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EFF To Fight Dubious Patents 140

Posted by timothy
from the applause-applause dept.
theodp writes "The Electronic Frontier Foundation launched a campaign on Monday to overturn patents that it says are having a chilling effect on public and consumer interests. The ten patents initially cited as problematic by the EFF Patent Busting Project are: one-click online shopping, online shopping carts, hyperlinking, video streaming, internationalizing domain names, pop-up windows, targeted banner ads, paying with a credit card online, framed browsing, and affiliate linking. Maybe this will prompt former EFF Board Member Tim O'Reilly to share that killer piece of 1-click prior art that's sitting on his bookshelf!"
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EFF To Fight Dubious Patents

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  • by Negatyfus (602326) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @07:27AM (#8914850) Journal
    I hereby patent first posts!
  • Scary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pjt33 (739471) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @07:28AM (#8914854)
    The scariest thing about that list of patents is that I'd only heard of the one-click one.
    • Re:Scary (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ComaVN (325750)
      What's interesting is that a lot of these patents reek of intrusive advertising. So, who cares if Gator gets smacked around because they use one-click -pop-up-banners?
      • Re:Scary (Score:4, Interesting)

        by salvorHardin (737162) <adwulf@gmCOBOLail.com minus language> on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @07:39AM (#8914904) Journal
        I was thinking 'yay, go ahead and patent pop-up ads, I hate them and want them all to die a horrible death, the less people that can use them, the better'.
        And then I re-read it and noticed it said 'pop-up windows'. Which doesn't limit itself to adverts.
        • Re:Scary (Score:2, Interesting)

          by ComaVN (325750)
          "Are you sure you want to move these files?"
          > Yes to All
          "Are you sure you want to move these folders?"
          > Yes to All
          "Are you sure you want to move these system files?"
          > Yes to All
          "Are you sure you want to move these hidden files?"
          > Yes to All
          "Are you sure you want to move these read-only files?"
          > Yes to All

          Yeah, I can do with less pop-up windows.
        • Who the hell is trying to patent pop-up windows anyway? Because if it's not MS, Apple or maybe Xerox, there's no way it could be valid, right?
          • Re:Scary (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Sc00ter (99550) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:02AM (#8914998) Homepage
            Depends on how the popup is created. Look at patents on stuff made outside of the computer world. There's patents on popcorn boxes and paper bags. The patent isn't always on what is created but also in the process of creating the end product.
    • Re:Scary (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Liselle (684663) * <slashdot.liselle@net> on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @07:40AM (#8914905) Journal
      Same here. Who knows what else is out there that the EFF hasn't found yet? It's an unsettling thought. But in digging around looking for info on these patents I haven't heard of, I found a nice little quote from Tim O'Reilly that he made back when the one-click idiocy was going on a few years ago:
      I also want to say that a patent on something like "1-Click ordering" is a slap in the face of Tim Berners-Lee and all of the other pioneers who created the opportunity that Amazon has done such a good job of exploiting. Amazon wouldn't have existed without the generosity of people like Tim, who made legitimate, far-reaching inventions, and put them out into the public domain for all to build upon. Anyone who puts a small gloss on this fundamental technology, calls it proprietary, and then tries to keep others from building further on it, is a thief. The gift was given to all of us, and anyone who tries to make it their own is stealing our patrimony.
      If that's not the damned honest truth, then I don't know what is.
      • Anyone who puts a small gloss on this fundamental technology, calls it proprietary, and then tries to keep others from building further on it, is a thief.

        Isn't this the bit where all you illegal music-sharers are meant to jump out of the woodwork and complain that it's not theft, but copyright violation or whatever?

      • Regarding Tim O'Reilly, I didn't know that he is an EFF Board Member, but I do know that he has commented favorably [openp2p.com] about P2P:

        "I have watched my 19 year-old daughter and her friends sample countless bands on Napster and Kazaa and, enthusiastic for their music, go out to purchase CDs. "

        And yet, O'Reilly doesn't release his books as single, convenient downloads (they're not even sold that way).

