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The IP Lawyers Strike Back

Hemos posted more than 14 years ago | from the sucking-the-soul-from-the-internet dept.

Patents 198

dashNine writes "The National Law Journal has a hagiographic article on big-money patent lawyers. The article begins with a worshipful (if brief) description of Amazon's patent infringement claim against bn.com, and excoriates Wired for not patenting the concept of a "click-through" banner ad. It then ventures into the territory of patent consultants and counsel, discussing their tactics and methods for finding what they consider to be patentable IP. (Favorite quote: "[O]ne of the most difficult tasks in ... intellectual property asset management is to get the engineers and lawyers talking to one another." " Wow. I think the people who are involved in this article must come from a different Universe than I do.

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*laugh* (3)

DGregory (74435) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446940)

I think I've been around computers too much. I read that as "internet protocol" lawyers... and thought "hmmm didn't there were specialized lawyers for that..."

Re:*laugh* (2)

seebs (15766) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446941)

How can this be? The first post was topical!

I got the IP thing right, but I was shocked to discover the article was *FOR* it in cases like this. Dumb kids, never even patented the lemonade stand. ;-)

What's next? (2)

Pyrrus (97830) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446942)

Soon lawyers are going to be suing people because IP is their trademark and who ever uses Internet Protocol is violating that.

dear victoria! ... (2)

thschmid (102849) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446943)

Warning: If you want to read this article and not fall asleep, you will need a degree in "my english is far better than yours"
kudos victoria (the author).

Business Magazines (1)

In-Doge (116196) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446944)

No kidding from a different world - I actually remember reading a business mag once with this real butt-kissing article regarding a "business's legal rights" regardning the taking down of paradoy sites. Creepy stuff.

Sounds like nobles and serfs. (4)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446945)

This "Gathering" sounds like the nobles getting together to figure out how best to exploit the serfs and to standardize the methods. An interesting view into the management mindset.

Looking at it from their point of view (3)

Dilbert_ (17488) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446946)

If you had studied law instead of CS, and you found out you could make big bucks with these patent cases, wouldn't you ? These people aren't evil or anything, they're just interested in making tons of cash. And the current IP system gives them a 'legal' way to do it. It's not the 'stupid lawyers' fault, it's the whole system. The problem is, you need money to change the system, and right now, the lawyers have more of that than us open source geeks, so the system stays in place.

Bit confused, isn't it? (2)

SmileyBen (56580) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446947)

The article is entitled 'Gold Diggers' which I've always thought of as a rather pejorative phrase suggesting that they're only after the money without actually having earned it (I mean you'd call someone that marries for money a 'gold digger'), but then goes on to say how clever Amazon are and how stupid Wired are for missing out.

Bit of a confusion or contradiction, isn't it?

Re:*laugh* (1)

DGregory (74435) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446948)

The trolls have migrated back into their dank, dark caves for the holiday, sucking on pieces of bedrock, imagining it was N****** P******

Press Release (1)

ljavelin (41345) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446949)

That article sounds more like a press release for someone selling cheesey $50k software.

Them lawyers sure do have a sense of humor. There was a time when inventions had to be novel and non-obvious. A hyperlinked image that happens to contain an advertisement fits that requirement? Well, at least the rich are getting richer.

No doubt some lawyer folks would call Linus an idiot because he didn't set up a business where a bunch of laywers would be able to make a bunch of cash. It took RedHat to do that.

This is recockulous (3)

Money__ (87045) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446950)

Patent prospectors. Like so many oil drillers in texas, IP lawyers drill down with obvious patents hoping to strike an "LZW" (read:widley used) cash gusher. Like so many domain squatters, this kind of IP speculative prospecting should be stoped cold at the patent office.

From the article [lawnewsnetwork.com] :
A new breed of prospector has landed in California and every other technology epicenter to help companies discover their hidden treasures. Like their predecessors of the nineteenth century, they come from many walks of life. Many of them are lawyers.

What isn't mentioned in the article is that each time an IP prospector chooses to try a patent, it cost money. The cost of each atempt to lock up the obvious is passed needlessly along to the user .

_____________________________________

Before you slam lawyers in general (4)

Brento (26177) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446951)

Keep in mind that even the title of the article pretty well portrays how these lawyers are seen in the eyes of their own community. I hang out with a lot of lawyers (don't ask) and they rank patent suits right down there with ambulance chasers.

Lawyers are just like CS guys in a way: they want to be involved in important, meaningful projects. Suits like the etoy/Etoys thing are nowhere near important or meaningful. Get a bunch of lawyers in a room and ply them with drinks, and pretty soon you hear that they don't give a rip about things like this.

Now, y2k, on the other hand...that's bad news. They smack their lips greedily at our plight, because it's so incredibly easy to prove that the year 2000 was a foreseeable problem that we should have taken into account...

Quote from the article (3)

Dilbert_ (17488) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446952)

Fox wants to make sure that H-P scientists and engineers tell him about what they are creating, so he can protect it legally and exploit it commercially. Sometimes it's a hard sell, says Fox. Inventors are often so accustomed to working every day on their projects that "it looks obvious to them." Indeed, one of the most difficult tasks in this field of intellectual property asset management is to get the engineers and lawyers talking to one another. To encourage engineers to disclose what they are working on, Fox offers cash payments.

See ? It's all about the money. And indeed, if it looks obvious to a normal person, it might not be obvious to a lawyer.

P.S. : at my company, they offer stock options instead of cash.

The problem in a nutshell (1)

swordgeek (112599) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446953)

Is that a trademark infringement? Is O'Reilly going to sic their lawyers on me now? Oh no!!!

Seriously, though...

Somehow, patents have got out of hand. (obviously) For reasons of money, companies and lawyer are aggressively searching for anything and everything they 'own' (in some sense of the word) that might possibly be patentable. Patents were supposed to be on things that you truly created, and they were supposed to be so that you could share your ideas with others. Not make money by suing.

The whole thing stinks.

Different mindset (5)

ajs (35943) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446954)

One of the things that we as a community misunderstand often is that these are not evil Snidelies, twisting their waxed-mushaches and cackling. Most IP lawyers are convinced that they are doing the right thing for a company. They are not at all aware of the damage that they are doing to the industry, and get very boggled when an engineer who is supposed to be working FOR a company does not want to HELP that company.

One of the most valuable things that engineers can do is talk to these lawyers in a calm, reasonable way and explain that the future of the software that created the Internet hinges on the assumption that the current patent mania will be stopped by a popular pressure on the USPTO. Change must come or too many of the inovations that the Open Source community NEEDS to impliment will be closed to us by software patents.

You must make it clear that they are not helping your company by acquiring patents that push the envelope of the USPTO's charter. They are, in fact introducing potential public-relations nightmares (like Amazon is now dealing with, and Unisys has been dealing with for years).

Also, encourage your company to create a "free for open source" licensing strategy for their patents. This will not help the GPL world, as the GPL forbids using patent-restricted processes, but the MIT/X and BSD licenses have no such restrictions and could benifit widely from such licensing. It would also help the company in question, as they could require the source to be commented in such a way as to indicate the owner of the patent, and anyone wanting to create a closed implimentation would know who to go to for a license.

