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IEEE Proposes New Class of Patents

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the something's-got-to-change dept.

Patents 183

cheesedog writes "The IEEE Spectrum proposes a new type of patent that wouldn't require formal examination, would cost significantly less than traditional patents, would last only 4 years from date of first commercial product, and which wouldn't carry a presumption of validity. These 'limited patents' would be attractive to innovators in the fast-moving high-tech industry that can't wait 18-24 months for patent approval, and would help improve patent quality by populating the USPTO's prior-art database more efficiently. Additional commentary on this proposal is available."

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Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14627250)

New type of patent. Microsoft's patent office is already filing

The question is ... (5, Funny)

didit (820432) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627261)

... did they patent this new class of patents?

Let's see.... (0, Troll)

StressGuy (472374) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628230)

story posted at 12:13, this reply posted at 12:16.....about three minute hang time

yea, that sounds about right for Slashdot.

Re:Let's see.... (4, Funny)

LaCosaNostradamus (630659) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628691)

I betcha I can come up with a method of posting even faster than THAT, using an innovative mechanism derived from non-obvious technological advances. Claim#1: ....

Re:The question is ... (5, Informative)

Nosajjason (613456) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628613)

I would hope that you won't be allowed to "patent" this proposal because it is not "new type of patent."
In fact, IEEE's proposal parallels the system in Australia, which allows "innovation" patents to issue without review. http://www.ipaustralia.gov.au/patents/what_innovat ion.shtml [ipaustralia.gov.au]

Australian Innovation Patents, as they are called, last a maximum of 8 years, are granted without examination within 1 to 3 months. However, before enforcement or even threatened enforcement of an innovation patent, someone (not just the owner of the patent) must request a formal examination of the patent.

These systems have their problems as well. See: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/1418 165.stm [bbc.co.uk] in which a lawyer patented the wheel using this system.

Nevertheless, with sad state of affairs in this country, you probably could file an application and get a piece of paper back granting you a patent this "process." :)

[ Begin Rant ]

The problem with these types of "IEEE" or "innovation" patents is that they worthless.

First, without the initial review, the patent owner is left unaware if there are serious deficiencies in his patent until he tries to enforce it. Between 2000 and 2003 roughly 300,000 patent applications were filed each year. Between 2001 and 2004 roughly only half those applications matured into granted patents. http://www.uspto.gov/go/taf/us_stat.htm [uspto.gov] . During the examination process, there are ways to cure these deficiencies. For example, the inventor may amend the claims or file another application. The system currently proposed by IEEE does not serve inventors because it cannot forewarn applicants that there is a problem. (Of course, the current system is broken, but in other ways.)

Second, even if the owner has a valid patent, he would not be able to recuperate the costs of enforcing that patent. By giving a limited monopoly for 4 years, the patent owner can only recover damages for those 4 years. Take this example: Inventor A gets invents a widget and wants to bring it immediately to market (and can), so he gets an "IEEE" patent. Company B sees A widget and decides to reverse engineer and sell the widget. If it takes Company B a year to reverse engineer and market widget, then the soonest A would realize that B is infrigning is in the 2nd year of his patent's 4 year term. However, before he can even threaten B, he must have the patent reviewed by the patent office for validity. This might take 3-6 months (I am guessing). This puts him into his 3rd year. After a finding of validity, A then has to commence suit, which generally takes more than a year. So after everything is said and done, B only has to pay royalties for 3 years and can continue manufacturing the widget because A's 4-year patent term has expired by the end of litigation. What was accomplished by suing B? A expended hundreds of thousands of dollars in litigation only to gain 3 years worth of royalties, which probably weren't that much.

On the other hand, with a standard patent, the patent owner, A, could recover damages for 20 years and/or charge Company B a royalty for the remaining term of the patent. Now, if that widget was, for example, the iPod, then A would have benefited by obtaining a standard patent.

For these reasons, no major company will pursue an "IEEE" patent even if it was allowed.
[/end Rant]

So (5, Insightful)

garrett714 (841216) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627265)

I can just imagine what it will be like when a patent dispute happens. We already have enough BS patents out there clogging up the patent office that slow them down, how is this going to help any? I agree that patents need to be granted more quickly, but is giving out patents without formal examination really the answer?

Re:So (2, Interesting)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627336)

...but is giving out patents without formal examination really the answer?

I think so. This just establishes prior art in a very clean way. If the patent shouldn't have been granted, the courts can come into play. Anything is better than the system in place now.

Re:So (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627364)

If the patent shouldn't have been granted, the courts can come into play.
You're just shifting the time/effort/cost instead of actually solving the problem.

The problem being patents that should never have been granted.

Re:So (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627426)

Even if that's true, it's still an improvement because the patent only lasts 4 years, etc.

Re:So (1)

'nother poster (700681) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627659)

Which is 4 years that you get to strangle your competitors with an even more nebulous set of patent claims. Most small companies can't have a legal pillow held over their face for four years and still come out breathing. This is much more prone to abuse than the existing system from the way the article reads. Also they only apply if the invention is "in the market", whatever that means. Does it mean that if you're not a company, or if you don't charge for the invention/product it is not eligible for protection?

Way nore abusive if you ask me.

Re:So (0, Redundant)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627389)

That is the system we have now.

Basically this happens when a patent is pending.

Re:So (5, Interesting)

alicenextdoor (910558) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627497)

This has already been tried, in Australia. In fact, the law won an IgNobel prize for John Keogh and the Australian Patent Office [improbable.com] for patenting the wheel in the year 2001. Apparently he did it to demonstrate that the new patent laws were pointless. I have no idea if his patent has ever been challenged in court!

Re:So (0)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627620)

A patent tht is never used can do no harm, really. If the patent was valid then he would have evidence in court. If not, no big deal because he would obviously have no case in court.

Re:So (2, Interesting)

'nother poster (700681) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627754)

But some poor bastard, erm I mean citizen, in Australia shouldn't have to pay money to barristers to plead a case to overturn a patent, even a minipatent or whatever they call them, so that he can make an item based on a 5000+ year old concept. I know the wheel patent was done as a protest, but plenty of other stupid ideas are done with the express purpose of extorting money from innocent people in a legal manner. Patents are important, but the law in Australia, and the proposed law in the U>S> are asinine and harmful.

