Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Patents United States Government Politics

Patent Reform Bill Introduced in U.S. House 263

Posted by Zonk
from the do-over dept.
kanad wrote to mention a ZDNet article covering the introduction of the Patent Reform Act of 2005 to the U.S. House of Representatives. From the article: "Probably the most sweeping change would be the creation of a process to challenge patents after they are granted by the Patent and Trademark Office. 'Opposition requests' can be filed up to nine months after a patent is awarded or six months after a legal notice alleging infringement is sent out. The bill is supported by the USPTO and Microsoft who have been recently asking for patent reforms ." More details of the bill are available at the Congressman's website."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Patent Reform Bill Introduced in U.S. House

Comments Filter:
  • Be suspicious (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 09, 2005 @09:57AM (#12768978)
    "The bill is supported by...Microsoft who have been recently asking for patent reforms."

    Everybody should immediatly be very, very suspicious of this bill if that's the case. What do they stand to gain then, exactly? You can bet it isn't immediatly obvious. Has anyone checked all the sub-cluases on this thing yet?
    • Yeah, it sounds like it could be another trick like the Samba thing yesterday...I don't trust this. What do they have up their sleeve? What do they have to gain?
    • by NigelJohnstone (242811) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:10AM (#12769166)
      1. So they'll have a whole department sitting like hawks watching the patent office and challenging everything remotely connected to their markets, and you and I will not have a department challenging every BS patent Microsoft submits.
      When you come to challenge it, they'll say "well he didn't challenge it within the alloted time...."

      2. "Another major change would be to award a patent to the first person to submit their paperwork to the Patent Office. Currently, patents are awarded to the first person who concocted the invention, a timeframe that can be difficult to prove."

      No need to invent now, just have to have a patent office ready and waiting to patent other peoples invention! And best of all its completely legal!

      • 1: Go claim-mining in the Samba source tree.
        2: File for patents
        3: Get Cease & Desist warrants against Samba team.
        4: Profit!!

        See, now we can fill in the "???" step.
      • 1. So they'll have a whole department sitting like hawks watching the patent office and challenging everything remotely connected to their markets, and you and I will not have a department challenging every BS patent Microsoft submits. When you come to challenge it, they'll say "well he didn't challenge it within the alloted time...."

        I guess it will be the Cathedral versus the Bazaar, then.

      • I'd be surprised if IBM didn't create a department to do the same thing in the event of the passage of this bill. They've got a huge patent portfolio and have been sued over some rather silly patents in the past.
      • First-to-file is frightening, and is blatant rape of everything patents were designed to do. It means if you're contracting with someone, they could patent your deliverables before you get the chance, and therefore would be the ones with exclusive rights to sell/reuse your contracted work -- leaving you in the lurch.

        I see a future where you have to work out patent rules as a matter of contract law before working for or with another company, and even before taking on employees! It will be a world where pe

    • Re:Be suspicious (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Wm_K (761378) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:12AM (#12769203)
      I don't think Microsoft likes the current patent law very much either. They get sued a gazillion times a year by small companies for patent infringement. Only yesterday they lost a patent case against some guy from Guatemala for a pretty trivial invention, it costed them 9 million dollar. Peanuts for Microsoft probably. But it adds up if you get such a lawsuit every week. Especially like the Eolas where they were ordered to pay 500 million for yet another trivial patent. Microsoft it taking part in this patent game themself of course. But it would be stupid for them not to. They're a company that wants to make as much profit as possible and with the current patent law they're probably losing more money than making it so they would like to see a change in the law.
    • Re:Be suspicious (Score:5, Informative)

      by malkavian (9512) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:14AM (#12769221) Homepage
      The problem MS has with this, is that software patents have been so badly screwed, that people have taken out all kinds of obvious and trivial patents, hoping to screw someone out of some money by holding them up in courts.

      Having the ability to challenge the patent/get it closely examined is a step in the right direction.
      MS, I think, are a little worried now, after having so many patent suits brought against them, that someone may well have a critical submarine patent that could apply to their core business tucked away somewhere.

      Having it enshrined that you can actually challenge the patent before having the patent used to drain you dry could perhaps change the whole IP arena, and make the IP only hoarding companies much more expensive to maintain (no more fishing trips if they really have to pay for each patent they want to apply, and stand the chance of losing their cherished patent at the same time).

      Yes, MS get to benefit from this. There again, so does the 'little guy'.
      It may not cure all ills, but it stands a good deal more in the right direction.