        If he's so comfortable with the notion that his daughter buys more CDs on account of P2P, then why doens't the

        • Re:Scary (Score:5, Informative)

          by redhog (15207) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:37AM (#8915172) Homepage
          You might be partly right, but at least, you are not correct about all of his books:

          http://www.oreilly.com/openbook
          • "You might be partly right, but at least, you are not correct about all of his books:

            http://www.oreilly.com/openbook"

            Sure, some small number of books might be available, but the vast majority are not. He wants you to subscribe to his service. And of the books he sells on CDs, he bundles multiple books onto one expensive CD.

            Does that really not sound familiar to you?

            1) he want to make some stuff available, but reserve the rest for sale

            2) he want to sell access to a service

            3) he bundles multiple

            • Re:Scary (Score:2, Informative)

              by wtansill (576643)
              Perhaps you were not aware of the fact that O'Reilly no longer requires perpetual copyright. Rather, after a set period of time, copyright reverts to the author(s) for their benefit? Maybe he's not a Saint (tm), but he's a damn sight better than most out there, and seems to genuinely care about sharing, the commons, and the public domain.
              • Hey, I think it's great if he makes good deals with his authors, however note also that tech books get dated pretty fast.

                And that still doesn't address the discrepancy of favoring P2P for others' works, but not for his own publications...

        • Re:Scary (Score:3, Insightful)

          I'd argue that releasing a book for free download is not the same thing as releasing a song for free download; releasing a chapter for free, which O'Reilly very often does, is more closely equivalent. Chapter ~= song; book ~= CD.
    • Re:Scary (Score:5, Interesting)

      by spellraiser (764337) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @07:46AM (#8914928) Journal

      Indeed. Strange that these ludicrous patents are not discussed more. I'm especially 'fond' of this one (taken from here) [uspto.gov]:

      Method and system for internationalizing domain names

      Abstract

      A method and system for internationalizing domain names is provided which allows domain names to be entered in any language without having to modify the existing Internet domain name servers. When an [sic] user enters a domain name including non-English characters into an internet program, a domain name transformer intercepts the domain name prior to reaching the resolver. The domain name is converted to a standard format which can represent all language character sets, such as UNICODE. The UNICODE string is then transformed to be in RFC1035 compliant format. Redirector information is then appended to the compliant string which identifies the delegation of authoritative root servers and/or domain name servers responsible for the domain name. The compliant domain string is then resolved by the authoritative domain name server just as any English domain name.

      If I understand this correctly (but hey - who can be sure), this is basically a patent for, um, a method for converting strings between different formats and then doing a DNS lookup or some such thing. Excuse me, but isn't that usually called a 'standard', not a 'patent' ?? This boggles the mind.

      Oh, and by the way, the spelling and grammar generally sucks in these patent desciptions. Check it out for yourselves if you don't believe me ...

      • by nkh (750837)
        It seems the Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] has been doing this for a long time: you click on an article link and all the spaces and weird letters are turned into RFC compliant strings by the web browser...
    • Re:Scary (Score:1, Interesting)

      by raalynthslair (759150)
      I wonder if they'll take up a fight against M$ for trying to patent "Virtual Desktops" - as they describe it, the ability to have more than one working desktop environment on a single machine. - Basically what we've been doing on Linux for years, what Windows still fails to be able to do properly (PowerToys plugins for XP lets you half-@55 it)... yet they are going to try to patent it as if they created it and mastered it and should have rights to who can and can't do it!? "ID-10-T" errors there, ne?
    • I think we don't hear much about the others because they're not currently being very heavily enforced. If the owners of those patents started trying to sue everyone whose site uses a shopping cart or hyperlinks (which, of course, can happen at any time), we'd hear a lot more about them.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @07:34AM (#8914879)
    Uses a 'shopping cart' too. I wonder if they've been sued.
  • one is missing (Score:4, Informative)

    by nickname_unique (701073) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @07:37AM (#8914893) Journal
    i'm missing the patent on a "progress bar" which is pending in europe.
  • Shorter patents (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tindur (658483) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @07:38AM (#8914900)
    In information technology the time you can have a patent should be extremly short.
    • MOD PARENT UP! (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jimicus (737525)
      YES. Agreed. If patents on IT are allowed, they should be 3-5 years at the very longest.

