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PTO Seeks Public Input on Patent Applications

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the changing-the-definition-of-patent-troll dept.


KingAdrock writes to tell us Sciencemag is reporting that the US Patent and Trademark office (PTO) is floating the idea of an online pilot program to gather public input on patent applications. From the article: "Speaking last week at an open forum, officials said that tapping into the expertise of outside scientists, lawyers, and laypeople would improve the quality of patents -- and might also reduce a backlog that this month topped 1 million applications. "Instead of one examiner, what if you have thousands of examiners reading an application?" says Beth Simone Noveck of New York University Law School, who is an independent advocate of the idea."

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Notification of Prior Art (5, Informative)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373909) 28221 []

The new article is however a derivative, because the discussion seems further on now and a site has been setup.

Re:Notification of Prior Art (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15374202)

and slashdot sucks nuts

Well.. one drawback. (3, Interesting)

hussain (579409) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373913)

Whats going to stop opponents of said technology from sabotauging patents?

Re:Well.. one drawback. (4, Insightful)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373919)

Moderation and group communication.

Just because one troll tries to game the system doesn't mean his voice is heard.
There should be enough general lurkers around to spot the obvious gaming.

Re:Well.. one drawback. (1)

jginspace (678908) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373937)

Moderation and group communication.

...and multi-level moderation. Some moderators more special than others and others checking on them too. Like DMOZ (or Cambodia circa 1977, depending on your frame of reference).

Re:Well.. one drawback. (3, Interesting)

DrMrLordX (559371) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374170)

Is that really going to help? Large corporations could easily field thousands of paid moderator trolls working through proxies or what have you. It would be impossible to police the system unless pre-designated online moderators were used for patent review. And if they did that, the whole notion of community review would go out the window.

Re:Well.. one drawback. (3, Interesting)

ehrichweiss (706417) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374503)

What if the public is only allowed to declare if there is possibly prior art, not take part in the actual approval process itself? Are these corps gonna hire people SIMPLY to find prior art to invalidate patents? If so, we'll have a LOT fewer patents and that might not be such a bad thing. I mean that IS the goal, right. And yes, while it would enable the corps to attempt to lock-out private inventors, it is also a two way street.

Re:Well.. one drawback. (1)

AnyoneEB (574727) | more than 8 years ago | (#15376152)

No, the sabotage would be to target one of their own patents which may have real prior art and flood it with fake prior art possibilities. Then, they just have to hope that no one manages to actually get through all of the community submissions and find the few real ones.

Re:Well.. one drawback. (1)

ehrichweiss (706417) | more than 8 years ago | (#15377007)

I see your point but I would think that the process would delay a patent being issued until ALL of the possible examples of prior art had been examined. If a corp knows that, they're not gonna want to delay their own patent being issued so that would fix that problem. The only thing you'd be left with is the group of corps trying to delay each others and private inventors' patents.

Re:Well.. one drawback. (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 8 years ago | (#15377676)

The advantage with paid corporate trolls is they would not be working together, they would working against each other, trying to knock out threatening patents. Of course for the small guy it means they would rarely get a patent through and for the patent trolls, they would be attack mercilously becuase of their ability to extract multimillion dollar pay out from corporations.

Re:Well.. one drawback. (1)

ehrichweiss (706417) | more than 8 years ago | (#15377735)

Yeah, that's my take on it. The only way anyone would be able to get a patent is if it TRULY were a non-obvious invention which kinda is the goal of all this so I can't think of a good reason not to handle it this way.

Of course if the public is gonna help the PTO, the costs to apply should be GREATLY reduced, if not nullified. I mean it costs $30 or so to copyright a work but $10k or more to patent something!?!? The copyright will last your lifetime and it goes through almost zero scrutiny to check for plagiarism, etc. but a patent lasts, what, 17 years and takes forever to get issued. I know I have at least 100 inventions I'd like to get patented and then license them, cheaply, to let the public use them...but the cost of patenting means they will likely die with me.

Re:Well.. one drawback. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15374899)

Large corporations could easily field thousands of paid moderator trolls working through proxies or what have you.

Is that anything new? Large corporations already field numerous paid tro... patent attorneys working for prox... law firms. Often times they use the sheer force of well-funded legal resources to ram through patents that unjustly usurp pre-existing concepts out of the public domain. Any counterbalance to that would be more than welcome. A shrewd strategist strives to keep his enemies to fighting amongst themselves.

Re:Well.. one drawback. (1)

Instine (963303) | more than 8 years ago | (#15375275)

This may be the case when there's a large number of people wanting tosee the project work, and the insentive to sabotage is small (e.g. this forum), but where the insentive to sabotage if VERY high (millions/billions at stake), and the public interest is limited (although patents are discussed regularly by /.ers very few will trawl the patent archives dayly). A million backlogged patents remember! sO this won't work IMO.

Did that theory work with Democracy? (2, Interesting)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 8 years ago | (#15377616)

If you'd read Frederick Hayak's "Road to Serfdom", essentially when a government's control overwhelms a society, then gaming the system is the only thing that pays.

