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Open-source Overhauls Patent System

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the now-we're-getting-somewhere dept.

Patents 186

K-boy writes "The US Patent Office has announced new plans to reform the patent system - and right up there at the front is open-source software. Techworld argues that it is in fact open-source software that has been the driving force behind the reform." From the New York Times article: "At a meeting last month with companies and organizations that support open-source software (software that can be distributed and modified freely), including I.B.M., Red Hat, Novell and some universities, officials of the patent office discussed how to give patent examiners access to better information and other ways to issue higher-quality patents. Two of the initiatives would rely on recently developed Internet technologies. An open patent review program would set up a system on the patent office Web site where visitors could submit search criteria and subscribe to electronic alerts about patent applications in specific areas."

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I wish they asked me, I can do it cheaply (1, Funny)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437797)

1. Lock door to patent office.
2. Throw away key.
3. Profit!!!

Even better, no need to even bother with the ??? step.

Re:I wish they asked me, I can do it cheaply (1, Funny)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437962)

1. Lock door to patent office.
2. Throw away key.
3. Profit!!!


From the offices of Dewey, Cheatham & Howe:
It has come to our attention that you have made an unauthorized use of our lock mechanism. This letter is to inform you that the lock you have used has been patented, and you are violating the patent's rights by locking the other patents. As you neither asked for nor received permission to use this lock, you must immediately cease and desist from its use in this manner.

Too late - I already patented it! (2, Funny)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438066)

  1. Patent "other ways to issue higher-quality patents"
  2. Profit!
  3. Squander profits by commissioning stories to be posted on slashdot on Troll Tuesdays :-)

... well, if it works for them ...

Surface changes only (5, Informative)

lastchance_000 (847415) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437809)

From a quick scan of the article, it appears the changes will affect searches for prior art only (which is a good improvement), but will not address the deeper problem of patents being issued for things like business processes. (One-click, anyone?)

Re: Surface changes only (3, Insightful)

stinerman (812158) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437849)

A federal law (or possibly an overreaching executive order) will be needed to eliminate business method patents. IIRC, some court decision made it so that business method patents are just as valid as mechanical ones.

Your Sig: The 9th Amendment (4, Insightful)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438039)

Yeah, the Courts pretend that the 9th amendment doesn't exist, or the debate over the "right to privacy" in the Roe vs. Wade case in the Supreme Court would not have happened. I wonder what would have happened if somebody sat them down and said, "Of course the right to privacy exists, read the 9th Amendment!" Yeah, I thought as much.

Re:Your Sig: The 9th Amendment (3, Interesting)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438463)

Have you read Roe v. Wade?

The Constitution does not explicitly mention any right of privacy. In a line of decisions, however, going back perhaps as far as Union Pacific R. Co. v. Botsford, 141 U.S. 250, 251 (1891), the Court has recognized that a right of personal privacy, or a guarantee of certain areas or zones of privacy, does exist under the Constitution. In varying contexts, the Court or individual Justices have, indeed, found at least the roots of that right in the First Amendment, Stanley v. Georgia, 394 U.S. 557, 564 (1969); in the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 8-9 (1968), Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 350 (1967), Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616 (1886), see Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 478 (1928) (Brandeis, J., dissenting); in the penumbras of the Bill of Rights, Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S., at 484-485; in the Ninth Amendment, id., at 486 (Goldberg, J., concurring); or in the concept of liberty guaranteed by the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment, see Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 399 (1923). These decisions make it clear that only personal rights that can be deemed "fundamental" or "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty," Palko v. Connecticut, 302 U.S. 319, 325 (1937), are included in this guarantee of personal privacy. They also make it clear that the right has some extension to activities relating to marriage, Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 12 (1967); procreation, Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 541-542 (1942); contraception, Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S., at 453-454; id., at 460, 463-465 (WHITE, J., concurring in result); family relationships, Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158, 166 (1944); and child rearing and education, Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 535 (1925), Meyer v. Nebraska, supra.

This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment's concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment's reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. The detriment that the State would impose upon the pregnant woman by denying this choice altogether is apparent. Specific and direct harm medically diagnosable even in early pregnancy may be involved. Maternity, or additional offspring, may force upon the woman a distressful life and future. Psychological harm may be imminent. Mental and physical health may be taxed by child care. There is also the distress, for all concerned, associated with the unwanted child, and there is the problem of bringing a child into a family already unable, psychologically and otherwise, to care for it. In other cases, as in this one, the additional difficulties and continuing stigma of unwed motherhood may be involved. All these are factors the woman and her responsible physician necessarily will consider in consultation.


Generally though, no matter what source you're using for the right to privacy, the question becomes one of due process -- whether an imposition on someone's rights is allowable given some competing state interest.

