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The Real Problem With the US Patent System

Zonk posted about 7 years ago | from the slow-down-man-what's-the-rush dept.

Patents 173

Pachooka-san writes "An article in the Washington Post touches on the 'real' patent problem — the quotas that Patent Examiners must meet. They have no effective quality standards, only production standards, so many applications get only cursory review just so the PE can keep up the grueling pace. The USPTO is the only government agency that can and does lay you off if your productivity drops below 85% of the standard for your civil service grade. A Primary PE has to process 5 new and 5 old applications every 2 weeks (that's 8 hours each, folks). The best part — that 28-box application mentioned in the article? — it gets the PE the same credit as the smallest application. How many of those 28 boxes do you think even got opened?"

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You get what you pay for... (3, Insightful)

gbulmash (688770) | about 7 years ago | (#21031755)

TFA states: "In the global economy, innovation, technological progress and the protection of intellectual property rights are keys to U.S. competitiveness. Keeping up with the demand for patents is critical to the nation's health."

Yeah, but like so many things that are critical to the nation's health, it's not a hot button issue with the majority of voters, so it gets a little lip service, and wallows in mediocrity, getting enough funding and attention to avoid a near-term embarrassing implosion of the department, but not enough to solve its problems.

No matter. Another decade or two of bad patents being approved and we won't have to worry about the department imploding. Our economy will.

- Greg

ITS BROKEN FIX IT!!!!11ONE (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21031909)

(caps lock is cruise control to awesomeness)

Re:ITS BROKEN FIX IT!!!!11ONE (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21031993)

ITS BROKEN FIX IT!!!!11ONE

Did you know that you can work around a broken Caps Lock key by holding down either Shift key as you type?

Re:ITS BROKEN FIX IT!!!!11ONE (2, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 7 years ago | (#21032127)

Are you sure that doing so wouldn't violate a patent?

Re:You get what you pay for... (1, Insightful)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | about 7 years ago | (#21031995)

The point of the patents, from the perspective of one whose interests are US competitiveness, is to enforce them on other nations more than those other nations enforce them on you.

They're a 'smart' tax. If you want to act 'smart', you have to pay for permission, and it doesn't matter how unfair that is on the domestic level, as long as the rest of the world is either paying all their smart taxes your way or competing 'dumb', your nation will get richer by doing nothing.

Those responsible for the US economy don't want everyone freely sharing ideas and being as productive as they can be in an open fashion, because they've got a tiny population compared to the rest of the world, and most of them are elderly. They would quickly become irrelevant if that happened.

What they want is to have their part of their citizenry set up the paperwork to enforce the smart tax, and part maintaining the massive military dominance that perpetuates the system. Then they can just cruise and have those massive foreign populations take care of them.

Thus, the system is doing exactly what those at the helm want it to do.

WTF? (5, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 7 years ago | (#21032005)

"In the global economy, innovation, technological progress and the protection of intellectual property rights are keys to U.S. competitiveness. Keeping up with the demand for patents is critical to the nation's health."

Really?

Is that why the dollar is in free fall, there's 48 trillion of debt, vast amounts of production shipped off to competing countries, the housing market in meltdown about to take the rest of the world with it ... and they've stopped publishing the money supply figures...

Basically... Bullshit.

LOL. Patents are damned near irrelevant and have fuck all to do with the nations health.

Re:WTF? (3, Interesting)

Dunbal (464142) | about 7 years ago | (#21032729)

Funny, you were modded Flamebait by an official Republican fanboy.

Also funny how, despite your qote that mentions "technological progress", this government slashed the science budget by over $100 million. Guess they needed to pay for a few extra Humvees.

But that's ok. China is coming, and God are they going to run right over the US economy. TWO billion people. I hope they will be nice to us.

"First we feared the wolf, then we danced with the wolf. Now we want to BE the wolf" - A chinese politician.

Not really flamebait. (3, Interesting)

Original Replica (908688) | about 7 years ago | (#21033153)

The previous post is questioning why the patent system is "critical to the nation's health." I think it's a fair question, not flamebait. As with many things the answer is not a clear yes or no. Here at Slashdot there are frequent observations about how parts of the current patent system stifle innovation and progress. Of course with no patent system at all the R&D budgets would vanish in almost every field. But what percentage of patents are actual "innovation [and] technological progress"? Is a "Method of creating an anti-gravity illusion" (patent #5255452) really innovation or just a neat trick? Is it critical to our nation's health? How about patent 4773863, an "Amusement Device for a Toilet Bowl"? Critical or superfluous? What about those extra vague idea patents? Perhaps there should be an additional pre-filter for the patent system where things are quickly reviewed and voted as either an important innovation, or a non-critical neat idea. Non-critical neat ideas (for which even something as big as the iPod would qualify) may well be deserving of some short term protection, but the long term protection of every mildly original thought has lead us to a patent logjam that hurts our nation's economic health.

Re:You get what you pay for... (3, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 7 years ago | (#21032131)

Of all the current issues that are "critical to the nation's health", I find it interesting that there are those that believe protecting the property rights of the richest and most powerful among us is at the top of the list.

A trillion-dollar war that's being paid for on credit? Nope. Health care for sick kids? No way. Global climate change? Are you kidding?

But making sure Microsoft is able to get paid every time someone clicks a hot-key combo or installs a program on a computer - now THAT's "critical to the nation's health".

Re:You get what you pay for... (2, Insightful)

servognome (738846) | about 7 years ago | (#21032781)

Of all the current issues that are "critical to the nation's health", I find it interesting that there are those that believe protecting the property rights of the richest and most powerful among us is at the top of the list.
The fundamental nature of the US economy has been shifting towards intellectual property; problems in that area has reprocussions across the entire economy. It's like saying "why should we care that poor people can't pay back the money loaned to them by multi-billion dollar corporations," as we watch the housing reprocussions of the housing bubble burst.

*sigh* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21033277)

I hate a troll. How is this at all insightful?

Re:You get what you pay for... (2, Interesting)

pilgrim23 (716938) | about 7 years ago | (#21032479)



Indeed. After all a Patent on your idea is absolutely VITAL to maintaining your market....NOT!!
See how Coca-Cola protected their formula.

Bureaucrats and lawyers...a winning combination...for bureaucrats and lawyers.

Re:You get what you pay for... (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 7 years ago | (#21032665)

After all a Patent on your idea is absolutely VITAL to maintaining your market....NOT!!
See how Coca-Cola protected their formula.


      Fortunately for Coca-Cola, they were able to dominate the market long before mass spectrometers became popular...