Re:So (1)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628107)

What do you suggest?

Re:So (4, Insightful)

'nother poster (700681) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628248)

Patent review processes that work. Patent reviewers that are skilled in the field of the patent being reviewed. Adjusting patent law back to the point where the patented idea must be nonobvious and nontrivial. Streamline the dispute process, for both sides of the dispute. I could go on, but it's lunch time.

Re:So (1)

cybergrue (696844) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628314)

Didn't this group, (or was it someone else?) use these same rules to register the sound of every possible combination of telephone number, meaning if you dial a phone in .au you technically have to pay that group a royalty.

Re:The only type (4, Insightful)

symbolic (11752) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627387)


As far as software is concerned, and perhaps some other idiotic types of IP (like copyright on the "appearance" of a building in a public location), is to ELIMINATE it. Their absence is what got us where we are, but for some reason, people feel like they have to squeeze every last bit of "value" from something that is often completely intangible. The only thing it's doing is slowing things down and increasing costs. I imagine that not too long from now, the "leaders" in the US government will be scratching something, wondering why the US continues to either lag behind, or give up ground to, other countries in important areas like science and technology. The current patent system has shackled and menacled our ability to remain agile, and I fear that we will pay dearly for that over the long term.

Re:So (4, Insightful)

fish waffle (179067) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627418)

We already have enough BS patents out there...

Indeed; helping increase the volume of bad patents doesn't seem like a useful goal. The main problem with software (and other more abstract) patents is not the slow process for granting them, it's the fact that they keep granting idiotic patents that are very obvious to anyone even remotely skilled in the art. Searching and validating beforehand may be expensive, but is a lot cheaper than a court fight....at least in an overall sense.

On the other hand, if their intention is to fuel outrage in blogs and community websites (like /.), or provide even more material for people to make fun of them, this will be a great success.

Re:So (2, Interesting)

x8 (879751) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627898)

What if the patent office had a link on each patent's web page that would allow members of the comunity to submit prior art, triggering a formal review? (Is this possible now?)

I can think of a few benefits of this:
1. The patent office could focus their formal review efforts, gaining efficiency.
2. Avoids hiring a lawyer every time you find a patent that obviously should be invalid.
3. In the proposed IEEE system, having a lot of prior art patents would make it easier to point out prior art.

Just FYI (5, Informative)

orac2 (88688) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628663)

In the proposed IEEE system...

I submitted a correction to /. about this, but The Powers That Be didn't bother to fix the headline, so I'll try do it here: (this is a repost of this comment)

I'm the IEEE Spectrum editor of this article, and for the record the IEEE has made no such proposal. To quote the disclaimer we run with every issue: "The editorial content of IEEE Spectrum magazine does not represent official positions of the IEEE or its organizational units."

Prof Hollaar's article is funtionally equivalent to an Op-Ed -- as a respected, knowledgedable, and articulate individual, he was given space in the magazine to share a proposal we found noteworthy. We've actually run a lot of articles on the "What To Do With Patents" theme recently, as our contribution to the patent reform debate, with authors advocating ideas ranging from replacing software patents completely with copyright, to more-or-less leaving well enough alone. I think it's great /. is debating Prof. Hollaar's idea, just note that it's not an official IEEE proposal.

Correct (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627903)

I think the standard of "obvious" should be that if two different people independantly come up with the same idea, then obviously the idea was "obvious".

Re:So (1)

drakaan (688386) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627954)

I made a first attempt at reading TFA, when I ran across the first two sentences:

There are big problems with patents, especially software patents. It takes too long to get patent protection, particularly for fast-moving high-tech industries.

Is that *seriously* what they wanted to lead with? The first "problem" mentioned is that it takes too long to get them?

For as long as those with big patent portfolios have been trying to feed us the line that software patents are good, and others have been arguing back that copyright makes more sense, it astonishes me that the IEEE can sprint past that part of the discussion and go directly to "We need *more* software patents...and faster, too".

Maybe there's a patent attorney who has a brother-in-law in the IEEE group that proposed this, or something. I just don't understand where the impetus for this comes from.

I'll try reading the article again, and see if I can make it past the opening...maybe I'll skip those two sentences and pretend they're not there.

Re:So (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628201)

I believe the idea is to lure people to the shorter life patent by offering a quicker process. The time it takes for a patent to issue can be a negative for the fast movers.

Re:So (1)

drakaan (688386) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628627)

Right. I get that, it's just beside the point of the argument at hand, which is whether or not software should be patentable. I made it a bit further through the article, and noticed the author talking about software patents expiring sooner than copyright, and copyright lasting 95 years...

That's true, but it misses the fundamental difference between copyright and patent, which is that copyright protects a particular work, and patents protect a particular invention. Since writing software in and of itself is an act of creation, it leans towards copyright. Since software is used in business and equipment and processes, there is a desire to keep other people from recreating the same thing.

The first page is a classic pro-patent FUD passage, which is where my comment about motivations came from.

If you presume that software patents are good (which I do not), then it's a no-brainer. The problem is that presumption and whether it's correct or helpful to software innovation.

Just FYI (1)

orac2 (88688) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628767)

Maybe there's a patent attorney who has a brother-in-law in the IEEE group that proposed this, or something.

I submitted a correction to /. about this, but The Powers That Be didn't bother to fix the headline, so I'll try do it here: (this is a repost of a comment I've posted elsewhere)

I'm the IEEE Spectrum editor of this article, and for the record the IEEE has made no such proposal. To quote the disclaimer we run with every issue: "The editorial content of IEEE Spectrum magazine does not represent official positions of the IEEE or its organizational units."

Prof Hollaar's article is funtionally equivalent to an Op-Ed -- as a respected, knowledgedable, and articulate individual, he was given space in the magazine to share a proposal we found noteworthy. We've actually run a lot of articles on the "What To Do With Patents" theme recently, as our contribution to the patent reform debate, with authors advocating ideas ranging from replacing software patents completely with copyright, to more-or-less leaving well enough alone. I think it's great /. is debating Prof. Hollaar's idea, just note that it's not an official IEEE proposal.

Re:So (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14627974)

"obvious to anyone even remotely skilled in the art"

Atrus? Is that you?