Re:Your Sig: The 9th Amendment (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14438632)

AMENDMENT IX
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.


The right to murder an unborn child because the mother is too much of a fucking coward to take responsibility for the consequences of having sex, was made up by the courts. There was no precidence for the decision.

It's all about rights and responsibilities.

If you don't want to take responsibility for your actions, then don't take the action.

Re:Your Sig: The 9th Amendment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14438669)

Thats right, asshat, she wanted it! You should have seen the way she dressed! Such a tart! Even though she was only 13, she should take responsibility!

Re:Your Sig: The 9th Amendment (1)

stinerman (812158) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438761)

The right to murder an unborn child

Congratulations! You have successfully begged the question [nizkor.org] ! Abortion is not murder unless you assume abortion is murder.

As to the rest of your post, I, an advocate of abortion rights, do not believe that the 9th amendment protects such a right. I am of the opinion that abortion is a state issue (see Amdendment 10).

Re:Your Sig: The 9th Amendment (1)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438958)

At which point you run foul of the 14th amendment. Your serve!

Re:Your Sig: The 9th Amendment (1)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438997)

Define murder, and if innocence comes into the definition, then I'll save a bit of an exchange and ask you to define that too. However, you are an Anonymous Coward, and as such can't check your message queue, so this is open to any taker.

Re:Your Sig: The 9th Amendment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14438721)

I'm lost, are we talking about patenting babbies from the intrusion of government? I thought the whole debate was on patents and how the uspo is actually going to modernize and attempt (being the key word) to stop some of the bullshit claims. Than again, have you guys read about what bush said about that guy from that one show?

random stereotypical black woman: oh no he didn't.

trolling is bad kids, but you can also be a troll just like the parent, mmhmm. lets talk about mac v pc or is it oranges v apples or oranges v orages now?

random stereotypical black woman interjects: oh no he didn't.

Worse than surface changes (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14437882)

I fear this seems pro-corporate and anti-F/OSS. What it really seems to do is impose a new bureaucratic process on F/OSS projects by making them responsible for finding the bogus patents they may infringe on (and by finding them, making them responsible for willful infringement). It does nothing to reduce the stupidly bogus patents (XOR for a cursor) from happening in the first place -- on the contrary it makes it more difficult to avoid them.

What would be pro-F/OSS would be if the patent office provided a way that F/OSS projects could point out prior art on the large numbers of obvious&non-innovative pending patents more easily. But with industry lobbyests running the show, there's 0 chance that this will happen.

Re: Surface changes only (1)

abertoll (460221) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438020)

Hmmm, all tech companies? So I guess this isn't going to help prevent the medical companies from making patents on isomers of drugs they've already patented before.

Oh well.

Re: Surface changes only (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14438028)

Frankly, I think if they could get a firm enough handle on prior art and non-obviousness, that would take care of most it. Our objections to business patents aren't so much that they involve business as that they're dead obvious.

Re: Surface changes only (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438809)

There's one problem, sometimes with the claim that business patents are too obvious: "If it's that obvious, why didn't anybody ever do it before?"

Sure, one-click shopping is obvious, once you've seen it. But Spamazon's landsharks can (and I'm sure would) say, "If it's that obvious, why weren't people doing it years ago?" It's a valid question, and one that needs to be answered.

The same thing goes for their assoiciate program, but their might be "non-web" prior art here. Let's say you put coupons in a number of magazines. Each magazine's version is identifiable, and you give the magazine a small kickback for each one brought in, in return for a smaller advertizing fee. That's the same thing, in principle. I don't know if it were ever done, but it would certainly be prior art, in my book.

Re: Surface changes only (1)

S.O.B. (136083) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438861)

Unfortunately, obviousness is in the eye of the beholder. What may seem obvious to one of us may not be so obvious to a patent clerk.

In other news... (1, Redundant)

heatdeath (217147) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437814)

Patent portfolio "licensing" (i.e. suing) companies' stock prices just fell through the floor. =P

i.b.m.? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14437822)

awww IBM's finaly growing up, it got its first three periods.

Re:i.b.m.? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14438310)

International Business Machines, or I.B.M. for short. Posted with the assumption that there are actually readers here that are too young to know their history.

you are a humorless tool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14438950)

pedant.

OH GREAT... (0)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437823)

There goes my rant against software patents *crumple crumple crumple* :P

Re:OH GREAT... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14438356)

Ahhh... true to /. form, you commented without bothering to read the article (or, apparently, the summary).

Swing and a miss!

Doesn't solve major problems (4, Interesting)

nattt (568106) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437831)

Major issue with software patents cannot be solved by better searches for prior art - the only way to fix software patents is to do away with them in their entirety.