      They should also have a "use it or lose it" clause - if patents aren't defended against infringement they become invalid. This already happens with trademarks, and would effectively prevent companies building up patents then sitting on them until infringing technology becomes so prevalent that it cannot be easily replaced.
      • Re:MOD PARENT UP! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by darnok (650458) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:53AM (#8915307)
        Agreed - but I'd make IT patents 2-3 years only. The rate of change and innovation in IT is such that locking up obvious or near-obvious patents for extended periods is a big drain on society.

        When was the last time a *software* patent was granted for something that is truly innovative? More than just about any industry, we take what already exists, extend it, then extend it again - each step has relatively little change, but cumulatively the rate of enhancement is huge. On that basis alone, I'd say software patents are a stupid idea - very little software development is truly innovative, and patenting it simply breaks the cycle of constant improvement.
        • No more than 3 years. A patent should not live any longer than the asset write-off time allowed from a tax perspective.
        • I'd make IT patents 2-3 years only.

          Seconded - but define "IT" in such a way that the weasels can't just get around it by claiming that Dogbert's Zero-Click Shopping is really a business method (or anything other than a software invention, really).

      • Re:MOD PARENT UP! (Score:1, Interesting)

        by RedDork (147298)
        We have one, it's called prosecution laches. It applies when an inventor delays getting his patent granted to allow for the industry that it is in to make more money, so that when he pops up with it, the licenses for this "new technology" will be worth more. Unfortunately, 1) patents take 2 years on average to be granted anyway, which is enough time in software for the industry to mature and 2) it is only applied in extreme cases - it was created to deal with an inventor whose patents were granting 40-50
  • by JosKarith (757063) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @07:42AM (#8914911)
    I wonder if I can patent speculative patenting...

    ...tho I have a feeling there may be a piece or two of prior art on that one

  • Hmm (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Why would anyone want to get rid of the "Pop-up windows" and "Targeted banner ads" patents?

    Pop-up windows suck, and so do banner ads.
    • Re:Hmm (Score:2, Interesting)

      Why would anyone want to get rid of the "Pop-up windows" and "Targeted banner ads" patents?
      I think it refers to more than just web popups, eg. dialog boxes in programs
    • Because whether you like the applications of the technology itself or not, the patent is still without merit. If you want to shoot down meritless and dubious patents, you can't afford to pick and choose your targets based on the state of the "patented" technology's Evil Bit.

  • FFII (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Elektroschock (659467) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @07:45AM (#8914920)
    Good, very good!

    FFII did similar action against a Amazon patent earlier this year in Europe. Unfortunately I believe that the patent system must be fixed on a policy basis. Let's fix the patent system rather than playing theior games. I think it should not be our job to help to hunt down patents that shouldn't be granted and pay the fees of the patent industry. Software patents shall rather be stopped before they are issued by proper laws.

    http://swpat.ffii.org
    • Re:FFII (Score:4, Interesting)

      by peragrin (659227) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:02AM (#8914995)
      I have said it before. There is nothing wrong with the patent policies. The officers granting the patent simply don't follow the rules. it goes something like this

      1) rich company applies for patent
      2) officer reads patent, thinks if he has ever seen it before.
      3) if he has he might look it up
      4) rubber stamp Patent granted move to next one.

      the new system should be.

      1) rich company applies for patent
      2) if it is based on software should be denied and told to copyrigh the software.
      3) if it is based on physical system then it most be carefuly looked over.

      My way a huge section of patents get thrown out, work in the patent office declines.
      • Re:FFII (Score:3, Insightful)

        by E_elven (600520)
        Problem is, they get their budget based on approved patents. Now THAT is a business model worth patenting.
        • Very true. and funny. by approving more patents they get more money, to approve more patents, even if those patents are bad. No wonder why the court system is so far backloged. Congress encourages people to abuse the system, in order for the courts to fix their mistakes.

          Also under my plan, you wouldn't need half the people anyway. Of course no one ever gets downsized by the goverment execpt the military and NASA.
  • Belew (Score:1, Informative)

    by neurosis101 (692250)
    Belew is a professor of CS/Cog Sci at the University of California, San Diego. He has a lot of research and expertise in interface and its design. You can look up his faculty profile at UCSD's CS dept page [ucsd.edu][cs.ucsd.edu].