Intellectual Property (4)

PenguinX (18932) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446955)

The sad fact of the matter is that patenting a concept or idea is terribly difficult to uphold in court through the entirety of a trial. A "Method For Implementing..." patent was initially granted to companies or small inventors before their product came out. In other words if I had an method for implementing a concept, for instance a computer I may implement "method for data transport via the ISA bus" etc. etc.. These patents are supposed to be nullified or pushed into the background when the product as a whole is released.

In the past if a product was released it was perceived as the only way to do the task that was performedby that product. After the automobile technology and patent laws should have changed -- well technology changed but patent laws never did.

The problem now is that technology is rapidly accelerating, gaining ground on and in every field. Naturally people will take advantage to "cash out" - as in any time period, or society. The problem is that the American Justice System helps and hurts at the same time. It helps break up the monopolys that it helps create. So now it's the governments fault -- which isn't entirely true. Again, we don't live in a Utopian Society but let's not be lazy -- let's change patent law to reflect the times, not the 1890's.

I'm absolutely stunned. (1)

gnarphlager (62988) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446956)

Only in the world of lawyers can an article have a title like "Gold Diggers" be a positive image. I'll assume the follow up will be an article entitled "Ambulance Chasers" about an "innovative" group of lawyers who prowl for internet related injuries (after all, if people spend time somewhere, then someone can sue . . .)


Oh, I liked this bit too:


The "Au" in Aurigin and Aureka stands for the periodic symbol for gold. (And, yes, the company name and product name are puns for origin and eureka. Who said lawyers don't have senses of humor?)


No one ever said that. They just said lawyers don't have a GOOD sense of humor ;-)


On, a serious note, I'm not sure what this article means. Obviously it's intended for the law community, but the urging to patent business METHODS?!?! A business method is useless unless you can get a large number of people to adopt/accept it, and who's going to if they have to pay royalties? Is there a patent for a location where you can exchange goods for money, and leave via a door? Sigh. Well, I'm not saying anything we don't all already know. Perhaps I ought to follow up on my patent for exchanging computer knowledge and skills for currency.

TELL IT LIKE IT IS BROTHER (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1446957)

YOU ROCK, YOU JUST LEFT OUT ONE KEY POINT:

EAT MY SHIT ZEALOTS

And the winner is... (4)

lance_link (97462) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446958)

This "gold rush" metaphor is very misleading. First of all, can you name a single company that began amidst the original gold rush and still exists? You bet you can: Levi-Strauss. They did well because they were selling to all the prospectors. The big winners from this new "gold rush" won't be the prospectors, it'll be the service industry that supports it: lawyers and so on.

If the patent system keeps on running amok, it'll have to be reformed - and most of those patents will turn out to be worth the paper they're printed on, if that much. But the lawyers will survive even that fiasco quite well.

Ultimately, the idea that someone can own and control something simply because s/he thought of it is a pretty good definition of evil. The universe of techniques, procedures, and mechanisms that could make the world a better place is a bit like natural resources. Working day and night to use them up as fast as possible is just a way of stealing them from future generations. They won't look very kindly on this period, I think.

Open source, of course, is the solution. ;) Why? Because it allows for others, now or in the future, to build on and improve our efforts now. And that's a pretty good definition of Good.

This article IS from another world. (2)

deusx (8442) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446959)

In other words, even the bible of the Internet revolution behaved like so many other technology companies, sitting atop nuggets of gold buried beneath the street of everyday business events

Hmm... well, maybe there's a REASON the 'bible of the Internet' and 'so many other' companies acted this way. Maybe they decided there were more important things to go after-- like, oh say, further innovation rather than legally resting on past accomplishments which have become trivialized by the pace of the Internet.

Rivette estimates that Wired lost at least $20 million a year by not seeking a patent on banner advertising.

And how much would the industry as a whole have lost? How many 'free' sites would not even have existed? A successfully defended patent on this concept may have majorly damaged the development of the web as we know it now.

Would Slashdot exist?

Worldwide patent licensing revenues rose from about $15 billion in 1990 to more than $100 billion in 1998, according to industry estimates. The growth is unlikely to abate.

Revenues to whom? The patent holding companies and lawyers? And what are the nature of the patents? Seems nowadays certain patents are like apples and oranges to each other. One might be a genuinely novel, distinguished invention and the other a nearly obvious idea.

Again, what does the growth of these revenues mean to the growth of the patent holders' industry itself?

There is a Californian, touchy-feely sense to the Gathering

Somehow, I think that this is diametrically opposed to the 'Californian, touchy-feely sense' that might be rephrased as idealism. I see this sense applied to open sharing of ideas, mutual benefit, onward and upward-- not exploitation, greed, and legal entrenchment which slows things in general.

Note that I'm not against one making money, making money for one's efforts-- I'm against doing so by standing in the way of everyone else.

Fox wants to make sure that H-P scientists and engineers tell him about what they are creating, so he can protect it legally and exploit it commercially. Sometimes it's a hard sell, says Fox. Inventors are often so accustomed to working every day on their projects that "it looks obvious to them."

Hmm... maybe that's not because the inventors have been staring at it everday, but because to other engineers and inventors IT REALLY IS OBVIOUS.

Steven Bochner of Palo Alto's Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati gave a speech in 1998 on the potential liabilities of boards of directors who are not minding the intellectual property store. "It is not unreasonable to look to the board and say, "How are you managing these assets?' " he says.

This is about the only thing I agree with in the entire article-- How are you managing these assets? How should you? Are you posting tollbooths in the intellectual stream, or are you truly innovating and moving forward faster than anyone else?

The former makes you immediate money. The latter makes you more money in the longer haul as your company benefits from further innovation and not entrenched battles, as well as the success of the industry as a whole.

I guess the only good thing about this article, at least, is that the lawyers are coming out in the open and being honest about their desires.

Re:Looking at it from their point of view (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1446960)

If I had studied law instead of compsci, I would have hated myself. Now, I get paid to do what delights me, a daily joy. I am paid to solve math puzzles and play games. It's called being a programmer. It is wonderful.

I think it's a matter of perception: (1)

JohnL (7512) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446961)

The title seems to be meant exactly opposite of the traditional "gold digger" definition: They mean it literally.

That is, they see themselves taking raw material (mountain with gold inside > engineer with ideas) and extracting something valuable with their hard labor. After all, isn't lawyering work, too?

Total lack of though (1)

cowscows (103644) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446962)

I don't see how any sort of legal or patent system can fail to see the goofiness of all of this. How can you patent something like a normal business process. Something so vague as "one-click shopping"...that's like a normal store patenting displaying merchandise in a window. And this article bashing wired for following the "info should be free" line of thought just shows how quickly the internet is being lost to the capitalists. While capitalism is alright in and of itself, its ideals don't really mesh all that nicely with the ideals that helped found the internet. It's interesting how in our current society and economy, information and money can sometimes go hand and hand, yet at the same time, be going head to head. I think it's silly to try and predict how this will turn out even 3 or 4 years from now, but I seriously don't like how things are looking.

Re:Looking at it from their point of view (1)

akma (22089) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446963)

Yes, they're into it for the cash. They have a vested interest in encouraging clients to patent stupid things because they then get the opportunity to charge them tons more cash for defending that patent. At least that's how I see it when I try to look into it from their point of view. i guess they are true paragons of virtue when you look at it that way.