He doesn't use those words, exactly. He puts it into terms of working vs. petitioning, then escalates it into lobbying and finally violence of different sorts, but that is essentially what he is saying.

Therefore, the powerful do game the system, and it will be gamed, and nobody will be able to stop them.

That's happening right now -- indeed, for as long as I have lived it's been happening -- in our Senate, House, and judiciary. Now it's also happening in the presidency.

I'm sure it will also happen in the PTO if they do this, just as it's already happening there now. I'm just not sure it will matter.

As the system starts to get more and more gamed, things swing wild. They get unpredictable, and in the end, you find that you can't take care of yourself in the way that you thought you could.

If that does become the case, it's not going to matter if you gamed the patent system. Nor will it matter if you fought changes, or fought for changes that seemed to make sense to you.

If you're a engineer or a medical doctor, what will most likely matter, is whether or not you know how to dig ditches. Or repair shoes. I've seen it happen in Lithuania (the former USSR), and I don't doubt it can happen here.

Discussion makes things slower (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373965)

All the input and discussion will just make everything much slower.

Re:Discussion makes things slower (5, Insightful)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374059)

I'll trade fast for accurate. Right now we have neither.

Re:Well.. one drawback. (2, Interesting)

burnin1965 (535071) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374330)

Its only a drawback because you are assuming that competitors will be able to sabotage a patent.

If you read the article it states that "The peer initiative focuses on so-called prior art, the scientific papers and previous patents that could render claims invalid." So there is not much room for sabotage as I'm sure the prior art would will require some verification.

It is already possible for anyone to submit prior art submissions to stop a patent but it is much more formal and expensive and slower than this peer review system. If each patent is flooded with a bunch of nonsense prior art submissions I suppose it could create additional burden for the already burdened examiners, however, it also has the potential to speed things up if they can start denying patents faster because the peer review is faster at providing valid prior art.

I hope it proves to be a benefit and they expand the peer review to obviousness tests as I think between 60% and 80% of patents would be denied for either prior art or obviousness.

Re:Well.. one drawback. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15374419)

You could flood the discussion with bullshit that would take forever to check...

Re:Well.. one drawback. (4, Insightful)

NihilEst (976138) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374572)

If a patent can be sabotaged, it should ... particularly a software patent.

Re:Well.. one drawback. (1)

rben (542324) | more than 8 years ago | (#15375819)

I wonder if this will work. The people who have the greatest personal vested interest will be people who want there to be more patents. If they outnumber the more objective reviewers, this type of setup could hurt more than it helps.

Setting up a special patent court was supposed to help keep dubious patents from being approved, but that court quickly became populated by people with a vested interest in promoting more and broader patents.

I think this idea has a lot of merit, but it will have to be setup carefully and monitored closely.

Thinking Ahead... (4, Insightful)

Duncan3 (10537) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373916)

1. Improve process vastly
2. Bullshit applications discarded (99%+)
3. New applications drop 99%
4. Paychecks at the PTO all disappear
5. 10,000 lawyers out of work, but still alive to terrorize other parts of the economy
6. ???

Yea.. that will happen...

Re:Thinking Ahead... (2, Interesting)

SimplyBen (898147) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374045)

So how many patent applications have you filed? How many applications have you read? How can you be sure '99%' of them are 'bullshit'? I don't disagree that many are rediculous but your comment seems absurd.

Re:Thinking Ahead... (2, Funny)

Firehed (942385) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374136)

45% of statistics are made up on the spot.

Re:Thinking Ahead... (1)

JPribe (946570) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374182)

+5 Obvious

no, only 42% (1)

nietsch (112711) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374928)

Or 43, if you wish for just that bit more out of life the universe and everything...

Re:no, only 42% (1)

Chowderbags (847952) | more than 8 years ago | (#15377558)

Or even 42, if we're going for accuracy.

The first thing they need to do.... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 8 years ago | (#15378822)

The first thing they need to do is to write patents in plain fscking English. WHen three pages of waffle is reduced to "method for adding two numbers" is might have a chance of being rejected.

There's people out there writing patents for wheels and getting them past the examiners because of the language they use.

Re:Thinking Ahead... (1)

EvolveFuzzy (950359) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374192)

You left out steal underpants. Step 6 of 8 I guess.

Re:Thinking Ahead... (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374276)

The answer to 6 is obvious. Kill all the lawyers. The profit is to the rest of the population who no longer have to deal with an overly litigious society.

Fixed. (2, Interesting)

The Living Fractal (162153) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373922)

Fixed from the submission:
Instead of one examiner, what if you have thousands of applications reading the examiners?

Ok so I anthropomorphized application... But I am just saying, by creating a system more capable of finding the correct examiners for a particular application (perhaps by further defining the details required to submit a patent application) the system would more efficiently utilize the knowledge of each examiner. Then perhaps we wouldn't need to throw "thousands" of examiners at a single application?



