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Congress Tackles Patent Reform

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the new-employer-similar-to-the-previous-one dept.

Patents 261

nadamsieee writes "Wired's Luke O'Brian recently reported about Congress' latest attempt to reform the patent system. In the article O'Brian tells of how 'witnesses at Thursday's hearing painted a bleak picture of that system. Adam Jaffe, a Brandeis University professor and author of a book on the subject, described the system as 'out of whack.' Instead of 'the engine of innovation,' the patent has become 'the sand in the gears,' he said, citing widespread fears of litigation. The House Oversight Committee website has more details. How would you fix the patent system?"

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I would devise some sort of patent-fixing hammer (5, Funny)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18044888)

And then I would patent it.

The Hammer Is: +10, Insightful (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18045056)

The Battle Of Baghdad [whitehouse.org] .

Call George W. Bush [huffingtonpost.com] and demand his resignation before he seeks asylum in
Uzbekistan [jihadunspun.com] .

Thanks for your patriotism.

Unfailingly yours,
Kilgore Trout, C.E.O.

slashdot feedback (4, Funny)

pjrc (134994) | more than 7 years ago | (#18044902)

Definitely the first step in patent reform is to solicit the opinions of the hoards of thoughtful, article-reading slashdot users.

Re:slashdot feedback (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18045010)

Both of them?

Re:slashdot feedback (4, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045036)

Actually, I don't think that you are far wrong. Peer review has helped make a lot of processes more competent. It would also relieve the patent reviewers of the burden of having to be experts in all types of varied fields. The patent listings are not the sole source of prior art, and should also not be used to determine uniqueness and other reasons for granting a patent. As it is, if they don't know of prior art they seem to just grant the patent.

Things are easy to understand or figure an answer for some types of patents, but others present a much larger issue(s) with regard to patents. Does anyone remember how the recent cancer treatment was treated in the news because it couldn't be patented? Patents are driving businesses in directions that are not in the interest of the community. Peer review might well stop the onslaught of stupid patents leaving more room in the business roster for developing things that can't be patented in order to simply make some money and take bragging rights.

The current patent system has 'frozen' the business community into a position where many won't invent or improve if it can't be protected by patents. This destroys the value of patents rather than protects them. Company A may have patented an invention... fine. Now if company B wants to innovate on their products, they will have to fight company A's patent or take their chances in court. This is due to company A being given a stupid patent on obvious technological furtherance of prior technology.

Peer review would help to bring sense to this situation, even if at first it brings confusion IMO.

Re:slashdot feedback (1)

Baloo Ursidae (29355) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045050)

Definitely the first step in patent reform is to solicit the opinions of the hoards of thoughtful, article-reading slashdot users.

Be careful, I think Slashdot beat you to the punch on that idea.

i win (-1, Redundant)

cpearson (809811) | more than 7 years ago | (#18044906)

I am going to patent the process of reforming a patent system.

Vista Help Forum [vistahelpforum.com] - your new fix

If congress is getting into it... (4, Insightful)

Polo (30659) | more than 7 years ago | (#18044948)

I just hope they don't help things like Sonny Bono did.

Re:If congress is getting into it... (1, Funny)

BoberFett (127537) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045708)

Actually we'd be better off if congress would all do what Sonny Bono did.

Yeah, yeah, tasteless. Mod me down if you must.

"Fixing" the Patent System? (4, Insightful)

EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) | more than 7 years ago | (#18044960)

Granted, the patent system is being abused left and right and is often used just as a precursor to litigation, but is it reasonable to believe that anything that this Congress produces will alleviate any of the problems?
This issue, along with IP, Copyrighting, and DRM should ideally be tackled all at once. However, given that both Republicans and Democrats regularly side with big business, I would expect no change whatsoever to open up competition and innovation.

Re:"Fixing" the Patent System? (1)

Clever7Devil (985356) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045628)

And different industries have different go-to political parties. Copyright issue? Need some better laws regarding DRM? Call up your local Democrat. There an IP you need to steal? A patent you want the monopoly on? Call your favorite Republican.

The individual is already giving his money to the government, it's always organizations that will come out on top.

How would you fix the patent system? (1, Insightful)

nebaz (453974) | more than 7 years ago | (#18044974)

Abolish it.

Re:How would you fix the patent system? (3, Insightful)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045032)

Then what incentive is there to innovate? Why invent? 3M or some other big company will just take your idea and mass produce it cheaper than you could.

Re:How would you fix the patent system? (3, Insightful)

ResidntGeek (772730) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045118)

You don't have to innovate. You're perfectly allowed to sit at home eating cheese and watching television while I innovate.

Re:How would you fix the patent system? (3, Insightful)

steelfood (895457) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045462)

And the moment you begin selling what it is you made, Walmart will purchase one and copy it, undercut your prices, selling at a loss until your company's flat broke and out of business, then raise the prices back to yours to make a profit again. Walmart hence makes the big bucks, while you go deep into debt.

Re:How would you fix the patent system? (3, Informative)

Trogre (513942) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045518)

The trick is to give it away for nothing in the first place. Then watch Walmart try to undercut that.

Re:How would you fix the patent system? (1)

steelfood (895457) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045724)

I sincerely hope that was said in jest.

Creating something requires money. Raw materials for production aside, R&D has expenses. It's not code, and even coding something requires time. If you can't make money to survive using that time spent writing that code, why write it in the first place. Yes, there is personal gratification or charity. But this comes only after you can meet the daily needs of food, clothing, and shelter.

Re:How would you fix the patent system? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18045872)

The trick is to give it away for nothing in the first place. Then watch Walmart try to undercut that.
In that case, I need some work done on my lawn, come on over.

Re:How would you fix the patent system? (2, Insightful)

cperciva (102828) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045542)

You're perfectly allowed to sit at home eating cheese and watching television while I innovate.

Unfortunately, most people aren't wealthy enough to take this option. For most independent inventors, the choice comes down to
1. Spend a year developing an invention, while rapidly going into debt, and hope that at the end of the year it will possible to patent the invention and pay off the year's expenses, or
2. Forget about building a better mousetrap, and get a normal job instead.

Aside from a very small subset of the population (tenured professors and the independently wealthy), financial imperatives limit the ability of people to innovate unless there is some form of payoff available at the end.