Legality? What about cost of enforcing it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14627275)

So how would anyone enforce it? The high cost isn't just purchasing a patent, but enforcing it with lawyers and such. -nosebreaker.com

Great idea! (2, Interesting)

timjdot (638909) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627287)


This is a very good idea. My current patent application was filed Jan '01 and is still being reviewed!

TimJowers

Re:Great idea! (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627359)

weird, took 9 months for mine.

Re:Great idea! (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627529)

More for me... App was filed in mid-late 2003, granted in mid-late 2005. Still, much faster than the OP in this thread.

Improve patent quality? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14627317)

Why not just get rid of patents? The concept of making invention a piece of property and letting lawyers regulate it is counter-productive.

Re:Improve patent quality? (4, Interesting)

timjdot (638909) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627382)

Check out http://www.shouldexist.org/ [shouldexist.org] . ShouldExist is a superb place to anti-patent ideas. I will not be surprised if a fair number of software patents being filed have been already mentioned on ShouldExist.

TimJowers

Re:Improve patent quality? (1)

temojen (678985) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628695)

Sometimes I put ideas there in the hopes that they will be picked up by industry, as they don't seem to take product ideas from the public (computer and camera manufacturers), they just ignore my messages.

Re:Improve patent quality? (1)

Jerry Coffin (824726) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627628)

Why not just get rid of patents?

RTFA. He spends a fair amount of time on exactly this.

Re:Improve patent quality? (1)

'nother poster (700681) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627806)

I read the article. I don't remember that. I remember him saying that the existing system needed to be overhauled severly, but not abolished as the GP says.

Re:Improve patent quality? (1)

js_sebastian (946118) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627936)

Why not just get rid of patents?
RTFA. He spends a fair amount of time on exactly this.
He just says that it's been done before and didn't work, because people tried to use copyright to obtain the same protection. His point is moot: when people who are against software patents say that copyright is enough protection for software developers (http://www.nosoftwarepatents.com/en/m/basics/inde x.html [nosoftwarepatents.com] ), they do not mean that copyright should protect ideas. They mean ideas should not be protected period. Copyright protects specific implementations, and that has worked quite well so far.. it's not like Bill Gates didn't manage to get rich without software patents.

Patents have a purpose. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14628031)

Just not the one they're currently used for.

Actually creating a new invention involves a lot of cost and risk. Since it's never been done before you'll have to stumble through several revisions before you figure out how it works. You may never get it to work at all. If you do, you can't be sure anyone will be interested in it. If they are, you can't be sure they'll want it enough to pay what you need to charge to make the invention viable.

But lets assume you get through all that. You're invention works, it's a hit. Now you have to recoup not only the costs of production, but all the money you spent (or convinced others to spend) getting this venture off the ground. Except now that you've shown it can be done, how to do it, and that people want it, others can jump right in and start cranking out copies of your invention. They don't have the R&D costs you did, they won't have to make the costly mistakes you did so they can sell their version of your invention for less than you can. You can't compete, and get killed. So if your product doesn't fail outright, you get killed by competition that benefited from your hard work. Why risk inventing anything new?

Patents were intended to give inventors a chance a recoup their high initial costs by giving them a limited monopoly on their products. This wasn't for the benefit of the inventor, but for the benefit of society. Everybody benefits from new inventions, and when the original patent expires, others can copy and improve the invention in ways the original inventor might not have been able to.

Now of course the whole thing is ass backwards. It protects asswipes who spend no more than a bit of time coming up with a germ of an idea that they don't have to even fully explain, much less implement, and they don't have to worry whether or not it will be marketable. Just wait for someone else to go through all the headaches of actually developing "your" product (or something even slightly similar) for you. Then in addition to the eating the startup costs you didn't have to incur, they get to cut you in on their profits and pay you licensing fees. So now the true inventors have all the same costs and risks they had before the patent system, plus legal fees, and they get to turn over control of their invention to someone else.

4 year patents are different... why? (4, Insightful)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627319)

So a 4-year patent just means you have to pay them 4 times, and then you have procured the patent for the approximage 17 years of a regular patent. Or, perhaps longer... assuming pressure from all the companies to whack this once it goes into effect, so that they can keep their patents for cheaper. Any patent system's original rules will be altered by pressure from the largest patent holders. What we need to have happen is to force accountability for patent fees, i.e. force some kind of license limit on the amount you can ream people for off of them.

Re:4 year patents are different... why? (1)

dotpavan (829804) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627407)

didnt the summary say that the sacrifice for getting the patent processed faster is that the duration is just 4 years from the product being rolled out? and not 17 years?

Parent is confused. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14627449)

A patent is a one time thing - you can't re-patent something 4 times!

Re:4 year patents are different... why? (1)

TemporalBeing (803363) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628268)

What we need to have happen is to force accountability for patent fees, i.e. force some kind of license limit on the amount you can ream people for off of them.

In other words, something like this [slashdot.org] . Needs some work, but should offer at least a good starting point.

without the presumption of validity? (4, Insightful)

Enigma_Man (756516) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627320)

So all the people that have been submitting crap to the patent office that actually gets qualified as "valid", even if it isn't will have a field day patenting everything then? If the onus is on everybody else but the patent-holder to prove that it isn't valid, that kinda sucks.

-Jesse

Re:without the presumption of validity? (4, Interesting)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627463)

Exactly.

Imagine Acme Corp. files a 'limited patent' for Widget X and it's granted without examination. My widget, Widget Y does the same thing as Widget X, and it's actually got a real patent pending and has been on the market for 3 years.

However, Widget Y hasn't been selling very well due to my inability to market the product, and well, I can't afford good legal representation. So I can't sue Acme Corp. at all... worse, Acme Corp. notices my product and decides to sue me! Since Acme got their 'limited patent' first and mine is just pending, Acme wins!

Screw that. It sounds like a patent abusers' wet dream.

Re:without the presumption of validity? (1)

ajakk (29927) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627786)

If you invented X before they invented Y, then you don't have anything to worry about regardless of whether or not you have a granted patent.
On a related point, the granting of a patent does not give you the right to do anything other than exclude someone from using what is claimed in your patent. It does not give you the right to actually practice what your own patent claims.

Pay a fee to file prior art? (3, Insightful)

torunforever (930672) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627334)

Novelty could be challenged at any point by someone submitting prior art and paying a small fee.