Re:Fixed. (2, Funny)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374194)

No, you're thinking of the Soviet Russia Patent Office.

Patent Trolls? (1)

jollyroger1210 (933226) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373926)

This would also help to rmeove and prevent patent trolls. That can NOT be a bad thing.

Re:Patent Trolls? (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373974)

How is this going to stop patent trolls? Granted, they'll have more trouble finding bogus patents, but that's not all they do. Patent trolls also buy up valid patents that haven't been marketed yet and either sue whoever tries to implement the idea (not knowing about the patent) or charge extortionate royalties. All this will do is cut down on the crap patents for them to feed off of, it won't stop them.

Re:Patent Trolls? (1)

frosty_tsm (933163) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374129)

either sue whoever tries to implement the idea (not knowing about the patent) or charge extortionate royalties

This makes me wonder... did someone by any chance patent the idea of having an online news website for geeks where people can comment on news articles and scores can be given to the comments?

More people, better idea (1)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373928)

With the possibility of pollution taken into consideration,
user(Lay people) input would be the best thing ever.

Prior art would be seen faster etc.

No. Clearly a Conflict of Interest. (2, Interesting)

kninja (121603) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374066)

More people - for one thing, how many Slashdotters can read and understand a patent (or even tell the difference between the claims and the technology description, and what they are for)? Putting this in the hands of laypeople will be a disaster.

Then you have the conflict of interest. Let's say a large company wants to stomp a startup - they get their lawyers to wallop every part of the application, and they steal all the technology in the process. So much for the little guy.

Nope. I am not as optimistic as you are. :(

Re:No. Clearly a Conflict of Interest. (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374289)

I'd say large portions of slashdot can read and understand an application, many of us work in technical fields. If a technical expert can't understand a patent, it should be rejected as a matter of course.

Part 2 is a problem. My best guess at an answer would be requiring registration, and requiring you to register your past and present employers (you'd be eliminated from commenting on any of them, or their competitors).

Re:No. Clearly a Conflict of Interest. (1)

donaldm (919619) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374326)

I have tried to read the "legalese" associated with technical patents and in most cases ended up with a headache or my eyes glazing over and I am a professional engineer and can understand the technical concepts, what I can't (or won't) understand is the Legal jargon. Now think in-terms of a person who understands the jargon but who does not understand the technical aspects of the patent and what we end up with is a lose lose scenario. This IMHO is what makes technical patents so easy to abuse.

What we really need here is a lawyer who has a good technical background with regard to the technical patents they deal with and I don't think there are many of them.

Note I am only discussing mechanical, electrical and software patents not biological and medical which is out of my expertise. Although methodologies IMHO should never be patented because they infringe on human innovation.

Re:No. Clearly a Conflict of Interest. (1)

laughingcoyote (762272) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374393)

Then, GP's idea really does have merit. Have a panel of technical experts in the field read the patent, and if a certain percentage of them can't make heads or tails of it, reject it. It'll put a quick end to attempts to patent the wheel by describing it with 2 million words.


Re:No. Clearly a Conflict of Interest. (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374553)

You're worried about someone applying for

Frist ZPtanet!

Re:No. Clearly a Conflict of Interest. (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374976)

The current system is already a conflict of interest. The review decision is based largely upon the declarations in the application which are written by the party that stands to gain from the patent grant, and the reviewers get their funding from fees charged to the patent applicants (the more patents they grant, the more people are encouraged to apply for patents, and the more money they rake in).

I say we need more applications to get walloped. This whole "little guy" thing is mostly a myth anyway; the vast majority of patent royalties collected by large coporations. It their applications are truly valid, then they'll have the resources to fight off any challenges. There's no need to let big patent holders with deep pockets run rampant over the industry landscape just because a handful of individuals might theoretically get lucky and hit the big time; it just doesn't happen often enough to justify the damage done to all the other little guys who are shut out by big corporations who form cross-licensing cabals with each other in order to stifle competition from newcomers.

Timely? (2, Funny)

FyRE666 (263011) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373934)

Something about barn doors and bolting horses springs to mind...

Re:Timely? (0)

jhylkema (545853) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373997)

I find it interesting that they're just now doing something, right when RIM came within an angstrom of being shut down. When those bureaucrats realize the patent system is threatening their Crackberries, they finally get off their lazy, worthless asses and do something. Anybody else remember D Squared [] ? The FTC only came down on them when a Commission member was spammed silly. And check out their vomit-inducing [] PR spin.

Re:Timely? (1)

donaldm (919619) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374234)

We should have a funny and insightful category.

Public peer review of applications... (5, Insightful)

kcbrown (7426) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373940) how the system should have been set up to begin with.

There are some who might argue that applications need to remain secret in order to prevent competitors from snatching the idea and using it in their products, because it's possible that the application will be denied, and then the patent submitter will lose his competitive advantage.

To those people, I say: applying for a 20-year monopoly on a method should carry significant risks. The decision to apply for a patent should not be one that is made lightly. Those who want such a monopoly should have to be exposed to the risk that what could have remained a trade secret is instead exposed to the world without any compensation being made to the originator.