The patent system is not broken.... (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | about 7 years ago | (#21033179)

... for those in the system and those with the ability to change the system.

Patents are a nice little money spinner for Uncle Sam: get paid for a patent application. If it is a bad one, get paid for a reexamination. A few hours of a patent clerk's time get charged as thousands.

They work fine for patent lawyers too. Lots of money to set up a patent application, but the real pay comes when a bad patent gets contested.

The system does not reward high quality work, so how is it going to come about? The USPTO and lawyers are very happy where thay are right now and will actively resist any efforts to change the status quo.

The only way to improve patent quality is to improve the feedback by linking it to dollars. Make the USPTO accountable for damages due to bad patents. But there's not much chance of that happening.

The problem? Darned thing is busted, that's what. (5, Insightful)

fyngyrz (762201) | about 7 years ago | (#21031781)

The main problem with the (US) patent system is that it is a classed, stratified scam. One designed to serve large and/or monied entities, lawyers and their various barnacles.

Without large sums of money, it is difficult to determine if you have a patentable device. Without large sums of money, it is impossible to defend any court action that involves your patent, regardless of if it is brought against you, or by you. So even if, by dint of careful study and diligent application to the system, you manage to get a patent without spending a lot of money, you can't defend it anyway - unless you are well funded.

All this quite aside from the fact that the patent system has mutated enormously from what the founders envisioned; Software patents. Method patents. Patents on the blatantly obvious. Of course, so has most of the rest of our legal system mutated. You know why our system has so mutated? Because our political system, which drives the legal system, is a classed, stratified scam.

And strangely enough, the legal system, which lies between the political system and the patent system, is also a classed, stratified scam. Money talks; justice is the last thing on anyone's list; the question of constitutionality rarely comes up, and when it does, it is likely to be abused and misused right up to and including the supreme court.

Re:The problem? Darned thing is busted, that's wha (5, Insightful)

ebusinessmedia1 (561777) | about 7 years ago | (#21032089)

This is exactly right. Here in the Bay Area, there is currently a feeding frenzy going on, with one IP firm after another popping up to represent one tech company after another in one arcane patent dispute after another.

This is costing ALL OF US a LOT of money. It is making the legal system a LOT of money.

I've been inside a few of these law firms; they hire a phalanx of paralegals to pour through tens-of-thousands of documents, looking for keywords that might have bearing on a case; they create aggressive deposition schedules; they engage in ultra-expensive eDiscovery activities, and so on.

They bring in the best, catered food, day in and day out. They have overnight sleeping rooms, so that paralegals can stop work and not have to take time to commute the next morning. Money flows in, unencumbered by any thought about what it is costingi yuo and me, the American consumer, as all these costs are eventually borne by us in the way of higher prices, or constrained innovation.

The lawyers are walkingi away with big smiles on their faces; it's really sickening to consider the near-fact tthat there is probably more revenue being generated in Silicon Valley via IP litigation than there is from the deployment of new innovation.

Do you think the "legal profession's ethics" (an oxymoron, if I ever heard one) will do anything to stop this money-making juggernaut? Answer: no.

In fact, we are being held hostage by greedy IP law firms, who have a production-line attitude to litigating patent and copyright protection issues.

With new eDiscovery laws coming into place, now we're having to do legal diligence to the 'nth' email. Imagine the wide-eyed, greedy hand-wringing going on with that one.

Recently the ABA created a new "degree", for paralegals. It's called the "Paralegal Certificate". It's a two-year program, with the ABA (American Bar Assn.) mandating that ABA-approved paralegal programs CANNOT be held online. Imagine that. one has to trek off to night school after a long day at work, to listen to someone read notes from a Civil Litigation textbook that you could be reading and being tested for online.

Why this certificate? It permits these IPP (and other) law firms to bill more for paralegals. Now that "paralegal" is an "official" sub-category, law firms can take a $30 per hour paralegal and bill out $120-200 for their time (depending on discipline, and experience). More legal hands in our economy's cookie jar.

I don't know how we're going to change a copyright and patent system that feeds these parasitical attorneys so generously. Think about it; most of the laws are made by people who have been attorneys, and have staffs full of young attorneys. They will legislate in their self-interest.

Re:The problem? Darned thing is busted, that's wha (0, Redundant)

networkBoy (774728) | about 7 years ago | (#21032549)

Off topic, I know, but:

They bring in the best, catered food, day in and day out. They have overnight sleeping rooms, so that paralegals can stop work and not have to take time to commute the next morning. Money flows in, unencumbered by any thought about what it is costingi yuo and me, the American consumer, as all these costs are eventually borne by us in the way of higher prices, or constrained innovation.

The lawyers are walkingi away with big smiles on their faces; it's really sickening to consider the near-fact tthat there is probably more revenue being generated in Silicon Valley via IP litigation than there is from the deployment of new innovation.
Based on the typos in that section (and absent from elsewhere in your post), I'm guessing that you are rather passionate about that particular bit...
-nB

Re:The problem? Darned thing is busted, that's wha (1, Insightful)

Captain Splendid (673276) | about 7 years ago | (#21032629)

(IANAL, but I do own a law firm)

In fact, we are being held hostage by greedy IP law firms

I understand your anger, but you are certainly not being held hostage by a law firm, but by their clients. Or, in other words, lawyers don't sue people, people sue people.

Now that "paralegal" is an "official" sub-category, law firms can take a $30 per hour paralegal and bill out $120-200 for their time (depending on discipline, and experience).

LOL, they've been doing that a long time, they just made it legit, is all. But hey, if you don't like your lawyer's prices, go get another one. It's called "shopping around". Try it sometime.

More legal hands in our economy's cookie jar.

And this is where you fail miserably. Again, a lawyer is an instrument, not some magical black hole for money. Clients instruct them, lawyer performs actions, lawyer gets paid, all of this within whatever legal guidelines apply. So, if you don't like it, change the guidelines and quit yer bitching.

And yes, I realize there are bad lawyers out there. Ideally, a lawyer is both a counselor and mediator, but there a plenty out there who resort to bully tactics, cronyism and other shortcuts to get what they want. But again, I say to you, any system that lets someone like that flourish is the problem.

Don't fight the symptoms, fight the system.

Re:The problem? Darned thing is busted, that's wha (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21032995)

The combination of businessmen and lawyers would be the more appropriate target for scorn. Don't forget, half the challenge of litigation is convincing these people they have grounds to sue.

It's not about the truth, it's about what you can prove, or at least convince someone of.

Re:The problem? Darned thing is busted, that's wha (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21033561)

I think I speak for all of us when I say: Fuck you!