Re:Looking at it from their point of view (1)

rp (29053) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446964)

Exactly.

" The software, introduced in 1997, is called Aureka. The "Au" in Aurigin and Aureka stands for the periodic symbol for gold. (And, yes, the company name and product name are puns for origin and eureka. Who said lawyers don't have senses of humor?)"

The periodic symbol for gold. That sums it up nicely.

Re:This explains it all! (1)

A Life in Hell (6303) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446965)

I joined it many years ago. Now it's your turn!

Re:This explains it all! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1446966)

your phallus must be ever-so-tiny for you to feel the need to rant like this...

sad, really.

Suits Me Fine (2)

thales (32660) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446967)

All the greedy vultures will do is tick off a lot of major companies. Then Congress will finally get the kind of preasure it will take to get rid of this junk patent mess. Look what is happening with the Y2K windowing patent. Go ahead Lawyers, start some high profile cases in an election year. Make sure all the big companies know that they can and will be facing constant lawsuits for obscure patents. You'll soon be back to chasing ambulances.

Re:Before you slam lawyers in general (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1446968)

extending that argument, can't the lawyers be held liable for being opportunists and not doing anything about it until *after* the incident?

in criminal court, this gets you hung...

Re:This article IS from another world. (1)

Brento (26177) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446969)

I agreed with you right up until the part about the tollbooths. (haha) Here's why:

3M patented the Post-It Note and made a fortune. If they would have "open-sourced" it as you suggest, and allowed anybody and their brother to use the technology, do you really think the office supply industry would have benefitted "from further innovation and not entrenched battles" as you suggest? Do you think we would have had a sticky-note revolution?

Of course not. There are plenty of products out there that are indeed truly revolutionary, and that can't really be improved a whole heck of a lot. Banner ads are a perfect example.

Yes, Slashdot would have existed. Things similar to Slashdot existed for a long, long time - they were called local BBS's. We had this discussion here a while back. There will always be free forums for informed individuals to discuss ideas.

Maybe Geocities might not have come to fruition - but is that such a bad thing?

(Don't get me wrong - I loved the rest of your post!)

sour grapes (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1446970)

I bet everyone complaining doesn't have any patents. I do have some and I think they're great.

HaaaaaHaaaaaa this is great.hehehehe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1446971)

NT

Re:Before you slam lawyers in general (1)

Brento (26177) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446972)

If you're implying that lawyers could do anything about the y2k problem, I'm not sure how I follow you. I certainly wouldn't want them modifying code.

But seriously, they did quite a bit. If you've applied for a business loan in the last two years, you've probably had to fill out y2k disclosures. They've worked hard with the SEC to get notifications. They've done a lot to make sure the public can get access to company information about y2k. (Of course, most of that info is BS, but what else can we do?)

What a load of .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1446973)

This is the most self-indulgent, self-important piece of idiotic material I have ever read. No wonder Shakespeared advocated killing all lawyers.

At least this chick is pretty obvious about her goals and motivations, notably $$$$, not anything having to with upholding law, of course, with paragraphs like:

"A new breed of prospector has landed in California and every other technology epicenter to help companies discover their hidden treasures. Like their predecessors of the nineteenth century, they come from many walks of life. Many of them are lawyers."

and it doesn't just stop there:

" The "Au" in Aurigin and Aureka stands for the periodic symbol for gold. (And, yes, the company name and product name are puns for origin and eureka. Who said lawyers don't have senses of humor?)"

The sad thing is that I think this chick is so clueless, she doesn't even seem to realize what she is doing (or know what she is talking about, for that matter).

Harry

Behaviour vs. Intent (1)

crush (19364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446974)

These people aren't evil or anything, they're just interested in making tons of cash. Sort of damning them with faint praise, isn't it? I wonder how many awful people there are about whom you could say "they aren't evil they're just interested in X". Substitute money, power, status, excitement, etc for X. The problem isn't in their all too human desire for any of these things but in the effect they have on others. As far as changing the system goes (and I agree that the whole thing is a problem and needs to be replaced rather than tinkered with) you only need money if you're trying to play the same game. Aren't people like RMS an example of what you can do if you really are motivated? I heard the "money to change the system line" from ESR in the last communication from him on /. but which of them has made a _huge_ difference? I think RMS has shifted a part of the system and made a much larger difference through his intellectual honesty (and bloody-minded commitment to his views) than he could have if he'd started to try and become some sort of lobbyist.

Evil. (1)

pb (1020) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446975)

Nope, sorry guys, this *is* pure evil.

Patenting the obvious is against everything "innovation" stands for. You couldn't patent putting a link around an image, but suddenly a "click-through banner ad" is different? That's evil.

Or, you use cookies to save someone's information (including their credit card number) so that next time, when they come back, you know who they are. (sounds like Slashdot...) But now you call it "one-click shopping", and suddenly it's a new idea.

I know, I'll write up a patent on a system to keep track of people's inventions, but instead of a patent office, I'll call it "pure evil", and sue the USA and all other companies who use my system...
---
pb Reply or e-mail rather than vaguely moderate [152.7.41.11] .

Re:This explains it all! (1)

Mawbid (3993) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446976)

Why is this poster posting the exact same article he posted 45 minutes ago?
--

Re:Before you slam lawyers in general (2)

DGregory (74435) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446977)

Congress passed a law that says that if the computer companies did their due diligence then the customers can't sue. That's why I have to have a y2k voicemail, y2k vacation autoresponder, and keep y2k patch/etc. cds on my person. So yeah it's a foreseeable problem, but they have to prove that the companies did not do their due diligence in preparing for the y2k.

The Real Problem (as I see it) (4)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446978)

Okay, so I think we've established that everyone on /. thinks that the current situation down at the patent office is completely nuts, so...

If you were congress, who would you fix it? I've been playing around with law wordings in my head that would keep companies from accomplishing the monopolization of important ideas and concepts. The problem I'm having is that every bill I come up with in my head would also cause someone who came up with a truly unique service from patenting it (which is, of course, contrary to the whole idea of the patent system).

So, assuming that we're not out to destroy the patent system completely (and I know there are people out there who'd like too, but I think that's unrealistic), how would you legislate to stop abuses while still letting the reasonable patents get through?

----

Re:Looking at it from their point of view (1)

Quack1701 (26159) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446979)

It's not the 'stupid lawyers' fault, it's the whole system.


Seeing it's the lawyer's who make the law, then if there is a fault with the system, it is indeed the lawyer's fault.


quack

Re:Behaviour vs. Intent (1)

Dilbert_ (17488) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446980)

Their intent is not to hurt people/development/whatever, it's just to make a quick buck.

I generaly don't buy into X or Y is 'evil'. There are very few people who are truly 'evil', in the sense thay they do stuff just to hurt others. To make the obligatory Microsoft reference : Bill Gates isn't evil, he's just trying to make more dollars for his shareholders, and for his own wife and kid. His intent is to make money, not surpress the helpless computer users. If he thought he could make more money by going open source, he would do it faster than you can say GPL, I'm sure.

If you really want evil, take a look at random acts of violence/vandalism, where there is absolutely no personal gain. That's what I define as 'evil'.

Striking Back With... GNU-like Patents? (2)

bvmcg (71808) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446981)

Would it be feasible/legal to create a group which did nothing but collect patents, allowing free use in any application where other portions of the result aren't patented (or not patented with intent of open use) by that implementor?