A fee? That sounds counter-productive to encouraging prior art submissions.

Re:Pay a fee to file prior art? (2, Insightful)

adrianmonk (890071) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628395)

A fee? That sounds counter-productive to encouraging prior art submissions.

Actually, making someone pay a fee for prior art is an idea with some merit. But it shouldn't be the person who points out the prior art who has to pay. Instead, the person who filed for the patent should have to pay a fee to the patent office when someone points out valid prior art. After the patent office determines it really is prior art, they would take part of the fee for themselves and pay part of it as a bounty to the person who first pointed out the prior art. This would be beneficial in three ways: (1) it would create disincentive for people to try to file patents when they think there's any real chance that there is prior art out there (because of the threat of having to pay a large fee), and (2) it would create an incentive for the patent office to examine reasonable claims of prior art, and (3) it would create an incentive for others to look for prior art to submit to the patent office.

Clearly someon doesn't understand patent (5, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627338)

First, while you are in patent pending, you are protected.

Second, Patents are not expensive, paten lawyers are. You can file a patent as an individual for a few hundred dollars.

Third, a patent is a way of saying you had it first, but there are other ways.

Forth, This would be even more abused then the current system

Re:Clearly someon doesn't understand patent (1)

Yahweh Doesn't Exist (906833) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627384)

>Third, a patent is a way of saying you had it first, but there are other ways.

yeah my favourite, but the least well known way, is to actually release the fucking product.

Re:Clearly someon doesn't understand patent (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627423)

Not always practical when you are looking for money to build it.
There is the real crux of the issue for small inventors.

I got nifty widget one, but I need 250,000 for manufacturing. How do I show people what I have and keep it protected?

If you dn't have proof that you had it a specific date, anyone can claim they had it first.

No Patent != No Protection (1)

dwandy (907337) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627625)

I got nifty widget one, but I need 250,000 for manufacturing. How do I show people what I have and keep it protected?
NDA [wikipedia.org]

Clearly someone doesn't know the author (4, Informative)

werdna (39029) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627686)

You don't know what you are talking about. Professor Hollaar has an intimate understanding of these issues. He is a blue-chip expert in this arena, and your suggestions to the contrary are wholly unfounded.

Lee Hollaar is one of our nation's most brilliant non-legal scholars regarding intellectual property issues. Lee has been active in intellectual proprerty matters for decades, and is the author of the BNA publication "Legal Protection of Digital Information," which you can read for free online [digital-law-online.info] (complete with hyperlinks to case law!) at the AUTHOR's insistance. Although he is no doubt an IP maximalist, his is frequenty a reasoned and well-informed view.

He is the author of or worked closely with the authors of highly influential amicus briefs that led the United States Supreme Courts to decisions in landmark intellectual property law cases. He worked on the hill as a staffer, and also as an advisor to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. And he has served as technical expert and special master in many important IP and technology law cases, including United States v. Microsoft.

As it turns out, I do not agree with Lee on the necessity or benefits of his "petit patent" proposal, and might agree with a more critically worded and substantive revision of the poster's remarks. Unlikely many on this forum, I find Lee to be open to new ideas and revisions of his old ones when confronted with solid argument. This flexibility toward truth-seeking rather than lockstep ideology is one of the principal reasons he is such a formidable opponent at a debate on IP matters, and why his opinions, even when they are wrong, are highly influential.

But I would Never, NEVER suggest that the proposal was founded in ignorance. Professor Hollaar has enormous gravitas in the IP community, and his influence is well-deserved. Right or wrong (I often disagree and spar with him), your suggestions about his understanding are wholly unfounded.

Re:Clearly someone doesn't know the author (1)

dwandy (907337) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628051)

I'm anti patent, but that's really because I don't think the current system works as intended.
There are some decent ideas in the proposal:
- Novelty as the only condition.
- Independant creation.
- Much shorter duration.

I think I could get behind something like this if and only if the current system were dropped in it's place.
My fear is that all this will do is increase the legal fees, as you now need to defend on two fronts, and fill paperwork for two kinds of patents. From TFA:

Protection would last for four years, enough time to establish a market and about the time required to process a regular patent application today. That would allow inventors to have immediate protection against knockoffs of a technology even as they try to get broader protection by meeting the more stringent requirements for a conventional patent.
It seems to me that the last thing we need is to effectively add yet another layer of mess to the existing problems...

He does address the issue that current patents aren't reviewed all that well

At the same time, a substantial increase in regular patent fees would pay for a dramatic improvement in examination quality, perhaps even permitting the examination of all applications by a team of examiners, instead of just one.
but I'm curious who this team of examiners would be? From my point of view, the non-obvious clause is one of the main problems in our current patent system. To anyone in the field, most solutions are obvious. Put a dozen random engineers in a seperate rooms with a puzzle, and odds are you only get a couple of different solutions. To me, that means they are obvious.

I'm also unsure as to how one could prove prior art ... the files on my PC have the date/time stamp that I want them to have...

Oh, and he specifically wants this for software patents, which I think are absurd...patents (should they exist at all) should be reserved for real-world things. No patent or copyright should be allowed to cover a number.

Re:Clearly someone doesn't know the author (3, Insightful)

SeattleGameboy (641456) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628128)

We are all impressed with his resume.

However, that still does not change the fact that increasing the number of patents and decreasing the effective duration is a dumb idea.

Just because it is shorter does not make thing better when the number of rediculous patents will explode.

The problem is not necessarily that the patents are too long or even it is too expensive to obtain. The problem is that too many non-novel ideas are granted patents.

What Professor Hollaar suggests does not address those problems at all. And that does not change no matter how well respected he is.

Re:Clearly someon doesn't understand patent (1)

reebmmm (939463) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628150)

I am not YET an IP lawyer (come on, 3 mos.!!!), but...

The OP is somewhat right. This is a horrible idea. Here's why:
Should the patent owner try to sue an alleged infringer, an examination for novelty would be the initial step in any litigation. At the time of the filing of a lawsuit, the proceeding would be stayed pending the patent office's examination. That exam would take less time than a regular patent examination, because obviousness would not be considered. In addition, the alleged violator of the protection would be able to provide prior art for the examiner to consider, evidence that would substantially reduce the cost and duration of litigation, particularly when there is evidence that protection should not be granted because the technology isn't novel.