    Just a little background so you know who's talking to who and why he knows what's going on =)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @07:46AM (#8914924)
    on patents but there's already too much prior art. Yeah, I know this is a troll and too much prior art on that too. But did it ever occur to you that Slashdot's 400 posts in the first 2 minutes pretty much precludes any thoughtful replies that take more than 2 minutes to think out and compose. How about a 2 hour delay before posting is allowed?
  • by byolinux (535260) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @07:47AM (#8914929) Journal
    I mean, we (as geeks) must be a large % of sales.

    If we all stopped buying O'Reilly books until he did the decent thing and knocks the '1-Click' patent off the face of the earth, it might help speed things along.

    Would this work? Anyone?
  • by AlistairGroves (546420) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @07:50AM (#8914944)
    But what is needed is a way of preventing them from occurring in the first place...
    • The EFF page links to FTC [ftc.gov] and NAS [nationalacademies.org] recommendations, which are much too mild. The overriding problem is patent law--everything else is quibbling over details. The fight against software patents in Europe may be the most important battle, right now. This is one area in which the rest of the world should not "harmonize" with the U.S.

      As for the details, the most important reform is a change in the incentive structure. It seems like it's easier to get a patent than a municipal parking permit, because the office

  • OK, fine, but... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RupertJ (520598) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @07:50AM (#8914946)
    While it is relatively easy to understand the need for patents to encourage commercial development and investment, it is rude and obnoxious for companies to attempt to patent some of the most basic of computing principles.

    I'm all for coroporate cash funding new hardware and software, but think where we might be today had IBM really clamped down on their PC systems.

    No Slashdot for starters.... =)
  • by Aim Here (765712) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @07:57AM (#8914976)
    "... pop-up windows, targeted banner ads, ... "

    You mean the fuckheads who design websites full of this sort of garbage could be forced to cough up swingeing royalties for the privilege of polluting the internet? Almost makes me want to support software patents....
  • by maxwell demon (590494) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:01AM (#8914993) Journal
    ... if the patent office would be liable for missing obvious prior art for granted patents.
  • 1-click prior art? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nacturation (646836) <nacturationNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:04AM (#8914999) Journal
    "Maybe this will prompt former EFF Board Member Tim O'Reilly to share that killer piece of 1-click prior art [oreilly.com] that's sitting on his bookshelf!"

    After reading the page this links to, I'm really wondering if there is any such prior art. Maybe my tin foil hat is on a bit too tight, but perhaps it's really a killer piece of 1-click bluff he's holding onto? He could be waiting for Bezos to make the next move in the patent poker game.
  • by samjam (256347) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:05AM (#8915001) Homepage Journal
    This is a worthy cause!

    Donate now, because its CHEAPER than joining a defense fund later.

    https://secure.eff.org/ [eff.org]

    I just joined! Thankyou EFF for taking up this cause!

    Sam

    Sam
    • Am going to donate when I get my next Student Loan check next Monday, today however I shall buy milk and noodles.

      Hopefully when I graduate I'll have something worthy of protection by the EFF. Ha! :o)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:13AM (#8915016)
    One of the biggest problems I see with these patents is that they are not innovations, they just happen to be used on a computer. You shouldn't be able to simply take a random, common concept and slap a "...by computer." on it and get away with a new patent.

    One-click online shopping: How about picking up the phone, calling the grocer, and having them deliver. If they already know you, you probably only need to give them your name. Not "one-click" but pretty damn close. Just slap the "online" part to it, and you have a new patent?

    Online Shopping Carts: Oh for Christ's sake... shopping carts have been around forever. Again, they slapped the "online" part, and now it's a patent.

    Hyperlinking: Hyperlinking may be a computer-specific item, but how about touch-tone phone systems, for example? "If you would like to make a claim, press 4..." You have a selection of items, and just press a button to get to it.

    Video Streaming: TV. 'Nuff said.

    Internationalizing Domain Names: Zip codes and country names, anyone?

    Pop-up Windows: How about those annoying "Subscribe now! 80% off news stand prices!" cards in magazines? They seem to be the same thing.

    Targetted Banner Ads: Targetted advertising of any sort. The crap you get in your physical mail box.