If the patent is approved then suddenly the patent holder can arrange licensing with those who have already implemented products using the method. If a patent looks like it stands a really good chance of being approved, chances are others will stay away from it anyway. But woe to those who attempt to slide an obvious or previously-known method as a patent through such a system.

That's how it should be.

Re:Public peer review of applications... (1)

Comatose51 (687974) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374094)

Even then the risk isn't that high because if the patent application is valid then it will be granted. If it's not, then a similar patent will be rejected so the copycat won't be likley to benefit from it.

Re:Public peer review of applications... (1)

buck_wild (447801) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374126)

So you submit a patent for a piece of software (we'll call it a 'widget' for the sake of brevity) and your submission goes into a queue. So a large, well-funded company comes along, decides that your idea is a good one and immediately implements it.

In due time (way too long, IMHO) your patent is approved. Great! Now you can get royalties or some other reciprocation from the large, well-funded company, right?

Wrong. They'll overwhelm you with lawsuits and counter litigation to ensure that not only do they get to KEEP using your idea, but that you never get to use it OR benefit from it. They'll simply bankrupt you.

So the process is still broken, at least in my opinion.

Re:Public peer review of applications... (3, Insightful)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374488)

Well, the benefit of not patenting is that you have a trade secret, and until 1) someone creates a similar invention independently, or 2) reverse engineers your invention, you have an effective monopoly on your invention.

If you can control your secret, you have a competitive advantage.

Note that not all trade secrets are inventions, nor would it be easy to keep some inventions a secret, especially if you intend to make it into a product and sell it to the public.

Nee indirect peer review of patent's obviousness. (2, Insightful)

EarthlingN (660382) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374253)

One problem with measuring obviousness is that most things seem obvious after you've heard the solution.

Having peers review the actual patent, then asking them to honestly estimate it's obviousness is a tall order. Besides the fact that they now have been given your ideas (and may wish to see the patent thrown out), they must also ask themselves how easy it would be to solve a problem for which they already have the answer.

Instead, we should measure the patent's obviousness indirectly, by asking those "schooled in the art" to solve the same problem that the patent solves, without actually giving them the patent's solution.

If the patent is re-invented by the peers, it is non-obvious. If the solution isn't re-invented, then the peers either didn't care, didn't want to invest time in a solution, or the solution really is non-obvious-enough, that it's inventor deserves a brief monopoly.


            To EE/Computer/Radio peers: Somebody wants to patent a method to send and receive e-mail from a portable, wireless device. How would you do it?

            To EE/AutoIndustry: Somebody wants to patent a method of sending an electric signal when the brake pedal is pressed. Give us some obvious solutions.

Re:Nee indirect peer review of patent's obviousnes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15374935)

Somebody wants to patent a method to send and receive e-mail from a portable, wireless device. How would you do it?

Ok, that one's got me stumped. Maybe if there were some way to use one of the wireless networking protocols to set up a link, then you could use it to send email to such a device. But it seems like a long shot; almost like something out of Sci-Fi. (I know that the French military was sending wireless messages in the 18th century, but that was with optical links. This is email we're talking about. How could we do this with electricity? It's not clear that it's even within the realm of possibility.)

Man, if someone could figure out how to transfer email without wires, I say that they would richly deserve hundreds of millions of dollars in payments from anyone else who also figured out how to do it.

Not To Seem Mercenary, But... (2, Interesting)

ewhac (5844) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373941)

Would I be compensated for this work?

I mean, I could say there was prior art or that the submitted "invention" completely lacks novelty, but such assertions would be more likely to be heeded if I also provided concrete references, and that takes non-trivial work (no, pointing at a Wikipedia article doesn't count).

So, if I do this, apart from the feel-good karma of smacking down patent trolls, what's in it for me? Maybe a tax credit? Waiver of fees for my own patent/SIR application?


Wikipedia? (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373968)

That wouldn't be such a bad idea. Many Wikipedia articles actually have a lot of references, which takes a non-trivial amount of work, but it's not so bad when you have a non-trivial amount of people working on the project.

Re:Not To Seem Mercenary, But... (2, Insightful)

Isomer (48061) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374008)

There's a massive incentive for your compeditors to review your applications. They don't want you to get that patent that you could use to prevent them from making money. If I was IBM I'd have a team of people reviewing all of Microsoft's patents, it gives IBM an insight into what Microsoft is doing, and if you can block Microsoft from getting patents then it stops you having to deal with the issue later. Of course Microsoft would be reviewing all of IBM's patents too...

Re:Not To Seem Mercenary, But... (0)

ewhac (5844) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374236)

If I was IBM I'd have a team of people reviewing all of Microsoft's patents, it gives IBM an insight into what Microsoft is doing, and if you can block Microsoft from getting patents then it stops you having to deal with the issue later. Of course Microsoft would be reviewing all of IBM's patents too...

This seems reasonable on its face, but it fails to consider the problem of collusion, which is most probable amongst the largest players.

