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Patent Examiners Flee USPTO

Zonk posted more than 9 years ago | from the drowning-in-paper dept.

Patents 387

john-da-luthrun writes "Soaring numbers of patent applications for software and business processes is not only leading to the ludicrous patents for the likes of Amazon and Microsoft. The stress of dealing with vast numbers of applications is leading to an exodus of patent examiners from the USPTO, reports FCW.com. A US Government Accountability Office report (PDF) says that the USPTO has made progress in hiring examiners, 'but challenges to retention remain'. The IP Kat blog quotes Jason Schulz of the EFF, who comments that 'The incredible surge of patent applications, especially in the software and internet business method arena, is just crushing them, and the management problems are rising to the surface with greater visibility for those reasons. Where anything under the sun is patentable, it puts an unbelievable amount of pressure on the patent office'."

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Fundamental change is needed... (4, Insightful)

It doesn't come easy (695416) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194165)

A fundamental change will be required to deal with the ever increasing volume of patent applications. I would suggest some form of first level open community review is needed for a first round of patent research and possible elimination based on prior art (you know, as in the Bazaar part of The Cathedral and the Bazaar)...that, and of course outlaw patents on ideas implemented purely by software.

Of course, to have a public review of a patent application the applicant would need protection against someone stealing the idea before the patent was issued.

Re:Fundamental change is needed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13194197)

You can't "steal" ideas. See Jefferson.

I've a simple solution to the patent "problem": stop fucking issuing patents. They're a throwback to feudalism, and have no place in a free market economy.

Re:Fundamental change is needed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13194287)

...but you can steal music. Downloading copyrighted materials from the internet is just like shoplifting a CD if we assume that you would have otherwise bought the CD in the store, that manufacturing and distribution costs are zero, and that the word "steal" means "infringement."

Re:Fundamental change is needed... (3, Insightful)

Kirth (183) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194371)

You're right. A "governement granted monopoly" sounds a lot more like soviet russia than like "free market".

Funny however, that the seemingly biggest proponents of said "free market" and "get the governement out of our lives and businesses" tend to overlook this...

Some thoughts about this in respect to Patents on lifeforms [discordia.ch] .

Re:Fundamental change is needed... (1)

pete6677 (681676) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194541)

I agree that it should be much harder to get a patent, but getting rid of them altogether would do some serious damage to new development. Who would want to invest a lot of time and money to develop something requiring research only to have competitors strip it down, analyze how it works and build their own product to sell much cheaper? You can say goodbye to new prescription drugs, absolutely nobody would invent a new one with no protection against immediately available cheap generics.

Real inventors must have a way to make back the money they spent on development, but it would be nice if the system were changed to make it a lot harder for patent trolls to put up the equivalent of a tollbooth on a freeway.

Re:Fundamental change is needed... (1, Interesting)

dsginter (104154) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194213)

I would suggest some form of first level open community review is needed for a first round of patent research

I already suggested that [slashdot.org] and it was shot down by slashdotters.

Re:Fundamental change is needed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13194523)

And, as slashdotters are the final arbiters of justice in the world, the idea could go no further. Tragic.

Re:Fundamental change is needed... (2, Interesting)

Citizen of Earth (569446) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194251)

Of course, to have a public review of a patent application the applicant would need protection against someone stealing the idea before the patent was issued.

The submission dates on patents determine who gets to shake-down whom. Also, public review would likely lead to submission of higher-quality patents, since companies may choose to hold onto any possible trade secrets in applications that are unlikely to pass muster.

Re:Fundamental change is needed... (1)

It doesn't come easy (695416) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194315)

Patents that include trade secrets can be covered, too. The first level review process would need to exclude the trade secret information. The research would still be valid up to a point. Then the patent office would have to take over for a more thorough review.

Would need to address abuse of the system by applicants claiming a trade secret simply to keep their patent application details hidden a bit longer...

Trade secrets??? (2, Insightful)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194564)

That would go against the purpose of the patent system. The idea is that you are granted a temporary monopoly in exchange for publishing your invention.
So you can either keep your invention as a secret or you can patent it. But you cannot have both.

Re:Trade secrets??? (1)

It doesn't come easy (695416) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194582)

Yes, but there are patents issued which have trade secrets attached (and the trade secret is not revealed), right? Anyway, I think it's possible...

Re:Fundamental change is needed... (1)

jdhutchins (559010) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194565)

If it's a trade secret, you can't patent it. That's part of the point of a patent- have companies give up information they would otherwise hold for themselves in exchange for some protection. If it weren't for patents, many companies would never release any details of what they were doing, and no one else could improve on it.

