3, Informative)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821375)

1. It address the European patent policy in one line with the European Parliament. Clearly, the author is unaware of the complete separation between the European Patent Office and the European Union. Therefore, the European Union as such (and even less the European Parliament) can issue any decision with respect to the European Patent Convention.
Since all European patents have to be enforced in national courts under national laws which have to be in line with European directives, it does not make sense for the European Patent Office to grant patents which will obviously not be enforceable. In fact, a representative of the EPO said last Wednesday at a conference [eifonline.org] organised by the European Internet Foundation that whatever the outcome, the EPO will respect the directive by the EU.

Sweet! (3, Funny)

foreverdisillusioned (763799) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821216)

I've got a great new idea, even better than Amazon's revolutionary one-click shopping!

I'm going to accept money in exchange for goods or services. Anyone else who decides to copy this business model must pay me, oh, how about $699...

would this fix the bulk of the problem? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10821290)

I wonder would the following simple addition to patent laws fix the bulk problem:

Basically, keep things as is, but limit the patent term to,say, 5 years. After that patent owner can extend it to the full 17 year term but make the extension EXPENSIVE (say, 40K per patent).. Basically, the idea is that 5-7 years of goverment protection should be enough to prove/disprove commercial viability of almost anything...And if idea is commercially viable, then 40K is not that much money, and if a patent is not viable, even IBM is unlikely to pay 40K for a useless piece of paper...

Of course, an (intended) side effect is that most companies will stop filing valueless patents.
(as 5 years is too short a term to bother and full term is too expensive)...The problem of submarine patents would simply go away...

Re:would this fix the bulk of the problem? (1)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821413)

So, basically, make it so only the rich can gobble up all patents, and completely destroy the hope of every garage inventor in the nation.

What an absolutely moronic fucking idea.

Yeah, 40k isn't that much money to the guy who works for minumum wage and invented a cool new mousetrap in his garage.

It could take a decade or more to bring a product to retail, so the guy hasn't even seen the first test run come off the assembly line by the time he owes 40k.

The patent system is for everyone, not just the corporations.

Re:would this fix the bulk of the problem? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10821533)

And what if it takes 30 years to bring an idea to the market??? What if it takes 50 years?

Should we extend patents to 30 years? 50 years? Forever?

The right term(s) is a matter of BALANCE. If 90% of ideas take less than 5 years to bring to the market then the original poster's suggestion makes perfect sense, if only 10% of ideas can be commercialized in 5 years, then initial 5-year term is too short and needs to be longer..

And again it is not just a matter of protection of patent holders, it's also a matter of protection of society from ill effects of patent monopoly..So, again we are talking about BALANCE here..A general feeling is that now balance has shifted too much towards protecting patent holders. The original suggestion shifts the balance back towards society..Does it overshoot the best balance? Perhaps, but you didnot put any counterarguments..

Re:would this fix the bulk of the problem? (1)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821583)

The patent system is for everyone, not just the corporations.
In the fairy tales it is, yes. In reality, you need at least US$ 500k to even wage a patent infringement lawsuit. It is already the case today that the rich gobble up all patents, and now the rich are even getting together [slashdot.org] so they can gobble up even more patents.

How to evaluate the patent system (5, Insightful)

swillden (191260) | more than 9 years ago | (#10821363)

The article points out that we need a way of evaluating whether or not a patent system is meeting its goals of fostering innovation. The article suggests:

Patent offices also need to collect and publish data about what happens once patents are granted--the rate at which they are challenged and how many are struck down. This would help to measure the quality of the patent system itself, and offer some way of evaluating whether it is working to promote innovation, or to impede it.

That's a good idea, but I think there's a better way to determine if the patent system is successful at promoting innovation: analyze how the patent database is used. The stated goal of the system is to provide inventors with a short-term monopoly in exchange for public disclosure of their inventions, in order to spur more invention. That makes sense, right? If you get good ideas out in the public where people can see and build on them, you'll generate even more ideas, some of which will also be good. Ideas spark ideas.

This implies that if the patent system is working, you should see inventors perusing/searching the patent database on a regular basis, in search of good ideas to spark their thinking, or in search of solutions to specific problems they're trying to solve in their own inventions. I imagine a scene something like this:

Engineer: Hey, boss, you know that tricky database search problem we've been trying to solve? I just spent a few hours searching the USPTO site and I came across patent #123456789. It's a *perfect* solution! It'll not only address the problem we had, but it will make our product even more flexible and easier to use.

Manager: Great! Get me the contact information for the patent holder and I'll contact them to check into licensing terms. If they're reasonable, this could save us a bundle in development costs. We've put several hundred man-hours into this problem already. Maybe the patent owner will have an implementation they'd like to license us, too.

Engineer: Sounds good. I'll tell Jim to shift his focus to tracking down that nasty memory leak, on the assumption that the search problem is solved. Meanwhile, while I was looking through the patent database I also came across another patent which we can't use, but which gave me another interesting idea...

Does anyone use the patent database like this? No. Especially not with software patents. In fact, in every corporation I know of the attorneys explicitly tell developers *not* to search the patent database, as it's generally better to remain ignorant, both to avoid allegations of "willfull" infringement, and also because it's just a waste of time. Most patents are contestable anyway, and even for the ones that might hold up in court it's generally more cost-effective to just cross-license using your own patent arsenal.

I think the measure of the patent system should be whether or not its required disclosures are observably fostering innovation. If not, it's broken.

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