Re:How would you fix the patent system? (1)

rizole (666389) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045584)

Mmmmmmmm.....cheeeeese!

Re:How would you fix the patent system? (2, Insightful)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045178)

Then what incentive is there to innovate? Why invent? 3M or some other big company will just take your idea and mass produce it cheaper than you could.

if you have to ask, you'll never know.

Re:How would you fix the patent system? (1)

Erioll (229536) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045226)

Then what incentive is there to innovate? Why invent? 3M or some other big company will just take your idea and mass produce it cheaper than you could.
This is no time to be entirely reasonable!

Now having made the obvious joke, they're still right, but the counterargument is of course all of the shenanigans we've seen so far with abuse of the system. The problems with obvious patents is much easier IMO since all that is required is a better review system so that these are identified and denied both quickly and publicly. This is the easy part because it doesn't require any essential re-think of the existing system, merely cleaning up a lot of the crap.

The other problems come where something IS new, yet it stifles innovation. The 3M example is quite apt, as well as any examples involving drug companies. For most products out there, there's already somebody "big" who could produce it for almost-nothing, and drive any small innovators out of it. And specifically on the drug side, the discovery is almost-all of the effort. So how do you encourage new products, and yet reward inventors? Then comes along the obvious "information should be free so that others can innovate further" argument, but that has pitfalls too.

What's the solution? I dunno, but I do think at the least the "get rid of the obvious patents" argument should be very separate from the rest of the debate.

You obviously do not work in patents in a small .. (4, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045350)

company. The truth is that large companies regularly steal ideas and then BEG you to sue them. If you do, they grind you into the ground. You think that SCO vs IBM is long winded and expensive? Not even close. There are suits that take a decade. and the small guy always lose because they have to settle for a fraction (or sell out to somebody with DEEEEPPPPPP pockets).

Re:How would you fix the patent system? (1)

psykocrime (61037) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045666)

I'd like to see the stats on just how many "independent inventors" successfully patent a new invention and then get rich off of it. I'd guess the number is close to zero, since most "independent inventors" probably can't afford the patent attorney fees and filing fees to even apply for a patent.

The system, as it exists now, benefits big companies who can afford the legal wranglings necessary to get a patent, and harms individuals and small businesses. It's gotten completely turned on it's head.

Abolishing patents outright would be the best thing we could ever do.

Re:How would you fix the patent system? (1)

moojuece (661296) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045700)

What ever happened to doing/innovating just because you can?
I thought that what nerds did, explored for the sake of exploration.
I always thought that was one of the greatest things about what we did. Not for the money, for the joy of it.
Silly me.

Re:How would you fix the patent system? (1)

melikamp (631205) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045706)

Unless they are dumb, their next step will be to hire that inventor and put his brains to use. The big companies will certainly keep innovating, not to be outdone by other big companies. It is an arms race where the consumer always wins.

Re:How would you fix the patent system? (2, Insightful)

psykocrime (61037) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045764)

It is an arms race where the consumer always wins.

Exactly, and having no patents will just make it even more of an arms race. Companies will
be forced to innovate constantly to survive. Getting rid of patents would be a huge win
for innovation and advances in technology.

Re:How would you fix the patent system? (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045758)

Why invent?

Because...we need things.

3M or some other big company will just take your idea and mass produce it cheaper than you could.

Yes but they wouldn't have the exclusivity they have now, and their version might be real junk, and their is nothing we can do about as long as IP law is on the books. Without that barrier, we can all build on it and improve it without fear of litigation.

Re:How would you fix the patent system? (3, Insightful)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045132)

But... But that would increase invention competition dramatically and you'd be able to invent improved stuff compared to the one who was first!

Re:How would you fix the patent system? (1, Interesting)

inviolet (797804) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045318)

Aren't we all judging the state of the patent system by reference to its treatment in the press?

Here on slashdot, the anti-establishment anti-government anti-Capitalism anti-big-anything memes are perilously strong. And so we aren't going to hear much about the other half of the story -- namely, the ways in which the patent system does in fact enable investment and innovation.

I personally have no clue whether the patent system is broken, or whether it is simply coughing and sputtering a bit under the deluge of so many brand new areas of research. Maybe the latter is why Congress should indeed pass some new rules.

Re:How would you fix the patent system? (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045814)

Maybe the latter is why Congress should indeed pass some new rules.

New rules are the last thing we need. It's time to rid of the old ones.

How would I fix it? (5, Funny)

Erwin_D (960540) | more than 7 years ago | (#18044978)

This may rquire some reform in labour laws first, but...

The USPTO needs to assemble a panel of 4-year-olds. Each time a patent application comes in, the panel would be asked how they would implement the title of the patent (they do not see the content). If the panel comes up with a process resembling the original patent, it would be denied.

Simple...

Re:How would I fix it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18045284)

Child labor laws...

I know you're joking but how about convicts? They've got plenty of time on their hands and the same logic holds.

Where to start.. (5, Insightful)

cowscows (103644) | more than 7 years ago | (#18044994)

Make patents shorter term, 5-10 years. Things move very quickly these days. If you can't get it out to market in a few years, then you don't have anything specific enough figured out to patent. Patents should only be allowed for very specific implementations of an idea/product/process/whatever. No patenting what you're trying to do, just the way that you're doing it.

Along with better criteria for awarding patents, there should be penalties for people who flood the PO with lots of stuff, hoping that something will stick. Make there be a sizeable penalty for submitting patents that gets rejected. Give a person/corporation a few freebies, a couple per year that can get rejected with no penalty, just to protect the little guys who aren't quite aware of what they're getting themselves into.

And don't make the patent office earn their budget through the number patents they grant. That's like funding a police department purely on how many crimes they solve per year, when we'd rather they find ways to prevent the crimes in the first place.

Re:Where to start.. (0, Redundant)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045126)

I second this. Yeah, I don't have mod points. :P

Re:Where to start.. (1)

abradsn (542213) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045280)

Look dude. Sometimes we invent things that are revolutionary and take multiple years just to develop it. I've spent the last 3 years just reducing to practice a new and wonderful idea.

So, keep your ignorant generalities to yourself.

By the way, for you spelling idiots that troll slashdot looking for mis-spelled words... Shut up!

By the way, I happen to agree that the system is screwed as it is currently. I opt for trade secrets and copyrights, and hope until it gets close enough to release. At that point patents become a necessary evil.