Re:Fundamental change is needed... (4, Insightful)

Sepper (524857) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194289)

A fundamental change will be required

I believe the entire Patent idea should be reviewed... Too many stupid ideas can be patented and too many Patent are only issued and never used (like the tabaco companies getting patent on making cigarette less addictive...)

I, personnaly, don't want to have to go trough several thousand patents just to see if I can run a computer buiness...

The entire system is on the verge of collape from the sheer volume...

Re:Fundamental change is needed... (3, Interesting)

It doesn't come easy (695416) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194373)

Interesting. Maybe a patent should require a real product available in a reasonable period of time, at a price within the bounds of the general market or the patent holder would lose the patent. Heh, I like that idea.

Re:Fundamental change is needed... (2, Insightful)

Citizen of Earth (569446) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194296)

I would suggest some form of first level open community review is needed for a first round of patent research and possible elimination based on prior art

We need to be aware that this is the system that is essentially in place now--the patent examiners rubber-stamp bogus submissions and the public sorts it out in court later on. Unfortunately, this current process is very costly to the public reviewers, the industry, and society as a whole.

Some suggestions: (5, Funny)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194168)


Some suggestions to help ease the tensions over at the USPTO:
  • Every day is Casual Day.
  • Liberal supply of rum in company coffee.
  • Liberal supply of ecstacy in company sugar.
  • Doughnuts, bagels, and "special" brownies supplied every morning, courtesy of management.
  • Naked Fridays!
  • Patent infringement issues now decided by Trial By Combat.
  • Applicants whose patent application is judged to be spurious goes through the Spanking Machine.
  • All patent applications must be submitted in person, after running the Gauntlet (involving rotating knives, enraged badgers, and of course, lots and lots of lava).
  • After running the Gauntlet, all applicants for the day must take part in a Royal Rumble Cage Match...last one standing gets to submit application.
  • All employees are granted ringside seats at Royal Rumble...popcorn and beer is complimentary.
  • All employees now required to surf porn.
  • Employee of the Month earns use of jacuzzi-office for the month.

Hope this helps.

Re:Some suggestions: (2, Informative)

john-da-luthrun (876866) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194187)

Sorry, Amazon already patented all those ideas. Except for "Naked Fridays", which was nabbed by Microsoft.

Re:Some suggestions: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13194621)

... "Naked Fridays", which was nabbed by Microsoft.

Really? Can someone prove one of my my hypotheses correct/incorrect: that Bill G has a small weenie and that's why he tries so hard to make up for it with Billions in the bank?

(The other one is that he was bullied when he was a kid).

"Naked Fridays!" (5, Funny)

Tikicult (901090) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194199)

Careful what you ask for. Look around at the people you work with... Do you really want Naked Fridays? - Tiki

Re:"Naked Fridays!" (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13194293)

Yes. I'll fuck anything. Me so horny. Me love you long time.

Re:"Naked Fridays!" (2, Funny)

op12 (830015) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194372)

Look around at the people you work with... Do you really want Naked Fridays?

I work at the Playboy mansion, you insensitive clod!

Re:Some suggestions: (1)

Colin E. McDonald (837162) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194201)

Yes, I too am a proponent of the Trial By Combat mediation method.

Re:Some suggestions: (1)

dthrall (894750) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194203)

Naked Fridays!
I don't know what kind of office you work in, but one things I've learned in the working world is that there are just some people you don't want to see like that...

Re:Some suggestions: (4, Funny)

dema (103780) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194221)

Naked Fridays!

I don't know about you. But I'd need a whole lot of rum and ecstacy before I could survive a "Naked Friday" at my office.

Re:Some suggestions: (1)

xtracto (837672) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194281)

haha
For all the replies that I have seen here about the GP naked fridays comment, I can see that he forgot he was posting his comment to slashdot... In what kind of office does he thinks a geek can work? and well, if it is the programming department I am sure there wont be too much women in there =o) and, from my experience, I think he wont *really* want to see the spare women naked at all :oP (with apologies to the female slashdoters).

Of course, In the case of the patent office who knows... maybe they do have nice teenagers secretaries. So, it could work :op.

Now... let me continue writing this paper...

Re:Some suggestions: (1)

ytm (892332) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194590)

It's not so hard after a while... or seeing http://imdb.com/title/tt0382719/ [imdb.com] this.

Naked Fridays (1)

bezuwork's friend (589226) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194316)

This would simply be a big reason to leave, not to remain. There would just be too much pain in between the islands of pleasure to make it worthwhile.