Re:The problem? Darned thing is busted, that's wha (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 7 years ago | (#21032643)

Shakespeare had it right:

"The first thing we'll do - we'll kill all the lawyers", Cade

Re:The problem? Darned thing is busted, that's wha (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21032767)

"they hire a phalanx of paralegals to pour through tens-of-thousands of documents,"

PORE, not pour.

But, you do bring up interesting points. Mod parent UP!

Re:The problem? Darned thing is busted, that's wha (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21033439)

I don't know how we're going to change a copyright and patent system that feeds these parasitical attorneys so generously.
There's only one possible way: ban all patent protectionism by a Constitutional Amendment. Once the US passes it, the rest of the world's IP protectionism would quickly fall like dominos.

It is utterly out of control. People with law degrees are getting 140k per year their first year out of law school. Are we going to pretend lawyers have talent? That they do something else besides reading comprehension and creative used care salesmen persuasion before juries? The number of lawyers that graduate each year must be much higher than the number of medical doctors that graduate each year by now. It's probably higher than the number of engineers and the number of MBAs too. All of this is pure parasitical WASTE that is robbing everyone's pockets in the form of higher prices and lower quality products.

IP is not only proved to do the opposite of promote the arts and sciences, but it is being used to massively ABUSE free market competition. Lawyers are getting massive paychecks for sitting on the asses doing completely non-productive mafioso activity. The prisoner who escaped in the courthouse shooting his way out has racked up over 1.4 MILLION in *public defender* attorney fees. It's outrageous. Everybody now wants to sue everybody for everything.

The USPTO is literally selling away the freedom of Americans to the highest bidder in exactly the same way Ted Kennedy wanted to sell away the paychecks of Americans for illegal immigrant votes.

Ban the IRS. Ban the Federal Reserve. Ban the the USPTO. Fire all their asses, and take away their ill gotten pensions too! All these people are disgusting corrupt pigs. Mutual fund managers are nailed in multi-billion dollar class action law suits for charging 3-4% management fees. But school education administrators rack up 65-70% management fees. Ban the department of education.

This is what happens when socialism runs rampant. There's always tons more corporate welfare and military welfare. It needs to all be CUT. It's nothing but treasonous tyranny to the Constitution. The RIAA is just the tip of the iceberg. All these mother fuckers must go DOWN! Companies like Microsoft are filing for four to five THOUSAND patents PER YEAR! All of the patent grants are criminal. We badly need criminal congressional hearings on the negligence of the USPTO. These patent examiners and their management need to be fired and put in jail, their personal assets seized on the exact same grounds that Enron's management had their personal assets seized. 95% of Microsoft's net worth emanated from the USPTO monopoly patent grants. We are talking a scandal the size of ten thousand Enrons, trillions of dollars of ill gotten gains that might only be exceeded by the Federal Reserve monetary policy inflationary debasement tax. The absolute CORRUPTION throughout the US government is sickening.

If you want to get rid of the corruption, you deny government the means to ABUSE. Cutting back the time period of monopoly grants won't work. They will BRIBE politicians. How do you think the periods of intellectual protectionism were extended from 14 years? You want health care reform? You take away patent protectionism and the price of pharmaceutical drugs will drop 99% (you'll be able to personally pay for the AIDS medication of 100 Africans with aids for the price of a cup of coffee per day), the price of medical equipment will plummet, the price of health care examinations will rapidly decline. You take away copyright protectionism and the price of college education will also massively drop. All of these criminals are profiting by creating artificial scarcity by eliminating legitimate copycat competition, and there is no check on prices.

These people are targeting public domain DNA. They are patenting the genetic make up of FOOD. And they are getting super rich at the expense of the rest of the population for sitting on their asses and fencing off the freedom of others to make, create, build and sell in a free market. If you ban patent and copyright protection, you can chop off 50% of the government and business enabled by government CORRUPTION in one fell swoop. It's time to stop being screwed. The masses can be rallied to such a movement. It's as simple as asking for people's pharmaceutical bills and telling them those bills can be cut by 99%. It's as simple as asking for college students' book bills and telling them those bills can be cut by 99%. And there's a helluva lot of other products out there that can see similar massive price reductions.

money & politics (1)

geoffrobinson (109879) | about 7 years ago | (#21032095)

Money is in politics because politics is in money. The patent system makes decisions that affect money, so it is only to be expected that money will do what it can.

I wanted call that a scam, but a natural outworking of interests.

Re:money & politics (1)

geoffrobinson (109879) | about 7 years ago | (#21032121)

"I wouldn't" instead of "I wanted"...

I'll be my own grammar Nazi.

Re:money & politics (1)

sconeu (64226) | about 7 years ago | (#21032387)

Money is in politics because politics is in money

There's a term for it in California -- "Unruh's Law" (after the late Jess Unruh):

Money is the mother's milk of politics.

Re:The problem? Darned thing is busted, that's wha (2, Insightful)

StikyPad (445176) | about 7 years ago | (#21033195)

The main problem with the (US) patent system is that it is a classed, stratified scam. One designed to serve large and/or monied entities, lawyers and their various barnacles...our political system, which drives the legal system, is a classed, stratified scam...the legal system [...] is a classed, stratified scam.

Give me a break. REALITY is a scam. REALITY favors the most powerful. The government, courts, and USPTO are all protections against the unbridled exercise of power. The government is easily voted out, courts are determined by *juries* (which is predicated on an educated populous, so we really have ourselves to blame there), and the USPTO doesn't write patents on its own.

Now I'm not saying that the process is flawless, but I *am* saying that any process without rigid guidelines (and most of those with rigid guidelines) will be open to some amount of abuse and/or gaming by those with more resources to better play the system. The alternative is a society without powerful entities outside of the government, which is pretty much the goal of communism.

Clearly the process itself needs tweaking, but that's a far cry from the conspiratorial claims of a scam that "the man" is using to keep us all down. Perhaps with less of a reward for patents, such as shorter terms of, say, 5-10 years, there would be less incentive for companies to file every patent imaginable. Nonetheless, you're blatantly disregarding two extremely relevant facts:

1) Patents are not diamonds. That is, they're not forever. The more ideas that are patented today, the more that will be freely available n years from now. If you want to ensure the more open use of patentable ideas tomorrow, patent them today. If you can't afford it, establish a thinktank, collect donations, and do it that way, then freely license them if you want. A lack of motivation on your part is not a flaw in the process, or the opposition; rather it is indicative of your own true level of concern.