      The limit on time is a very good move also, as it prevents a 'big fish' from holding a valid patent holder in court forever and a day challenging their patent, and making it for all intents and purposes irrelevant.
    • Re:Be suspicious (Score:3, Insightful)

      by KiltedKnight (171132)
      Everybody should immediatly be very, very suspicious of this bill if that's the case.

      That was my first thought too. I've seen some of the stuff Microsoft has been granted patents for, and a lot of it is stuff that's been used by many others for a long time.

      The only thing I can think of is that Microsoft, Oracle, and probably several other companies are trying to get software patents in through the back door, then go and sue everyone who uses anything remotely similar in open source, GPL, shareware, or f

    • What do they stand to gain then, exactly?

      It's not what they stand to gain, it's what they stand to lose under the current laws. They are one of the most conspicuous software companies to target if you have a portfolio of patents and some lawyers.

      The current patent situation is an arms race...companies build portfolios to protect themselves from litigation from competitors and shell companies that exist only to litigate. I don't think Bill likes the situation any more than you do [ffii.org].

    • Actually MS wasn't that big on patents until a few years back when they noticed how many IBM was filing.

      If you are part of the computer or software industry it would be a good idea to examine any patent reform idea in detail regardless who is for or against it.

      Don't let your disdain for MS dictate your actions.
    • "Everybody should immediatly be very, very suspicious of this bill if that's the case. What do they stand to gain then, exactly?"

      MS is often sued over frivolous software patents, like the patent to move data from excel to access. They have a lot to gain by patent reform.
  • by dsginter (104154) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @09:57AM (#12768981)
    Why not introduce a peer review process by which a patent in a particular industry is reviewed by patent holders in the same industry? In this manner, a frivolous patent could be easily circumvented with a simple review request. A few hundred peers simply review the patent and then decide if it is legit.

    The same method could be used to avoid costly court battles. This seems like a no-brainer. What am I missing?
    • So you let 100 peers decide--with a government sanction--who's allowed to compete with them? And once they've denied the patent, they turn around and implement the now non-patentable idea with a larger budget?

      I think you need to look at the history of the Jeep.
    • Why not introduce a peer review process by which a patent in a particular industry is reviewed by patent holders in the same industry? In this manner, a frivolous patent could be easily circumvented with a simple review request. A few hundred peers simply review the patent and then decide if it is legit.

      Until they decide to cross-license their respective patents, accept their friend's patents propositions (all of them), work together to completely lock the software market and proceed to rape your ripe li

    • Patents are about protecting ideas from being used by others without a license. If the protections has to be approved by the same people that you are seeking protection from it is going to be abused. What incentive would any of the Peers have to aprove the patent (especially software patents which are terrible anyway).
    • by RationalRoot (746945) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:04AM (#12769089) Homepage
      Hmmm, peer review.

      I come up with a patent. It's gonna make a lot of money, much better way of doing X.

      All the people who are doing X already get to decide if I get the Patent.

      Am I the only one who sees a conflict of interest here.

      And the possiblity of a Patent Cartel. If you're in the big five, we'll let you get a patent. If you're an independent inventor, then you have no chance. We the big five, will use our patents to keep competition out. And we get to decide who gets patents. Gimme some of that.

    • Why not introduce a peer review process by which a patent in a particular industry is reviewed by patent holders in the same industry

      Errr....the purpose of the patent system is to prevent the established, moneyed old boy network of entrenched industry from telling small upstarts "thanks for the idea, now get lost".

    • I don't see how this system would be any less whacked than the current system of refereed journals (where your reputation is often more important than the content of your paper)...

      Perhaps you might be familar with the following drama [salon.com]...

      Seems like a total non-starter idea to me...

    • Why not introduce a peer review process by which a patent in a particular industry is reviewed by patent holders in the same industry?

      I liked this up to "peer review", but once the people doing the review are patent holders, it becomes an "old boys network". Existing peer review as done in any other science field, for example, should be adequate and more open.

      I also have another variant of the peer review proposal: make (software) patents a prize (like the Nobel prize, with only a few winners per [nhplace.com]

  • 9 months? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by yotto (590067) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @09:58AM (#12768987) Homepage
    Why not forever? A bad patent doesn't instantly become a good one after it's been a patent for 9 months.
    • Yeah, I was thinking the same thing as soone as I read that part. Will a provision be made for "extreme circumstances," or the like? Or will someon just say "well, you had 9 months to file this complaint..." and let it slip through the cracks. Heck, 9 months is barely enough time under some circumstances to even tell if an enfriengement was made, let alone prepare all the legal work to start such a process. But, I guess it's a step in the right direction.
    • Because patents are important parts of business plans. Somebody who holds a patent in good faith (as opposed to one of these dimwit patents we've been seeing so much of) wants to get started making money off that patent before it expires. And it'll be harder to get seed money based on your patent ownership if your investors are afraid that you will be challenged over it.