/ex patent examiner

Re:Some suggestions: (1)

Iriel (810009) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194333)

You forgot the convention of 'Shirtless o'clock'

Outsource it (1)

narsiman (67024) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194453)

Outsource patenting. You can get 4 times the number of patent examiners for 1/4 the price from aspiring super powers nowadays.

Re:Outsource it (1)

lukewarmfusion (726141) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194518)

Don't you mean "the same number for 1/16 of the price" or "16 times the number for the same price?"

Four times for one-quarter of the price seems a bit redundant, eh?

Maybe USPTO... (1)

christoofar (451967) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194174)

should create the USPPTO (U.S. Patent Pending and Trademark Office)

Current system is unworkable (1)

Progman3K (515744) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194178)

Long live the current patent system, for it is dead.
It is dead and we have killed it.

Re:Current system is unworkable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13194375)

Here is an idea:

Limit the ammount of patents one corporation can file in a year, and up the cost of a patent filing (for corporate use) to equal the ammount of the Patent workers wages.

Now, you might say that it is unfair to a corporate enterprise, right? Well, tough titty! I think speeding fines are unfair, as I got one recently. But, if you take into account all the damages and wasted manhours speeding can cause, the number seems reasonable. And, I was doing 59 in a 55. Hard keeping an eye on the road (looking for deer) and an eye on the speedometre at the same time.

Re:Current system is unworkable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13194385)

The current patent system is dead. It remains dead. And we have killed it.

Re:Current system is unworkable (4, Insightful)

LaCosaNostradamus (630659) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194617)

Of course it is. Gee, I wonder why PEs are leaving the USPTO? Maybe because like in EVERY DYSFUNCTIONAL COMPANY, the difference between theory and practice is EXTREME? Duh.

PEs are leaving since they know they are under pressure to rubber-stamp applications without regard to proper examination (and more to the point, REJECTION on the basis of prior art and obviousness). Probably, the PEs who try to properly examine a patent app cross their bosses time and time again, leading to a wholesale drop in morale.

This exodus is only going to lead to an even easier rubber-stamping process. The American public had better fucking wake up. The USPTO has been completely subverted by ONE customer -- the patent applicants (uniformly, corporations). The USPTO has no regard whatsoever for the OTHER customer: the American citizen, who requires patents to be innovative and not obvious, in order to qualify for the process of exchanging monopolization for disclosure.

Unfortunately, the chances of getting such an organization fixed in this hypercorporate political environment is essentially ZERO.

Hah! (3, Funny)

theantipop (803016) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194179)

My friend just took a job there. Priceless!

First Post? (1)

ancient-mariner (96131) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194184)

Unlikely. Is there some widespread alteration of the way that patents work that could make these things better, or is the stress a natural outgrowth of the explosion of possibility created by an extremely open new environment for "invention"?

Patent the sun! (3, Funny)

Valacosa (863657) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194194)

"Where anything under the sun is patentable..."
Why stop there? I want to patent the sun!

(Yes, I realize you can't patent an instance of an object, especially a celestial object. If you're the type of person constantly pointing out flaws in other people's jokes, I'll bet you don't get invited to a lot of parties.)

Re:Patent the sun! (1)

EJB (9167) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194223)

But what if you constantly point out the flaws in your own jokes?

- Erwin ;-)

Re:Patent the sun! (1)

Valacosa (863657) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194387)

You, sir, have bested me. The match is yours!

Re:Patent the sun! (4, Funny)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194229)

Sorry, your Sun as you call it, violates my patent on placing unshielded fusion reactors into galactic orbit. All users of this Sun now owe me $699.99 for the priveledge of using it. Buy now, and you can get in on this deal BEFORE the judge finds I can't patent such technology! ;-)

Re:Patent the sun! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13194364)

Funny. I was just thinking it'd be interesting to see if I could sneak a patent through on controlled fusion through gravitational force.
Throw in some jargon there somewhere.

Re:Patent the sun! (1)

BlackCobra43 (596714) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194264)

You'll have to deal with priort art [sun.com]

Re:Patent the sun! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13194301)

If you can't patent an instance of an object, how can genes get patents?

Re:Patent the sun! (1)

EggyToast (858951) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194553)

Why stop there? I want to patent the sun!

What about the moon? And would you eat it if it were made of spare ribs?

Now We Know! (1)

ivanjs (801614) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194196)

The Trademark office took 3 months to tell me there was an error in a logo trademark I submitted. Then another 2 1/2 to tell me that the wording needed to be changed. Now I know why...

ivanjs
lyzrdstomp.com

Re:Now We Know! (1)

sharkb8 (723587) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194394)

Patent Examiners are engineers. Trademark examiners are attorneys.