2) No amount of patent trolling or shotgun patenting will ever supplant or prohibit a truly novel idea, and individuals with new ideas have just as much opportunity to patent those ideas as ever. If it's already covered by an existing patent, then it's not new, and we've lost nothing. If it *is* new, and that person profits from their idea, then that's a fairly strong indication that the "classed, stratified scam" is really not.

Easy fix (1)

JK_the_Slacker (1175625) | about 7 years ago | (#21031827)

If they'd just approve my patent for flipping a light switch, I'd stop complaining. Simple as that.

Re:Easy fix (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | about 7 years ago | (#21031939)

Hah, jokes on you. I wire my lights to push buttons!

Re:Easy fix (1)

Annymouse Cowherd (1037080) | about 7 years ago | (#21032189)

You spend the entire time while you're in the room holding the button down?

Re:Easy fix (1)

LunaticTippy (872397) | about 7 years ago | (#21032719)

In my 1893-built house the wiring is pretty archaic. All of the light switches that haven't been replaced are mechanical pushbutton switches. One for on, one for off. Pressing one raises the other.

Re:Easy fix (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 7 years ago | (#21033469)

Sorry, you've violated my patent for one-click lighting.

Re:Easy fix (1)

sconeu (64226) | about 7 years ago | (#21032421)

I've patented: "A method for changing the state of illumination objects". Included is a switch and lightbulb example, but not meant to preclude any other mechanisms.

Gotcha! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21032625)

You just violated my patent on using sentence fragments to communicate an idea, so now you owe me money. Simple as that.

Reverse the polarity! (5, Insightful)

jdigriz (676802) | about 7 years ago | (#21031833)

Isn't the solution obvious? Invert the quotas. Pay examiners per application denied. Then only the most nonobvious and innovative stuff will get through the process. The public is best served by preventing as many monopolies on ideas as possible while still rewarding true innovation.

Re:Reverse the polarity! (4, Insightful)

tacarat (696339) | about 7 years ago | (#21031959)

Nope. Then they'd deny everything. The answer is obviously to allow industry to set up a self-regulating body to approve and deny patent applications. No need for the oversight.

Just kidding. I'm curious what happened to the idea of wiki-fying the system.

Re:Reverse the polarity! (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 7 years ago | (#21032601)

Nope. Then they'd deny everything.

      This is a bad thing? That's the whole point! :)

Re:Reverse the polarity! (1)

amber_of_luxor (770360) | about 7 years ago | (#21032953)

>>Nope. Then they'd deny everything.
>This is a bad thing? That's the whole point! :)

Better solution.

If a patent application cites another patent, it is denied on the grounds of being "obvious".

If the patent application could have cited another patent, but did not, it is denied on the grounds of being a fraudulent application.

If any party wants to appeal a denied application,they may pay the sum of US$1 000 000 000 000 for an application to appeal the denial. If the application to appeal is granted, the organization pays a further US$1 000 000 per hour of time spent in adjudicating the patent.

If a party wishes to appeal a patent that has been granted, they may pay the sum of US$100 for an application to appeal the acceptance of the patent. There is no charge for adjudicating a patent that has been granted.

Amber

Re:Reverse the polarity! (1)

budgenator (254554) | about 7 years ago | (#21032861)

The production quotas are based on the number of applications that examiners must review and complete biweekly and have not been adjusted since 1976. Since then, patent applications have become more complex, which means it takes longer to review them.
Maybe the just have to management on-board with some new policies
"if it not understandable it's no"
"if its not revolutionary, it's obvious"
"someone skilled in the arts means someone skilled in the art being patented not skilled in the art of being a patent attorney"

Re:Reverse the polarity! (1)

Bellum Aeternus (891584) | about 7 years ago | (#21033227)

Actually, you're really on to something here and I was going to make a similar comment myself.

Let's look at the issue here in all seriousness (yes, I know this is Slashdot). Who benefits from patents the most? The rich and a few independent inventor types. Who pays for patents? Citizens. Now why should citizens support (taxes) a system that costs them money? Seriously.

The patents only apply in our country (yes, there are international treaties but come on, really...) so they're only targeted at our own people.

Since patents help the corporations, they should be tested and approved by the same corporations. We should set up a large governing body of corporations and anyone who wants to be a part of it. Think ISO without the lame bylaws. Then when a patent application roles in a panel of peer corporations (but not the submitter) are assigned to analyze and approve or deny it.

In this way we create competition and cooperation in the patent system. The government, of course, would retain final veto power as well as the duty to enforce patents that have been approved.

You might think "nothing will ever get through", well that wouldn't be the case. If M$ submits a patent and IBM doesn't like it they might vote against it, but they since M$ will one day be voting on IBM's patent application they might approve it too. But I don't think any company would willingly pass an industry damaging patent under these guidelines.

Re:Reverse the polarity! (1)

tacarat (696339) | about 7 years ago | (#21033371)

I think letting companies like MS or IBM have a say on what is and isn't patentable would be a bad idea. Then companies could easily vote down disruptive technologies (Linux, while not up for a patent, is such) and engage in backroom dealing. Kind of how they do it right now with their Cold War style defensive patent portfolios.

Nope. I think leaving it open to the public, with room for any number of our bored, know it all forum troll types focusing their attention on prior art issues may be the best way to harness the power of this nation's basements.

Re:Reverse the polarity! (1)

Veramocor (262800) | about 7 years ago | (#21033453)

Who pays for patents? Citizens. Now why should citizens support (taxes) a system that costs them money? Seriously.
WRONG.

The patent office is 100% self sufficient based on application fees and patent maintenance fees. In fact at one time the patent office was a cash cow and the government took extra money from fees from it.

So in fact the patent office either costs the taxpayer nothing or imperceptibly slightly lowers his/her taxes

Re:Reverse the polarity! (5, Informative)

droe42 (752882) | about 7 years ago | (#21032047)

The system already rewards examiners for denying an application. (They get a count regardless how they dispose of the application.) Come Nov. 1st the rules for patenting are going to change dramatically. A lot of the complaints out there are getting addressed (for better or worse) by the rule changes. Everyone wants to see "obvious" patents rejected, unless you are the guy who came up with them. This is the *clarification* of the rule changes: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/dapp/opla/preognotice/clmcontclarification.pdf [uspto.gov] If only I had patented the spreadsheet....

Re:Reverse the polarity! (1)

mzwaterski (802371) | about 7 years ago | (#21032895)

Mod Parent Up for actually understanding how the system works and is being changed!

Re:Reverse the polarity! (2, Insightful)

regularstranger (1074000) | about 7 years ago | (#21032059)

Why not just pay the examiners to do their job however they see fit, with some emphasis placed on peer review and oversight. Quotas of any kind are usually detrimental to quality.