But it's an advance. (5, Insightful)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437875)

Remember!

If it's not a step backward, it's a step forward!

Later we can worry about elliminating software patents entirely.

Besides, take a look at this:

Another part will allow anyone who visits the USPTO website to search for patent information and receive emails regarding newly published patent applications. The program will also encourage the public to review patent applications and offer feedback to the USPTO regarding prior art.

The final leg of the program is a patent quality index. The index will assign a number to patent applications and patents indicating the quality of the patent. Members of the public can use the indexing system to evaluate the quality of proposed patents, patent holders can use it to identify weaknesses in their own patents, and companies can use the index to evaluate competitive patents relevant to a field they may be working in.


Not only can prior art be searched more effectively, the PEOPLE (this is, us!) can submit their comments about the patents in question. In other words, if an obvious software patent goes to slashdot, we, the slashdotters, can complain about it DIRECTLY!

And that's a good thing :)

Re:But it's an advance. (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438058)

Not only can prior art be searched more effectively, the PEOPLE (this is, us!) can submit their comments about the patents in question. In other words, if an obvious software patent goes to slashdot, we, the slashdotters, can complain about it DIRECTLY!

I sense a disturbance in the Force. Can anyone say patents.slashdot.org?

Peer to patent (2, Informative)

andyo (109338) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438093)

A more extensive proposal for opening the approval system is Peer to Patent [typepad.com] .

It may work best for prior art, resembling one of the systems discussed in the article.

Re:But it's an advance. (1)

fishybell (516991) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438166)

Later we can worry about elliminating software patents entirely.

This I don't get. Why should we limit the ability for an ingenius inventor to gain a government funded temporary monopoly for software, but not for a physical thing? If you're against intellectual property completely, you're against patents completely. Without patents there is little incentive (ie money) for new products to be made.

I see this as (if implemented correctly) the only necessary step. The biggest problem with software patents fall into three categories: 1) too vague/too broad, and thus can be used to sue the little guy who does something relatively similar, 2) already exists, and thus can be used to sue everyone, and 3) blatently obvious, and can be used to sue people you don't like, or you think have too much money.

All three of these problems can be solved by correct oversight. If somebody comes up with a truly unique piece of software, that person is entitled to a patent just as if he/she had invented something tangible. The world has evolved, so should the patent office.

pedantic speling carp (0, Offtopic)

BitterAndDrunk (799378) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438617)

ironically, it's ingenious not ingenius.

And it's blatantly. No e.

Good post, though, and I agree.

Mods - please note I did not post w/karma bonus because speling eror curecshun is llame)

Re:But it's an advance. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14438750)

The argument against the validity of software patents lies in the fact that they are really mathematics patents. Except for the past 2 decades, math had always been placed deliberately out of bounds for the purpose of granting patents. My understanding on why is that math is simply too foundational for all other inventions across all science and engineering disciplines. For an extreme (okay, silly (I hope) :-) example, imagine the chilling effect patents would have on, say, algebraic identities.

Of course, with the invention and refinement of mechanical computers in last 50 years, the number, size, and specifity of mathematic expressions (i.e., programs) has grown at a even faster rate than, say, Moore's Law (IMO). Given the new world of software, it is possible that the historic reasons against patenting math have become obsolete. I don't think so but that's just me and, apparently, the patent office disagrees with me.

Re:But it's an advance. (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438955)

The problem is that software in the end comes down to mathematical formulas. Which are not patentable. Software is just the solution to a problem. I guess in the case of truly revolutionary software, one could be granted a patent. I don't think I've seen that piece of software yet. Software is so much built upon older software, that I don't think that anybody really makes steps in software that I would really call patentable. When you look at software patents, most people presented with the same problem would have come up with the same solution.

Re:But it's an advance. (2, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438656)

"Members of the public can use the indexing system to evaluate the quality of proposed patents, patent holders can use it to identify weaknesses in their own patents, and companies can use the index to evaluate competitive patents relevant to a field they may be working in."

Who gave the slashcode to the patent office?

Re:Doesn't solve major problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14438338)

You can't do away with the entire patent system and expect things to go fine.

Take the pharmaceutical industry. Because of our gracious federal government and their never-ending crusade to look after us all, it takes around a BILLION DOLLARS and a DECADE of red tape to crawl through the awful mess that is the FDA's approval process. (I guess they wanna make sure the drug is safe; nevermind the people who die because they didn't have access to the drug in time.) Without the incentive that patents offer, we would never see new drugs being developed; why should I spend all that money and wait ten years to then have to compete for the manufacturing and selling of said drug?

I'd personally like to see the patent system severely downsized (or perhaps outright abolished), but it would be stupid to do so without also abolishing the FDA... or at least letting people and their doctors decide for themselves what treatment--whether approved by society or not--they want to try.