I.e. Amazon couldn't use any patent in the patent pool without allowing free use of the one-click technology or, preferably, giving the patent to the group.

Teeces' 86 Article (1)

348 (124012) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446982)

In 1986 Sullivan read "Profiting from Technological Innovation," [pace.edu] an article written by University of California at Berkeley business school professor David Teece. The Teece article formed the intellectual foundation upon which Sullivan eventually built ICM Group. Teece "identified a series of steps necessary for the extraction of value from innovation," Sullivan says. "Most everything I have done has come off that early work."

Here are some other related links:

The Economics and Management of Technological [pace.edu]
MIT: Technology Strategy/Scott Stern [pace.edu]
Advances in Global High Technology [jaipress.com]
Technological Innovation and International Competitiveness [rdg.ac.uk]
IMD Discovery Events [www.imd.ch]
Related Misc.Books and Articles [ic.gc.ca]

No, Shakespeare was right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1446983)

The fact that these twerps see themselves as productive members of society means nothing except that they're even WORSE than I thought.

Shakespeare was right -- kill all the lawyers.

OSLDF (3)

Money__ (87045) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446984)

Like other law groups protecting differant legal issues in the courts, what the Open Source comunity is in need of is a Open Sourse Legal Defence Fund.

The OSLDF can challenge patent assersions in court showing prior art in the standards and protocols and argue when an obvious implimentation of this prior art is needlesly patented.

The OSLDF can challenge patent prospectors to show there source code in order to show that there particular implementation is indeed unique and worthy of patent protection.

The OSLDF can fight for the small guy who doesn't have the means to launch a legal defence when his rights are violated under the GPL.

The OSLDF could grow as large as the ACLU is today, looking for landmark cases to protect the civil liberties of open source programers.

The OSLDF funding would be drawn (in the form of tax deductable donations) from the many users of open source. As Open source delevopment touches more and more industries and walks of life, the funding will also grow.

_____________________________________

Re:And the winner is... (2)

JohnL (7512) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446985)

Ultimately, the idea that someone can own and control something simply because s/he thought of it is a pretty good definition of evil.

That is what a patent is. It allows you to have sole, legal control over your idea.

The universe of techniques, procedures, and mechanisms that could make the world a better place is a bit like natural resources.

Not really. Most natural resources renew themseles slowly enough that if they aren't managed, you have a boom-and-bust cycle (ie, fish out the ocean, fishing is no longer profitable, fishermen do other things, fish population recovers, repeat). Intellectual resources, however, are infinitely renewable. You can't "use up" human creativity. This reminds me of the story of the Patent Office clerk who quit his job around 1900, because everything had already been invented.

Open source, of course, is the solution. ;) Why? Because it allows for others, now or in the future, to build on and improve our efforts now. And that's a pretty good definition of Good.

Ha! Patents are the solution, because they allow you to make a buck now, while insuring that your ideas are free to use later on down the road. If patent law didn't exist, no company would ever admit what it had developed, because they'd lose it immediately. As a result, most companies would be re-inventing the wheel, instead of making something useful. Imagine if all of the processes associated with semiconductors were to have been held as corporate secrets. What would the world look like? Who'd own a computer? Not you or me, bud. We might have one of those newfangled transistor radios if we had a month's pay to blow, but vaccuum tubes would be in most of 'em. Rotary phones, leaded gasoline, and kidney stone surgery (with a knife!). So, where's your Linux now?

Re:The Real Problem (as I see it) (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446986)

If you were congress, who would you fix it?

1. Publish applications 12 months after filing to get more transparency into the process.
2. Tighten requirements for unobviosness.
3. Allow formal objections after publication of application.
4. Tighten law to close business model loophole. This was actually a provision in the law that was worked around via the process patent.
5. Specify in the new law that software is an expression not an implementation, thus not patentable.

1 anad 3 are in progress right now.

Re:Looking at it from their point of view (1)

Dilbert_ (17488) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446987)

It's not the lawyers who make the laws : it's those pesky politicians. Ever heard of the separation of powers : executive branch, judicial branch and legislative branch. Lawyers are not in the legislative branch that makes the laws. They are in the judicial branch that uses these laws to sue people.

So if it's anyones fault, it's the legislative branch (and ultimately the voters, i.e. you).

Re:Total lack of though (2)

Greg Merchan (64308) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446988)

Hold on a second! What do you mean by capitalism? What's going on right now with all these goddamn awful stupid inane patents, trademarks and senseless bullshit is not the result of capitalism, it's the abandonment of it. There is a proper place for intellectual property. But the widespread mockery of justice that the article proposes is an infringement upon the rights of everyone; capitalism is supposed to protect rights, not destroy them.

The only place I can think of that the growth of the internet (pre-web) strayed from capitalism was that it was started under DARPA; and that depends on whether you consider the project a proper defense project. I don't know enough about that to have an opinion, yet. I do know that the internet is a good thing.

Also, one of the proper acts of gov't is 'to fix the Standard of Weights and Measures'. Internet Protocols, established under DARPA, could well fall into this category.

Of course today's Intellectual Property nonsense is like trying to patent the ruler or scale that implements that standard.

Does anyone expect them to say differently? (2)

color of static (16129) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446989)

The lawyers make money by representing people in legal matters that are to complex for the client, or when it must enter court. Innovation and the advance of technology is not in their favor. If a lawyer, or their staff, is made more effecient then they have to find more clients to keep the same profit margin. Thus meaning they will want to make things more complicated for legal matters or revoke the right for non lawyers to represent others in certain dealings (like what happened in Real Estate in many states).

So software patents kill both birds with one stone. They get more places where they have to be the representative, and it stifles innovation along with it. Now I know they consider the first all the time, but the second is probably just in the subconcious.

Plus they don't understand or like free software in general. Here is something that my staff can only charge back labor for? That means I can't tack on a handling charge for parts/materials.

They aren't serving society in these cases.

Re:Different mindset (5)

MattMann (102516) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446990)

The problem lies with the PTO and the courts, not with lawyers, and not with corporations.

One of the things that we as a community misunderstand is that lawyers, evil Snidelies or not, are simply following the law and their code of ethics when they advise their clients of what is in the client's best interest. Among their clients are corporate executives who are required to act in the best interests of their shareholders.

If you sit down and calmly tell them, "don't do it, it's not in our best interest" then I hope what they do is calmly reply to you, "it is in our best interest." Let me [hyperspace topic jump] use an example from econ 101, one from the family of "the failures of the commons": traffic jams are bad, right? And yet traffic jams form because what is in one's personal interest is not in the best interests of the group. People are willing to add themselves to a clogged highway because it is still the fastest way for them to get to work at that moment. Yet, their personal time savings turns out to be less than the total time they add to everyone else's commute. It's called a negative externality. [hyperspace topic wormhole collapses... we are back] So, we as a community can be against these patents because of their negative externalities, but it is not feasible to convince individuals that it is not in their interest because patents simply are in their interest.

Sit down and calmly discuss it with your representative, with the PTO, with the judge... but the best way to convince an individual is probably to scream incoherently, to threaten, undermine, backstab and be otherwise civilly disobedient. Your reaction will need to be way out of proportion to change their equation.