      However, there is one important "forever" component to this legislation: if a patent holder uses the patent against you, you can file to
    • Read 2nd Part (Score:5, Informative)

      by Ironsides (739422) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:51AM (#12769668) Homepage Journal
      or six months after a legal notice alleging infringement is sent out.

      So if I decide to challenge someone in court after the 9 months are up, anyone can choose to try to kill the patent for the next 6 months. Basically, as long as I don't try to sue anyone, the patent would be able to stand after that 6 months. As soon as I try to sue someone (which is what we really care about) there are 6 months for someone to initiate proceedings against the patent every time I try to sue.
    • Why not forever? A bad patent doesn't instantly become a good one after it's been a patent for 9 months.

      Indeed. In fact why bother having the legislation at all if nothing changes but the patent holder waits 9 months before doing exactly what he was going to do anyway? With the avalanche of patents, no-one is going to find out if a patent affects them until the holder hits them with a law suit. If anything it's going to make patents even more 'submarine' than before.

      Phillip.
    • "But Mr. Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months."
      • The difference is that while "the local planning office" in The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy wasn't made accessible to the majority of people, "the local planning office" for the U.S. patent system is any public library. Walk into a library, find an Internet terminal, and choose "Search the Web". Type in [ us patents ] and submit, and it'll take you to uspto.gov, where you can search for patents.

    • Why not forever? A bad patent doesn't instantly become a good one after it's been a patent for 9 months.

      First, at some point the owner of the patent wants to know if they can plan on the actual having of the patent. Business plans differ based on whether you have it or not. For example, you could allow people to challenge bad calls in the Olympics forever, claiming a bad call is always a bad call. But after a while, it's more important to let books and movies get published that say who won than i

    • Another new law, made by lawyers for lawyers.

      Introducing a period of "public" inspection prior
      to making a patent even harder to overturn would,
      yet again, seem to favor those (corporate) interests
      that have the deepest pockets for the most and/or
      best lawyers.

      This is not anything to cheer about. And considering
      how "busy" Congress is trying to stuff the Federal
      judicial bench, you can be prety certain that the
      bill actually originated from corporate ghost writers.
  • well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hamburger lady (218108) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @09:58AM (#12768992)
    Probably the most sweeping change would be the creation of a process to challenge patents after they are granted by the Patent and Trademark Office. "Opposition requests" can be filed up to nine months after a patent is awarded or six months after a legal notice alleging infringement is sent out.

    reexamination works pretty well, but there's a backlog. of course, this new system is gonna get backlogged REAL fast.

    Another major change would be to award a patent to the first person to submit their paperwork to the Patent Office. Currently, patents are awarded to the first person who concocted the invention, a timeframe that can be difficult to prove.

    i dunno about this. 'first to apply' has major disadvantages.
    • i dunno about this. 'first to apply' has major disadvantages.

      If that's really their intention it has huge implications. This could place a big burden on Open Source projects. If you develop something that is patentable, you'll have to patent it - otherwise that suggests someone else can take your invention, patent it then charge you to use it.

      Picture A large WA based software company looking through the Linux kernel updates for patentable concepts then launching a law suit against the developer for using

    • First to apply is to bring the US system inline with the European and Japanese Patent Offices.

      I am a patent examiner.
  • Does this mean... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by markild (862998)
    ...that the same people that accepted a stupid patend in the first place would be the one to read a reasonable request to why the patent is to be removed?

    It sound like this is a perfect plan carried out in the worst possible manner..
  • by gatorflux (759239) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:02AM (#12769051)
    Should be interesting to see just why MS is stepping into this fight. Do they simply want to challenge their competitor's patents for personal gain or do they genuinely want to encourage innovation? Given that their own patents will also be placed under the same scrutiny, it is hard to imagine how they would stand to gain more than anyone else in this situation.
    • it is hard to imagine how they would stand to gain more than anyone else in this situation.

      Is it? I have a feeling these opposition requests won't exactly entail a trip to your local We The People document prep service to fill out the paperwork. Challenging a patent will probably require a good lawyer and a significant bit of money. Defending a patent from these challenges might also prove to be expensive. NOW do you see how this could benefit a company that has a ton of money, when it's trying to tra
    • From the article:
      "Microsoft has been especially critical of a legal framework that has caused it to spend $100 million a year defending itself against 35 to 40 lawsuits at any one time. Microsoft has gone on the legislative offensive after a jury awarded Eolas Technologies $565 million in damages--a decision that has been partially reversed--in a patent dispute over Internet Explorer."