IBM and Microsoft already cross-license an enormous number of patents, so there's very little value in their preventing the other from acquiring new patents. OTOH, there is large value in preventing newcomers from entering the market. Squashing newcomers with a large patent portfolio is one way of doing this. So IBM and Microsoft may likely agree (entirely informally, of couse) to not review each other's patent applications -- thereby enlarging their own portfolios -- but tear into the applications of smaller fish. (It also gives the larger players advance warning of "disruptive technologies" before they hit the market.)

The best long-term solution is to reform the criteria for patentable inventions, and to re-tune the USPTO's goals as granting only valid, novel patents rather than being a revenue source by printing the moral equivalent of Catholic indulgences.


Re:Not To Seem Mercenary, But... (1)

Eivind (15695) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374897)

Whats in it for you is treble damages if you should ever later happen to implement anything even remotely related to one of the patents you've commented upon earlier -- they're gonna claim it must be willfull infringement since you had read the patent-application and thus "must" know your implementation infringes.

It really works like that: reading patents to try and make sure you're not infringing anything, *increases* your vulnerability to patent-trolls. Coders should avoid even looking at patents as far as that is possible.

Re:Not To Seem Mercenary, But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15376126)

Would I be compensated for this work?

No, but I would, as I have just recently
patented the business process of 'asking
other people to help'.

My lawyers will be contacting you.

Nice (1)

SniperClops (776236) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373948)

Maybe this will stop some stupid patents from becoming patents

Accelerates innovation (1)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373951)

The sooner the competition sees a company's patent application, the sooner they can create further innovations that build-on or work-around the proposed patent. That's one of the cool things about a patent - it forces the applicant to disclose the invention so that other can innovate further.

Re:Accelerates innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15374127)

In general, it sounds good. But, as with anything, the devil is in the details.

Also, imagine a very large corporation, say a very large software corporation with tons of lawyers and such, now able to look over all patent apps by other corporations and individuals. If they can't nullify one, perhaps they would be motivated to write code to put into their next version of Wi\\ err, an operating system, such that the proposed patent wouldn't work at all in that OS. Or maybe even just in an OS update. Nah, they'd never do that...

... by sinking submarine patents. (2, Insightful)

rewinn (647614) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374239)

A "submarine patent" remains unpublished after it is granted. By running silent, running deep, the submarine patent's owners let other people develop and implement inadvertantly infringing products. Then *BLAMMO* the Patent surfaces and holds the inadvertant infringers at gunpoint (er, torpedo point. What-ever).

Publishing applications as soon as they are filed stops this tactic. Potential infringers have the ability to check whether their product infringes BEFORE they invest. That's a good thing!

Re:... by sinking submarine patents. (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374528)

Incorrect. A granted patent is by definition published. A submarine patent is one in which the application is filed in secret and then not granted because of continuations of the original application. This was possible under previous US patent law, but under current law it is no longer possible.

Also, what many people refer (incorrectly) to as Submarine Patents are earlier patents that were not researched by the victim for a variety of reasons. These reasons might be 1) Lack of time or money to perform the search, 2) fear of treble damages from knowingly violating a patent, among others.

Submarine patents are not possible under the European system.

Re:... by sinking submarine patents. (1)

rewinn (647614) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374644)


In the U.S. system, patent applications need not be publicized for a year-and-a-half after filing ... and that time can be extended with the applicant makes certain declarations. That's a vast improvement over our old system (where submarines could stay under the surface for decades) but still a long way from being "good". If your 18 months of effort got holed amidship and sank into the frigid North Atlantic, you would not say "well, at least it's not decades" you would say "that is bad" (or words to that effect).

As you note, submarining doesn't work under the Euro system because applications are published upon filing ... which was precisely my point.

Re:... by sinking submarine patents. (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374843)

A secret patent can be extended for six months at a time, but a patent can and will be overturned in court through what is known as prosecutorial laches. Further, the patent holder must satisfactorily show reason for the both the secrecy of the original application and for the continuations. In recent years, the courts have not hesitated to invalidate "submarine" patents. Also, the clock starts running from the date of the application, not the granting, so the longer the patent applicant tries to run this game, the less time remains on the patent.

The days of the submarine patent's effectiveness in court are past.

Re:... by sinking submarine patents. (1)

rewinn (647614) | more than 8 years ago | (#15376680)

Your analysis would be more pursuasive if you could point to examples.

You do not dispute that the law as written is I have stated; you merely say courts will cite principles of equity ("laches") in refusing to uphold the law as it is written. That may be the case, but it
(a) presumes that the holder of the submarine patent acted in bad faith, which is not always easy to prove even when it is true;
(b) is a poor business practice & legal strategy to depend on activist courts.

As I initially stated and you appear to agree with, the Euro system of disclosing applications at the time of filing eliminates the problem. It is better to have a statutory system that eliminates problems through the clear language of the law, rather than to rely on judges using principes of equity.