So now instead of the delay being at the USPTO, the delay is in the courthouse. If you think patent prosecutors are expensive, patent litigators are really expensive.

Not to mention, these "patents" would be wildly untested. There value would genuinely be UNKNOWN until they were litigated. You would neither be able to license nor preclude another from using until it went to litigation.

Also, ethical, reputable patent prosecutors are expensive because they tend to be adept at getting the MOST for your money. They spend a significant time drafting claims to cover an actual invention so that they are valuable.

Finally, there is some question whether this would even be constitutional under US law. Check out the clause, it grants the right for Congress to grant protection to authors (read to include inventors). The moment someone is not, Congress' ability to implement a system for them is very debatable.

Re:Clearly someon doesn't understand patent (1)

angle_slam (623817) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628410)

First, while you are in patent pending, you are protected.

You can't sue for patent infringement unless your patent has issued. See this about.com article [about.com] : "The protection afforded by a patent does not start until the actual grant of the patent."

Second, Patents are not expensive, paten lawyers are.

You can file a patent as an individual for a few hundred dollars.

Yes, the filing fee is only $500 for an individual. But someone has to write the application. Someone has to respond to the office actions. Sure, you could do it yourself, but wouldn't you rather have someone who actually has done it before prepare the response?

It's called Utility Model [IEEE's small patent] (1)

j.leidner (642936) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628461)

> First, while you are in patent pending, you are protected. Almost -- you are _potentially_ protected, namely if and only if your patent eventually gets accepted. > Second, Patents are not expensive, paten lawyers are. You can file a patent as an individual for a few hundred dollars. Yes, per country. Now imagine you have something in the pocket that you want to protect in all major countries, you have to provide certified translations and pay fees in all countries where you seek protection. Can easily sum up to $100,000. > Third, a patent is a way of saying you had it first, but there are other ways. Yes, but it's the only one in existence that gives you a monopoly, with all pros (for you) and cons (for society). > Forth, This would be even more abused then the current system In Germany, something like what IEEE has propose actually exists, you can file a utility model for 40. But people still opt mostly for patents, because they are a "stronger weapon".

Distinctions vs differences (1)

sjbe (173966) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628558)

...Patents are not expensive, patent lawyers are. You can file a patent as an individual for a few hundred dollars...

That's a distinction without a difference. In practical terms, nobody files a patent without consulting a lawyer who specializes in patent law. Why? So the patent will hold up in court and to improve the chances of it getting approved. If it's valuable enough to bother patenting, it's worth consulting a lawywer. If you can't afford a laywer, your patent is effectively worthless anyway because you can't enforce the patent.

So... (1, Redundant)

pclminion (145572) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627345)

Has anybody patented this new type of patent yet?

congrats (1)

dotpavan (829804) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627436)

Congrats! You have been granted this patent, and we shall not verify the claim as you were the first to question. PLease send a check for a bazillion dollars to my Nigerian associate: PO Box 416, Scamtown, Nigeria. And please dont forget that this is valid for only 4 years, so please hurry.

Wrong direction (1)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627370)

If your "invention" isn't in the same class as Penicillin or the Cotton Gin, it's not important enough to require a patent

Re:Wrong direction (1)

hacksoncode (239847) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628536)

History seems to indicate that if your invention is that important, you don't get patent protection anyway (as a matter of practial application).

Neither of the guys that invented these got rich off their patents, because people ignored them and the establishment was too invested in the patented invention to object. The whole RIM vs. NTP thing is the same effect happening in small today (though one could more easily argue that those patents actually are invalid... not trying to say anything about that).

Re:Wrong direction (1)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628593)

History seems to indicate that if your invention is that important, you don't get patent protection anyway (as a matter of practial application).

That's what I'm hoping for :)

Patent Spam For Teh Win!!! (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627374)

OMFG!! Cheap Patents!! No validation!! And it only starts ticking down after the other guy brings his product to market!! IP companies are on the up!!!! zOMFGBBQ!!!!11!11oneone!eleven!!

They'll bring the patents, and the USPTO will bring the stamps.

Re:Patent Spam For Teh Win!!! (1)

RevMike (632002) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627972)

Cheap Patents!! No validation!! And it only starts ticking down after the other guy brings his product to market!!

OMFG!! A Slashdot poster didn't read the article closely!!

The patent is only enforceable when the patent holder brings it to market, not when the other guy brings it to market.

So there is a simple affirmative defense to an infringement claim that could be handled by an administrative judge with no fuss: If you claim that I am infringing on your patent, and I can show that I used the innovation as little as one second before you released it to the market, I win. No grey area to litigate.

Reducing the time constant (4, Insightful)

truckaxle (883149) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627400)

The current patent duration of 20 years was established in the prior revolution, the industrial revolution. It is way to long and benefits the major corporate holds the most. A patent in todays faster moving world should be short as is being proposed. That would reduced their importance and significance. Is an "innovative" idea like one click shopping significant enough to lock up for 20 years? I don't think so. The whole idea behing the duration is to to help an inventor recover the cost of an invention and capitalize on it. Today's entrepreneurs can recover an investment much more quickly than in the past.

But didn't the supreme court rule... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14627815)

... That patents can be extended INDEFINITLY? So instead of 27 years at most, we have forever now anyways.

Re:Reducing the time constant (1)

ajakk (29927) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627821)

Actually, the term of patents was changed to 20 years (after filing) on June 8, 1995.

Re:Reducing the time constant (1)

RevMike (632002) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628493)

I've been advocating this for a while. Patents should be of variable duration, depending primarily on the sunk costs necessary to innovate in a field.

For example, I can't think of any software innovations that required billion dollar investments. Most innovative research can be done by a lone person or a small group in a basement somewhere. Since the cost of software innovation is low, the potential payback is fast, and so the period of protection should be low as well. I suggest roughly 2 years.

OTOH, fields like materials science might require investments of hundreds of millions of dollars in order to develop new innovations. We can't expect investors to fund this sort of research without some reasonable chance of return, so these areas should be protected longer.

Teh /. summary left something out (4, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627412)

One thing the /. summary left out is this sentence:
Inventions not actually available in the marketplace would not be protected.
The main idea is to keep people from copying your work. It doesn't stop anyone with similar ideas but different implementations.