Re:Doesn't solve major problems (1)

gingerTabs (532664) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438496)

Software patents are not the only bad thing about the patent system. This is a good thing(TM) if it reduces licensing cost for new technologies since it will allow easier access to more manufacturers ==> competition which means cheaper goodies :)

Re:Doesn't solve major problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14438638)

But what about those new technologies? Yes, no licensing means more competition, which is better for everyone in a free market.

But who's gonna put money into R&D to create new technology if they don't get to reap the rewards of creating the technology? The cost of R&D of a new technology must be justified by the predicted profits it would bring. Like the other poster said, in industries like pharmaceuticals the cost of R&D would not be justifiable without patents providing a temporary monopoly on the new technology for the creator. OSS is special, and to a lesser extent, commercial closed source software. But these are exceptions to the rule.

Without the incentive patents provide, we would see very little new technology being created in the private sector.

Fear this is anti-open-source (defense agains OS) (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14437833)

From TFA: An open patent review program would set up a system on the patent office Web site where visitors could submit search criteria and subscribe to electronic alerts about patent applications in specific areas.

So basically this means open source projects are now liable for making sure they don't infringe on corporate patents.

I fear this seems like either lawyers creating a whole new industry that'll inflict expensive patent-searches and licensing deals on more projects; or SQ industry lobyiests trying to put more burdens on open source projects.

By making a whole bunch of legal game playing a required part of an open source project, MSFT will finally make Open Source development as bureaucratic as themselves.

Re:Fear this is anti-open-source (defense agains O (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14437989)

basically this means open source projects are now liable for making sure they don't infringe on corporate patents.

In the USA

luckily the rest of the world will carry on regardless

Re:Fear this is anti-open-source (defense agains O (1)

2short (466733) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438541)

"So basically this means open source projects are now liable for making sure they don't infringe on corporate patents."

    You mean, just like they always have been? If you infringe on someones patent and they send you a cease-and-desist, you've got some level of problem, and this has no impact on what that level is.
    This is trying to let you hear about patent applications in particular areas before the patent is granted; presumably so you can tell the patent office, "Hey, wait! I've been doing it that way for years, I just never patented it because it's so stupidly obvious." I don't see how it puts any more burden on anybody. If it works, maybe it will reduce the number of stupid patents. I'm not sure why you're bent on deciding this is not a good thing.

Please make some attempt to understand what a story is about before pointing out why it is an attempt by MS to cause trouble for Open Source. At the least, please identify whether the story has anything particular to do with MS or Open Source. Note that mention of open source in the Slashdot summary is not a good guide. This story, for example, is about patents, which are an topic under the larger heading "Technology" which also contains the topics "Open source" and "Microsoft"; and that's about as close as it gets.

Err yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14438553)

In the EU, the patent crowd were misrepresenting their intentions right until the final whistle. If a company says they support F/OSS, we should call them on it. Let's stop letting corporate lawyers define the argument.

A Troll in TFA (4, Interesting)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437837)

"One frequent critic of the patent system, Gregory Aharonian, publisher of The Internet Patent News Service, said it was unlikely that the new initiatives would have a significant impact, because the patent office was not able to deal efficiently with the information it already had."

Let's see, give someone organized data and better search tools, and it won't help them search faster and more accurately?

Hey! My bike chain broke because my gears are not set properly. Let's not fix the gears, it's the chain that broke!

I'm not saying that information access is the only problem the patent system has. And I also understand that the three steps proposed are not a panacaea. But not taking steps to fix part of the problem. just because the problem exists? Ridiculous.

Different take on this quote (1)

hellfire (86129) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438006)

The complaint is that they are approving too many frivolous patents not that they can't approve good patents fast enough. Giving someone better equipment means they can approve patents faster. The problem is not the equipment, it's the process.

How many times have we seen a frivolous lawsuit post on slashdot, and how many people within 15 minutes of it's posting came up with links to prior art? Give a person a faster computer can help if they are experiencing slowed down processes. If I can find prior art with a $300 PC, what good is a major software/hardware upgrade if people in the patent office aren't finding this prior art to begin with?

This is PR spin. I'm not discounting the need for the right technology to make the process more efficient, and faster equipment will help speed the process once the right process is in place. I want to know more about the changes in the process they are making. This article makes the change in technology a much larger part of the patent reform process than it really is.

Re:Different take on this quote (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438074)

"and faster equipment will help speed the process once the right process is in place."

The process is partly addressed in the the overhaul -- better review for prior art, which is the point of the upgrade to their search methods. Community input, etc.

This will reduce the number of frivolous patents, since it will be more easily demonstrable that prior art exists.