On top of all that -- THE PATENT SYSTEM IS FOR LEGAL PROTECTION. So, all of you idiots complaining that litigation is rampant when it comes to patents, can sit back and chew on the fact that litigation aligns perfectly with the intent of patent protection.

Sorry, in advance if I sound brash. I'm in a bad mood. I hate searching for jobs. Recruiters suck.

Re:Where to start.. (1)

n0ta (883578) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045302)

I think you hit the nail on the head. I would only add that there needs to be some sort of safeguard in place to assist corporations/individuals, if the patent is for something heavily regulated like drugs or airplanes. By this I mean a patent extension, because developing these things (because of the regulations) can be very time consuming and it would be imperative to get the patent out before the all State tests have been passed.

Re:Where to start.. (1)

paeanblack (191171) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045366)

Give a person/corporation a few freebies, a couple per year that can get rejected with no penalty, just to protect the little guys who aren't quite aware of what they're getting themselves into.

Life gets tricky fast...

Does a corporation with 1000 engineers get more freebies than a company with 3? If so, how do you prevent them from focusing all of those freebies in one small and rapidly evolving technology sector, thereby locking out the smaller players even more so than with the current situation?

Re:Where to start.. (5, Informative)

Dufftron 9000 (762001) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045492)

The current patent term is 20 years from the filing date. As there is a 3 year backlog before most cases even get looked at these days they are not getting much more time than the 17 years they were granted previously. Also, the pace of technology is not constant in all industries. Drugs are expensive and and take years to develop. If they had to recoup all the costs and get profits in 5 years imagine how much a bottle of pills would cost.

The concept that people should not be able to seek patents while working on development is not really applicable as the USPTO does not require a working model anymore. If you show completeness of the concept and give strong evidence that it would work then you have done the job.

Applicants are required currently to pay for an RCE after every other rejection. The RCE is equivalent in cost to a full initial examination fee. They only get freebies if the examiner does not do a good job.
The USPTO does not get paid by the number of patents granted a year. The revenue is generated from examination fees, maintenance fees and other fees on applicants and patent holders. The money then goes to Congress who allocates the budget back to the PTO. Even if the PTO wanted to make money by just granting patents Congress would likely keep the excess anyway.

Re:Where to start.. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045812)

Applicants are required currently to pay for an RCE after every other rejection. The RCE is equivalent in cost to a full initial examination fee. They only get freebies if the examiner does not do a good job.

So what you're saying is that the system penalizes individuals, who cannot afford to endlessly resubmit patents?

The USPTO does not get paid by the number of patents granted a year.

Except that the more bad patents the USPTO accepts, the more bad patents will be filed, which results in more examinations, which result in greater revenues, assuming they gross more than they cost.

Re:Where to start.. (1)

steelfood (895457) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045644)

And don't make the patent office earn their budget through the number patents they grant.

This is indeed ridiculous. But I do think compensation per review is a good incentive. Compensation, after all, makes for a speedier process. But while quantity increases, quality, however, suffers.

In truth, I don't think patent examiners should be determining the validity of patents at all. I think independent domain experts should be doing it. Categorize the patents my field of relevancy (patents should be able to fall into multiple categories). Having panels of a fixed number of experts in that category review incoming patents for obviousness, prior art, etc. would solve a multitude of problems. The rest of the experts in a particular category that are not part of the panel can rate the experts' reviews, and those with low scores would be kicked off the category or the system itself. Compensate the experts for each review, negative or positive.

Experts, of course, should have some sort of degree or certification, or should have proof of experience (like verifiable industry experience, etc.). And obviously, those who sneak through the cracks will be removed rather quickly if the body of legitmate experts in each category are sufficiently large.

Re:Where to start.. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18045674)

Agreed, here is my list.

Eliminate all patents on what, instead of how. This includes business patents, and patents on discoveries (like genes and naturally occurring compounds) rather than inventions (like processes to artificially manufacture naturally occurring compounds).

Require all patents to be available for license under RAND (reasonable and non-discriminatory) terms. Of course, RAND would vary by sector/product, and would have to be determined in court, but this would allow companies to recoup the cost of their investments without using patents for blatantly anti-competitive means.

Decrease the term of patents to 10 years. The exception being drug patents, where an extension of 5 years from the date of FDA approval is given to the company who funded the approval process. This is necessary as our regulations make drug approval a time-consuming process (not an entirely bad thing). This 5 year patent would also be available for drugs where there the original patent expired or there was never an original patent. This is to create an incentive for companies to go through the approval process for non-patentable cures.

If you decrease the patent term and, it is too expensive and time-consuming to approve all patents up front, eliminate the concept of granting a patent, and instead just register the patent claims after a minimal check against the existing patent registry. Then have a mandatory in-depth patent review for the small number of patents that actually go to court, which includes an open comment period to solicit prior art and arguments about novelty from industry and academia. Also allow people (in particular publicly-funded researchers) to file non-patent claims, which are registered just like patent claims.

Do something about publicly funded research becoming patented. I know this is not an easy issue, and will never be completely solvable without killing the vital exchange between industry and academia, but there has to be a better balance then what we have now.

Patents are inherently powerful in that they give the holder control over not just the fruits of their own labor, as with copyright, but over everyone else who might have similar independent ideas. As such it is very important that the ideas granted protection be clearly novel, however I know of no objective way of determining this. For that reason, I don't know if it is even possible to have a "good" patent system. However, these are some ideas that might be worth considering.

Darn, I wish I could remember my slashdot password right now.

Punishing the wrong people... (4, Informative)

kansas1051 (720008) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045730)

Make there be a sizeable penalty for submitting patents that gets rejected.

The reason your idea would not work is that there is no duty to conduct a comprehensive search for a prior art before filing a patent application. The reason that there is no such duty is that a full search of every printed publication that is in existence would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Under Federal Rules (37 CFR 1.56), patent applicants are required to submit material art that they are aware of, and patent applicants commonly submit dozens of prior art references for consideration by the USPTO. If an applicant (or its attorneys) violate Rule 56, the patent can be invalidated for inequitable conduct.