Somehow our society at large needs to be shown that computers virtualize everything, and when the mouse click was invented, everything one could do with a mouseclick became obvious. Why isn't that obvious?

Re:Blackdowned (1)

Money__ (87045) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446991)

"Getting Borked"=When a political apointee is put on the political hot seat.
"Being Downsized"=Politicly Corect way of firing somebody.
I would like to offer a new term to the group.
"Getting Blackdowned"=Open Source developers being whiped from the face a project when it reaches a usefull stage.

Perhaps the OSLDF could have been able to help the blackdown group when they 'Got Blackdowned'.

_____________________________________

Re:This explains it all! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1446992)

Do his comments make you so uncomfortable that you have to reach right down and grab your dick to feel safe, or what?

Re:Looking at it from their point of view (1)

Bitscape (7378) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446993)

Actually, most congressmen are lawyers by trade.

Causing bigger problems (1)

JohnL (7512) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446994)

5. Specify in the new law that software is an expression not an implementation, thus not patentable.

So, software would fall under copyright laws, rather that patent laws? If so, you're opening up a whole new can of worms, since Congress has shown no hesitation whatsoever to extend the lifespans of copyrights. So, not only would some great software idea be unavaliable to you to use now, but it would be unavaliable forever, ala Mickey Mouse.

Re:This explains it all! (0)

dirty (13560) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446995)

Who is the bigger geek, the geek or the geek who insults the geeks? Or maybe it's the geek who parodies lines from star wars. I find it amusing that you insult all of us for being "losers", as you define it, yet you are the one who seems to get his kicks by insulting people on slashdot. BTW, for a record, I do have a social life, I had a moderately long term girlfriend until recently when I broke up with her, and I am a quite adept skier (is that how you spell it?). Life is short when you constantly insult others and never bother to live your own life.

P.S. Please excuse my spelling or grammar errors. We all know that not being able to spell or speak correctly is a requirement for being a true /. geek.

Re:Different mindset (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1446996)

This deserves more than a rating of 1

Patents & Freeware (1)

Crackerjack (15884) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446997)

I think the only way we can combat such foolishness is to write open source freeware that employs as many patented concepts as possible, thereby removing the profit in intellectual patents since the techniques will be common in freeware. Luckily, you are not in violation of patent law unless you're selling something. I think. But even if i'm wrong, the code will still be out there, right? :)

Another Universe? (2)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446998)

Yeah... Probably the one from the classic Star Trek episode Mirror, Mirror.

(Using Mozilla M12 and loving it.)

Zontar The Mindless,

Re:This explains it all! (0)

GPSguy (62002) | more than 14 years ago | (#1446999)

Standardized and specialized tests suggest that I *AM* a genius. Pico doesn't break class structures like VC++. I *AM* a programmer whether I install RPMs on Linux or not. The command line and the options give me more utility than a pull-down menu.

I have no social life to speak of, save teaching, guest-lecturing to professional societies, presentations at meetings, and Cub Scouts... I have a wife and 3 kids. Most of my athletic ability (long-distance cycling, rock climbing) ended 2 years ago with a nasty work-related injury to both legs. But I'm coming back, and hiking's available again.

At least I can identify the difference between an operating system and a kludgy monitor with a badly implemented GUI.

Obvious to those skilled in the art... (2)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447000)

Inventors are often so accustomed to working every day on their projects that "it looks obvious to them." Indeed, one of the most difficult tasks in this field of intellectual property asset management is to get the engineers and lawyers talking to one another. To encourage engineers to disclose what they are working on, Fox offers cash payments.

One of the tests of patentability is that the technology not be obvious to those skilled in the art. "The art" here refers not to patent lawyering, but to the field of the invention. The juxtaposition in the above quote of "obvious" with "talking to lawyers" indicates confusion on this simple fact of law.

A technique being obvious to engineers skilled in the art of the invention in question is not the same as the technique being obvious to patent lawyers.

The problem, of course, is that patent law professionals, be they lawyers, judges or patent office bureaucrats, have an incentive to make everyone in the world go through them to do anything -- and they are in a position to do so if they can, in the guise of legal sophistication, get away with ignoring both law and common sense.

This is yet another example of the abuse of the rule of law by those entrusted to uphold it.

These people don't understand that they are attacking respect for the rule of law, and that respect for the rule of law is all that really stands between them having a nice townhouse in a peaceful society, and ending up as long pig.

Two Sides.... (1)

kuroineko (71801) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447001)

I often see freeware fans being called spongers.
Well, you can't have everything for free, indeed,
but why should one avoid a chance to have something
for gratis? On the other hand, is it necessary to
make money of everything? How big is the piece of
cake one can swallow without any risk? Someone
had a nice idea, moreof, he managed to implement
it, now these parasites come and tell him this is
a gold mine. But it's obvious, because this is a good idea and it works.
Int. Pat. can never stop `infrigment' or `piracy', so keep lawyers away. This world is _ours_.

Re:Looking at it from their point of view (3)

_ska (114561) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447002)

I don't buy it. Doing something 'just cause I am interested in X' --- and knowing full well that it has a deletorious effect on the rest of society (or on a particular segment or whatever)... is evil.

Making money for the sake of makeing money is not a worthwhile pursuit. This culture has bought into that idea in a big way, but it is fundamentally broken.

If I was interested in cash only, I could quit what I am doing (grad studies) and take a US $150K/yr +stock job ( I don't mean this in an abstact sense, I mean I have the job offer on paper). If I was 'only interested in money' that is, of course, what I would do. However, there is no chance whatsoever that I will take this particular job, as I think that what they do is unethical. We all have these choices to make, in differing degrees.

Essentially what you are saying is that we should say 'don't be too hard on them for being unethical, they are just greedy' at least thats how it translates in my world view.

Now before I get some idiot jumping up and down and making damn-fool 'communism' etc. claims --- please note I am not saying that you shouldn't pursue a financially rewarding career. What I am saying is that financial rewards, in and of them selves are meaningless. If you are optimising for income, your priorities are inane. There is a big difference between making enough to be free to do things that are rewarding to you, and making as much as you can.

S.

The Deny-side economy in full bloom. (1)

Olof the Hopeful (118716) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447003)

Find some "gold" that is free supply, and figure a way to deny, then sell access.

That seems to be their philosophy. Make sure to exploit any possible claim, not make sure that internal R&D funding is sustainable by fair claims and licensing of its results.

I don't think patenting was originally conceived to serve their kind of "prospecting."

Just a tiny correction... (1)

Andrew Cady (115471) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447004)

The GPL says this:
7. If, as a consequence of a court judgment or allegation of patent infringement or for any other reason (not limited to patent issues), conditions are imposed on you (whether by court order, agreement or otherwise) that contradict the conditions of this License, they do not excuse you from the conditions of this License. If you cannot distribute so as to satisfy simultaneously your obligations under this License and any other pertinent obligations, then as a consequence you may not distribute the Program at all. For example, if a patent license would not permit royalty-free redistribution of the Program by all those who receive copies directly or indirectly through you, then the only way you could satisfy both it and this License would be to refrain entirely from distribution of the Program.
Which, in english, means that if you have a patent, but you allow free use of *all* GPL'd software (your release plus any derivative works) that infringes that patent, then the GPL'd software infringing that patent is valid and the GPL is applicable.