      I can see Microsoft hating bogus patents, but believing its R&D department is capable of quality patents. Bad patents
  • by jmichaelg (148257) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:02AM (#12769054) Journal
    My preference is for no software patents at all.

    Failing that, how about starting the patent challenge clock when the patent holder issues a claim instead of starting the clock when the patent is issued. It'd deal with submarine patents as well as eliminate the need to look over the patent office's shoulder on each and every patent they issue.

    • Failing that, how about starting the patent challenge clock when the patent holder issues a claim instead of starting the clock when the patent is issued. It'd deal with submarine patents as well as eliminate the need to look over the patent office's shoulder on each and every patent they issue.

      What the patent system needs is to take a page from the trademark system, which is the only part of intellectual property law in the US that works well.

      Under trademark law, if you find something you think it i
    • From TFA, or indeed, just the Slashdot summary:

      Opposition requests' can be filed up to nine months after a patent is awarded or six months after a legal notice alleging infringement is sent out.

      so it indeed allows for that.
  • by SSalvatore (666913) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:03AM (#12769080)
    Big companies will be scrutinizing patents all the time and routinely file challenges against little guys when they feel that the patent might affect them.

    Then the little guys will have to fund their own patent defense. The big guys have a clear edge here because they have more resources.

    They already have the ability to do that in a litigation case, but this gives them the ability to do it preemptively. That last word is becoming increasingly popular.

    • Unfortunately, the little guy is already out of luck. Doesn't it cost something on the order of $10K or more to file a patent these days? And in the current round of patent abuse, much of the trouble is being caused by scum sucking companies whose business plan is to gather up patents and then sue everyone who is doing anything remotely related to those patents. Often their first targets are, you guessed it, the little guys. So the new law appears to shift the balance from the scum sucking patent aggregato
    • by Agarax (864558)
      I don't see it far fetched if small to midsized IT companies formed an organization to keep a eye on the patent office.
  • by FunWithHeadlines (644929) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:04AM (#12769085) Homepage
    ""The bill will eliminate legal gamesmanship from the current system that rewards lawsuit abuses over creativity,"

    Sounds good. Or is this one of those bills where it does the opposite of what it sounds, the way the Clean Skies initiative leads to dirtier skies?

    "said Smith, a Texas Republican.

    Never mind, I can guess the answer now.

    "The Business Software Alliance was quick to praise the bill,"

    Well, there's a strike against it.

    "saying in a statement that it goes a long way toward "improving patent quality, making sure U.S. law is consistent with that of other major countries and addressing disruptions caused by excessive litigation."

    Uh huh. Whenever they trot out the "Let's make sure our laws are consistent with other countries," you know the fix is in.

    You want sweeping? Here's sweeping: No software patents. Period. They are already protected under copyright law.

    • No software patents. Period. They are already protected under copyright law.

      No, they're not. Implementations are protected under copyright law. Patents are supposed to protect truly innovative methods of solving some particular problem, and I see no reason why those involving physics or mechanical engineering are more deserving than those involving information processing. The problem isn't software patents. The problem is stupid patents, whether they be one-click shopping (software), or swinging on a swin
      • I appreciate that everyone (afaik) drafting patent laws initially had clear exeptions for things like mathematics and mind games. I don't appreciate that these limits have been circumvented imho clearly against the spirit of the law. I for one think the idea of protecting the processing of data is abhorent and against the basic fundamentals of freedom of expression. I ask you if you believe light processing (film patents) and audio processing (music patents) should also be treated the same way? Should I
      • I see no reason why those involving physics or mechanical engineering are more deserving than those involving information processing.

        Because the word "deserving" in that sentence is the result of a misunderstanding. The purpose of patents is not to reward inventors, it is to encourage the development of the arts and sciences by rewarding inventors. Software and other "pure process" patents are not necessary because there other mechanisms for achieving that goal, and because on balance software patents do
      • With physics and mechanical engineering the creation is separate from the idea.

        You have the idea for some incredibly innovative kind of windshield wiper. Okay. You now have an idea. What you don't have is a windshield wiper. You can go and get this patent on your idea, then implement your idea, and the two acts are separate.

        With a software program the difference between an idea and an implementation is so negligable you can barely define it. You come up with an idea for an algorithm of some kind, and you'
    • I think the only remedy here is that all the Slashdotters move to a state (leave the Trolls behind) and declare independents.