Additionally, due to the billions of prior art references that exist, invalid patents are often granted without any fault whatsoever by anyone. Should my client in Arkansas be punished (for a sizable penalty as you suggest) for not being aware of a 1990 paper (written in Greek) that is only accessible by manually flipping through a card catalog in Athens? The 1990 Greek paper, indexed only in a physical card catalog in Athens, would be prior art that could invalidate my client's patent, why should he (or I) be punished for not finding it?

Re:Where to start.. (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045776)

Pfft. 5-7 years. No extensions, no exceptions, period. If it's going to take you multiple years to develop your product, you should have to rely on trade secret and copyright laws. If someone else discovers the same thing during that period and beats you to patenting -- guess what? It was obvious to other people in the field! That makes your idea non-patentable in the first place.

Make patents non-transferrable. That way companies can't game the system by having their engineers filing patents individually.

Also, no more patents for ideas that haven't been implemented. If you can't demonstrate an implementation in front of God and country, forget it. You don't get one.

Eliminate software patents. Software is protected by copyright, it doesn't need patent protection too.

Finally, have patent examiners who are experts in various fields of technology: computer hardware patents must be examined by someone skilled in hardware design, medical patents must be examined by someone skilled in the medical field.

Re:Where to start.. you just killed drugs (1)

Steve1952 (651150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045878)

Shorter patents (5-10 years) would probably kill the drug and biotech industry. It takes them 10 years and 1-2 billion just to get their drugs approved. So the company only makes money during the last few years of the patent as is.

Require source code as enablement (5, Interesting)

radarjd (931774) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045030)

One of the requirements of a patent filing is that the inventioned be "enabled" by the specification in the patent 35 USC 112 [cornell.edu] . I have always thought an interesting way of handling business method / software patents would be to require any patent which requires a computer include the actual code needed to enable the invention.

This gives us several benefits: 1) it's more analogous to a physical invention where all the parts have to be described in detail; 2) the source code to enable an invention would be free and public knowledge at the expiration of the patent; and 3) it's useful for others to understand exactly what the inventor is trying to claim as part of his patent. The public would benefit from a better description of the invention, competitors could determine exactly what a patent is supposed to do, and the patentor would not have to face the specter of business method or software patents being eliminated in their entirety (which I'm sure more than a few people will call for).

Re:Require source code as enablement (3, Interesting)

Thuktun (221615) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045578)

How about pseudocode? That way, the specification would be invariant to--among other things--bug fixes and ports to different languages.

My quick fix... (5, Insightful)

bitkid (21572) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045038)

Patent holders must license or produce the product before they can sue anybody. That should make it a lot more difficult for patent trolls.

Prohibit people from suing private citizens for patent infringement - or at least limit the damages/legal costs for them.

Make with-holding prior-art from the examiner an offense; have the people sign an affidavit or something, and enforce it.

Have a higher burden of proof for the non-obviousness. Have the people that apply show to the examiner how their idea is different from what's out there.

No patents on business methods, algorithms, living organisms and such. This is ridiculous and got out of whack due to some messed up court ruling ("anything useful under the sun [] should be patentable"). Make a law to reserse said court ruling.

Maybe a public review period where prior art can be submitted to the examiner?

More examiners. I read somewhere that they have only about an hour or so to search for prior art, due to the small number of examiners the USPTO has.

You better patent your fix (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18045214)

I know. Redundant by now.

And probably do not need more examiners if all the stupid patents (business methods, algorithms, living organisms and such) cannot be patented anymore.

Re:My quick fix... (1)

jeffeb3 (1036434) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045718)

I really like the idea of the patent holder actually needing to do something with the patent. That seems obvious and incredibly useful.

I'd also like to add that I personally think the patent should be void if enough people are using it. Something that will basically say, if %10 of Americans already own this, then it's public domain. That might be a little too bias towards the little guy, but it seems like it would fix things like the Blackboard stuff.

Re:My quick fix... (1)

pakar (813627) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045810)

damn you... you got me thinking :)

> No patents on business methods, algorithms, living organisms and such. This is ridiculous and got out of whack due to some messed up court
> ruling ("anything useful under the sun [] should be patentable"). Make a law to reserse said court ruling.

Hey, are not organisms proof of prior-art? :D

Re:My quick fix... (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045852)

Patent holders must license or produce the product before they can sue anybody. That should make it a lot more difficult for patent trolls.

But then if I can't afford to produce the product, I'm not going to be offered what it is worth, because anyone can copy the product and I cannot retaliate.

Of course, the corollary is that I can sell my prototype, then I can claim that the other business has taken over the market for my patented invention so even if I wanted to I couldn't run a business that produced the products based on it.

So basically this is just silly.

Limit what can be patented (3, Insightful)

cunamara (937584) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045052)

Overbroad patents seem to be the most troublesome thing. Patents should be limited to operable technologies and abstract ideas should not be patentable. An example is the idea of "one click purchasing." The technology to provide that service would be patentable, but not the idea of one-click purchasing. Ditto having a Web site that makes recommendations to customers based on past purchases- the technology would be patentable but the idea would not. I've picked on Amazon.com in both cases, but there are plenty of similar ideas that have been patented and over which litigation has occurred. Great for trial lawyers but not so much for just about anyone else.

Re:Limit what can be patented (1)

Dufftron 9000 (762001) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045322)

Abstract ideas are not patentable.

http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/document s/0700_706_03_a.htm#sect706.03a [uspto.gov]

That said, just because something seems abstract does not mean that the claims were written in an abstract way. As long as the claims do something tangible they are eligible.

Dangit! (1)

Stanistani (808333) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045064)

How come they don't invent useful, everyday conveniences like Patent Leather [wikipedia.org] anymore?

Have multiple systems (1)

r_jensen11 (598210) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045082)

Have multiple systems. It would be the most effective way to have the patent system. Perhaps one system for drugs, another for software, another for &c.... This way different types of inventions could have different patent lives, different protections against copying, you name it.

Re:Have multiple systems (1)

NoTheory (580275) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045330)

This is a really bad idea. One of the nice parts of innovating, hopefully, is that you're not restricted by previous classification. If you're forced to shoe horn your patents into a preexisting category to get it approved, then there will be all sorts of mis-classified patents, or people disguising things that would be obvious in another domain in other domains. And on top of that, what about cross-disciplinary patents? Where do you file if your ideas bridge patent areas?