At least, that's what it looks like to me. I don't think it disallows the use of patents against proprietary software, only against modifications of the original GPL software. The preamble (which has no legal standing) is much less clear; that's probably the source of confusion.

Re:Does anyone expect them to say differently? (1)

kuroineko (71801) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447005)

I'd say they aren't serving society in any case.
First they made these rules so that no one in
his sane mind can understand them, now they charge
you big $$$ to represent you in the court.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states
that everyone has a right to be a person in front
of the law, now the law must be simple and effective
so we don't need anyone between us and the law
that is intedned to protect ourselves in a fair and
clean way. We need no intermediates between us and our law in this world of ours.

Re:Looking at it from their point of view (2)

SoftwareJanitor (15983) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447006)

Lawyers are not in the legislative branch that makes the laws.

Actually that is not true. Most politicians in the legislative branch are in fact lawyers (even Bill Clinton is (was) a lawyer). I've heard a figure of 80% of the US house and senate are lawyers, but I can't say how accurate that is. The representative from my district is a doctor, however both of my state's senators are lawyers (or former lawyers).

Re:Behaviour vs. Intent (1)

crush (19364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447007)

I guess that is my point. Intent really isn't all that interesting! The intent of coporate lawyers may not be to rein-in the pace of development, the intent of BillG may not be to create an unpleasant computing environment. Their intent is as you say, and as I pointed out, to achieve X [fame,money,excitement}. To want to get one of these is not evil or bad. But the effect of one's actions in attempting this can be just that: bad (I agree that evil is too strong a word). So, the _intent_ of the patent lawyers may even be good, but I don't count that, I only count the _effect_ that their _behaviour_ has. Similarly, to invert the argument, do you really consider it a mitigating circumstance when someone hurts you with the only motive that they were making money from it? Which leads to your last point: would you rather be assaulted by a mugger then by a loony? Personally I would be a lot more upset by the mugger.

history... (1)

failsafe (72346) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447008)

i finally understand how the american revolutionaries were able to make the decision to free themselves from a restrictive system when they certainly knew that their decision would entail a long and difficult struggle with relatively low chances for success. when a system injures its constituents repeatedly using the very mechanisms that are designed to protect them, when a system promotes the values of monolithic capitalist entities over individuals by disregarding its own set of rules for fairly resolving conflict (as in the etoy/eToys matter), then rational individuals are forced into the position of attempting to correct the flaws in the system that are injuring them. i don't know what corrections might be made to remedy our current situation, but i do know that if the system resists those corrections, that there will inevitably be conflict.

Maybe they have a point! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1447009)

Wouldn't the world be a better place if Wired *had* patented the click through banner ad? Just a thought.

Erratum (1)

crush (19364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447010)

read "than" for "then" in message above please.

Re:Patents & Freeware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1447011)

Wrong. Unisys has a record of being particularly hostile to open source/free software. The popular gd library removed its GIF code; if I recall, this was a response to a legal threat.

Re:Causing bigger problems (2)

sjames (1099) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447012)

So, software would fall under copyright laws, rather that patent laws?

As if it isn't now? At least with a copyright, I can create an original work to accomplish the same thing, and there is no danger that my great project will get me sued (or be killed just as it's comming out) simply because someone else was just waiting for their hidden (pending) patent to be approved.

Also, I would add:
6. Reduce the longevity of a patent.

Re:Looking at it from their point of view (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1447013)

Whoops, I didn't mean to shoot you. You see, the system made it easy for me to get a gun. So much for PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.

IP Irony (2)

GeorgeH (5469) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447014)

In 1986 Sullivan read "Profiting from Technological Innovation," an article written by University of California at Berkeley business school professor David Teece. The Teece article formed the intellectual foundation upon which Sullivan eventually built ICM Group. Teece "identified a series of steps necessary for the extraction of value from innovation," Sullivan says. "Most everything I have done has come off that early work." Two years after reading Teece's article, Sullivan founded a firm that morphed into ICM.
Is it just me, or is it ironic that ICM's furvor for intellectual property came from someone else's paper. I guess it's a shame that buisness models wern't patentable in 1986, otherwise Teece could have patented the stuff in his paper and forced Sullivan to seriously rethink strangleholds on IP. These are probably the same people who don't understand how RHAT can turn a profit, or why anyone would write open source code.
--

Power of the press (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1447015)

Your voice alone means next to nothing in this grand experiment. Yet, couple that with mine and 10,000 others and like that old fabrage shampoo commercial, we'll tell two friends. I can do without Amazon (and HP for that matter). Besides half price books has plenty of stuff for me to read, if I ever actually step away from this tube. When you make your voice heard through any feedback mechanisms available, you're doing the right thing. There is a war coming. Don't forget that our cumulative discretionary income will win :)

Merry Xmas,
Dave

PS- someone mentioned the inventor of the press as candidate for man of the galaxy. Something to think about. Berners-Lee had no idea, but this became the new press. Strange things afoot no? Don't forget to do whats right, even when it means a little more work. Thats what open source was supposed to be about, until they all got rich on us. RH and VA, etc.. will fight for the community if they know whats right, else they'll go down in flames. But hey.. lets see what happens in Y2K

Re:*laugh* (1)

orangesquid (79734) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447016)

Yeah, I mean, come on, _somebody_ really should patent the lemonade stand! And street vendors! And advertisements! And the English language!

Better yet, someone should patent the idea of IP law - then sue the patent system for infringing on their patent!

Just my $0.01 (its not even worth 2 cents)

Re:Press Release (2)

sjames (1099) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447017)

I wonder how they'll feel about things if a submarine patent pops up and the owner demands that they stop selling and using that software?

Re:Different mindset (1)

dsplat (73054) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447018)

Thanks for explaining all of the high points so well and so succinctly. The bottom line is that there are good patents and there are bad patents. The bad ones are for ideas that are overly broad and vague, things that are obvious, and anything for which there is prior art.

IP lawyers are unlikely to have anywhere near the level of specialized technical knowledge that a programmer or engineer working on a project has. Their knowledge is more superficial, but broader. It is up to the engineers to point out the obvious stuff, the prior art, etc. This is not much different from taking enough responsibility for your own health that you ask your doctor intelligent questions. It must be a collaborative effort.

Of course, I am preaching to the choir here. I think most of you reading this understand the damage that bad patents and a broken process have the potential to inflict. We are nowhere near being the majority of programmers in the world. A lawyer unfamilar with software and a programmer who treats that lawyer as a guru on IP law who is not to be questioned can still write bad patent applications. And the USPTO can't have experts in every field. If we want it fixed, we have to get out there and change it ourselves.

Re:HEMOS SUCKS (1)

dyslexia (96008) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447019)

It has come to my attention that you are using a trademark and two patents of my company. You will cease and desist at once.

The phrase "EAT MY SHIT ZEALOTS" is a tradmark of my company, and we have patents on insulting people on the internet, and typing in all caps to annoy people.

No, "evil" is an appropriate word (1)

Brian Stretch (5304) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447020)

If I go out and mug somebody in a land with no laws against such things, does that make it right? The fact that "the system" allows it does not wash it of immorality. Slavery used to be legal. It still is in some countries.