And for a Software patent, you're looking at 2 1/2 years until they even start looking at your application. 3 months for a first OA is fantastic speed, even if it is for a trademark. The problem is that the PTO doesn't ahve the midset it should, where worthy inventors are assisted in getting a patent or trademark. Too often it's an adversarial process.

And if you have a problem with your logo, that's your fault. Hire a trademark attorney next time.

Re:Now We Know! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13194524)

I have a trademark on the word ViewTouch and have been using it for nearly 20 years. The USPTO just granted a lawyer a trademark for View Touch. Now, just exactly how valuable is the trademark for Windows, can you imagine, if a lawyer can go get a trademark for W indows or Wi ndows or Win dows or Wind ows, for instance? A trademark has to be worth just about as much as a pile of shit these days.

Can the exodus be attributed to the deluge? (5, Interesting)

ReformedExCon (897248) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194206)

I am willing to accept that there are patent applications coming into the USPTO in torrents, but I can't accept the EFF's stance that it is because of this deluge that the patent examiners are leaving. It's probably something much more mundane like bad management or lack of upward mobility in the position that is the root cause of the fleeing.

Remember, this is the government we are talking about. They are under no pressure to approve patents in a timely manner. The applicants will wait for as long as it takes to get their patents.

The EFF is right, of course, in that the patent system needs to be overhauled so that the system can't be used as a weapon anymore. Unfortunately, they seem to make a non-existent connection between that valid point and the other vaporous point that tons of applications is leading to mass quitting at the USPTO. I think they damage their reputation when they try to argue in such a flawed manner.

We need to vote into office people who understand the issues, not those that are in the back pocket of the corporations.

Re:Can the exodus be attributed to the deluge? (1)

umdk1d3 (899910) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194360)

We need to vote into office people who understand the issues, not those that are in the back pocket of the corporations.

So, the current system is weighted in favour of corporations? Surely those companies would have thrown plenty of money at USPTO to make sure they could get their ever-important patents through quickly.

Re:Can the exodus be attributed to the deluge? (2, Insightful)

fourtyfive (862341) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194594)

HAH! Find me one politician that would have even a CHANCE of getting into office that isnt in the back pocket of the corporations! Their is none! Dont you understand? Politicians have to CAMPAIGN and to campaign they need MONEY and to get money they need to KISS ASS.

Intelligence factor (5, Insightful)

markpapadakis (115698) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194209)

If we assume those patent officers are intelligent and familiar with the tasks they were assigned to perform, they must be able to see that so many of those patents either don't make sense, or fall into the 'common sense' category.

If you were an employee who had to deal with issues that seem unfair and unreasonable to you, especially if you were 'sensitive' enough as to even blame, in part, your very self for being part of this stupidity, you may have done the very same thing.

John Caramack [wikiquote.org] puts it all in prespective:
"The idea that I can be presented with a problem, set out to logically solve it with the tools at hand, and wind up with a program that could not be legally used because someone else followed the same logical steps some years ago and filed for a patent on it is horrifying." (on software patents)

Re:Intelligence factor (1)

Blindman (36862) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194335)

The problem is that examiners have to follow the law. It isn't enough that you know the idea is stupid, it has to be legally unpatentable, which are two seperate standards. Examiners aren't free to decide what "ideas" have merit and those that don't. Basically, they evaluate whether or not the description is adequate, has it been done before exactly, and whether or not it will most likely operate as claimed.

Speaking of "common sense," there are so many patents that are obvious in a common sense sort of way, but for purposes of a patent, "obvious" is measured relative to the village idiot.

Re:Intelligence factor (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194405)

That, and patenting business models and methods? Is that even constitutional? I don't think it follows the spirit anyway, though the same goes for the current 95 year copyright span, it isn't what I would consider "limited" protection, that protection shouldn't be extened by five years every five years, that's basically unlimited to me. Both would seem to stifle innovation rather than promote it. The point of the protections was not to protect specific companies but to enhance innovation.

ouch! (2, Insightful)

DingerX (847589) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194214)

from TFA, on one of the causes of stress and turnover:
"Some of the software that has been developed [for use in evaluated patents] is not the friendliest," he said. "Hopefully, that will be changed."


Assuming, of course, that software could use some basic user interface techniques without paying exorbitant patent fees.

Some info to go with this... (5, Insightful)

Necromancyr (602950) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194231)

I have a friend that used to work at the USPTO and one that just got his PhD and tried to get a job there.

The guy that used to work there told me that the USPTO recently changed their benefits and no longer pay for their workers to get a law degree, etc., if they stay with the USPTO for a certain amount of time after getting it. This is the main reason he left - he did part time schooling for awhile but now decided to just leave and get it done asap to get his law degree faster.