Engine of innovation...my ass (4, Insightful)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045112)

The whole point of a patent is that you tell the world how your invention works in exchange for a monopoly on that invention. The 'engine' part comes from the fact that anyone can read a patent for idea and then develop innovative improvements based on it. So patents provide a mechanism for driving continual innovation. But to quote Borat: naaaat!

The moment you work for a company that develops inventions and you meet their IP lawyer they tell you "if we knowingly violate someone else's patent then we're fined three times as much as if we didn't know. So under no circumstances read anyone else's patents.". So the whole thing is a complete scam and everyone involved is complicit. How come it needs a professor to say what everyone who works in IP has always known?

Patent Office 2.0 (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045144)

They should design a whole new system for the patent office. Version 2.0 will go live while version 1.0 will be frozen as a legacy system.

Definitely! "Fix" the patent system. (3, Funny)

ClayJar (126217) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045168)

I think the time has certainly come for congress to "fix" the patent system. Heaven knows we don't need that thing reproducing!

Abolish the penalty for looking (4, Insightful)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045200)

Scrap the triple damages for "willful" infringement. People should be encouraged to look up patents so they can license existing inventions instead of wastefuly duplicating effort. That's what the system was supposed to be for.

Related, allow a patent search that meets some reasonable criteria (e.g. done via the patent office) to be a defense against infringement.

Allow economic damages only. If you're not trying to get money out of your patent then you shouldn't get money out of infringers.

Patent office should keep some engineers, or maybe 10-year-olds, on staff. When an application comes in, these people are asked "how would you solve the underlying problem?" If they come up with the same answer as the patent application within a day, the application is thrown out for obviousness.

Two changes (4, Interesting)

BCoates (512464) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045202)

1. Get rid of the "presumption of validity". Patents, once issued, are assumed to be valid unless proved otherwise, but actually doing the legwork on every single patent to make sure it's good before approving just isn't feasable, so lots of bogus patents get passed.

But courts still defer to the patent office unless the case is unambiguously bogus.

Move to something more like the copyright system, where having a copyright issued only proves that you had a claim as of a certain date and that your paperwork was in order.

The burden of proof would then be shifted to the patent holder to prove that their patent was valid as part of an infringement lawsuit, back where it belongs.

2. Get rid of or at least weaken submarine patents. The obvious way to do this is to make it so that no damages can be collected for actions before the patent holder files an infringement lawsuit.

Not gonna happen (3, Insightful)

tsotha (720379) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045208)

The idea this congress is going to make changes in the patent system that actually benefit society as opposed to patent-holders is daft. Congress has been bought and paid for - look at what they did for Disney when they "reformed" the copyright laws. Nope, if Congress changes anything it will be to extend the length of patents and make them more difficult to challenge, which is the exact opposite of what needs to be done.

Ideas (4, Interesting)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045224)

  • Abolish business method patents completely
  • For someone to enforce a patent, they should either be an individual who filed the patent or a company that makes a product that uses (or is strongly related to) the patent
  • Make the lifetime of any software patent be 5 years. (I would prefer software patents be abolished entirely, but if they're going to exist at all, they need a much shorter lifetime to account for the pace of change in the software world)
  • Make the government liable for up to $500000 (and peg the amount to the consumer price index) in legal costs for anybody who sucessfully defends a patent on the grounds of prior art or obviousness.

Re:Ideas (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045256)

Alternatively, the legal costs could be split between the patent enforcer and the government with the government picking up the tab if the enforcer went bankrupt. Though, that change risks the strong danger of the government not wanting to grant patents to people who didn't have the resources to defend them.

Re:Ideas (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045292)

Oh, and one more thing...

The working model requirement should be re-instituted. If you can't make a working device that demonstrates the patent, you shouldn't get the patent.

Also, a patent that can't be easily understood by a competent practitioner in the field in which the patent is granted should be consider void. Patents are there to spread knowledge, and ones that don't are useless. They should not be written in a special patent version of legalese like they are now. They should be written in the technical jargon of the field they concern.

Re:Ideas (1)

malp (108885) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045516)

Make the government liable for up to $500000 (and peg the amount to the consumer price index) in legal costs for anybody who sucessfully defends a patent on the grounds of prior art or obviousness.
Right, because no one would ever defraud the government. If such a thing passed, I'd ask a friend to sue; run up some huge bogus legal bills; and split the $500k check from the government with my friend.

Re:Ideas (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045826)

That's a good point. But there needs to be some feedback system that punishes the patent office for issuing bogus patents. It needs to be a feedback system that's hard to tamper with both from an exploitation of loopholes standpoint (which is what you pointed out), and from a political pressure standpoint.

Re:Ideas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18045822)

I think I got better (because simpler) ones..

1) when someone gets sued for patent infringement, and the trial fails to result in "willful infringement", it means the defendant put the effort to discover whatever it was and is entitled to the same rights as the patent holder. So he gets co-ownership of the patent.

2) when the outcome of a suit is that a patent is invalidated, the patent office should pay costs to *both* parties, as they both suffered from its incapability.

1 would re-establish a market driven system to patent licensing costs, and ensure that obvious ones get cheap quickly (as anyone would automatically get licensing rights.)
2 would remove the incentive the patent office has to just grant patents on everything, because they have no reason not to.

Just get them to enact the Proposed rule changes (1)

Dufftron 9000 (762001) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045228)

http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/dapp/opla/pre sentation/focuspp.html [uspto.gov]


The changes would cut down on the amount of crap applicants can put in their applications helping to ensure that the actual ideas in the inventions might actually get looked at instead of useless filler. Also it would dramatically reduce applicants ability to keep a case inching along for years until the examiner gives up. There are other good things inside, but the two big changes are severe limits on numbers of claims and length of prosecution.

How to fix it? Easy. Patent THINGS. (5, Insightful)

Gryffin (86893) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045242)

How would you fix the patent system?

Easy. Stop allowing patents for concepts, knowledge, ideas, methods, algorithms, etc.; and allow them only for things. Ideas are easy; it's implementation, marketable products, that are hard, and worthy of economic protections.

Patents are founded upon the concept that we all benefit as a society when those who develop products that make our lives better and/or easier are given a chance to benefit financially from those products, and hence have an incentive to undertake the often difficult development and production of them in the first place. Allowing patents on ideas, etc. has no such benefit, other than for the patent holder.