Patents should protect implementations, not ideas, and in intellectual property (particularly source code), copyrights are usually a more effective means to the same end. The source code to a particular banner ad serving program can be copyrighted (legally protected) if its creator so chooses. The general idea of banner ads should not be. Legally freezing implementations doesn't stop progress; freezing ideas does.

Re:Obvious to those skilled in the art... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1447021)

These aren't exceptionally smart people we are talking about here you know. I mean, they are essentially scavengers, picking the meat from the engineers minds. "You just sit here in this nice cube for your 50k/year and come up with nifty ideas I can steal from you and patent as the company's". What arrogance. But, I blame the weak minded spineless engineers for giving up the ghost. Same as the MS trials; I blame Dell, Compaq, et. al. They are the ones who sold us out ("us" being the consumers). So, as long as people keep handing over the ideas to be patented, hmm... I wonder what will continue... Oh yes, the anal abuse...

Re:Behaviour vs. Intent (1)

fatboy (6851) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447022)

If you really want evil, take a look at random acts of violence/vandalism, where there is absolutely no personal gain. That's what I define as 'evil'. I would say anything that causes an atificial hold on progress as harmfull. It's not as if these guys have come up with anything novel. It's not as if these guys are patenting a manufacturing process. These guys have patent the use of cookies in selling things on the web. No good can come of this, it is evil.

Patent process hijacked by the twits (2)

Peter Koren (2433) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447023)

The creation of patents was meant to protect real innovation, the type recognized as having a scientific or engineering character. Whether or not we agree with the patent concept at all, the avaricious lawyers and greedy business interests have hijacked the process for their own benefit.

The courts have failed to spot the "innovation" impostors and are largely responsible for the abuse of the intent of the patent laws. The Amazon "One Click" innovation is so obvious as to be laughable, but the notion that business model innovation is protectable under patent law is the big problem. The constitutionality of business model patents needs to be challenged.

Defeating the notion of software patents is a harder proposition. I suggest that the open source community start a web site devoted to finding prior art for claimed software patents. Using the Internet we could probably sink a lot of claims and make the notion of software patents so absurd as to make it vulnerable to a formal legal challenge. This is going to be a long struggle, I am afraid.

This IS Redundant! (1)

billsf (34378) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447024)

So, for the most part only the USA is screwing itself out of technological lead in any area. Then so what, open source just moves 'abroad' and watch the fur fly if Americans are forbidden to 'import it'. I can see a reverse of the whole crypto mess that anyone, anywhere can easily circumvent. In the final analysis; BFD!

Patents aren't evil in their own right. I have a few, but they are for real inventions and not simply applied mathematical formulae, something a copyright could best take care of.

Re:No, Shakespeare was right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1447025)

And, what, exactly, would you replace them with? SOMEBODY has to interpret law. SOMEBODY has do advocate in criminal civil legal battles. Or perhaps you'd just do away with laws too, and have us hire gunmen instead? If laws are required, lawyers are required. Unfortunate, but true.

Re:This explains it all! (0)

flngroovy (8003) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447026)

Ok so I made some stupid comments which I apologize for. I should not have made those comments to everyone in general. I also did not mean to post under this story. I do have a life, although making such posts would indicate otherwise. Windows users do not start these debates about which OS is better. It's almost always the linux users. It wouldn't be so annoying if linux was actually a decent OS. It is not. When 95 came out you heard people talk about how it copied the Mac. Nobody seems to mind that linux copied UNIX. I am a CS major and at my University we have a row of linux boxes. Several CS students do all there programming on these boxes and look down on those who do not. I happen to make better grades than they do and my programs work just fine on Windows using VC++. Why they open their mouths, like many linux geeks, is beyond me. Comparing Linux to Windows is like comparing a college team to the pros. Windows 2000 is about to hit the shelves. They have added too many features to mention. I have used it and can say that it is stable, easy to use, easy to setup, and works with almost all hardware. Linux is gonna release a new kernel someday and if we're lucky we may see USB support in there. WOW. Welcome to the 90's linux.

Re:Different mindset (2)

Greg Merchan (64308) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447027)

Funny thing about those traffic jams. Turns out that if everyone knows what is in their best interest and acts accordingly, the traffic jams will readily clear up.

It should be, but often isn't, painfully obvious that one should keep a good distance between oneself and the cars in front. Besides this being safer, it is also legally advisable (IANAL) because a) it is the law, and b) the liability in a collision rarely falls upon the lead car (IIRC).

When this rule is followed it is safer, traffic moves faster because of less 'resistance' (like in electrical conductors), and the ability of oncoming traffic to easily merge relieves the congestion on those same surface streets that feed the it.

For more information see Bill Beaty's Amateur Science [amasci.com] site. Traffic simulations may be found there [amasci.com] .

Re:Total lack of though (1)

cowscows (103644) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447028)

I mean capitalism as the driving force of society. That's how I'd define it. Not by its ideals, but by it's actual implementation.

Not nuch to say... (2)

Millennium (2451) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447029)

They aren't human.

I'm only half-joking. How can I say this? Well, consider: a very large part of what makes human beings what they are is the fact that humans have a complex ability to exchange ideas. This was first accomplished through language, and is not being spread to computers. Think about it: humans are individuals, but at the same time you could also say there's a collective consciousness as well in the various groups and cultures.

My point? Software is, at its heart, nothing but ideas. Ideas have never been intended to be patentable; even the US Patent Office doesn't allow for the patenting of ideas (they just need to get my previous point into their heads). There's a difference between source code and software; source code can be copyrighted, providing adequate protection for the work a company has done (not to mention the fact that copyrights are cheaper than patents and last longer too). It does this without stifling the flow of ideas which makes humanity what it is. Software patents do stifle this flow, and it's done without any real need (unless percieved from the point of a profiteering glutton, to borrow a phrase from The Mentor). It's more than possible to make money without patents; in fact I would be willing to bet that if all software patents were abolished right now, the revenues of the various software companies (those which actually write software instead of hoarding patents, at least) wouldn't change significantly.

Basically, to stifle the free flow of information is to stifle our humanity in a very real way. It's a shame that there are people who will do this just to make a buck. But they do exist, having forgotten that there are things more important than making ridiculous amounts of wealth (which is certainly nice and all, and I wouldn't mind doing it myself, but it's not the most important thing).

Re:The Real Problem (as I see it) (2)

NVH Engr (30452) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447030)

If you were congress, who(sic) would you fix it? (snip)

So, assuming that we're not out to destroy the patent system completely (and I know there are people out there who'd like too, but I think that's unrealistic), how would you legislate to stop abuses while still letting the reasonable patents get through?

You are asking the right questions. Here is my answer:

I wouldn't. The mechanisms to stop this nonsense are already in place, if we just get off our asses and do it.

Why has no one mentioned pre-publication? Pre-publication is the surest way --and pretty cheap-- to stop an impending patent cold in its tracks. And give the ammunition to those companies who must fight these silly patents.

You have an obvious algorithm that might have patent potential? You could:

patent it (and earn the ire of Slashdot).

or send a good writeup to Linux Today or IEEE Spectrum or wherever.

Disclose everything, including every possible application you can think of. That technology can no longer be patented; if a patent is later issued, you can send a friendly note to the USPTO requesting a review with a heads-up concerning where it was published. For one year after publication, the technology is in a sort of limbo; an unscrupulous person could potentially patent your technology and claim they invented it before it was published. (That is called "fraud" by the way and the USPTO takes a dim view of such activities.) After 1 year, though, your software/idea/algorithm is permanently in the public domain.