The article isn't really about faster equipment. It's about more efficient and exhaustive methods.

Of course, though, you're right -- a lot of it is PR spin. But any step in the right direction at this point is a good one, IMHO.

Re:A Troll in TFA (2, Interesting)

aztracker1 (702135) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438654)

I think they should pump up the filing fee to enough for the PTO to hire skilled people to do due research on patents. make the filing fee like $10k by itself with no guarantee, then another $1k if approved... isn't it like reverse that now? if there was more to "lose" and a greater chance of not being approved, I think that would help.

Hell, google needs some business ideas, become a gov't consulting co to implement better search systems... that's what they're good at, let them spread their wings a bit.

Re:A Troll in TFA (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 8 years ago | (#14439035)

If you pump up the filing fee, the small guy loses protection, which is a primary purpose of the patent system (or used to be, anyway).

Quick, patent these while you can! (5, Funny)

kimvette (919543) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437843)

Please!

before the overhaul takes place will some do-no-evil company please patent the following:

  - flash advertisements which use sound

  - flash advertisements which take over your browser and shove themselves over the content you're trying to read

  - annoying flashing siezure-inducing animated GIF advertisements

and then sue every advertiser which uses that style ad for patent licensing fees, and commit to not use those style ads on any web site, EVER?

Thanks. This would be an appropriate use for patenting prior art. If you do this you will have my eternal appreciation.

Remember "burn all GIFs"? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438047)

please patent ... annoying flashing siezure-inducing animated GIF advertisements

Actually, the technology behind GIF animations was patented in the early 1980s, but patents last only 20 years. The best way to block the other annoyances is to limit application/x-shockwave-flash support to a whitelist of web sites [mozdev.org] .

No! Patent this instead..... (1)

Nick Driver (238034) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438234)

Quick, somebody patent the business method of using open source software in government patent tracking systems!!!!!

Wow! Temporarily, a victory for OSS? (4, Insightful)

CodeShark (17400) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437868)

If this survives what I would predict to be a hugelobbying effort on the part of the massive corporate software interests, this could be the most significant reform of the Patent Office in my lifetime. [which is longer than I'd like to admit but shorter than the creation of digital computers].

I mean, since when has there been an "Open submission" for prior art in any of the USPTOs area of authority, or to have a searchable database for newly published applications that allows you, me, and everybody else to offer feedback directly to the examiners who need the information most [Note: I am including the patent quality index" under the heading of feedback by the way.]

From the Techworld article:The USPTO will host a public meeting to discuss the projects at its offices on 16 February.

I hope that RSM, ESR, etc. Lawrense Lessig et. all are there to defend this proposed change.

Re:Wow! Temporarily, a victory for OSS? (1)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437888)

No, it isn't.

What this is, in my opinion, is a grab by the content cartel to entice OSS to change their ways. They'll offer to make some patent-law changes, but not enough to make the OSS crowd happy. They'll ask the OSS crowd to take steps closer to the cartels' desires. Sort of a "meet halfway" deal.

The likelihood of real change is slim. The OSS crowd will generally not give in to the cartel crowd. Those who do will find themselves hurt by stomping on their customers.

I think this is an eyewash. To try to bring the OSS crowd into the collusion of the cartel crowd is a big reach, but it will be worthless in the long run.

Re: I follow you part way.... (1)

CodeShark (17400) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437966)

The content crowd part is what loses me. I know that the major players in the content arena try to use patents to control the content, but I'm not sure where the patent office comes into play except in a good way.

For example, if a video codec used an alogrithm that was discovered to have code which is arguably prior art, wouldn't that prevent the codec or the tech to implement it from being patented, etc.?

Let me know what you think.

Re: I follow you part way.... (1)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438012)

First, I'm anti-patent in every way, so I'm definitely outside the box on this issue.

There's the difficulty in patenting software -- reverse engineering two similar programs that both have different patents can give you similar results.

On the other hand, there is also the problem of how to address what the "inventor" may have used from their discovering in researching other patenting mechanisms. Did this person take some mechanisms, manipulate the build, and take the output to be used by the new mechanism? A patent covers the process but not the output, but if two different mechanisms offer the same output, are they conflicting with one another?

It seems like a waste in every way. Copyright was meant to further the arts and the sciences. I don't see how patents further anything -- research occurs with and without the force of patents. The fact that the patent monopoly is now in the hands of a select few (content cartels) shows that they don't help the little inventor in anyway.

Re: I follow you part way.... (1)

Yartrebo (690383) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438894)

In my opinion, neither copyrights nor patents encourage progress. Copyright is also in the hands of a select few trusts (RIAA, MPAA, BSA - all consolidating the power of already very large corporations).