Re:Teh /. summary left something out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14627522)

This should apply to all patents in the first place.

Let's face it, the value of a patent is derived from the potential it has to make products which can be sold.
A patent not generating revenue or being developed into something revenue generating has no "value" and should be invalid by default.

Re:Teh /. summary left something out (1)

greginnj (891863) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627540)

Interesting ... in the current climate, there's pressure to keep stuff in Beta for a long time (e.g., Google News, anyone?).

In the new climate...
Inventions not actually available in the marketplace would not be protected.
... which means that people will rush unfinished buggy crapware to market as '1.0' to grab their 4 years of prior art protection, and take their sweet time actually making improvements.

The Law of Unintended [wikipedia.org] Consequences [atfreeweb.com] strikes again.

Re:Teh /. summary left something out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14628586)

No. The goal of this clause is clearly an attempt to kill the IP companies like NTP which do nothing but buy up and submarine patents in the hope of coasting on other people's accomplishments.

Regular patents already prevent people from copying your work.

Incomplete summary (4, Informative)

Tethys_was_taken (813654) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627424)

First off, a better view of the article [ieee.org] (plaintext, one page).

What the submitter failed to mention is that the patent claim is validated only when the patent owner attempts to sue an alleged infringer of that patent. FTFA: "Should the patent owner try to sue an alleged infringer, an examination for novelty would be the initial step in any litigation." And goes on to claim that this is better because the alleged violator will have to provide prior art to invalidate the patent.

This seems to increase the amount of time developers will have to spend in courts, attacking and defending, while reducing the burden on the patent office. Less chance of mistakes, but probably not a viable option for smaller developers without the resources to spend on litigation.

Also, the other linked article [blogspot.com] claims that "Novelty could be challenged at any point by someone submitting prior art and paying a small fee." Anyone have any idea where this information comes from?

challenging novelty (for free, as in beer) (1)

slew (2918) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628241)

Okay, I didn't RTFA, but I thought I'd mention that it is indeed possible for an anonymous third party to challenge a patent. Anyone can put such a challenge into a patent file, although nobody really looks at it and nothing really happens (except the current patent holder gets notified), unless the patent is actually challenged or re-examined (this is my understanding, but IANAL). I believe this is the case that since patents are presumed valid, nobody will look at this new evidence unless there is an actual trial to invalidate the patent where the patent holder can defend aganist the evidence...

Here is the relavant part of the United States Code you can interpret yourself...

35 U.S.C. 301. Citation of prior art. Any person at any time may cite to the Office in writing prior art consisting of patents or printed publications which that person believes to have a bearing on the patentability of any claim of a particular patent. If the person explains in writing the pertinency and manner of applying such prior art to at least one claim of the patent, the citation of such prior art and the explanation thereof will become a part of the official file of the patent. At the written request of the person citing the prior art, his or her identity will be excluded from the patent file and kept confidential.
The uspto has a publication [uspto.gov] on this subject, but it's mostly legalese. With most government actions, often fee is involved. However, and I quote the publication...
Prior art in the form of patents or printed publications may be cited to the Office for placement into the patent files. Such citations may be made without payment of a fee.

Re:challenging novelty (for free, as in beer) (1)

1ucius (697592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628661)

I'd like to add that anyone can order a file history for any reason (in fact, the file histories for most new patents are available for free download). You can bet that whoever is being asked to license the patent will download the file and that the information will affect their decision making process.

Sounds more like... (2, Insightful)

TheNoxx (412624) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627475)

Microsoft and its lackeys did tons of lobbying to get this done... just a guess. *Less* technical review for software patents? That's the worst idea I've heard in years. Most patent reviewers for IT patents are already approving the most ridiculous things... (before I get flamed, by all means, put the word "patent" into a search here for /. stories)

Won't work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14627549)

To quote Article 33 of TRIPs:

  Article 33
Term of Protection

        The term of protection available shall not end before the expiration of a period of twenty years counted from the filing date

I'm not saying it's a great treaty (actually it's a dumb treaty) but thanks to it, most governments (i.e. those who signed it which is nearly all) are not allowed to grant patents for LESS than 20 years.

Examination (1)

MustardMan (52102) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627556)

The IEEE Spectrum proposes a new type of patent that wouldn't require formal examination

Judging by the quality of the examination for the current types of patents, this part wouldn't be much of a change. They might as well do away with examination of patents all together, considering some of the crap that gets approved.

the really high costs... (1)

geoff lane (93738) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627558)

...arise defending your patent against a challenge by a billion $ company. That is the problem that must be addressed, not changing patents themselves (though a real examination of claims by the patent office would be nice as well.)

Change the existing system, don't add to it (4, Insightful)

burnin1965 (535071) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627580)

"would last only 4 years from date of first commercial product"

This part I can buy, and I would go further and change the entire patent system to limit to 4 years on ALL patents from date of first commercial product. After all, the original objective of the patent system was to advance science, industry, etc. in the United States, it was not intended as a means of leeching cash from a productive industry or building monopolies. Shorter terms would force the hand of patent holders to put up or shut up.

I would also implement stricter rules on acceptance of patents. Today we hear over and over the excuse that lame patents are accepted because the office is overworked. I've read the rules on the uspto.gov website and several of the questionable patents that have been in the news and from what I've seen every one of them should have been rejected in the first 5 minutes of reading the abstract and claims.

The rules are simple and most patents don't pass muster. The patent office should be pushing back on those who file patents to submit applications which easily pass the initial tests:

"The patent law specifies that the subject matter must be "useful." The term "useful" in this connection refers to the condition that the subject matter has a useful purpose and also includes operativeness, that is, a machine which will not operate to perform the intended purpose would not be called useful, and therefore would not be granted a patent.

Interpretations of the statute by the courts have defined the limits of the field of subject matter that can be patented, thus it has been held that the laws of nature, physical phenomena, and abstract ideas are not patentable subject matter.