Hey, if I was a smart guy, I could sit around in my underwear, simply thinking up ideas and filing patents on those ideas, and possibly end up very rich someday; but what have I provided society as a whole? Squat. Less than squat, in fact, if I use my patent to club someone who decides to actually bring my idea to fruition, preventing, deterring or delaying that idea from implementation.

Which is exactly what's happening under the current system: anyone who actually wants to create a product, whether it's a next-generation power source, a ginchy playtoy, or a cure for cancer, first has to evaluate the risk of some "submarine patent" held by some patent troll robbing them of the fruits of their work -- the real work, that of actual implementation.

"Invention is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration."
-- Thomas Edison

Quit letting lawyers and speculators control the 1%, and set the 99% free.

Allow only physical things to be patented. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18045258)

If I were king, I would fix patents by again requiring that an invention must be a physical thing in order to be patented. Patents for processes or algorithms would no longer be allowed. (Existing patents on processes or algorithms could be grandfathered.)

This is similar to patent law in the U.S. before 1970, when only physical devices and processes could be patented. However, it was the fact that processes could be patented which opened the door to software patents. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_patents_unde r_United_States_patent_law [wikipedia.org]

FOSS and Four Rules (3, Interesting)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045268)

I'd add a new kind of FOSS patent, where the idea immediately becomes public domain and anybody can implement it. Useful to defend ideas from commercial interest patents.

For commercial interes patents, this is what I'd do:

  1) Patent gives grantee a monopoly for three years, then it expires and becomes public domain. You've got three years to make your killing, then you have to compete on a level field.

  2) Be stricter about giving them out - patent really has to be for something professionals of the field hadn't already thought of.

  3) Make it easier to challenge patents; if a challenger can produce prior art, patent is immediately voided, and grantee is barred from applying for new patents for ten years. If grantee had won any civil judgments regarding the patent while it was in force, any monetary judgments must be completely refunded, along with losers' legal fees.

  4) No patents may be granted that could prevent other entities from implementing official industry (IEEE, IETF, ASME, NIST, ...) standards. If grantee belongs to standards bodies, they must disclose all patents granted and pending, or their behavior is tort fodder for competitors.

Predictions (1)

miyako (632510) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045316)

There are already some good ideas on what should be done to the patent system, so allow me to make a few predictions on what will actually happen if congress does get around to revising the patent system.
  • Patents will become much more expensive. This will be ostensibly to either cover the cost of searching for prior art, or to make junk patents less appealing. This will effectively keep anyone but large corperations from filing patents.
  • Rules regarding software patents will be fleshed out which will explicitely allow for patents regarding not only algorithms, but also functionality and look-and-feel.
  • The length of patents will be shortened.
  • ...but they will be renewable.
  • Patents will no longer be public- a company can apply for a patent and keep how the product works as a trade secret.
  • Some sort of DMCA like legislation will make it illegal to work around patents by comming up with a new way to do something for which a patent already exists.
Now I just hope that, unlike Orwell's 1984, they politicians don't use my warning as a how-to manual instead.

Patent Reform Made Simple (3, Interesting)

Bellum Aeternus (891584) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045344)

Disallow patenting an idea of how to do something. Proof of concept must exist. Limit software parents to 10 years and require that the source code and all source code for updates and/or patches be given to the USPO. After the 10 years expires the source code becomes public domain to be used by startups, students, and competitors.

Deny all patenting of genetic and biological technology.

If a company cannot make a profit off an idea that they have sole access to for a decade, then that idea or company is faulty to begin with anyways. Let somebody else have a chance to make the idea work.

Eliminate patents on... (2, Insightful)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045356)

Eliminate all patents on software and business methods.

Barring that: Consider "doing X with a computer" - where doing X without a computer is a well-known process and the computerization is a straghtforward analog - to automatically be "obvious to a practitioner of the art", and unpatentable in it own right. (If "doing X without a computer" is patented, of course, "doing X on a computer" would similarly be "doing X" and

Software doesn't need patent protection.

  - Copyright (even absent the crazy extensions in the last few decades) is adequate to avoid direct copying.

  - The the time needed for the competition to recognize a profitable product, reverse-engineer it, write a replacement, and bring it to marketability is adequate to let innovators recover their investment plus profit and establish themselves in the market niche they create.

Most "business methods" have similar characteristics regarding payback of development costs. Further: Patenting them is so fundamentally anti-competitive that it makes no economic sense.

Keep patents restricted to things like physical inventions, manufacturing processes, drugs, and the like, which do have a big development cost that needs a significant time to recover.

Fix it (1)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045358)

How would you fix the patent system?

1. Patents expire X years after the invention, not X years after approval. Get rid of the incentive to drag the process out.

2. Add (or enforce) a requirement that a patent must describe the invention in a manner comprehensible to someone with expert skills in the field and in sufficient detail to allow that expert to implement the patent. A finding by a court that the applicant has failed either of these two duties is grounds for invalidating the patent in court.

3. Allow anyone to challenge the obviousness of a patent during the application process by asking the PTO to convene an experts panel. The challenger and applicant both must post an X thousand dollar bond. The PTO then selects 5 experts in the appropriate field from universities, industry, etc. 4 or 5 of the 5 experts must find that in their professional opinion the patent is novel. If they do not, the patent is rejected and the challenger gets a refund. The applicant's bond is used to pay for the panel. If they find that its novel then the challenger's bond pays for the panel and the applicant gets a refund.

patent holders must (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045360)

show a good faith effort to capitalize on their patent

this will prevent patent spam: a**holes just filing patent after patent with no intention of capitalizing on the invention, but every intention of suing if anyone else ever actually makes money off the idea

so it couples the state of holding a patent with the intent to move forward with it. you can hold a patent, but if you don't do anything with it, it ceases to protect your idea. "dead" patents, patents that are filed and just sit there unused, become essentially no patent at all

the legal standard for what a good faith effort is does not have to be equal for the little guy and the large corporation, so there is no built-in prejudice in favor of the large corporation when invoking the concept of a good faith effort

it's similar to the philosophical difference between a right and responsibility. sure, you have a right to drive a car, but you also have responsibilities once you get behind a wheel. likewise, you should have the right to file a patent, but once you do so, you have a responsibility to society to make a good faith effort to capitalize on it. society is prepared to reward you for having a bright idea, and set up a structure to be protected by society while you try to bring your idea to market. so, now you must put some persperation into actually making something of it, or you forfeit society's protections

as it is now, just because you dream something up and sit there and do nothing should not reward you the same legal protections as a guy who is actually struggling to bring the same idea to fruition

to mangle edison: inspiration without perspiration should have no legal protection

My ideal patent reform (4, Interesting)

The G (7787) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045382)

Here's how I'd approach the problem:

(1) Every year, a patent recipient names the price of an unencumbered license, $X.
(2) Every year, to renew the patent, the patentor pays $X*(2^r) for r being the number of previous renewals.
(3) As soon as a patent is not renewed for a year, it ends.