The other was told, even with a contact inside the USPTO (this was right as the guy above was getting ready to leave), that the USPTO was not hiring and that they received over 5000 applications for the 10 slots they were trying to fill. This was for the biotech/life sciences division of the USPTO.

So, essentially, from what I've observed, there cutting some of their best benefits and getting more then enough applications for new people. I'm assuming this entire thing is primarily a budget issue - as almost everything is down here in D.C.

Re:Some info to go with this... (4, Interesting)

frinkster (149158) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194420)

The guy that used to work there told me that the USPTO recently changed their benefits and no longer pay for their workers to get a law degree, etc., if they stay with the USPTO for a certain amount of time after getting it. This is the main reason he left - he did part time schooling for awhile but now decided to just leave and get it done asap to get his law degree faster.

You can argue whether it is for the better or for the worse, but the patent office stopped paying for law degrees because as soon as anybody got the degree a DC law firm would hire them away and pay the debt off.

Yes, it wasn't costing the patent office money in that regard, but it was reducing the patent office to being just a feeder source for the law firms. Paying for advanced degrees is done to retain top employees while gaining the advantage of them having advanced education. The patent office was seeing none of this, so they canned it.

Re:Some info to go with this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13194451)

Hmm, "US Government Accountability Office report" versus "my friend told me that someone told him ...", who are we to believe? And why is this "insightful"?

Anyway the article said that the problem was with retention, so they're not necessarily having trouble filling posts, but they're having trouble keeping staff long enough that they know what the fuck they're doing.

Law Degree Program Has Been Reinstated (2, Informative)

fat-latvian (670482) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194579)

It should probably be pointed out the law degree program has been reinstated (as of this year, I think, or maybe 2006).

Check your facts.

Logic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13194246)

Sheesh. Silly patent examiners. Don't they know that if they flee from overwork, that will only make the overwork problem at the patent office worse? Logic, people, logic. :-)

Re:Logic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13194432)

Why should they care about the overwork problem at an office they've left? The person who quit is no longer overworked, and that was their goal. :-)

Re:Logic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13194452)

Er, yes. That's what the smiley was for.

How lazy can you be? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13194249)

Just pounding the rubber stamp on any piece of paper that comes into your office sounds like the easiest job on the face of the earth.

Re:How lazy can you be? (2, Funny)

I confirm I'm not a (720413) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194428)

Just pounding the rubber stamp on any piece of paper that comes into your office sounds like the easiest job on the face of the earth.

It's not as simple as that... since the USPTO granted a patent on rubber-stamping daft patent applications.

;-)

Re:How lazy can you be? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13194578)

Just pounding the rubber stamp on any piece of paper that comes into your office sounds like the easiest job on the face of the earth.

Repetitive stress injury is their biggest complaint!

Re:How lazy can you be? (1)

Sheepdot (211478) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194589)

I already patented that.

Just kidding.

Actually, part of the problem is that they can't do that. Skeptical lawyers will use legalspeak to describe a common everyday function, get it patented, and then go to the media with a story. It doesn't happen often, but every so often a lawyer or friend of one does it just to keep them on their toes.

Part of the Process (1)

udoschuermann (158146) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194256)

Maybe they should have paid me the big bucks on my patent "Method for Optimal Evaluation of Patentable Inventions"...

Raise their salary! (4, Interesting)

r6144 (544027) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194262)

I say, d**n it, just hire the best people in each field and train them to be patent examiners. Pay them $100K a year (or whatever is needed) plus fat rewards for every application successfully rejected, and try to raise the various fees so that the applicants bear the extra cost. I don't care if small inventors can no longer afford to apply for a patent---much of the innovation seems to come from megacorps anyway, or from researchers that do not want to patent everything under the sun. If we can't have sensible patent laws we can at least limit its damage.

Re:Raise their salary! (1)

DigitalReverend (901909) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194411)

That's rich, when has the government EVER had the BEST people in a field working for them? Even during the Manhattan project they weren't the best, they were the ones who could shove aside their morals for a certain price. The government could never afford to hire the best, because megacorps can ALWAYS pay more.

But I don't want to get into that, it was your statement that I don't care if small inventors can no longer afford to apply for a patent---much of the innovation seems to come from megacorps anyway.... Sadly this is true these days, just like government is all run by lawyers. Perhaps we need to go in a different direction. Make it easier for the little guy, get back to the Edisons, and Bells, and Elisha Grays. Unfortunately I see the chance of that happening to be about the same as the store owners, school teachers and farmers going back to be the ones in congress.

True innovation comes from those who are not bound by corporate goals, and cubicle walls.