      We won't recognize other countries patents or copyright and we will be full of top tier geeks. And, political campaigns will be paid for by the government in exchange for never receiving any compensation from a lobbyist or ever receiving any remuneration from a company you presided over in a committee.

      Anyone recommending a "decency law" will be shot. The first solution to any proble
  • First to File (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ndansmith (582590) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:04AM (#12769091)
    Provides that the right to a patent will be awarded to the first inventor to file for a patent who provides an adequate disclosure for a claimed invention; http://lamarsmith.house.gov/news.asp?FormMode=Deta il&ID=648 [house.gov]

    In other words, just because you were the first person to invent a device, it doesn't mean that you can rightfully own a patent for it. So if some young inventor creates something and some other company swipes it, it is a race to the patent office. I am guessing that a big company's lawyers know a shortcut or two.

    • And...? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by goldspider (445116)
      "So if some young inventor creates something and some other company swipes it, it is a race to the patent office. "

      Then said "young inventor" needs to keep his/her invention (and other supporting materials) away from prying eyes. Oh wait, that's how it is now too!

    • So if some young inventor creates something and some other company swipes it, it is a race to the patent office. I am guessing that a big company's lawyers know a shortcut or two.

      A large company will constantly keep a stream of general and vague patents in the application pipeline process - whenever something comes up to challenges their position in the market, they update their patent to cover that new invention. By this method, they will always have been the first to file the patent.
  • by stinerman (812158) <nathan...stine@@@gmail...com> on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:06AM (#12769108) Homepage
    Bill info on Thomas [loc.gov]

    It has no provision regarding eliminating "business method" (read: software) patents. This bill won't do anything but clog up the patent office more with so-called opposition requests.

    It would be interesting if the Judiciary committee could be swayed to eliminate software patents. If your congressman is on the committee [house.gov], let them know how you feel.
  • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:10AM (#12769167) Homepage
    The central problem is that it's unconstitutional in that it no longer would award patents to the first person to actually invent something, but rather to the first person to file for a patent. The Constitution permits Congress to grant patents to inventors, not mere filers.

    Additionally, this is probably more likely to harm the rare, but important small inventors, since it can take them a bit longer to muster the resources to file.

    It also harms the public, since it ignores the decision of an inventor to not get a patent, and thus allow the invention to lapse into the public domain right away. If this passes, not only would the inventor have to decide not to seek protection, but so would any other johnny-come-lately.

    First-to-file, as opposed to first-to-invent, is a stupid idea. As usual, it was pioneered abroad (much like a lot of the stupid copyright laws we've been seeing for the last few decades) and is being pushed on the US for no good reason other than to standardize on whatever everyone else is doing. That all the other kids are jumping off cliffs is no reason for us to do it too. Our laws should be based on good policy, without regard for what other countries do.
    • by Kirth (183) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:25AM (#12769334) Homepage
      > As usual, it was pioneered abroad (much like a
      > lot of the stupid copyright laws we've been
      > seeing for the last few decades) and is being
      > pushed on the US for no good reason other than
      > to standardize on whatever everyone else is
      > doing.

      Very wrong. You've just been had by your governement. YOUR governement brings this in somewhere at the WIPO or UN; makes them write harsh regulations so YOUR governement can go back to the US and tell everyone "its international standard, we have to do this".

      We see this with the EU as well. Local governments effectively drive through regulations by lobbying for them in the EU and using "it's official, the EU says it, we have to" in front of their own people.
    • Let's say I'm a small inventor and I come up with a widget but don't file. Now BigCompany comes along and files for the same invention some time later. Do you think perhaps there might be some *prior art*? Like, say, my invention? Thought so.
      • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @11:12AM (#12769911) Homepage
        No, not necessarily. Your invention isn't magically prior art -- it takes a little bit of work for it to be. You can see some of the conditions at 35 USC 102. Generally, it needs to be published, patented, or used, to be prior art.

        But rest assured -- this bill will allow BigCompany to get a patent and keep you out, despite your having invented the widget before them. Right now, when there is a dispute about this sort of thing, the PTO has a process called an interference which determines who invented first. This would do away with all that. It's simple, but gets it wrong.
    • Harming small inventors makes sense. I thought I'd woken up and all of a sudden, congress was doing something for the people.

      More likely, this is a "pot stirring bill". Every now and then, congress submits something that would protect consumers. Inevitably, lobbyists earn their pay and make sure, through huge donations (bribes), that the bill goes away. If they didn't threaten to do something right, lobbyists would get complacent and would forget why they are shelling out millions.