    Paying with a Credit Card online: And you couldn't do this over the phone, prior to this patent?

    Someone on /. also mentioned the "progress bar" patent attempt in Europe. I'm not familiar with this one, so it may be a bunch of hot-air, but I'm too lazy to check on it. So I offer you the same thing in the real world: Sand clocks, air compressor pressure guages, the pop-up thermometer stuck in the turkey, what not.

    I think we could all come up with a bunch of ridiculous patents based on their real-world counterparts... such as "method to transfer electricity over computer networks". Ethernet (minus the fiber optic variety) does just this (however small the current) and the real world counterpart is the freakin' power grid. And so on so forth. What's scary is that half of them probably already to, or will soon, exist.
    • You are so correct.
    • you could even win easy with this prior arts, but there is a MAJOR problem...

      the lawyers and court cost it's HUGE and so only a number of companies could do it

      that is why the software patents are wrong, they give power to those that have alot of money, the others might go broke before the end of the trial

    • One-click online shopping: How about picking up the phone, calling the grocer, and having them deliver. If they already know you, you probably only need to give them your name. Not "one-click" but pretty damn close. Just slap the "online" part to it, and you have a new patent?

      It can be easily made "one-click". 1) put the pizza place in your speed dial; 2) they must have a caller identifier. Voilá one click online shopping.
  • Patentablillity (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tatarize (682683) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:20AM (#8915048) Homepage
    To be fair most of those things really shouldn't be patented on the obvious claim for patents. I was working on a shopping system for a php script I was writing. I didn't really think about it until it was about finished but the final code was pretty much a cart.

    Problem:
    1) People need to buy things.
    2) Buying one thing at a time is slow/silly.

    Solution.
    Allow people to make a list of things to buy and buy them.

    I can't think of another solution to that. And that solution is pretty much a shopping cart. If somebody was giving a question and came up with a truely original idea that no one else had thought of having had the same question given to them. That idea should be patentable. But, if there's only about one solution which isn't hard to find. The idea of even spending any time thinking about issuing a patent is a waste.
    • Re:Patentablillity (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Wolfbone (668810) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @12:08PM (#8917769)
      "If somebody was giving a question and came up with a truely original idea that no one else had thought of having had the same question given to them. That idea should be patentable."

      Well that would be just marvellous wouldn't it?

      1) Lawyer/amateur coder A has good idea for e-commerce software: Widget X, patents it, Returns to lawyering, hoping to cash in if anyone actually writes the Widget X software.

      2) Student/amateur coder B thinks of clever way around Lawyer A's patent. Patents it.

      3) Porn baron/amateur coder C discovers method of avoiding both A and B patents. Patents it.

      4) Web designer/amateur coder D....

      5) Large software company E hires one software patent expert per programmer to ensure nothing is missed and nothing is not patented.

      6) Database designer F informs government that patent database is too large to be contained in any Earth based installation.

      7) Professional coder G, with the assistance of his company's lawyer horde, searches the Lunar patent database in vain - looking for something, anything that isn't already patented. Gives up. Joins the Army. Company folds.

      8) Free software coder H releases version 2.2 of his widely used package X-Tribble which contains an implementation of Widget X - and has done since before Lawyer A was born.

      9) PanIP buys up all Widget X related patents, threatens X-Tribble, X-Tribble project is shut down.

      Patents are for protecting innovators be they individuals or companies who put a great deal of time, money and effort into designing, testing and building material objects that they hope the consumer will want to buy. They're for protecting those who've already spent a lot of money on getting a prototype working and because they or someone else will need to spend yet more on the manufacturing of it. Patents are designed to ensure that the patentee can expect reasonable recompense for his efforts and contributions to society.

      Patents were not designed so that people could cash in on abstract ideas that others can and will have independently and need never actually do anything with anyway.

      Patents are not supposed to be granted in order that idle patentees can exact a tax from those that actually do put in the work of building a complete, working product.

      They are not supposed to work so that transient monopolies can be transformed into permanent monopolies by deploying yet more patents designed to block interoperability.

      Historically at least, the patent system did not exist in order that the patent-wealthy could bully the patent-poor into handing over what little they may already have had.