Re:Raise their salary! (1)

antifood (898331) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194620)

Right... because that Einstein guy was nothing but a hack.

Re:Raise their salary! (1)

period3 (94751) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194472)

You said damn! Think of the children!

Study the Law, then complain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13194286)

United States Constitution (amended 9-11)

Section 666:

Be it known that nothing shall interfere with the Holy Right of businesses to make money. Furthermore, this right is irrevocable in all cases where the agrieved party is a citizen of countries governed, by vote or military fiat, by this document.

The solution! (3, Funny)

bigattichouse (527527) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194290)

1. Send one million rubber stamps maked "approved" to India
2. Ship all the applications to India
3. Stamp Away!

Also,

I've been dying for someone to "hack" the patent system and using different words patent the same idea twice (or have two people approved for the same idea).

Re:The solution! (4, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194416)

I've been dying for someone to "hack" the patent system and using different words patent the same idea twice (or have two people approved for the same idea).

That exact thing happened with the LZW algorithm used in GIF [wikipedia.org] files. Both Unisys and IBM ended up with patents, but only Unisys tried to enforce them.

Re:The solution! (1)

dr2chase (653338) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194424)

Been there, done that. Check out Lempel-Ziv-Welch and Miller-Wegman. Two patents, both approved, big overlap (and this dates back about 20 years). It was not done intentionally; two sets of smart people had similar ideas at about the same time.

My suspicion is that the examiners are overworked, underpaid, and badly managed. Consider also that if you see apparently outlandish things getting patented, you can either protest, which is useless and earns you nothing, or push the envelope, which might, if you are lucky, get you a patent. In the world of business, given that your competitor might be pushing the envelope, you have no choice but to do so yourself. Given this, I am sure that filed patents are making increasingly outlandish claims.

How to kill software patents? (3, Interesting)

Blakflag (95052) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194303)

Like most of you, I am disgusted and disheartended by the state of the software industry. I feel as if its not worth trying to create my own product because of the dangers of stepping on someone's latent patent landmines.

But I'm wondering if the idea of dumping software patents can have any traction with the general public? The politicians are in the pockets of the big companies, and they're plenty happy to keep their entrenched positions with their armies of lawyers. Until the GENREAL public cries out for a change, it won't happen.

So far I have not heard anything about this matter outside of the geek community. (even some of my less geeky computer freinds have not heard/thought about this issue)

I say this tongue in cheek (2, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194320)

but where exactly is the stress if you are approving all the patents?

Here's a thought: (4, Interesting)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194323)


Just fill the post of Patent Examiner with ordinary people chosen at random, like jury selection.

"Sorry, boss...I won't be in this week...got a summons for patent duty."

Re:Here's a thought: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13194623)

Which is great until some slackjawed yokel finds out that they can send mail through the telephone wires and grants a new patent on it.

Re:Here's a thought: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13194624)

Actually I think the idea is very good. Random people are often way more critical than experts. And this would force pattent applicants to write things in a clear language, not lawspeak. Because if someone doesn't understand something, he doesn't approve it...

Why is that modded funny?

Causing an end to Innovation and the Internet (2, Insightful)

PhatboySlim (862704) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194358)

What will not, in the end, cause an end to innovation and the internet:

- Spam
- 0-day virus
- Spyware
- Closed source software
- Phishing
- Hacking
- Child pornography
- Internet congestion
- Misleading information

What will, in the end, cause an end to innovation and the internet:

- Patents/Patent Law

a friend of mine just became an examiner (3, Interesting)

hsmith (818216) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194368)

He has finished his first year of law school for IP law, $55K+ and they are paying for the rest of his college

not a bad deal if you have an engineering/science background

No Big Deal (4, Funny)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194391)

The USPTO management is not concerned about the loss of human examiners. Trials of their new Pitney Bowes Stampmaster 5000-EX have shown that a fully automated application processing machine can rubber-stamp applications at a rate exceeding that of 1800 human examiners using old-fashioned hand stamps and inkpads. Current plans call for phasing out the examiners completely over the coming months.

This Just In (1, Funny)

stuffduff (681819) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194398)

"Microsoft has received a patent for Communications. We are now no longer
allowed to communicate without a license."

There is a commotion outside.

"What's that sound?"

The door explodes inward and the room is immediately filled with smoke and
overrun with stormtroopers.

A large and ominous voice booms out.

"You are forbidden to communicate."

I am stunned! I don't know what to think!

Then just as suddenly the first wave of stormtroopers are felled, one by one in
an unimaginably short flash of time.

"Don't know what to think a voice says?"

I look up and see Jeff Brazos towering above the carnage.

"That's fine by me. I just patented Thought!"