Re:... by sinking submarine patents. (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 8 years ago | (#15376729)

I really don't want to dig through case law this morning, so I'll just mention the bar code patents, then wave my hands (look! over there!) and then say that, although we disagree on some of the finer points, we're in general agreement that the law could be improved. You do make good points. I'll concede a partial victory to you if you allow me to gracefully withdraw from the field of battle (until next time!). =)

Re:... by sinking submarine patents. (1)

rewinn (647614) | more than 8 years ago | (#15378250)

Dang! you got fine manners .... let us break for a beer and sing sodden songs of fellowship!

Re:Accelerates innovation (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374533)

This public good you describe is the raisin deeter (or raison d'être for you purists) for patents. It helps society as a whole avoid reinventing the wheel.

WTF?! (0, Offtopic)

styryx (952942) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373963)

I am f**king astounded!!

To PTO: Ya think?

My method for taking advantage of this system. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15373964)

Apply to be an examiner of patents.

Get a hold of the applications from the million patent backlog.

Outsource the work to Indian and Chinese work centers.


I suggested much the same (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373975)

in the past, also on previous slashdot posts when patents came up.

I would also think a bounty for disproving the application (showing prior art, that the application is too vague or obvious or whatnot), coming directly from a percentage of the applicant fee would be wise - $250 to $5000. Applicant fees should also be raised, individual applicants within a certain income bracket should have to pay the lowest, while mega-corps have to pay the highest fee (within reason) - and this fee would also be reflected in the bounty.

Let's face it: Altruism is great, but a little incentive goes a long way. Just as most Linux Kernel contributors are employed by a company directly benefitting from Linux, I think it's ridiculous for the government to try to unload the work they are doing poorly on us without some compensation (and who best than those providing the work, the applicants) - didn't the government do the same with the Iraqi documents now?

Re:I suggested much the same (1)

rewinn (647614) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374683)

I agree that altruism works faster with a material incentive booster ...

... but when it comes to finding prior art, the incentive is simple:

1. Find hot patent application

2. Find prior art sure to sink patent

3. Setup production of competing product using information disclosed in application

4. When you're ready to go to market: reveal prior art and blow away patent

5. PROFIT!!!

Re:I suggested much the same (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15375325)

oh noes !

submarine prior art !

Bounties would work (1)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374057)

Double or triple the cost of the application and then offer up half of the money to anyone who can conclusively prove that a patent is invalid. Sort of a reverse user fee, someone proves that the government "should not do its job."

1,000,000 x wrong filter = wrong filter. (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374073)

This is a great step in the right direction, but it won't change the underlying law and it can still be gamed. The biggest problem is not a lack of reviewers, it's what can be granted a patent. If business method patents are valid, more reviewers will only make more dumb business method pattents happen. Worse, those with money may be able to hire lots of people to mod bomb competing patents. Carefully qualified peer input will be very useful if patents once again are restricted to non obvious inventions.

Re:1,000,000 x wrong filter = wrong filter. (1)

willyhill (965620) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374250)

twitter, would you like to tell us why you posted the same thing three times (links below)?

Also, we were wondering if you were going to reply to these replies [] .

Thanks. 61196 [] 69017 [] 69080 []

So, sorry AckBartender. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15380077)

twitter, would you like to tell us why you posted the same thing three times (links below)?

Awwww, the wittle bartender [] does not have enough mod points for his silly little "Jihad" [] . Boo hoo, it makes your life so sad.

Patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15374164)

About time they started listening.

solution for patents (1)

ChrisGilliard (913445) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374165)

I've recently thought of an idea for how to deal with patents. Something similar to Slashdot should be used. Imagine if there was a website running slashdot software would allow everyone to comment on the validity of patents before making a determination to grant or deny the patent. If that had been around at the time the hyperlink patent came up for review, you can count on a large number of posts saying that's just silly. The public has many informed people on all subjects. It's just a matter of letting the best opinions be heard. This is exactly what Slashdot's moderation system does.

Re:solution for patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15374177)

You're joking, right?

Re:solution for patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15379168)

On slashdot, you can never be sure...

Patentdot, part deux (1)

martyb (196687) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374222)

I've recently thought of an idea for how to deal with patents. Something similar to Slashdot should be used.

You mean something like PatentDot ??? [] which I suggested on Feb. 12, 2006:

How about a Slashdot for Patents???? Given the knowledge and interest I've seen displayed here, and the fact that the SlashCode is available, I really think this could work!

Features: Here's a rough, back of the envelope, sketch of how it could work:

  1. Getting patents A daemon could periodically check the USPTO site, and create an article for each new patent application it finds.

  2. Categorization Patents would be categorized into different "departments". Hmmm, could a Bayesian filter come up with a short list of recommendations? These could be attached to the article as options for "High-Karma" users to select (or offer something better). As soon as some threshhold (say 10 votes) is reached, the article is moved from the NEW department to the selected department.

  3. Moderation This could procede as it does here on slashdot, but the comments' focus could be to examine the patents:

    • Provide references to PRIOR ART.
    • Discuss the [IM]POSSIBILITY of the application.
    • And, of course, HUMOR would be encouraged!