Re:Reverse the polarity! (1)

evanbd (210358) | about 7 years ago | (#21033089)

Because it is unfortunately rather difficult for the government to fire an employee who simply isn't doing a good job, if there isn't a nice, objective standard by which they're doing poorly. They want some way to make sure the examiners are being productive.

Of course there are better ways than what they're currently doing. I'm not trying to defend the current practice, I'm just saying it's an unsurprising result of a government bureaucracy.

There is no polarity! (2, Informative)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | about 7 years ago | (#21032081)

The quotas are per patent examined and denied/accepted. So, there is no polarity. In fact, if anything, it is a lot easier to say "X anticipates Y, go away" than to approve a patent.

Already reversed (1)

kansas1051 (720008) | about 7 years ago | (#21032327)

Under the current system, the easiest way for examiners to get quota points is to reject applications, which is exactly what they do. Over 95% of patent applications are initially rejected, which is why the patent process is so expensive. See SSRN [ssrn.com] for a published study that addresses the quota issue in detail.

They are paid by the denial (2, Insightful)

Pachooka-san (88633) | about 7 years ago | (#21032571)

They are paid by the patent denied - patents are generally rejected the first time through, if nothing else to generate more revenue. But it's much easier to just let it slide than to keep searching for good prior art that stops a patent. It's not enough to know it's been done before, you have to cite the prior art, which may be buried in some obscure journal on a different topic. Patents tend to get worded by lawyers, who try hard to obfuscate and make the examiner's job difficult, so they'll give up and allow the patent.

Eureka! (2, Funny)

bobdotorg (598873) | about 7 years ago | (#21031835)

I'm going to patent a a quota system for government offices to use to lay off employees. The details of which will be somewhere in box 8 of 13.

Patents are very difficult to read (4, Insightful)

Cheesey (70139) | about 7 years ago | (#21031847)

I am surely not alone in thinking that the text of every patent seems to be deliberately obfuscated. Each patent seems to have been translated several times before being turned back into a form that is almost (but not quite) entirely unlike English. Surely it would help matters enormously if patents had to be written in English rather than impenetrable legalese? This would help the patent examiners, and it would also help anyone who wanted to reimplement an invention described by an expired patent - which is, after all, part of the deal! The nature of the invention is supposed to be patently obvious so that others can reuse it after it expires. Why isn't this a requirement?

Re:Patents are very difficult to read (5, Informative)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | about 7 years ago | (#21032033)

Surely it would help matters enormously if patents had to be written in English rather than impenetrable legalese?

Patents are legal documents. That is why they are written in legalese. And patent examiners speak legalese. It actually makes them more efficent as it becomes easier to reject a patent for prior art the fewer ways there are to express an idea.

And legalese, much like medical jargon, is a seperate language where words mean specific things. Unfortunately, while medicine stole from Latin, and is thus obvious, the Law stole from English. So many people think it is merely poor English, when in reality the words being used have very precise meanings.

IANAL

Re:Patents are very difficult to read (1)

Cheesey (70139) | about 7 years ago | (#21032177)

In that case, perhaps patents could be written in both English and legalese, so that they can be read both by lawyers and by techies. It seems to me that we ideally want both types of people to review patent applications. Experts in a particular field are more likely to be able to spot prior art, but they are also less likely to be able to actually understand the patent because of the legal jargon.

Re:Patents are very difficult to read (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21032807)

In that case, perhaps patents could be written in both English and legalese, so that they can be read both by lawyers and by techies.


Would you want to do the same with source code?

Sure you could write both source and an "English" version that makes sense to non-techies but you're going to have a lot of ambiguity in the English version. This may seem irrelevant to the non-techie at first but at some point you realize that the precise details and edge cases are critically important in determining what the document means. Without them the English version really isn't that useful.

Re:Patents are very difficult to read (2, Funny)

Cheesey (70139) | about 7 years ago | (#21033041)

Would you want to do the same with source code? Sure you could write both source and an "English" version that makes sense to non-techies but you're going to have a lot of ambiguity in the English version.

REM I see your point.
/* In fact I have never understood why programming languages allow you to add comments. */
// Real programmers don't write comments.
-- Real programmers figure out what code is supposed to do just by looking at the syntax.
# Writing comments is a waste of everyone's time, and comments waste valuable disk space.
% I hate well-commented code.

Re:Patents are very difficult to read (3, Interesting)

dmeranda (120061) | about 7 years ago | (#21032471)

No, patents are quite different from most forms of legalise. They are definitely designed to be as incomprehensible as possible and as ambiguous as possible. Wheras most legalise is an attempt to be precise (much like computer programming), "patentese" is the other extreme to be as imprecise as you can possibly get by with.

For comparison go read "real" legalize, say almost any of the Public Laws passed by congress. Some of them may be long (mainly those intended to obfuscate the flow of bribery money, er, earmarks). But the laws that are actually suppposed to be the most legal in terms of setting rules for citizens, they are surprising very easy to read and understand in English. In fact the more important the law, usually the easier it is to understand. Look at some of the constitutional ammendments. Most are only a paragraph or two of very plain English prose. See, the congress which wrote those wanted to be sure they were so clear that nobody could ever not understand them or misinterpret them.

On the other hand, patent lawers and the companies they front actually desire to create as much confusion and obfuscation as possible. Ever wonder why ordinary lawers can do pretty much anything, except patent law?

The sad thing is that the original intent of a patent was to actually make knowledge more available and understandable to the public as a whole. But instead patents are written in some invented cryptographic foreign language; plus the way legal penalties are set up it's in your best interest to actually NOT read patents, so the legal system is actively discouraging the disemination of knowledge, the same way a traffic ticket discourages speeding....the exact opposite of the purpose of patents.

Re:Patents are very difficult to read (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21032653)

You mean laws are written in python and patents are written in perl?

Re:Patents are very difficult to read (1)

hankwang (413283) | about 7 years ago | (#21032839)

Patents are legal documents. That is why they are written in legalese.

Only the section with the claims, that exactly defines what type of device or process is covered by the patent, is supposed to be legalese. Most of the bulk of a patent is supposed to be readable for an engineer who deals with similar devices or processes, and that has indeed mostly been my experience with patents in a field that I know well (i.e., laser physics). But someone without an appropriate physics background should not expect to be able to understand the text, just like they would not be able to grasp what's in a typical paper in Physical Review or Journal of Applied Physics.

Re:Patents are very difficult to read (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21032863)

Patent language is a method for describing invention for submission to a government agency for patent approval, where said invention is submitted to said agency with language such that...

oh never mind.