Re:This Just In (2, Funny)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194644)

"That's fine by me. I just patented Thought!"

And this would stop/slow down Microsoft how?

Unemployed Software Engineers (2, Funny)

Stanistani (808333) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194418)

Here's your chance to get employed at a place that can use your skills and can't outsource your job that easily.

Centralization (1)

GileadGreene (539584) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194425)

Wait! So you're telling me that there are scalability problems with attempting to maintain centralized control of something? And that those scalability problems are related to cenrtalized controller becoming a throughput bottleneck? Who'd have thunk it?

Perhaps the USPTO needs to look into the patent filing equivalent of BitTorrent (quick, somebody patent that idea!)

Solution (3, Insightful)

kahei (466208) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194431)

surge of patent applications, especially in the software and internet business method arena

It's almost like the solution suggests itself...

Ideas... (2, Funny)

Transcendent (204992) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194445)

Where anything under the sun is patentable, it puts an unbelievable amount of pressure on the patent office

That's it! Patent the Sun! Such a method of gigantic energy transfer must be patentable, since it is so unique and original.

I have a new idea! (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194449)

I know that no one has thought of this before right? But let's talk about what life would be like if software and business method patents were abolished? I think that should put things back in order.

I must say, I didn't expect to hear that the patent system is starting to collapse under the load. THAT is surprising to me... in a pleasant-surprise sort of way. I mean after all, FINALLY they will be forced to re-think software patents in the U.S. and in addition to that, there is more amunition to fight such patents in other parts of the world. ("you see what software patents did to the U.S.? Do you want that for us?") The lobbyists will not be able to convince any governmental body that THIS is a good idea now.

Why are software patents NOT harmful to society? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13194469)


Dear Patent Lawyers,

Could you please justify by reply in moderate detail the supposed net benefit to society (rather than just to corporations) of software patents explaining why you think that extending the patent system to cover software is not harmful both to society and to freedom of expression given the case of an open-source software developer who, as a result of
  • working unpaid on his/her project as a hobby
  • giving his/her inventions away freely for the benefit of society ,
  • i.e. without any project income,
  • without any corporate project sponsor to pay legal fees,
  • without sufficient personal savings or income to pay for even a brief consultation with a "cheap" patent lawyer, and
  • without a patent lawyer prepared to work pro bono,

is threatened with a patent lawsuit by a corporation demanding he/she removes the allegedly infringing software from the project's website, leaving the impoverished developer with no real choice but to comply with the demand and close the project?

One recent unresolved case, which is not unique, is that of the German mathematician and open-source software developer Helmut Dersch who had no financial choice but to remove his software from his project website. He had no money to pay for a patent application at the time of his own inventions, which pre-date the patent application of the IPX company , to to pay for a lawyer to challenge the company which threatened him with the prospect of a lawsuit.

Here [ffii.org] [ffii.org] is a summary of the case history.

I hope you will take the time to reply at moderate length for the sake of explaining to the open-source developer community why software patents are not a threat to completely unfunded open-source projects.

Thank you for reading this. If you are a patent lawyer, please mention that fact in your reply here.

When a similar comment was last posted here [slashdot.org] it got a brief reply from one of the patent lawyers who read slashdot.

Please copy and re-post this message in all available forums until some patent lawyers have the courtesy to write a thorough reply.

And the simple solution is.... (2, Insightful)

ShatteredDream (636520) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194476)

Pass a law that nullifies software and business method patents.

This won't change (4, Informative)

bezuwork's friend (589226) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194478)

Face it folks, the USPTO is fucked up.

I am a past examiner and I can tell you that every examiner has production quotas. Their bosses (called supervisory patent examiners) get bonuses if all their people do over set amounts (e.g. up to 110% of quota), so some bosses really ratchet up the pressure. The guy that hired me even made me orally agree to do 110% of quota before hiring me.

Additionally, though, the bosses get alot of power. In training we were told to do things one way, but if our bosses wanted the opposite, we were to do that instead. Some bosses are great, to the point that people even have second jobs (maybe not now, but some did when I was there) and goof off at the USPTO, getting their quotas on one or two days work. Other bosses are from hell and get very personal on people, refusing to sign off on their work and requiring them to redo things time and again. There is NO way to meet quota when your boss refuses to sign off on your work, at least until you reach primary examiner status. People in such situations generally had no recourse, especially as the bosses could prevent transfer requests, so the people were forced to leave or be fired. And upper management had a "hands off" policy so no help there.

I literally know of dozens of good examiners who were forced out by recalcitrant bosses, including several primaries.

On the other hand, if you have a good boss and get into a schedule where you can get your work done in less than 40 hours a week, the USPTO can be very difficult to leave.