Benefits Offhand, I see this would:

  • provide a venue for those who are proficient in the area to comment
  • help the beleagured patent office, and
  • inform readers as to the workings of the PTO.

What have I missed? I know there has to be SOMEthing! Thoughts? Ideas?

Re:Patentdot, part deux (1)

ChrisGilliard (913445) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374273)

Good idea! Have you patented it yet?!?! ;)

Re:Patentdot, part deux (1)

ChrisGilliard (913445) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374286)

Categorization Patents would be categorized into different "departments". Hmmm, could a Bayesian filter come up with a short list of recommendations? These could be attached to the article as options for "High-Karma" users to select (or offer something better). As soon as some threshhold (say 10 votes) is reached, the article is moved from the NEW department to the selected department.

Now that there's tagging, I think that's a supperior method of categorization.

Re:solution for patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15374296)

Read the article much?

In theory... (2)

wingman358 (912560) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374173)

It's a very good idea in theory, but might not work so well in the real world. There would have to be a way to verify that "outside scientists" really are scientists. Also, how would training (presuming at least some training is needed...) be provided for the outside examiners?

It would be funny, ironic and sad "if"... (2, Funny)

layer3switch (783864) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374235)

"The patent office is weighing an online pilot project to solicit public input on patent applications. [...] The idea is for volunteers to be alerted about new patent applications--applications become public after 18 months--and invited to submit prior art."

If the idea is already patented... Oh the irony!!!

The patent system is a lottery... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15374257)

...where each ticket costs $10,000.

Problem: People can't read patents (2, Interesting)

edashofy (265252) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374328)

Here's the main problem with this idea: the vast, vast majority of people, even smart Slashdot readers, have no idea how to read a patent. Sure, they read the abstract and that might bring to mind some other invention that's sort-of-like the one described in the patent, and that is helpful to a small extent. However, did you know that the abstract has little to no bearing on what the patent actually covers?

Patent claim language (the actual property rights granted by the patent) is byzantine and ugly. Besides that, there are all kinds of nuances. Do you know the difference between an apparatus and a method patent? The terms used in the claims may (nay, probably) don't mean what you think they mean. The applicant doesn't even know what they mean, since the legal claim construction process only occurs when the patent is challenged. Then, if the applicant (as many do) uses USC 30 S112P6 "means-plus-function" language, you're in a whole other world of indirection and confusion.

Patents need reform, but having a million uneducated people looking at the applications is only part of the solution. Reforms to patent law itself, such as:

  - Making applicants provide a binding glossary of terms
  - Making applicants identify corresponding structure for means-plus-function elements
  - Reforming the byzantine nature of claim language

would go miles and miles to easing the process and squeezing out inefficiency

Re:Problem: People can't read patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15375376)

Surely that's not a problem with the public review process per se, but rather a fundamental flaw with the practice of the patent process. Supposing that the purpose of a patent is to disclose an invention, it is ridiculous that they must be written in a way that is near incomprehensible by those who would actually benefit from learning about the invention, even though such complications may be necessary to delineate the bounds of the legal monopoly rights being granted.

Then there's the other problem that a practitioner risks being charged triple damages, should he make it a habit to actually study existing patents on his area of expertise.

Both of the above points clearly show that the stated purpose of the patent process, namely to advance technology by disclosing inventions, is incidental to the real-world purpose of granting monopoly rights. It's a process by lawyers for lawyers.

too many chiefs... not enuff indians (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15374350)

eventually this will make the open source concept leaner. companies/organization have some deluded concept that if you let them, the public will do your work for free. most patent clerks do not go on to becomne einstein, so i dont see why anybody would volunteer time to get experience to later apply for such a job. if you end up in the patent office, you are unlucky.
opening up patent examination to the public will do something that right now seems impossible, it will make patents even more worthless. there will be an even bigger mess, and the need to monitor joe six pack's work.
as it stands patents are generally rubber stamped as is, their true test comes in court, and how much money/lawyers someone can sic on their enemies. anyone remeber multimedia?
patents are a joke, and always will be, if they worked then there would be no trade secret / industrial espionage laws...

My input: kill *all* patents (1)

argoff (142580) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374442)

I don't think most people understand how evil patnets really are. While we have all herd the theory of how patents supossedly help small inventors, and how pharma R&D would supposedly never happen without patents, what we never hear are things like how African nations were sued in the world court for trying to make generic AIDS medications - locking out millions who were dying. We never see story about the millions of inventors who are locked out of using inventions cause of legal and royality costs, we never hear about how most of these inventions were natural progressions that were likely to be invented anyhow, what about RIM vs blackberry, what about one click. People keep eating the rotten fruit, but refuse to admit that the tree is rotten.

We can see all the evil that happened when the industrial revolution forced the commoditisation of the labor force and the violent death of the US plantation system. Patents are also a false property right, and when they become commoditized - breaking free will likely cost the lives of billions!