A patent cannot be obtained upon a mere idea or suggestion. The patent is granted upon the new machine, manufacture, etc., as has been said, and not upon the idea or suggestion of the new machine. A complete description of the actual machine or other subject matter for which a patent is sought is required."

http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/doc/general/i ndex.html#whatpat [uspto.gov]

And from these basic rules it becomes obvious that SOFTWARE IS NOT PATENTABLE, you use copyrights for software. And just to add to the rant, a reimplementation of a concept or idea by someone else is not infringement of a copyright. I suspect that is why we have this big mess with software patents. I also suspect that part of the problem is interference from lawyers and lawmakers who have beaten the USPTO into submission, but at some point we need to stop all this stupidity.

burnin

Re:Change the existing system, don't add to it (1)

Alistar (900738) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628061)

I would suggest that as an addition to the 4 year rule, it is 4 years from commercial product and say 10 years max. To prevent companies from getting the patent and then holding it and not releasing a product till they can sue the big guy that comes in to market.

New type of patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14627621)

Rather than patenting code, how about putting a patent on the idea? Could be named "Copypatent".

That way only the first person to put a copypatent on an idea has the ability to create code and license that idea out to others to create code. No one can argue about the code then. It would be easier to show someone working on that idea rather than coping code.

The patent can last for x number of years, with possibility for renewal (if that would be a consideration), it would probably require a fee. With this type of patent, the owner wouldn't have to actually work on the code. (I beleive patents on codes should be actually worked on by patent owners.)

The owner of a copypatent can make it free for everyone to work on or charge for a license for the length of time the copypatent is valid. If developers don't want to pay for a license they can just wait until the copypaten expires and becomes public domain.

As fast as technology grows, I would like to see the initial copypatent be valid of 1 to 2 years with the possibily of 1 to 2 years of of possible renewal at 1 year increments.

A REALLY bad day (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627680)

...a new class of peanuts.. I must take a break and/or get some glasses.

Just limit the number (2, Interesting)

GrEp (89884) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627707)

Mandatory licencing via a maximum 15% tariff on patented goods would solve the problem.

Right now the little guys get eaten alive having the burden of getting their goods to market without the propper resources to do so. With the 15% tariff all they need to do is patent their invention and the market will reap the profits for them.

Yes, big pharma might get lowballed for their R/D costs, but on the bright side they wouldn't have to spend billons on those drug ads that appear during prime time.

Also, software patents wouldn't be a problem because paying an extra 15 cents on your $1 software download isn't going to hurt much.

Re:Just limit the number (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14628131)

Please keep in mind that the pharm industry spends billions more dollars on research then they do on marketing and only something like one in ten drugs make it for approval and sale. Given the high degree of volitility in future cash flow that results from this sort of business environments, patents are a key tool of the pharm industry. Without them, basic finance tells us that no one in a competitive market will make the investment.

The trouble is that the patents mean different things for different types of products. The more upfront investment in research and new product development (labor, materials, time), the more higher the future cash flows from that investment have to be. Therefore, long patents for drugs make sense.

However, other ideas and products are not so easy to judge whether or not patents are necessary.

Perhpas the system should be changed so that patents are based on bills of materials & labor. If your idea or product did not take X hours and Y dollars to create, it cannot be patented.

Or, maybe a longer patent period should be granted for larger bills of materials and time.

Either way, having a new class of patents for ideas\things with different characteristics seems logical to me.

I don't think so (1)

penguin-collective (932038) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627919)

That would allow inventors to have immediate protection against knockoffs of a technology even as they try to get broader protection by meeting the more stringent requirements for a conventional patent.

That is absolutely unacceptable because it would give people the benefits of both patent types. It would make the current situation far worse because, not only would people get the long term protection in some cases, they would get the short term protection even for the most bogus of inventions.

If people decide to use the limited patent, then they should be barred from filing the same invention under a conventional patent.

no presumption of validity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14627934)


> and which wouldn't carry a presumption of validity

Therefore, they will not be useful to big industry as an alternative to "real" patents.

Their only possible use to big industry will be to ATTEMPT to strengthen their claims during the patent-pending period on their "real" patent filings.

formal examination? (0, Offtopic)

SQLz (564901) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627937)

that wouldn't require formal examination...

Last I heard, the USPTO wasn't doing formal examinations anymore anyway They just push button than randomly accepts or rejects a patent. On fridays, they let the janitor do a couple.

How does this help (1)

Compuser (14899) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628027)

Right now the main problems are: high cost and
slow ands bad processing. The cost, btw, while
high is relatively fixed and is usually below
10K for a simple US patent.
What this does is takes the cost out of USPTO
and moves it to courtroom but you just know
this will be more expensive. For that money
you may or may not get a better patent examination
and this will then depend on how good a
lawyer you can afford.
End result: full valid patent will cost more,
be obtained as slowly or slower (our courts
aren't the fastest beasts) and bad patents
will still get through except now they will
be easier to link to the better law firms.

What we do need to do:
1. Reduce all patent validity to 4-5 years.
2. Introduce peer review where every patent
is taken through a double blind test: you
give qualified engineers a spec and see if
they propose something like the patent, in
which case it is obvious to one skilled in
the art.
3. Make it possible for people to submit
prior art within one year of patent being
granted and make a committee explicitly
biased to reject anything that even
remotely looks like it is in prior art.
4. Sponsor watchdog groups which will organize
engineers to do peer review in 3.
5. Introduce limits on examiner workload
and make sure their pay is higher than in
the industry to attract the best.

It would be nice also for the bar association
to put pressure on patent attorneys to
litigate IP cases for poor clients on a flat
fee basis. There is already pro bono system
but I have not heard of IP cases being tried
pro bono. We need an intermediate solution
where a lawyer gets paid something but the
client can know his costs in advance.