      Heck, even the Spam bill
  • FUBAR (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kirth (183) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:11AM (#12769192) Homepage
    That's what patents are in the first place. And not just software-patents.

    We're being swamped by genetically modified whatever, just because some company managed to get a patent on it and thus has no incentive to keep its bacteria in the tank. So what if the whatever just produces some disaster like polluting fields of non genetically modified crops? Its patented, you can sue the victim of the pollution.

    And even better, some companies managed to patent parts of viruses (which they didn't invent, of course) -- now, whoever wants to identify them in something like a HIV-test has to pay royalties. The international red cross who wants donated blood checked for instance..

    Now talk about "growing costs in health-care". The whole affair is just stacking up costs everywhere, in the judical system, taxes, health-care, ecology, you name it. Patents are a frigging financial catastrophe.

    That's fucked up beyond any repair, the whole thing has to be ditched.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:21AM (#12769298)
    Read this very carefully. It appears to be an attempt to shift the power in the system from independent inventors to large corporations.

    I understand that Microsoft wants to eliminate patent shops, but many provisions in the proposed legislation do more than that. The simplest way to eliminate EOLAS-type lawsuits would be to demand that the invention be implemented within five years of being filed and raise the bar so that only very or highly non-obvious applications are accepted.

    Clearly, Microsoft doesn't want to raise the bar because that would invalidate many of their own patents. What Microsoft wants to do is make patents the exclusive domain of well established corporations and eliminate any threats that startups might pose to them.

    Again, read it carefully. There are many ways to solve these problems, but these provisions are specifically aimed at decreasing the power of independent inventors.

    Proposal: Lowering the penalties for willful infringement.

    Result: Encourages willful copying without paying inventor.

    Proposal: First to file rather than first to invent

    Result: With this provision, Microsoft and/or IBM could make regular passes of SourceForge and file patents on all innovative work there. On hearing of any new product from a startup, they could patent the techniques used in that product immediately. Note that even if they didn't receive the patent, there would be no penalties. In fact, they would benefit because by filing first they eliminated the possibility that the original inventor could receive a patent.

    Proposal: Allowing judges rather than the patent office to review challenges,

    Result: I'm not sure what this means because the details aren't spelled out. In the best case, it is a needed fix because it catches mistakes made by the patent office when a bad patent slips through. What worries me is the choice of forum. In the worst case, it is shifting challenges from the patent office to a courtroom. The same thing could be accomplished without moving it to the courtroom by simply funding the patent office. The purpose of moving it to the courtroom - which is more expensive for the government - could be to allow large corporations to crush independent inventors or self-funded startups who cannot afford the legal costs. Or it could be to make it prohibitively expensive for the open source community to challenge bogus patents by Microsoft. Either way, the specification of forum is of some concern. The patent office may not be effective, but its best aspect is that small inventors can afford it.

    There is a need for patent reform, but the brief description of this legislation sends up warning flags. Raise the bar on what can be patented and fund the patent office so it can spend more time reviewing. Allow patents to be challenged if the inventors haven't creating a prototype within five years of filing. These and several other approaches would be far simpler and more effective at solving the current problems than Microsoft's proposals.

    -- N
  • by cinnamon colbert (732724) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:23AM (#12769309) Journal
    altho it may seem strange, patents are very cheap by corp stds - diy for a few Kbucks, and in a well run company, even with the attys, it is 50 Kbuck to file a patent - this is small money for even small companies (think about the cost of hiring 10 programmers, with fringe + office space).

    HOwever, if you allow oppositions, then you get into court type appeals, and the cost skyrocktes, so only very large, well heeled companies can afford to do battle. For example, say MS does not like a patent on how to handle wierd fonts. They can afford to fly in experts from all over the world, gets hundreds of hours of video testimony, do studys, etc. How is a small company going to fight that ? not to mention the years of delay, which always work in favor of hte big guy with cashflow.

    NOt to say that the patent system isnt full of problems - there are certainly a lot of patents out their that should never have been granted.

    HOwever, if you want to do something for the small guy, change the system from date of invention (which requires record keeping to a std to satisfy attorneys) to date of filing, which is obvious. this would really help the small guy
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Why not review the patent application critically BEFORE awarding the patent (much more critically than the current process)? The post-award-review process is nice 'set up' for people with lawyers on the payroll and not for the "inventor."