Re:My input: kill *all* patents (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 8 years ago | (#15376001)

Hear, hear.

The illusion that patents helps the small man is just that -- an illusion, if not an outright lie. In reality, you have to be a company or independently wealthy to be able to obtain a patent. If you work for a company, your contract will say that any inventions belong to them, so that won't benefit the inventor. The CTO might get a bigger bonus, but that's about it. And even if you're wealthy enough to be independent, chances are high that you'll not publicise many of your inventions, due to fear of being sued into oblivion by large compenies that might consider you a threat, or smaller patent troll companies.
Speaking from experience, it sucks when you see your own solutions being patented by a big company, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it. because you don't have the resources to fight the system.

No, the patent system does not benefit the inventor. It benefits lawyers, corporations and patent trolls. It harms the small inventors, who as a best case for a truly original idea can hope for a few thousand dollars for selling an invention to someone with the resources to use the patent system, and in turn make millions off it.
Government sanctioned theft, is what it is.

Make patents only issuable to individuals, not companies. Make patent licensing for longer than a year at a time illegal, and likewise, ban exclusive patent licenses. Thus corporations would be forced to compete for the attention of inventors, and actually give the inventor his dues, instead of ruthlessly exploiting him.


rSh1t. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15374702)

more grandiose transfer, Netscape Niggers everywhere are about 7000/5 so That their coming a piss shout the loudest Was what got me

Colour me purple (1)

can56 (698639) | more than 8 years ago | (#15374856)

The UPO needs public/free/open/... peeps to do the job? Where do Canadians sign up? [Numbers: ~1400 PTO,s, and 1,000,000 applications in in pipe? No wonder it takes 17 years]

Solution? (1)

styryx (952942) | more than 8 years ago | (#15375504)

Could the answer lie in a lot of what people have already said here?

We have already identified ways people can screw the system. As in, get their people to review their applications. To solve this all you would need is that whomever is reviewing... (I suggest listing credentials) is an independant party.

To ensure a high quality amount of people you will definitely need compensation. There are a slew of science and math (and others e.g. biochemistry) graduates and especially post-docs that may be willing to lend a hand if they can earn a small amount of ££ in the process.

Ultimately, the final decision to reward a patent needs to be left with the patent clerks, to ensure neutrality and fairness. The same can be said for rejecting a patent, however, independant peer reviewers will offer a much stronger case for dismissal or acceptance.

They will need perhaps an online course (Free!) you can take to get up to speed with the patent system, this will need to be examined so you will have a qualified bank of examiners who only look at patents based on their area of expertise.

The money issue is a tough one. Everyone complains that the patent system sucks and something needs to be done. But no-one is willing to fix it without being paid... wasn't that the problem in the first place? Perhaps if we could cure human greed first we wouldn't need this measure in the first place, but this point is more rhetorical. Unless you set this system up in a socialist country, perhaps.

Prioritize the criteria (1)

jolshefsky (560014) | more than 8 years ago | (#15375616)

The first thing that needs to be looked at is, "is it a benefit to society?" That is, for the patent system, the length of patents, who gets patents, and what is being patented -- all these factors should be weighed against "what would be best for everyone?"


  • The patent system: yes, it's good to provide a temporary monopoly because it fosters invention. It's currently bad because instead of fostering invention, it is chilling it -- if I invent something, it may already be patented. If I try to build one, I could be trounced by any number of companies, therefore I'm going to just keep my mouth shut -- society be damned.
  • The length of patents: is currently fixed, but it greatly depends on the industry. A 20-year patent on a novel algorithm would chill innovation in the computer industry whereas a 20-year patent on a novel shipbuilding technique may barely be adequate to benefit from the temporary monopoly.
  • Who gets patents: currently both individuals and corporations can get patents. That means that if you can make a profit, it's worthwhile to make a corporation yet making money is not the same as benefitting society. For example, a patent-holding company makes money but is a drain on society. My take on it is that only individuals may hold patents, patents themselves may not be sold or transferred, and the transfer of exclusive rights on patents should be limited (including inheritcance to next-of-kin.)
  • What is being patented: you can get patents on just about anything. I'd like to see "novelty" defined a little more succinctly. A patent based on another patent -- one that builds on the techniques of the other -- is okay but less desirable than a patent that stands alone. A patent that transposes a method from one industry to another should be thrown out or severely limited -- "safety caps" on bottles, for instance, are little more than glorified ratchets. Patents should never be given for things that apply something in the public domain or in nature in a new manner -- Velcro, for instance, is just burdock [] .

translation (1)

AlgorithMan (937244) | more than 8 years ago | (#15376436)

hello, we want to open our system up, to get you helping us closing things down

cool (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 8 years ago | (#15376867)

Now tiny "think tanks" can pretend to be thousands of users by using different email address' and phone numbers to manipulate who receives patents.

I've been so appreciative of them deciding what I get to not watch on TV or listen on the radio. It is about time they are given the power to do extra stuff for us.

Ah, the moralists minority. Gotta love'em!
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