This idea is only half baked (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14628028)

The problem with this attempt at a solution is that what we really need to do is apply this patent concept to all patents not create a new type of patent. In fact I think that patents length should very based on the average time any given industry takes for major generational change and that patents should all be placed in a given scope reflecting what industry they are used in. You could even apply for a multi scope verses a single scope patent if your idea crosses multiple technologies. Now I know that time frames and scope will be disputed but I would rather debate those type of issues in the legislator and have it decided than have millions of patents fights in court every year costing trillions of dollars. The other thing I see is companies fighting to classify what technology(ies) their patents will fall under. But if you think about this, the onus changes to the patent creator and off every other companies in the world to prove how global their patent is. It also allows money and power to make a patent more or less global. This looks like a bad thing at first, but remember to make something palatable to big companies they have to feel they can flex their muscle when they want something bad enough. The great thing about this idea is that the cost and burden now shifts to them and although you may have a much more limited patent if you are a small inventor you can still do so and if the invention take off you can always apply for the same patent to cover more tech so it is also scalable. This would allows fast moving tech to evolve while still protecting slower moving industry's right to profit from their ideas. I do not buy the argument this would be unfair to IT companies because their patents would expire quicker. The reality is that an innovative company would be able to make more money as they can mix tech quicker and cheaper while facing less threat of lawsuits. New companies would be born quicker and at lower cost. The whole nation would prosper from the intellectual and economic benefits or this grown. That final benefit being the reason these companies have a right to patent technology at all. The notion of a patent was founded on the belief that giving inventors a chance to make money on the value of an idea would inspire them to continue to create more but patents were limited to favor the well being of the nation by letting the idea return to the people whose generations of hard work and thought provided the fertile ground for its birth so that it too might foster future ideas of its own. It was not to assure the right to make a buck otherwise why would they have bothered limiting them at all. In fact early on when they were first debated there were two camps one favoring permanency the other limits. In the end the limited patent idea won. Can you imagine had that not been the case?

Many people would say all this does if flip the burden but the reality is that the pendulum has shifted way too far right on this issue. It is time that it shifted the other way for a bit. I am sure in time it will go to the other extreme and people will bitch patents are too short and to limited. I personally look forward to that day.

Removes non-obviousity requirement.. (1)

js_sebastian (946118) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628160)

Currently one of the requirements for a patent to be accepted is that the invention is not obvious (to someone "skilled in the art"). In practice, a lot of obvious patents are allowed by the patent office (in the US as well as in europe).

From TFA: "That exam would take less time than a regular patent examination, because obviousness would not be considered."

A patent would get examinated only when challenged, but obviousity would NOT be taken into account.. what these people propose is to make a law of the current bad practice of allowing obvious patents.

Also the guy seems to think that the reason we have such bad software patents around is that in the past software developers were not patenting their ideas, so now there is no prior art for old ideas. This is extremely stupid since somthing doesn't have to be in a patent application to be prior art: if an academic paper described an idea ten years ago it is prior art for new patents even if nobody patented it. The same should be true for an idea implemented in the linux kernel ten years ago, although in this case I am not sure it would meet the USPTO's documental requirements for prior art.

What really would have happened if the US patenting system had allowed "techniques from the early period of computer applications" to be patented, is that IT would not have had anywhere close the development it has had, and the US would be lagging behind the rest of the high-tech world because innovation would have been stifled.

FINALLY!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14628200)

Productive solutions being submitted rather than just negative comments. Your either a part of the problem or part of the solution. ;-)

Complain, Complain, Complain (3, Interesting)

DavidD_CA (750156) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628275)

Everyone on /. consistently bashes the current IP/patent system and the PTO, always offering heaps of reasons why it sucks.

This guy, an actual *professional* in that field, comes up with some ideas and spends the time to think them through, document them, review them with peers, and even has a huge body (IEEE) behind him.

Yet 90% of the posts on here are negative, with absolutely no substantial suggestions that would improve the situation.

Just FYI (2, Informative)

orac2 (88688) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628720)

even has a huge body (IEEE) behind him.

I submitted a correction to /. about this, but The Powers That Be didn't bother to fix the headline, so I'll try do it here: (this is a repost of a comment I've posted elsewhere)

I'm the IEEE Spectrum editor of this article, and for the record the IEEE has made no such proposal. To quote the disclaimer we run with every issue: "The editorial content of IEEE Spectrum magazine does not represent official positions of the IEEE or its organizational units."

Prof Hollaar's article is funtionally equivalent to an Op-Ed -- as a respected, knowledgedable, and articulate individual, he was given space in the magazine to share a proposal we found noteworthy. We've actually run a lot of articles on the "What To Do With Patents" theme recently, as our contribution to the patent reform debate, with authors advocating ideas ranging from replacing software patents completely with copyright, to more-or-less leaving well enough alone. I think it's great /. is debating Prof. Hollaar's idea, just note that it's not an official IEEE proposal.

First to market method (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14628292)

How about just changing the system to a "first to market" model rather than the current "first to file"? Makes sense to me. If you can actually take your patent all the way into production, then you deserve the patent. (This would invalidate all these ridiculous "theoretical" patents that just sit in a drawer waiting for someone else to do all the work and then suing them).

It sounds good until... (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628434)

It makes sense until you pay attention to "until a patent is granted." That screws the whole thing up. Effectively he's proposing that patents get published immediately instead of after 18 months. Yeah, publications don't carry the same weight, but people still pay attention to them. IFF you have to decide between short and patents, then it starts sounding attractive. Maybe it needs some tweeks, but it's a start. You file, you automatically get a short patent. Validity is tested only when it's challenged, then it gets a full review. Both parties get to speak so validity is more stringent. If it passes, cool, it was deserving of a patent anyway. If it doesn't, it's dead. After 4 years, it's dead either way. If you keep the "4 years from commercialize" part, you better set a time limit on commercialization (1 year?). And you only get to have claims on that embodiment. Still, I'd go for the long patent. It often takes 4 years before something starts selling well. 20 years of protection seems safer. Maybe I like this proposal because I'd like to see others take that path.

The IEEE is not proposing anything (3, Informative)

orac2 (88688) | more than 8 years ago | (#14628635)

I submitted a correction to /. about this, but The Powers That Be didn't bother to fix the headline, so I'll try do it here:

I'm the IEEE Spectrum editor of this article, and for the record the IEEE has made no such proposal. To quote the disclaimer we run with every issue: "The editorial content of IEEE Spectrum magazine does not represent official positions of the IEEE or its organizational units."

Prof Hollaar's article is funtionally equivalent to an Op-Ed -- as a respected, knowledgedable, and articulate individual, he was given space in the magazine to share a proposal we found noteworthy. We've actually run a lot of articles on the "What To Do With Patents" theme recently, as our contribution to the patent reform debate, with authors advocating ideas ranging from replacing software patents completely with copyright, to more-or-less leaving well enough alone. I think it's great /. is debating Prof. Hollaar's idea, just note that it's not an official IEEE proposal.
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