    Just the fact certain big companies support the bill should give the normal people reason to pause and examine this bill critically. It looks like another band aid solution than "Probably the most sweeping change... " hype.
  • Pattern? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by exception0 (794787) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:28AM (#12769369)
    Anybody notice anything strange about this? Look back about 8 /. posts. See it yet? The post titled "Your Rights Online: Microsoft Found Guilty of Patent Infringement" Microsoft gets hit for patent infringement and suddenly is behind a bill to reform patent law? Hey, if they pay enough money and get this bill passed fast enough, they may still be within the 6 months they have to challenge!
    • Well, any large remotely innovative company is going to get hit with patent infringement lawsuits sooner or later. That's the nature of today's business environment. Microsoft has been mugged by this before so I'm not surprised that they're backing such a measure.
  • by tezbobobo (879983)
    That's right folks. Round up for the bout to knock the other guy out.

    In the left corner weighing in at $60Billion dollars we have William 'Bill' Gates. In the right corner we have Patent Reform 'Bill'....

  • You'll also have to fight Microsoft to get a patent through...
  • by RealProgrammer (723725) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @10:41AM (#12769553) Homepage Journal
    The bill proposes that third parties may submit prior art challenges for up to six months after the date of publication.

    Why only six months? Why not forever? After six months of a patent's existence, only the person with prior art could file an objection.

    If the interest of the law is justice, then it shouldn't matter when an error is discovered. It also shouldn't matter that some company has made an investment in a particular technology based on the belief that their patent is good.

    If you didn't think of it first, you shouldn't get a monopoly on it, ever.
    • I hate to point out the obvious, but this bill eliminates the possibility of using prior art to strike down a patent. Since it also says that "First Filer" not "First Inventor" gets the patent, then it doesn't matter if there's prior art. You are, ipso facto the first to file, and therfore the owner.

      Am I the only one who sees that this bill gives you a gun and then points it irrevocably at one's own feet?

      • For the first six months, first-to-invent wins the patent, but from that point, they (or anybody else) only get to invalidate the patent.

        And that only if their invention came more than six months before the filed patent.

        Result: greater stability of investment (especially after the first six months), no ridiculous patenting of ideas that have been in the wild for a while, and first-to-invent is still kept as a principle.

        It seems to me that this would satisfy most legitimate interests.

    • by Phong (38038)

      "Why not forever?" I can imagine one malicious scenario that could be exploited with a challenge-at-any-time system (check my logic and let me know if I messed up):

      1. A standards body chooses an algorithm and patents it, making the patented technology free for everyone to use.
      2. Company E-ville has an obscure patent that could be used to challenge this new patent, but E-ville chooses instead to bide their time and wait for the new standard to be widely deployed (knowing that if they challenged the patent n
  • I just wrote a research paper suggesting opposition requests for patent reforms.

    Too bad I didn't get a patent on the idea.
  • by argoff (142580) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @11:02AM (#12769789)
    No, sweeping would be no patents at all, not just no software patents, no patents at all!

    I think software patents must go NOW because they simply won't work in the information age, but lets make no mistake about it. All patnet monopolies are evil.

    Consider for instance the way that large pharmacutical industries acted when they sued African countries in the world court for attempting to make generic AIDS drugs.

    If I said (like them) that I have no incentive to make AIDS drugs without owning patents, and I said like them that I was kind with charitable programs to the Africans - how is that really any different than saying "I have no incentive to grow cotton without slaves on the plantation, and I am kind to my niggers"?

    Don't worry. After heavy pressure, the pharmacuticals dropped the lawsuit and got the US govt to buy 13 billion of patented ADIS medications for Africa at the taxpayers expense instead.
    • Hmm. Why do we *need* some patent protection?

      You run a pharmaceutical company. You make a minor discovery that a certain concoction may have an effect on cancerous cells. You spend the next 15 years and $100 Billion dollars to develop this. The result: the cure for cancer.

      However, under your system, the patent system has been eliminated. You can't file a patent on this medicine. However, you've staked the future of the company on it. If it fails, your company goes under.

      You amortize the cost of the re
      • I call BS. People said the same thing about opperating systems in the 80's. No one would invest in developing one unless they could forbid everyone from copying it. The correct answer we know today is that when people can coppy freely they can also collaberate freely and do far more than any billion dollar R&D department can. Patents almost guarantee that researchers working with different companies can't collaberate - and so kill countless innovations and discoveries that would have happened other
        • Sorry but making a new drug is not the same as making an operating system. An operating system can be developed by a single brilliant programer. Given the expense of FDA trials no drug can be developed that way. The R&D expense of bringing a new drug to market is roughly $750 million. Granted with a patent you will be looking at a 20 year monopoly which will allow you to get your investment back.