What this means:

(a) It is not practical in the long term to use a patent to prevent something from being built -- a high $X means a high renewal fee.
(b) Patents that are genuinely useful get renewed; patents that are just so much legal cow-dung will not be profitable to renew for as long.

Problems with this scheme: The exponent constant might need to vary by field; the scheme would have to be revised for design patents and plant patents; might conflict with various treaties; might be preferable to restrict the ability to use a small X one year and a larger one the next year (require X to be non-increasing?).

First to invent, First to file... (1)

JBob-S (264875) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045388)

What about "only one to file"?

Patent applications are secret. What if, in the interval between submission and grant, another application is received covering the same invention, all overlapping claims are denied? The standard is supposed to be "not obvious to someone versed in the state of the art." If there are two submissions for the same thing in a short period of time, that proves that the state of the art is naturally evolving toward the scheme in the application.

The biggest problem would be the ability to ship products in that interval, which is currently practical.

The window could be more explicit, too: application date plus two months, for example.

The aforementioned practice is patent #9,763,348.

Re:First to invent, First to file... (2, Interesting)

sehlat (180760) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045438)

Of course, that would have meant Bell's patent on the telephone would have been denied. Quote: Bell filed his application just hours before his competitor, Elisha Gray, filed notice to soon patent a telephone himself. What's more, though neither man had actually built a working telephone, Bell made his telephone operate three weeks later using ideas outlined in Gray's Notice of Invention, methods Bell did not propose in his own patent. History of the Telephone [privateline.com]

Shakespeare "King Henry VI" Act IV Scene II (1)

sehlat (180760) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045398)

Says it all.

Avoid "first to file." It is evil (1)

ishmalius (153450) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045404)

One thing that should not change is the current practice of granting a patent to the person who can show that they produced an innovation first. The corporations' desire to switch to "first to file" will only serve those who can afford to keep armies of patent lawyers on staff, and who can file thousands of applications per year. Basically it favors and preserves the incumbents. The Horatio Alger story of the individual inventing something in his garage will become a fading myth.

Mark Twain said it. (1)

GomezAdams (679726) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045414)

"No one's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session."
Will Rogers said "Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for."and
"With Congress, every time they make a joke it's a law, and every time they make a law it's a joke.",
"This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when a baby gets hold of a hammer." -

Amen, Brother. Amen.

Read more Will Rogers here [mises.org]

Limit total # of patents (2, Insightful)

mOdQuArK! (87332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045440)

Aside from completely abolishing the patent system, my suggested patent scheme is to put a total limit N on the # of currently-valid patents (to make it both easier to search to see if you are violating a patent, and to put bounds on the "slow-down" effect that patents have on the smaller innovations that occur on a regular basis in society).

Once you've got a strict limit on total # of patents valid (making them a fairly rare resource), then you can use a competitive process to play off the merits of each potential patent against each other, and to leave only the best ones valid. An obvious way to do that is to hold an auction: allow anyone to submit patent applications for each patent "slot" which becomes available, and allow everyone to bid on all of the patent applications. Whoever has the highest bid will have the patent application that they were bidding on become valid, and they will get all the rights that a patent owner usually gets.

Patent "slots" will become available either due to expiration, or being thrown out due to the usual obviousness or prior art criteria. This means that each bidder will have to perform extensive due diligence on anything they bid on, since they can potentially waste a lot of money if they buy ownership of a patent & then have it thrown out.

To make things a lot more interesting for the "small" innovators, all of the money that was paid by a bidder to win ownership of a patent, should go to the submitter of that patent. It's a big win-win for society: small innovators can win a big jackpot (and have a big incentive to contribute a steady stream of new ideas), and the people who end up purchasing ownership of the ideas are exactly the kind of people who have the resources to take fully exploit them. (You just have to make sure that bidder & the submitter aren't the same people, otherwise the auction idea breaks down).

Software is Human Readable (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045506)

There was a time when Copy Write Laws applied to software. It makes sense, because the hardware has already been designed and is working,(If you are Intel, it is pretty much most of the time). The only thing that the hardware is doing is reading machine instructions, and then executing those instructions already engineered into to chip. Patenting the instructions sequence is the issue. But that makes no sense because the patent already exists by the CPU maker as a process of executing ANY SEQUENCE of machine instructions. A further issue could be rasied as to patenting a particular sequence of instructions, but then again, the patent holder of the CPU chip ALREADY OWNS the patent for ANY set of machine instructions that are processed. Copy Write laws already handle software, the laws have been around for 100's of years; It works.

not transferable, must exist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18045538)

I say, patents can't be transferred. If you invent it, only you get the patent protection. And if you patent something you didn't or don't plan to create you're out of luck.

Qualified personnel (1)

adewolf (524919) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045546)

Maybe there needs to be better qualified personnel to review patents. Seems like the ones there now really have no clue about researching things like prior art...etc

Litle will happen, but... (4, Interesting)

Dracos (107777) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045596)

  • Declare software and business methods unpatentable.
  • Disallow corporations from holding patents.
  • Reduce patent terms to 5 years.
  • Patents held by publicly funded institutions immediately go into the public domain.

My first item is simple common sense, at least to anyone on /..

Second item would restore patents to individuals. The concept of patents was not designed or intended to foster large portfolios wielded by legal entities with mountains of cash and armies of lawyers. It was not even designed with Edison in mind. Restore patent holding to the actual living, breathing inventors, and let their employers have first refusal on any patentable item developed with company funds.

Third, business moves a lot faster than it did 50, 100, 200 years ago. Allowing patents to last 20 years is absurd in today's market.