It is very obvious that the USPTO management doesn't care about examiner attrition. If they did, they would have figured out safeguards against it long ago. But why should they? After all, there are always people wanting jobs there, if not birth Americans, then all the Vietnamese, Indians, and Ethiopians who have gotten their citizenships. And it's not like the companies are going to go away - no matter how long it takes to get a patent, there is only one source for patents. And congress can't do much - the USPTO is self-funded, congress can't force the USPTO to improve beyond what they are doing without more money, and congress isn't about to supply that. So I think the system is stuck without some enlightened new management.

Re:This won't change (2, Insightful)

Steve B (42864) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194529)

And congress can't do much - the USPTO is self-funded, congress can't force the USPTO to improve beyond what they are doing without more money, and congress isn't about to supply that.

Part of the problem is that Congress routinely siphons off a chunk of the money. The USPTO could fix most of the problems that are susceptible to throw-money-at-it (e.g. the overworked/underpaid/lousy morale treadmill) if Congress kepts its fingers out of the till.

Hiring? (1)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194486)

Maybe we need to stock it with OSS-Friendly folks! "I'm sorry, Sir, your patent is denied because you're an asshat. Yes, Sir, I said asshat. According to our rules: 'Any such patent as applied for in an attempt to circumvent or interfere with the GPL will be denied under the Asshat Clause.' Yes, Sir. You have a great day. Thank you....buh-bye!"

Take a page out of the EU's book (1)

soma_0806 (893202) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194539)

The EU doesn't allow for software nor business practices to be patented. Things like customer lists and such are still protected as trade secrets. They just have a heightened tangibility standard, as should we. It would probably clear half the "pending" load off the desks at the patent office if we did so.

Here's the #1 Problem - Fee Diversion (5, Interesting)

Compulawyer (318018) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194557)

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a patent attorney who primarily does software patents. Every patent attorney in the country knows this fact: Fee Diversion hampers the ability of the PTO to do its job properly.

The USPTO is a profit center for the government. Last December, the amount of that profit was set to DRAMATICALLY increase because of dramatic increases in user fees such as filing fees and examination fees, among others. Instead of letting the PTO keep that money to do its job, Congress "diverts" a large portion for other uses, including Homeland Security, among others.

Contrary to what the parent post said, namely, "Where anything under the sun is patentable, it puts an unbelievable amount of pressure on the patent office," anything under the sun is NOT patentable. Anything under the sun MADE BY MAN has the POTENTIAL to be patentable - so long as it meets the criteria of the Patent Act, namely, novelty, utility, and non-obviousness. Despite the seeming simplicity of these terms, there are very well-defined legal tests behind each one that must be applied properly. Each of those terms has thousands of pages of case law / judicial interpretation behind it.

The PTO's inability, caused by Congress, to keep adequate resources to properly do its job directly results in poorer quality examinations because the Examiners do not have the time, experience and training to rigorously apply the rules in every case. As a patent attorney, I have an ethical duty to provide valuable services to a patent applicant. My services are valuable if I can point out and properly describe my clients' inventions and the legal reasons why those inventions are entitled to patent protection. The way I do that is by keeping current in my technical field (Computer Science) and the law. However, I cannot know every piece of prior art out there. The best I can do is try to know as much as I can and write patent claims (the portion that defines the invention) that do not also describe prior art. Every patent applicant relies to a certain extent on the Examiner who receives their application to perform a good prior art search so that the Applicant can either point out how their invention is different from the prior art or can adjust the claims so that those claims no longer describe the prior art along with the invention. In fact, the Applicant is PAYING for that search.

A claim that describes an invention but also describes the prior art is invalid. I do my best to draft solid claims but the Examiner also has to do a solid search. Some people think that it is in the Applicant's best interest to have very broad claims so that people will have to litigate to prove the claims are invalid. I think that approach, if taken, is foolhardy because of potential legal liability on the part of the patent owner. It is also an abuse of the system. Abuses of the system can be minimized to a certain degree by having higher quality patent searches by well-trained Examiners. The best way to get that is to tell Congress to stop diverting fees.

I think they should hire more (1)

suezz (804747) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194559)

so then we can start patenting math equations - then they would get more revenue than they could ask for.

patents are just another revenue channel for the government - why would they want to do anyting to it - it is bringing in money and looking at the patents they hand out they can't be doing that much research. so it is low budget high profit department - why touch it from the governments point of view. Its a moneymaker.

Idea (1)

springbox (853816) | more than 9 years ago | (#13194561)

I think a lot of the stress would be reduced if people were restricted to only patenting things that they created themselves
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