The goal of both the patent and the copyright industries is to squash startups and maximize profits. This leads to stagnation and very little innovation, but lots of marketing and public relations.

Forced to chose between the two, I would get rid of patents first, but I would like to see both eliminated.

Re: I follow you part way.... (1)

TheVision (223174) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438973)

I don't see how patents further anything -- research occurs with and without the force of patents.

...and in 17 years, it becomes freely available to anyone. Would you rather have inventors keep them as trade secrets and have that innovation squirreled away 'forever'?

Re:Wow! Temporarily, a victory for OSS? (2, Informative)

kansas1051 (720008) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438136)

"I mean, since when has there been an "Open submission" for prior art in any of the USPTOs area of authority"

Since 1790. The current "proposal" is nothing new, its just a more effective way of submitting third party prior art. The current and long standing USPTO rules for public submissions of prior art can be found here: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/document s/1100_1134_01.htm [uspto.gov]


Also, the current proposal does not allow third parties (the public) to submit comments after an application publishes (which of course would be most helpful) due to the confidentiality required by federal law (35 USC 122: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/document s/1100_1120.htm [uspto.gov] ).
So if you see an application publish that you know is anticipated by prior art there isn't anything you can do about it until the application issues into a patent (in which case you can pay 10k-100k for a reexamination).

PATENT SYSTEM REFORM??!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14437873)

I must be dreaming.

Technically I should be awake now since I realised I'm in a dream. ...c'mon...

HELP I'M TRAPPED IN A DREAM AND I CAN'T WAKE UP! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

are you a pole smoker? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14437874)

of course you are!!

you're also a butt-pirating sand-nigger. you also love teh homo sausage!

Patents vs. Trade Secrets (1)

peektwice (726616) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437876)

the problem is that the patent office is often issuing patents for things that are trade secrets, business processes, or just plain obvious. However, this is a step in the right direction.

you forgot life forms (1)

BitterAndDrunk (799378) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438698)

genes and the like are patentable, as well. (working on a new breast cancer treatment? Careful, you could be infringing on Pfizer's ownership of the cancer itself!)

Ironically, if you get colon cancer you could be illegally duplicating patented material.

Declining Quality of Patent Examiners (2, Funny)

Jazzer_Techie (800432) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437883)

Obiviously the patent office needs to return to the example set in early 20th century Europe (e.g. Bern). They were hiring people like Einstein to examine patents. I don't see the USPTO working to recuit brilliant young physicists.

Re:Declining Quality of Patent Examiners (1)

grimJester (890090) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438151)

Einstein worked there before he became famous. The USPTO has no chance of getting, for example, Hawking to work full time browsing through patent applications.

Modded Funny? What? (1)

blank101 (862789) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438675)

How is this funny? The decline of technically competent personnel in the government (not to mention businesses) is about as far from a laughing matter as you can get.

Jazzer hit a main issue right on the head--reform the rules all you want, without competent people to make what will inevitably be subjective decisions, the system will be burden vice a boon.

Carl

Re:Modded Funny? What? (1)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438842)

It's funny because it deliberately manipulates chronology to make its point.

Re:Declining Quality of Patent Examiners (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438900)

Einstein was a failure when he was hired by the Patent Office.

He was a physics and math teacher who couldn't get a job as a teacher.

Simple solution? (5, Interesting)

LightningBolt! (664763) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437893)

If there were an official website where patent applications were scrutinized and commented on by the public, I'd bet a lot more patent applications would be thrown out due to prior art. Here on slashdot, every time some patent is mentioned at all, there's some cranky old technology guy who remembers doing the same thing back in '78 on some project at Fubartronics Inc. Further, competing companies would have the incentive to do the research to find solid prior art and comment on it.

Google search technology (3, Funny)

ajdavis (11891) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437926)

Google had participated in the discussions and it was possible that its search technology would be used in the project.

Meaning, patent examiners will now Google the phrase "customer review" before saying, "Gosh, what an original idea!"

In other news, patent examiners' computers will now have web access...

At Last (2, Insightful)

johnashby (819655) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437928)

This is a tremendous decision. In order for it to have taken place at all, there must already be an element friendly to open-source concepts in the higher circles...and the expansion of staff necessary to implement these changes will alter the culture of the Office at large. Water cooler conversations will change, and the current bias toward approving patenting anythign that moves might finally begin to erode somewhat.

It's an excellent beginning.

Patent This! (1)

Kesch (943326) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437929)

Luckily for me, I was just able to get several patents pertaining to the reforming of patent laws. Now I just need to ???? and profit.

Not enough (3, Funny)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437937)

Any fix of the patent system that doesn't address all the outstanding issues is a waste of time. I'm specifically looking for a solution involving the phrases "crush the patent office", "see them driven before me", and "hear the lamentation of the women"

Rome wasn't built in a day . . . (2, Interesting)

mmell (832646) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437997)

and they didn't have to clear away the rubble of a previous city before they got started.