Public Universities should not be allowed to be complicit with large corporations in holding patents hostage, especially in the science and medical fields. Actually, this could be made irrelevant by #2.

In general, reform the entire system to be oriented toward individual inventors, rather than Corporate innovation squatters.

If Congress does anything about this, it won't be caused by any domestic forces. The EU is gaining strength in these areas and pushing lots of reforms through. If the US wants to continue trading with Europe, many of America's draconian laws will have to be updated, including patents.

How would you fix the patent system? (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045638)

Abolishment! It's the only way. Silly question.

Re:How would you fix the patent system? (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045704)

Oops [slashdot.org] . There you go. What more proof do you need to see that if somebody wants to squat on "intellectual property", somebody else will come up with the same idea. IP law is absolutely, positively unnecessary and only impedes progress.

The cost should increase as you patent more (1)

LordNimon (85072) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045642)

Have the cost of filing a patent increase with every patent that you file in a given year. A small company that files a few patents a year will pay the normal rate. Large companies will see their per-patent cost increase as they file hundreds or thousands of patents per year. The additional money will go to hire more examiners.

This plan will allow small companies to continue filing patents without paying more. It will also act as a disincentive for large companies (like IBM) to ask their employees to submit as many patentable ideas as possible. I used to work for IBM, and we were always encouraged to patent whatever we could. Every stupid-but-patentable idea I had, even if it had nothing to do with my job, was submitted for consideration. Most didn't stick, but some did, and I got paid for it.

Make patents a free market (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18045646)

The patent office opinion on what is new and novel is just an opinion. It is untested, just some opinon of some person in some office. It goes to court and it is tested only when challenged.

So why not make the patent like insurance. The patent office insures to $XMillion that the invention is new and novel and fits all the criteria of a patent. For this patent they charge a fee they are allowed to decide on. If the patent is challenged they agree to defend it to the value of $X million.

Multiple organizations can issue patents, professional and business organizations decide if they want to issue patents. Each professional organisation decides how they will issue patents in their field. Patent for microelectronics require different criteria to those in software or nano tech.

If a particular patent office's decisions are consistently overturned then they make bad decisions. So all their decision need to be viewed as suspect. If they go out of business, then all their guarantees are void.

Charge too little and award the patents to everyone and the patent office loses money and goes out of business quickly, bad patents from bad patent offices, end quickly. Take some care, only issue patents to really true inventions, charge a lot to get those patents, then the patent is solid, well trusted, and the patent office that takes that care has a higher reputation.

Want to patent an upside down phone? No problem, you can go to a cheap and easy to obtain 'USAPatent Co' and get your patent, but it may be worthless, USA patent co is lazy and doesn't check its patents.
Want to obtain a solid patent worth something? Go to 'SlashdotPatent co' where ever little aspect of your simple idea will be ripped apart in detail and examined by 1 million plus patent examiners, it will cost you a fortune, but at the end your patent will be solid, because 'Slashdotpatent co' patents usually survive scrutiny.

Speed of Business makes Patents Obsolete (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18045768)

Business goes so fast these days (and continues to accelerate) that there is plenty of motivation to innovate even if there were no patents (i.e., one can quickly make a profit on a truly good idea, even if others are then able to copy it).

Therefore the only remaining effects of patents are the negative ones. Do away with them entirely I say.

How to fix the patent system... (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045792)

Make the USPTO liable for damages, wrongly-paid royalties and legal fees caused by patents that are eventually found to be invalid. Fund the USPTO's legal damage budget by docking up to 25% of the salary of its employees. If this were done, they would certainly be just a little more careful about what patent claims they rubberstamp.

software is not of patentable nature.... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045832)

...disallow patents for software and it will make a big difference on the work load of the patent office.

Abstraction Physics [threeseas.net] is a perspective on software that shows software is in no way shape or form of a nature patentable. It actually falls into the three main things universally accepted as NOT patentable. Physical phenomenon, natural law and abstract ideas. The forth is math algorithms as many claim software is that, but math is a subset of abstractions.

As a thing to do, take any software patent and re-write the claims and such to be in terms of common, non-novel etc.. perspective.
I intend on doing this to a patent that mentions my work in its "other references" semantic user interface patent number RE39,090 (IIRC)

Without Patents We'd Never Inovate! (1)

Tiger Smile (78220) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045854)

Or could we? Could we just drop patents from this point forward and limit the power of the existing ones until they expire.

If problems come up I'm sure we can make laws to deal with them. Maybe I'm just a small town fool, but I think everything would continue better and faster than normal. This is not the 90's ... ummm ... 18-90's anymore. We don't need to be persuaded off the farm to make and market devices. Many of us do that for a living. In fact I expect without patents we'd innovate even faster, being able to build freely without first consulting with armies of lawyers galore. You would be able to create something without expecting that knock on the door from IBM with their hand out wanting for dead president salad so that you can use a device that might fit into the description of some vague patent application.

You could also make people have a real working version of the item listed in the patent application rather than a guess of what someone else might make. Your patent protection would be limited to that.

It's complicated and complicated things attract lawyers like stink on poop. Make it simple and they'll try and complicated it with things like the legal definition of the word "and" and such. So, my instinct it to get rid of it. Which is likely a bad idea in many people's eyes.

Why are you reading this post. There are smart people making better points. Just look at the following reply. Wow! That is a nice one.

Make 'obfuscation' grounds for rejecting a patent (3, Interesting)

Jimmy_B (129296) | more than 7 years ago | (#18045882)

Right now, a patent can only be rejected if it is obvious, if there is prior art, or if it doesn't describe the invention in enough detail. If a patent examiner is handed a patent that is precise but incomprehensible, he has no grounds on which to reject it. I propose the following be added to the policies of the USPTO:

A patent shall be rejected if it either
      - fails to use standard terminology where appropriate, in a way that makes reading of the patent more difficult
      - describes aspects of the invention which are minor or irrelevant but not novel in excessive and unnecessary detail, or
      - is in any other obfuscated, in the opinion of the examiner.

The typical patent is a very long description using precise but completely non-standard terms. Patents spell out in detail things that a person in the field would use one or two words for, and as a result, patents are hard to read, hard to search and hard to judge. Bad patents slip through the cracks not because the patent examiners don't know what they're doing, but because the patents themselves are extremely difficult to read.
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