Re:Patents are very difficult to read (5, Interesting)

MobyDisk (75490) | about 7 years ago | (#21032979)

They aren't written in normal legaleze. I worked at a company that submitted a patent for a device I helped design and build. We submitted technical documentation, and the company lawyers turned that into a patent document. When I reviewed the patent, I would have had no idea that the patent was describing what I worked on, had they not told me so ahead of time. I'm not joking. What was about 20 pages of documentation of a concept, including illustrations, became hundreds of pages of completely confusing information. Where a single technical term was the precise meaning of something, it would be replaced with entire paragraphs explaining that concept in a way that no engineer would understand it.

Patents are technical documents. They are supposed to describe a solution to a problem in a way that a technician with adequate knowledge can understand the concept and verify that it is not already in use, and that a future product does not infringe upon it. If the designer of the system does not even recognize the patent, then it is not able to do that.

You are correct when you say that legalize has very precise meaning. But patents are intended to be as broad as possible, so the lawyers do what they can do take a single concept and make it as vague as possible. So words that have precise meanings in the original technical document are replaced with vague meanings (hence how single terms become entire paragraphs). I actually saw sentences that spanned whole pages, and paragraph separators were used to indicate that this "word" had been explained inline.

For example:
The ruler must be 12 inches long.

Becomes:
The [entire paragraph explaining what a physical object with measurements might look like, in every possible way you could imagine, regardless of shape, size, or material, without requiring graduation marks or whatever],

must be [complex explanation indicating that some unspecified minimum dimensions may or may not be required].

Not all patents are written this way, but many of them are.

Re:Patents are very difficult to read (3, Insightful)

theantipop (803016) | about 7 years ago | (#21033275)

Your lawyers were simply trying to get the broadest patent coverage for your device. This is largely why you pay them loads of money and why the job of examining applications is a long and drawn out process. By way of an over-simplified explanation, a lawyer wants to broaden your legal coverage to include all sorts of unthought of embodiments (and possibly entirely different inventions) while an examiner seeks to narrow the legal claims you make to specifically what the invention is while having (likely) never seen the thing. Your example illustrates a seldom acknowledged facet of the patent system.

Re:Patents are very difficult to read (1)

zippthorne (748122) | about 7 years ago | (#21032335)

"This would help the patent examiners," But this would not help the lawyers. One of the few groups, as you know, with both enough wealth and free time to actually convince a bunch of senile retirees to put marks next to their names on piece of medium-sized card stock. So your "no legalese" requirement has about as much chance as Hell's postmaster has of avoiding a mountain of novelty remailings this month.

Re:Patents are very difficult to read (1)

dontthink (1106407) | about 7 years ago | (#21032681)

I am surely not alone in thinking that the text of every patent seems to be deliberately obfuscated.

Nope - in my experience patents often ARE in fact deliberately obfuscated (beyond the inevitable legalese). The more general the description of the patented article, the better (at least that was the advice I got when pursuing a patent with some colleagues). This often leads to vague wording - the more specifics you give, the easier it is to take that specific, give it a "non-obvious" twist, and suddenly someone else has a patent based on something that was largely your idea. It also gives your lawyers a better case if anyone infringes on the patent. I could be wrong though - IANAL, and the aforementioned advice was not from one either (although it WAS from someone who holds several patents himself...).

Re:Patents are very difficult to read (1)

davidsyes (765062) | about 7 years ago | (#21032927)

"Why isn't this a requirement?"

Because:

1. It generates BILLABLE HOURS, that's why. The arcane, precise, obfuscatory language is used by habit and by greed to keep the commoner from defending him/herself.

2. Lawyers don't want to be reduced to mere proof-readers.

3. Courts (judges) don't want labyrinthine segues to get to "justice"; jurors probably would like the entertainment value

4. Court reporters would have to consume more paper and charge for the longer hours.

5. Court dockets would be vastly longer

Unfortunately, though there are many SMART and INTELLIGENT people who could read up on relevant or precedent cases, too many might do worse to themselves than the lawyers would do to them. OTOH, way too many lawyers don't deserve to be in the position of raking in SO much money for what little service SOME of them provide.

I hope to never NEED a lawyer, but if I do, I hope I have a SHITLOAD of money before retaining one.

As for the broken patent system, we need less of the obfuscatory, self-adulating bullshit language and more brevity. Too much of the language is coarse, idiotic, and mind-numbingly filled with rat-gutter weasle-ways to deny a crafter inventor some wiggle room to design AROUND the patent. Too many patents based on the obvious are approved by sheer dint of the tomes of material and references provided to snow or ply the reviewing agent. Too many references means that the casual inventor becomes bogged down chasing citations/references and evaluating every last word for legal minefields.

Aside from the stress DECENT lawyers must go through, in general, they must take home a LOT of money.

yup (1)

pak9rabid (1011935) | about 7 years ago | (#21031865)

Does this really surprise anyone?

SLASHDOT SUX0RZ (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21031891)

_0_
\''\
'=o='
.|!|
.| |
do androids dream of electric goats [goatse.ch]

nothing scares me more (3, Insightful)

farker haiku (883529) | about 7 years ago | (#21031917)

Nothing scares me more than 75 year old people approving software patents.

FTA:
Patent officials are looking at hiring back retirees to work on the patent backlog and at revising "duty station" requirements so the agency can expand into a nationwide workforce.

Re:nothing scares me more (1)

aibob (1035288) | about 7 years ago | (#21033125)

Who would you really rather have judging the novelty of software patent applications: someone with a Bachelor's degree and no work experience, or someone with 40+ years of patent experience? You don't get that kind of experience by exercising bad judgment and rubber-stamping everything that comes across your desk. I'll take the experienced examiner any day!

Re:nothing scares me more (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 7 years ago | (#21033541)

Nothing scares me more than 75 year old people approving software patents.
I'm sure they can wield a rubber stamp with the best of them.
 

Cursory examination? Great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21031931)

I've got two patents already past the examiners' 18 month time limit. One is a continuation, so this has been going on for over three years now. If they want to send those two through unexamined, that's fine by me.

"One Problem" Trap (3, Insightful)

hardburn (141468) | about 7 years ago | (#21031971)

This seems to fall into the trap of signaling one problem as the source of a larger, more complex problem, when in fact there is a composite of multiple problems to deal with. One may also see this in pointing to video games as the problem in school shootings.

Patent examiner quotas may be a big problem and I'm glad it's being pointed out, but companies stocking up on patents as a strategy of Mutually Assured Destruction is a separate problem.