You might want to cut 'em a little slack - if their first effort at patent reform falls short, then it's up to us to give 'em another nudge in the right direction. Until then, it might make sense to just watch and see.

Re:Rome wasn't built in a day . . . (1)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438195)

Oh yeah, all facetiousness aside, even a small step would be a good thing. I'm particularly interested in the part about subscribing to notices about patents in X fields and the effect on slashdot, blogs, etc. Zero-day "omg! Microsoft patented teh waterz!!!oneone" posts and the like.

deja vu... (4, Funny)

revery (456516) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437954)

I think all the patents should be put in a queue that is visible to the public and that we can moderate. Also, maybe there should be a limit on how many patent submissions you can make in a day, or a week, or something. And I don't think Roland Piquepaille or Beatles Beatles should be able to patent anything.

Wait... didn't we already have this discussion today?

Reform? (2, Interesting)

amightywind (691887) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437963)

An open patent review program would set up a system on the patent office Web site where visitors could submit search criteria and subscribe to electronic alerts about patent applications in specific areas.

This will only make anti-innovation patent enforcement more efficient. Great for patent holders (and the Patent Office I might add). Lousy for everyone else. I was hoping they would consider rescinding all software patents.

At least I still got to patent my ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14437988)

At least I still got to patent my closed source "JUMP to CONCLUSIONS MAT" using the old system.

I for one... (3, Interesting)

oscartheduck (866357) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438034)

I for one would like to congratulate our Open Source Geek overlords. Yes, I mean you, you GNU/Linux running geeks you. This isn't the radical overhaul that the patent system needs, but it's something, and it's a clear sign that our commitment to ideas and ideals that we know make sense can have an effect if we keep with them and keep pushing the good word.

Let me be the first to say... (1)

idonthack (883680) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438291)

... Gosh, thanks ^_^

patent law (1)

hostingreviews (941757) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438079)

Patent law is so complicated right now lawyers dedicate their entire lives to just that one field. The wording is confusing, dry and seem to run in circles. Any change is good, as long as every patent lawyer doesn't have to buy a new bookshelf for the new laws.

Re:patent law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14438799)

Nah, even that is good...think of the boon to the legal publishing, papermaking, and forestry industries...

Nice, but what about obviousness? (4, Insightful)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438087)

This is nice, but the real problem with patents today is not novelty, it is obviousness. The article implies that the obviousness problem is not being addressed. The worst patents in recent memory have been bad because they were obvious, not because they had been done before. One-click was novel (as proven when the prior art challenge failed). One-click was not non-obvious. Obviousness cannot be tested by patent examiners; they are not skilled in the art.

I recently read what seems like a good solution; when a patent is submitted it must be tested for obviousness. Submit the problem that the patent solves to a panel of experts. If they come up with a sufficiently similar solution, the patent is void. Funding? Submitters who get their patents voided for obviousness pay the expense of the panel - calculate the cost at the end of the year and divvy it among the applicants. That has the added bonus of penalizing patent flooders, and since there will still be rivers of patents coming from IBM and MS, the individual patent submitter will only risk a tiny fraction of the cost of the board.

I thought they did this years ago (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14438091)

Two of the initiatives would rely on recently developed Internet technologies.

Wasn't the "reform" to take any mundane activity, and add "over the Internet" to it and you get a patent?

Re:I thought they did this years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14438196)

Two of the initiatives would rely on recently developed Internet technologies.

Wasn't the "reform" to take any mundane activity, and add "over the Internet" to it and you get a patent?

That's it! I'm patenting "a method of taking a mundane activity and reforming it by performing it over the internet"!

Groklaw (2, Informative)

just_another_sean (919159) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438134)

As usual there is great information on this at Groklaw [groklaw.net] .

Apperently the PTO and the companies they are working with are looking for input from the general community so here's a chance to have your $.02 heard somewhere else besides /.

Per PJ:

I know from your comments that some of you feel that the only solution is to get rid of software patents altogether, and if you can accomplish that, feel free. But others of you have expressed the thought that high quality patents are legitimate, for ideas that are truly innovative and represent real scientific progress. Think what it means that the USPTO is participating and asking for your help.

It's all just blah-blah-blah... (1)

greginnj (891863) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438142)

...until they get around to revoking one-click and the other ridiculous business process patents.

Software is not patentable.... (3, Insightful)

3seas (184403) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438160)

By its very nature software falls into the scope of what is not patentable.

Physical Phenomenon
Natural Law
Abstract Ideas.