(Yes, there are some drawbacks to this, involving the patent laws in countries other than the U.S., which is NOT the subject of this article. Anyone abroad care to comment? Defensive publication is one of the tools used by U.S. corporations to protect themselves from "the obvious".)

Publish early, publish often.

I am getting pretty tired of seeing the U.S. patent system blasted across Slashdot. Our system ("first to invent"), IMHO beats the heck out of most of the rest of the world ("first to file") and is much more friendly to individual inventors than we give them credit for.

The source of these patent articles (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1447031)

To understand the apparently outrageous stances of "these patent lawyers" it's important to understand who is writing these patent articles. A lot of the patent articles I've seen on /. are thinly-veiled PR puff-pieces created by or created under guidance from a private Mountain View, CA company named Aurigin Systems (http://www.aurigin.com).

I used to work for Aurigin. Since the company is very small, they can probably figure out who I am (hi guys). I respect their aggressiveness and their knowledge of the law enough to post anonymously, avoid revealing company secrets, and saying anything too defamatory. This doesn't mean I agree with their opinions. (If they and their product were more public I would be posting something much different.) What I can do for you guys is distill their rather confusing public information.

Aurigin Systems' main product is a IP management and tracking system called Aureka. Aureka is a very expensive client-server system for companies in industries that have so many patents that the industry players have trouble keeping track of them all. How expensive? In the past this system has been sold in-person (aka "direct sales"). If you've read "Crossing the Chasm", you'll know "direct sales" means the product is worth at least $50,000 because supporting a sales staff that flies around the world to sell your stuff is expensive.

I emphasize the "at least". The Aureka "value proposition" (why it's worth your time, money, and effort) gives you another hint at how much this system might cost. Patent lawsuits have averaged in the millions. Each patent costs around $100,000 in lawyer's and patent office fees to prosecute (that is, to push though the patent office). If you're a company with hundreds of patents, and patent-savvy competitors, you could save millions just by not going for useless or redundant patents. An avoided lawsuit could save you an entire business market. A successful lawsuit could make you hundreds of millions. It doesn't take a genius to see that spending a chunk of cash to make you smarter about your industry's patents will pay off in the millions. This system will make you smarter about your industry's patents. So it's pretty safe to deduce that this system is a little more than $50,000.

How do you get someone to shell out this kind of cash? Who would shell out this kind of cash? I'm beginning to skate on thinner ice because this is getting into Aurigin strategy, but let's see if we can work through this based on what everyone knows.

The "who would buy this" part is kinda obvious: executives who are interested in making their bottom lines prettier and their shareholders happy. The "how to sell this" part is a little trickier. How do you convince these executives to buy? You convince them of the "value proposition," that it'll pay off. How do you do that?

Well, you can tell how Aurigin's doing it by what you've seen on /.. You write articles in magazines that these executives read like Upside and law journals (BTW I sincerely doubt this article was written by anyone but the Aurigin marketting department, or Kevin Rivette himself.), you write a book ("Rembrandts in the Attic"), and you throw conferences, all with the same message: if you're dumb about patents you will waste time and money on useless patents and get sued. If you're smart, you make millions on lawsuits and save operational costs. And oh by the way, here's a software package that helps you be smart about patents.

So now you see why all these articles seem like they're coming from a different world. They are. These articles are trying to convince Fortune 500 executives that they'll get reamed by their competition unless they get smart about how they wield their patents.

PS I lived with patents for years (it was my job to understand them), so here's my two cents about the /. debates on patents: There's no point arguing about patents if you don't understand patent history, patent theory, and patent law. You just sound stupid when you do. Patents are monopolies. They're supposed to be. I think a lot of people have a problem with that but have trouble admitting it. And this business environment is nothing new. In the early part of the century, there were patent wars over automobiles. There has been a lot of ugly wars over telecom patents. Any time there are patents and new lucrative technologies they'll be companies trying to patent everything in sight because patents help the bottom line, and that's all companies care about.

Arguing about patent theory and efficacy, however...

Evil is as evil does (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1447032)


"The love of money is the root of all evil."

Re:This explains it all! (1)

Money__ (87045) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447033)

Ok so I made some stupid comments which I will never apologize for. I should have made more comments to everyone in general. I also did not mean to post under this story. I don't have a life, and making such posts would prove it. Linux users do not start these debates about which OS is better. It's almost always the windows users. It wouldn't be so annoying if windows was actually a decent OS. It is not. When MS-Bob came out you heard people talk about how it copied the Mac. Nobody seems to mind that Windows copied Linux. I am a CS major and at my University we have a row of windows boxes. Several CS students do all there programming on these boxes and look down on those who do not. I happen to make better grades than they do and my programs work just fine on Linux using GCC. Why they open their mouths, like many windows geeks, is beyond me. Comparing windows to Linux is like comparing a college team to the pros. Windows 2000 has yet to hit the shelves, so they're kinda still in college. They have added too many features to mention. I have used Linux and can say that it is stable, easy to use, easy to setup, and works with almost all hardware. Windows is gonna release a new service pack everyday and if we're lucky we may see Windows catch up with Linux and offer a journaling file system. WOW. Welcome to the 90's Windows.

_____________________________________

Re:Behaviour vs. Intent (1)

kaniff (63108) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447034)

To quoth the famous quote. By who I don't know who it was said.

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

I've tried. (1)

nevets (39138) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447035)

I work for a large company, and when it came turn for me to place a patent, I wanted it to be open source. The company lawyer I talked to seemed very intelligent about the technical aspect of the patent utility. But he told me he is under special orders for the powers above, and can't do much of what I wanted. This of course made me not try so hard in making my stuff patentable. So it ended that the company actually suffered from this. For me to patent something, they will take a look at it, then after it goes off to the patent office, they will then decide what the rules shall be. By then, what I think doesn't matter any more.

Steven Rostedt

Re:The Real Problem (as I see it) (1)

Eccles (932) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447036)

If you were congress, who would you fix it?

1) Establish a method other than the courts (something akin to arbitration) for determining whether an idea is novel enough and unique enough for patenting, where all parties expressing a concern have input.

2) Shorten the duration of patent protections (copyrights too).

3) Establish that patents must be truly *novel*, not simply a logical extension of current practice that your average person in the field would come up with after an afternoon's thinking, nor the use of a known technique with a new technology.

Re:Bit confused, isn't it? (1)

symbolic (11752) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447037)

Here's another way to look at it - I, as one of many incarnations of John Q. Public, have a LOT of respect for Wired for exercising some discretion, but not enough for Amazon to give them my business. These gold-digging morons can patent away - but *I* won't be rewarding them for it.

Moderators: moderate this up ! ! (1)

Money__ (87045) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447038)

Moderators: moderate this up ! !

_____________________________________

Re:OSLDF (1)

xdroop (4039) | more than 14 years ago | (#1447039)

Ah yes, the best kind of political advocacy: create a Special Interest Group.

And of course, these lawyers riding to the rescue of our Opressed Open Source Bretheren would be powered by the best kind of money: Someone Else's.

Exits left, laughing hysterically
--

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