Re:"One Problem" Trap (1)

theantipop (803016) | about 7 years ago | (#21033343)

Furthermore, the examiner is ultimately bound by the laws enacted by congress and their interpretation by the judicial system. You could give an examiner an eternity to review a patent application, but if that app does not fall into any formal pitfalls and contains the slightest of inventive concepts, it is going to get through. Loosening the quotas might help bar patents in which additional search time might reveal that last piece of art to cover the allowable subject matter, but it won't fix what is legally able to be patented which I feel is a much bigger issue.

Re:"One Problem" Trap (1)

fred fleenblat (463628) | about 7 years ago | (#21033491)

To be fair, the summary put 'real' in scare quotes.

Simple fix (1)

Dachannien (617929) | about 7 years ago | (#21032045)

What they really need is the TLDR [wiktionary.org] rule for automatically rejecting patent applications.

Nope the real problem is that it exist (1)

Coeurderoy (717228) | about 7 years ago | (#21032085)

Actually 8hours is just long enough to pretend that you care, they can play tic tac toe for the 8hours, it absolutelly does not matter.
The only goal is to scam off money from people that like to have the permission to make other peoples live miserable.

Patents should be forbidden in all field, they are not useful anymore.

Not to you (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21032881)

they are not useful anymore.

Patents are a means of ensuring that the rich stay rich. By preventing independent innovators from entering their market space (even if the guy gets a patent, the big guns can sue him to oblivion based on their pre-existing patent war chest), they ensure that their company will continue to be the dominant player (or a member of the dominant cartel).

So patents are still very useful, as a tool of oppression.

That is why the problem will not be fixed any time soon.

As Ron Paul says (1)

rolfwind (528248) | about 7 years ago | (#21032091)

Government either subsidizes something or bans it. And when you subsidize it, you get more of it - and here productivity is based on completely the wrong thing.

I wonder what his views on the patent problem is. Or a libertarian's views in general - Private "Property" vs. Free Market.

Re:As Ron Paul says (1)

Veramocor (262800) | about 7 years ago | (#21032683)

Too bad for Ron Paul the Patent system is one thing that he can't get rid of. The CONSTITUTION which is the document that any self respecting Libertarian cares about, specifically gives Congress the power to give copyrights and patents as it sees fit.

In Article I, section 8, the U.S. Constitution:

        Congress shall have power . . . To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.

In fact the Patent clause in the constitution passed unanimously when the constitution was being written.

Re:As Ron Paul says (1)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | about 7 years ago | (#21033187)

1) Under the Constitution Congress has the authority to grant copyrights and patents, not a responsibility to do so. If so inclined, Ron Paul could push for the elimination of copyrights and patents without encountering any Constitutional barriers. (Political ones, for sure, but not Constitutional.)

2) Perhaps you were only referring to members of the U.S. Libertarian Party, who tend to be strict Constitutionalists, but idolizing the Constitution is hardly a basic libertarian trait. Even ignoring the sizable number of libertarians who are not statists of any variety -- myself included -- many libertarians are minarchists who would hardly approve of Congress creating laws just because the Constitution grants them the authority to do so. The fact that you can do something doesn't mean it's a good idea.

Train them better (1)

endlesshaze (1172201) | about 7 years ago | (#21032187)

One of the things they should worry about cutting down the time it takes a patent examiner to become fully proficient. 4-6 six years is too long... at the rate people are leaving it will never get better.

productivity still too high (1)

dmeranda (120061) | about 7 years ago | (#21032213)

Why is not being able to keep up with the backlog a problem? In fact if their productivity continued to slip all the way to zero (as in 0% of the applications ever made it through review), I'd say all the problems with patents would finally be fixed! And instead of hiring more examiners, I say they should reduce the number until there are no more left at all.

85%? (5, Insightful)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | about 7 years ago | (#21032245)

The USPTO is the only government agency that can and does lay you off if your productivity drops below 85% of the standard for your civil service grade
When was this lowered? I'm an examiner and ever since I've been here it has been 95%. If you don't meet that the first time, you get a warning, the second time (unless you have a forgiving supervisor) you're out.

I've already seen several people leave because they can't handle the stress they're put under here either. The standards haven't changed since the 70s even though the pool of prior art is growing exponentially.

Re:85%? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21032821)

!MOD PARENT UP!

He's correct I posted this anonymously above. The patent office makes it pretty clear they don't want examiners expressing there opinions in a public forum because those opinions may be construed as being that of the office. Since I am paranoid I'll continue posting anon. on this subject.

As to that you do have a few more chances then he has commented to, you get a verbal, then a written, and then you are gone. Unless the new contracts get through which reduces it to written only.

Re:85%? (1)

theMerovingian (722983) | about 7 years ago | (#21033057)


How do you like it so far? I am finishing law school in May and was thinking about dropping an application with you guys.

Re:85%? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21033327)

CP as AC:
It's not terrible for me. If you can get into a private firm, do that. You'll be doing about the same amount of work at 2 times the pay. If you can't get directly into a firm and are looking for IP work (and have a technical degree with your law degree) you'll be brought right in. The work isn't bad, but as the GPP and article says, you will be expected to work pretty hard.

Another good thing is it's great training for the patent bar because you're doing nothing but material covered. Let me know if you do decide to head this way though.

Re:85%? (1)

theantipop (803016) | about 7 years ago | (#21033461)

There are a couple more inaccuracies in the summary/article. For example, the production level of an examiner is based upon what art he works in. The case of the 8 hour count is real, but on the extreme end of the spectrum. Also, to the best of my knowledge there is no required proportion of new cases vs. ammendments to be worked on.

Re:85%? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21033567)

CP posting as AC:
It's true that there is no true ratio of cases to amendments, but if you have steady production (which is "ideal") you'll have as many amendments as cases you completed ~4-6 bi-weeks ago, and so you'll have the approximate same amount. You could of course get slammed one bi-week with 5 cases and 8 amendments and have a "slow" 5 case, 2 amendment bi-week soon to follow, but it's approximately correct in that respect.

Not the only problem... (2, Insightful)

Roger W Moore (538166) | about 7 years ago | (#21032271)

The best part -- that 28-box application mentioned in the article? -- it gets the PE the same credit as the smallest application.

This is the other problem. Why are they allowed to submit this much? When I submit a grant application I have limited amount of space to justify my grant. That way I have to condense things down so only the most important and relevant information is transmitted. Why is there not a similar restriction on patents? It is far simpler to request additional details for the patents that need them rather than sift through thousands of pages.

How many of those 28 boxes do you think even got opened?