      It did not exist to ensure that only the largest companies could afford the licensing of the myriad patents necessary to produce products of any size or sophistication and at the same time destroy the rights of everyone else to engage in the arts,sciences and free communication of ideas.

      The fully fledged software application that actually does require all the time, expense and effort to create is and always has been, protected by copyright. Software patents are insane, in concept aswell as in practice.
    • I've got the answer--a shopping bag.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Should not make them freely available to all (perhaps.)

    Instead, what if they only made them freely available to those without software patents or those with software patents who do the same and who commit to doing the same in the future.

    They would need to word things up so a company with software patents could not, for instance, start a subsidiary with no patents and let that one make use of them. (Is this clear?)

    A Nony Mouse

    • I believe they solicited donations of software patents to use as leverage. Good luck at the $20k cost of doing a patent application. The problem with this is nobody, except SCO, has been seriously going after open source for IP violation. As soon as you withhold licensing of a key technology patent to somebody big like Microsoft, they are going to take their patent porfolio and come down on you hard. How may open source projects do you know can afford several hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend t
  • Why fight it? (Score:3, Redundant)

    by Hythlodaeus (411441) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:56AM (#8915320)
    pop-up windows, targeted banner ads

    Maybe it would be better if these were locked up by patents.
  • Apple. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by moxruby (152805) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @09:02AM (#8915370)
    I'll probably got modded down for this (actually, I'll probably get modded troll for stating that disclaimer [actually, my second disclaimer will give me a crack at a +1 funny mod (actually...I'll stop now)])

    I think that the patent on mp3 player scroll wheels belonging to apple should be on that list.
    A scroll wheel is the most sensible way to navigate a collection of mp3s and it really sucks that other players can't use it.

    Prior art on a scroll wheel music player already exists... ie. almost every radio tuner ever created.
  • by superskippy (772852) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @09:12AM (#8915477)
    Does anyone else think all of this patent-busting might be counter productive? The real goal is surely that no one can own patents on this rubbish (software, websites etc.)- prior art or no prior art. If these rather ridiculous patents are thrown out, doesn't that strengthen the argument of those who say- "Software patents do work! Here are some bad patents and, look, they were thrown out! The system heals itself. Lets have lots more patents"
    • by hellfire (86129)
      If the system does in fact work that way and it fixes itself, isn't that a Good Thing?

      Even in a better system than we have now, some patents would get through. That's why you need a checks and balances system, so that when one gets through, you can fix it by showing its a bad patent.

      It's like how bad laws are thrown out when they are unconstitutional, because one of those checks kicked in.

      At the same time, if tons of patents are thrown out, more than were actually upheld, someone might take notice if yo
  • Popup ads? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Inominate (412637)
    Why would anyone want to bust a patent on popup ads?

    Hell I'd contribute money to the owner of the patent, to help him collect much deserved royalties on it.

    I don't see the problem in patenting things nobody wants around.
    • What happens when there is something that you want to use and somebody has declared it annoying or unwanted and keeps it locked up by patent? I'm no fan of popup ads, but I'm also not a fan of having choices of technologies subjectively restricted.
  • by ShatteredDream (636520) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @10:09AM (#8916143) Homepage
    and help coordinate fund raising with it so it can stand a chance against the Republicrats. The easiest way for the EFF to effect longterm change would be to work with the Libertarian or Constitution Parties to help them get elected at the local and state levels where a lot of really stupid IT decisions are made. Think about it.

    Libertarian candidates tend to be highly educated compared to their Republicrat counterparts. If you have a LP majority on your schoolboard, you have a much better chance that Little Johnny won't get kicked out for being a "hacker" for using the Windows Messenger Service to send a "hello" message around the network. Why? Because you'll have a well-educated, more rational schoolboard who is passionate about civil liberties. Members of the LP tend to embody the old saying "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice."

    Another thing to consider: a libertarian wouldn't pull either a Bush or Gore on IT and science. Bush wants people to back up his preconceived moral notions on biotech research and Gore wanted yes-men who would just confirm what was in his little world, his great and powerful intellect (in reality most of the last occupants of the whitehouse as P or VP had similar IQs). Harry Browne as I recall said that he'd have worked to repeal the DMCA if he were elected. Try hearing that from a Republicrat. They always want to just "fix something" rather than get rid of it.