Mathmatical algorythims are a subtopic of the above three primary facets of what is not patentable.

Haven't the time at the moment to read the article but I don't need to. I know software is provably not patentable.

How software got patent status in teh US is not by approval of the people, but by the abstract rethoric of abstract arguement.

Software creation is all about abstraction creation and manipulation.

This alone make its a a human right and duty to apply. For we as creatures able to go beyond other creatures have only this as our advantage enabling us to go beyond the limits other creatures have.

Software is not patentable and there are more details as to why this is and provable, then I have time to go into ATM.

We only advance by building upon the works of those before us. Why falsely limit that process and increasing rate of? Ity is not consistant with what we are.

Reform???? What we need is correction in accord with what is not patentable.

Some of you are missing the point (3, Insightful)

ZB Mowrey (756269) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438187)

Those who say this is worthless because it doesn't completely fix all your problems with the system, should evaluate the following:

"All these incremental fixes to Firefox are just annoying. I wish they'd just get over it and release version 5.1 *right now*. Anything else is a waste of time and effort."

Change at this level of society doesn't come in an avalanche, it's an incremental, patch-like process. This is done to minimize harm to the basic structure of society, which after all has fed and educated some of us, despite its flaws. I don't know how many others like me are out there, but I know I've been hoping for exactly this kind of open review for patents for a long time. Now hobbyists and competing commercial interests will have the ability and incentive to help crush some of the utterly stupid patents that get granted.

Re:Some of you are missing the point (0, Redundant)

Spaceman40 (565797) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438370)

You stole my post. We've taken the first step into a larger world.

Other interesting developments in Patent Reform (3, Interesting)

Unequivocal (155957) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438316)

I found these interesting links about more patent reform work out there. The first one is a partnership between IBM and some university people on building some kind of peer review patent system. Looks very interesting:

http://dotank.nyls.edu/communitypatent [nyls.edu]

Second is an article by one of the university people with more details on this (PDF warning):

http://peertopatent.jot.com/WikiHome/PeerToPatent- BethNoveck.pdf [jot.com]

Just a better self-control (1)

Elixon (832904) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438423)

They simply found out that OSS developers don't obey the patents and it is expensive to sue them. So they will create nice tool that even you can easily find that you are writting patented piece of code... It will save lot of money on lawyers because many people will start to obey low once they know they are breaking it.

Despite the bobastic title of this article it looks like the open source made giants to improve the tools to allow people to perform better self-control.

New career opportunity... (1)

gingerTabs (532664) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438431)

...Getting paid by some corporate entity to hunt down prior art to all their competitors new IPRs. Kind of like an anti-patent attorney...

If you get commission for every patent you kill, there'd be a fortune to be made.

MTURK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14438487)

They should just use the Mechanical Turk to decide.

Is this patent obvious:
(picture) ?

B[it3h (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14438587)

memBers' creative whole has lo5t To the politically

Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14438713)

You open source guys are so cool. You're like rebels and are actually sticking it "to the man". I wish I could be as cool as you.

Recently developed? (2, Funny)

c0d3h4x0r (604141) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438727)

recently developed Internet technologies

Database-driven web sites and web forms? It's recent in geological terms, I suppose.

Re:Recently developed? (1)

trollable (928694) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438967)

No, think patents. Most of them covering these technologies were issued in 2005 ;)

How about not issuing invalid patents? (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438767)

It would be a good start if the USPTO could start by not issuing invalid patents. For example, patents which are patently obvious, or patents with well-known but not published prior art, or patents for devices that don't work, or patents which rely on techniques that haven't been invented yet -- but when they are, this patent will have priority.

For example, you could require that a functioning device [blogspot.com] which implements the claims of the patent must be sold within a year of the granting of the patent.

wikki for Prior Art? (1)

xoip (920266) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438839)

The whole concept being proposed is interesting but, sounds like it's just a Wikki that IBM is going to bill the PTO huge money to set up.

USPTO = RIAA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14438915)

The pattern is so far: when a gov't agency gets in to regulate a disruptive technology--RIAA like environments are created.

It good to review where OSS fits, but it's the wrong agency.

You've seen nothing yet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14439034)

A bit OT, but the following is sure to bring up the post's issues in spades. Graphon, through acquisition of NES, has a suite of patents that cover several fundamental aspects of web commerce. I think this will be way more important than the Intertrust dustup. Have a look at:
5,778,367 customer-updatable on-line databases
5,579,664 software licensing using on-line processes
5,826,014 firewalls, implemented in software or hardware
5,870,550 multi-homing web servers
5,898,830 two-factor authentication processes

and have a look at the filing dates, and think about the decendant divisionals, CIPs, etc. This is going to be a very lucrative IP portfolio, and a big IT/IP fight.
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