The question you should be asking is how many needed to get opened.

Because the law requires it (3, Informative)

kansas1051 (720008) | about 7 years ago | (#21032401)

This is the other problem. Why are they allowed to submit this much?

The law requires it. The Federal Courts have invented a doctrine known as "inequitable conduct" that requires a patent applicant and its attorney to submit every document they have access to that could potentially be relevant to the application. So, if you are a corporation with a resource library that relates to your products, you have to submit the entire resource library or risk committing inequitable conduct. In every patent infringement trial, the infringer accuses the patent owner of hiding information from the patent office, no matter how much information is submitted. So the natural recourse is to submit everything.

Bass Ackwards (3, Insightful)

cleetus (123553) | about 7 years ago | (#21032329)

You'd never pay a surveyor by the sheer number of lines he draws. You pay him to draw accurate lines. That's what a patent examiner is: a surveyor of property boundaries of a most complex nature. Trouble is, incentivizing correct boundary-line drawing is rather hard.; you'd have to predicate it on lack of future litigation.

The REAL problem?? (1)

iminplaya (723125) | about 7 years ago | (#21032381)

The concept of exclusivity over thoughts and ideas. The real REASON it exists? To protect and advanced the well being of entrenched interests, for only they have the resources to work the system that was created by them. Don't believe the spin.

It doesn't help to consider patents for .... (1)

3seas (184403) | about 7 years ago | (#21032393)

... that which is not of patentable nature.
http://abstractionphysics.net/pmwiki/index.php [abstractionphysics.net]

Removing the foolishness of software patents would go a long way at reducing the patent system over running workload.

 

The system needs rethinking (2, Interesting)

Cracked Pottery (947450) | about 7 years ago | (#21032499)

The purpose of patents in the Constitution is the promotion of innovation. This is original law. It is clear that in many cases patents are used merely to suppress competition by capable competitors. I think software and drug patents are especially illustrative. The rate of invention is much faster than the periods for patents warrant.


We have, largely at public expense, mapped the human genome. Many drugs are patented that were developed at public expense and licensed to drug companies to be sold for whatever they can get. Scientists are not going to stop being interested in biochemistry because they are less likely to become billionaires.

Too many software patents are trivial. Every now and then somebody comes up with an algorithm that is groundbreaking. IBM, as a joke, patented an algorithm for assigning access to restrooms on a train. Don't even get me started on "business method" patents.

Re:The system needs rethinking (1)

budgenator (254554) | about 7 years ago | (#21033067)

One of the most profitable branches of the pharmaBiz is orphan drugs, expensive drugs needed by a hand full of people at outrageous prices; Often these drugs are public domain. I read about a woman who needed a drug which cost her health insurance $6,400.00 a DAY and was in the public domain. Can you imagine going to bed each night and wondering if you just had a day worth $6,400.00?

Orphan drugs (1)

Cracked Pottery (947450) | about 7 years ago | (#21033329)

Right, I had a buddy who is deceased that had diabetes insipidus. He injected himself with vasopressin tannate in oil that was extracted from the pituitary glands of cows. The drug company quit making it and the only drug left was in the form of a nasal spray that was comparatively short acting and not as effective.


Don't worry though, Pharma is busy developing better drugs to treat male erectile insecurity.

How about this? (1)

MeditationSensation (1121241) | about 7 years ago | (#21032567)

They have a bunch of regular patent examiners doing their thing as usual. But then there's a second line of examiners who audit approvals at random. This second line of examiners can delve into it more deeply and find the obvious patents, etc. that the first line didn't get.

Actual Productivity: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21032585)

The Article is wrong:

"The USPTO is the only government agency that can and does lay you off if your productivity drops below 85% of the standard for your civil service grade."

The actual minimum productivity is 95% of production. Below this you get a verbal warning, then a written warning and then you are gone. So it takes a total of 3/4 of a year to get canned. (3 quarters of poor performance.)

That's only a SYMPTOM of what is wrong (5, Insightful)

Skapare (16644) | about 7 years ago | (#21032689)

That is not what is wrong with the US Patent System. That's only a SYMPTOM of what is wrong. The real wrong is that the patent system is completely and totally disoriented away from it's original mission, which is to encourage the kinds of innovative inventions that we would not otherwise have without patents.

Patents actually take away rights. Two inventors inventing the same thing in isolation from each other will end up with one of them the loser, losing all his rights to what he created, just because the other one files the patent application first. In theory, this is not what we want to be doing. In practice, such things have to happen in a process that is going to grant exclusive rights for some term. We justify this taking away of rights for the greater good of all not just in getting the benefits of that invention the two inventors made (we'd get that benefit anyway, even if they had to share the rights), but also the benefit of the process itself to encourage the innovation.

Where the problem lies is that so many patents issued these days are for things that would have been invented, either just as soon, or at least by the time it is really needed, anyway. Thus we end up taking rights away from parallel inventors for something for which there is no gain (we'd have that invention without any patent system).

We need to do a better job of evaluating an invention to determine if it is something that is truly innovative, and that such a thing would not have been invented just in time for a need without a patent system. If the invention itself does not justify a patent system, then a patent should not be issued for it.

I believe fewer than 1% of patents issued these days justify the patent system.

There are also a lot of other things wrong, such as those overly broad claims. What is there to discourage such claims? Nothing. There needs to be a penalty for overly broad claims. Maybe invalidation of the whole patent might do.

The abuses of the patent system today are actually harming innovation and the economy. The nature of technology today is that almost all new ideas build upon other ideas. But why even try if there is a risk that what you could do could be taken away from you because something else is similar, or even just builds on the same thing your idea did.

We still do need a patent system for things that take a lot of time and money to come up with. And nearly divine inspiration needs to be rewarded as well. Almost all patents these days do not fit those descriptions.

And this has nothing to do with the matter of software patents. It's just that software patents, far more than others, tend to fall into the "there's no real innovation here that someone else would not have done when it's needed" category.

Patent the Solution (1)

kramulous (977841) | about 7 years ago | (#21033395)

The obvious thing to do would be to patent the solution :)

No, that is NOT the REAL problem (1)

alexborges (313924) | about 7 years ago | (#21033547)

The real problem with the US patent system is that it allows for attempting to patent Software and Bussiness Models.

This is what creates an avalanche of patent applications for the most stupid things on the planet and its a very "unique" system in that almost NOBODY else accepts patent on this issues.

The system would STILL be broken even if you had large brainy, phd endowed Octopuses handling them. Software and BP patents are the biggest most stupid idea ever to touch the U.S. legal system.
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