    Lastly consider this. In Eldred versus Ashcroft the geeks got a taste for what social conservatives decry as an out of control activist judiciary. That judiciary is reinforced by the Republicrats. If we were to work together to remove people like Tom Daschle and Trent Lott and replace them with members of the LP or CP we'd have a judiciary more on our side.
    • While there are a great many thoughtful libertarians who oppose patents as a natural result of libertarian principles, as nearly as I can tell, the so-called Libertarian party at http://www.lp.org has lots of members who are patent attorneys and they somehow think patents are a good thing. I would be happy to cite lots of examples from their site.

      And they trademarked "Libertarian" so it is time to think of a new term to refer to people who are libertarian in their thinking.

    • and help coordinate fund raising with it so it can stand a chance against the Republicrats.

      And then they'd run a real chance of getting their non-profit status revoked. Great idea.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @10:14AM (#8916214)
    Granted, patents are needed to insure inventors are compensated for their work, but why are they the same length of time for a trivial invention as for an invention developed over several years at great expense? Shouldn't there be a way to adjust the length of a patent based on how much it would take to adequately reward the present inventor and encourage future inventors?

    To paraphrase Malibu Stacy, "Law is hard!" but to look at a single invention that is also a single product -- a drug for example -- we could:
    a) Look at how long it took the person or company to develop the drug
    and
    b) Look at how expensive it was to test the drug for its patented use.

    A drug company that spends a billion dollars to created and test a drug deserves a reasonable length of time to earn that money back, plus interest and enough profit to encourage future research. Amazon.com might spend a few thousand dollars and a couple of weeks thinking up the text for the "one click patent" and while I don't mind them making their money back plus interest and a tidy profit, they shouldn't be awarded the equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars (if competitive advantage is taken into account) just because they filed a trivial patent first.

    Which brings me to my question: What do other Slashdotters think would be the best way to ensure inventors benefit from their work, while preventing opportunists, lawyers, and the unscrupulous from screwing up the system?
    • Most patents are a problem when you look deeply enough, because they always deny other inventors access to their work and they distort the purpose of the research to be to establish a monopoly instead of to be to solve a problem in the best way.

      I think the best way to ensure that inventers are compensated for their work is to have good people or companies in a position to sponser projects that need to be done and problems that need to be solved.

      If you mean what is the best way to ensure they are compensat

  • I thought I had EFF tagged as an ineffective politically oriented "special interest" group and now they go and do something useful. I am going to have to improve my opinion of this organization. I don't think this is even going to be perceived as controversial by other political oriented entities and groups. I thought being "controversial" was their entire reason for existence, but I am glad to be enlightened otherwise.

    Now we get to see if you have to be an organization like Microsoft in order to succeed

  • I thought the title said "EFF to Fight Dubious Passwords" not "Dubious Patents".
  • a huge part of the problem with the current system is that the patent examiners are all generalists--therefore, what i'd like to see is more patent examiners with an IT background--then, these bs patent applications would have a much harder time sneaking into legitimacy...

    another good idea would be to 'open source' the prior art aspect of patent review, for a 'million eyeballs' Groklaw-type community...

    for the common good, i will attempt to patent neither of these ideas, or the new word 'groklawing' ;

  • Any opinions on which organization is most worthy of support with my limited donations: EFF or PubPat or someone else?

    Dave
  • Patent 6678697 [uspto.gov], storing data in the lower bits of a pointer. It was filed in 2002, BDDs (Binary Decision Diagrams) having been doing this since the 1970s.
  • I have copies of prior art on the 1995 patent from 1984, when I implemented it in a production system. Said production system is STILL running.

    Now, I'm not stating I was the first person to come up with it, but I did create it indepenantly 11 years before the patent holder.
  • So glad to read that EFF is now looking into patent abuse cases.... including one (Acacia) of three that I am tracking at my website [fightthepatent.com]

    There does need to be an (grassroots) effort to get that dusty prior art sitting on the shelf and presented to the USPTO for so many technology related patents that shouldn't have been granted. -brandon http://www.FightThePatent.com

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