          To argue that natural medicines are being forced out of the market is silly. You clearly know nothing about
        • by jnaujok (804613) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @01:25PM (#12771790) Homepage Journal
          Did you even read what I wrote? I said software should be protected by copyright not by patent. Your argument about OS copying was about copying the OS *whole cloth*, not about copying bits and pieces and using algorithms. That's protected under copyright not patent. Talk all you want about open source and Linux, but a hobby project that's grabbed a whopping .7% of the desktop OS marketplace isn't exactly what I call "a giant success". Those lawsuits were about people literally stealing/reverse engineering the operating system, rebranding it and selling it as their own product. I know -- I was already working in the industry back then. They'd take 20 man years of someone else's work, and 15 minutes later they'd be selling their own CASH-DOS for $5 less than Micro$oft. Sorry, but no matter how much you hate Bill Gates, that's still theft, and those lawsuits were about fixing copyright law to close the software loopholes, not patent law.

          I think software patents are bullshit. How can you patent a shadow casting algorithm based on a text description of it? You can *copyright* specific code, but the algorithm itself is too intangible to be patented. You can patent a hammer, but not how you swing it.

          On the other hand, solid, mechanical or chemical devices don't fall into this category. They represent real cash outlay to devise and develop. This costs money. If it didn't there would be "Open Source Cars" on the road right now, and "Open Source Microwave Ovens" in the kitchen that you walk into the "Open Source Store" and pull off the shelf for free.

          If anyone has a premise that's broken, it's you.

          And as for R&D costs, I happen to know people who work at pharmaceutical companies, and my sister-in-law works at 3M (another big R&D firm). It's not unusual for 3M to spend $10 million to develop a new type of adhesive that's "just a little stickier" then their current one. Research is *DAMNED* expensive. Drug research is doubly so, because you are looking at a 7-15 *YEAR* cycle of testing through the FDA. Fast-tracked drugs might cut that down to 3-5 *YEARS*. That's time where your R&D is complete, all the money is spent, and you can't make a penny of profit, because you can't sell a thing. *NOR SHOULD YOU* as the drug has not proven to be safe. At the end of a cycle of R&D, Testing, Studies, Review, Testing, and finally Marketing (and yes, marketing is part of drugs in the modern market. It's part of every other market, why are Pharmas *evil* for daring to market?) the costs can *easily* be in the Billions of dollars.

          You cite insulin as a drug "discovered by accident". Well, if you consider "by accident" as 5 years of lab work, 10 years of refinement and testing, and hundreds of man-years in the succeeding decades to improve, perfect, and synthesize the drug as "an accident" then you're right. Read about how insulin was discovered. Yes, the "lab assistant" found the insulin link "by accident" (in a controlled study with hundreds of tests, etc., etc.), but it's not like they were selling it over the counter the following Tuesday. So, you want to call bullshit, I call bullshit on you.

          I've watched the patent process first hand when my dad developed a (we'll call it a widget, since it's for a very specialized and technical field) widget. He designed it, developed prototypes, tested it, showed it worked, put the protoypes into the hands of the industry experts in order to improve it, perfect it, and finally, after spending about $250,000 of his own money, he went on to patent it. He was able to negotiate with an industry company to manufacture and use the widget, but unfortunately passed away (from cancer) before he could make one red cent of profit from it. The company has since started manufacturing the widget without owning the patent and my mother (who now owns the patent) has started the process to sue them for patent infringement.

          Explain how that makes my dad or mom evil?
  • It's called USPTO, and it is loosely based on Magic the Gathering. I for one got a bad manna shuffle.
  • Just ban software patents, period! Is that too hard?
  • Obviously, eliminating bad patents in the first place is contrary to the interests of both the patent office and the lawyers. Eliminate the bad patents, and there are fewer filings and fewer fees. The patent office is a government agency that actually makes money for the government; possibly the only agency that does that.

    So, add in a challenge process and you can probably collect more fees, but nevermind that. This is yet another case of lawyers writing laws that will create more demand for lawyers wh

  • by DarkEdgeX (212110) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @07:12PM (#12775553) Journal
    From what the /. write-up says, this sounds good (well, except for Microsoft backing it, that worries me), but what about reforming/fixing copyright? There's just no need nor justification for copyrights lasting as long as they do, nor for the things the DMCA does to people who just want to watch movies how they want to, not how the media corporations want them to.

The key elements in human thinking are not numbers but labels of fuzzy sets. -- L. Zadeh

Working...