Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Patents Your Rights Online

IEEE Proposes New Class of Patents 183

Posted by Zonk
from the something's-got-to-change dept.
cheesedog writes "The IEEE Spectrum proposes a new type of patent that wouldn't require formal examination, would cost significantly less than traditional patents, would last only 4 years from date of first commercial product, and which wouldn't carry a presumption of validity. These 'limited patents' would be attractive to innovators in the fast-moving high-tech industry that can't wait 18-24 months for patent approval, and would help improve patent quality by populating the USPTO's prior-art database more efficiently. Additional commentary on this proposal is available."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

IEEE Proposes New Class of Patents

Comments Filter:
  • by didit (820432) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @01:16PM (#14627261)
    ... did they patent this new class of patents?
    • by Nosajjason (613456) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @03:16PM (#14628613)
      I would hope that you won't be allowed to "patent" this proposal because it is not "new type of patent."
      In fact, IEEE's proposal parallels the system in Australia, which allows "innovation" patents to issue without review. http://www.ipaustralia.gov.au/patents/what_innovat ion.shtml [ipaustralia.gov.au]

      Australian Innovation Patents, as they are called, last a maximum of 8 years, are granted without examination within 1 to 3 months. However, before enforcement or even threatened enforcement of an innovation patent, someone (not just the owner of the patent) must request a formal examination of the patent.

      These systems have their problems as well. See: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/1418 165.stm [bbc.co.uk] in which a lawyer patented the wheel using this system.

      Nevertheless, with sad state of affairs in this country, you probably could file an application and get a piece of paper back granting you a patent this "process." :)

      [ Begin Rant ]

      The problem with these types of "IEEE" or "innovation" patents is that they worthless.

      First, without the initial review, the patent owner is left unaware if there are serious deficiencies in his patent until he tries to enforce it. Between 2000 and 2003 roughly 300,000 patent applications were filed each year. Between 2001 and 2004 roughly only half those applications matured into granted patents. http://www.uspto.gov/go/taf/us_stat.htm [uspto.gov]. During the examination process, there are ways to cure these deficiencies. For example, the inventor may amend the claims or file another application. The system currently proposed by IEEE does not serve inventors because it cannot forewarn applicants that there is a problem. (Of course, the current system is broken, but in other ways.)

      Second, even if the owner has a valid patent, he would not be able to recuperate the costs of enforcing that patent. By giving a limited monopoly for 4 years, the patent owner can only recover damages for those 4 years. Take this example: Inventor A gets invents a widget and wants to bring it immediately to market (and can), so he gets an "IEEE" patent. Company B sees A widget and decides to reverse engineer and sell the widget. If it takes Company B a year to reverse engineer and market widget, then the soonest A would realize that B is infrigning is in the 2nd year of his patent's 4 year term. However, before he can even threaten B, he must have the patent reviewed by the patent office for validity. This might take 3-6 months (I am guessing). This puts him into his 3rd year. After a finding of validity, A then has to commence suit, which generally takes more than a year. So after everything is said and done, B only has to pay royalties for 3 years and can continue manufacturing the widget because A's 4-year patent term has expired by the end of litigation. What was accomplished by suing B? A expended hundreds of thousands of dollars in litigation only to gain 3 years worth of royalties, which probably weren't that much.

      On the other hand, with a standard patent, the patent owner, A, could recover damages for 20 years and/or charge Company B a royalty for the remaining term of the patent. Now, if that widget was, for example, the iPod, then A would have benefited by obtaining a standard patent.

      For these reasons, no major company will pursue an "IEEE" patent even if it was allowed.
      [/end Rant]
    • Better quesion here is what they want to do with that legislation. Decrease unempolyment rate? Even now US courts are full of patent cases and can't handle the load. With this one,.... well court buildings construction would impose higher demand, clerks, judges, lawyers etc. You could probably employ most of the currently unemployed. Other unemployed could just start new job, litigation without sense.

      Off course, US major bussines would move from production and sale to litigation.

      Conclusion: Damn, sounds lik
  • So (Score:5, Insightful)

    by garrett714 (841216) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @01:16PM (#14627265)
    I can just imagine what it will be like when a patent dispute happens. We already have enough BS patents out there clogging up the patent office that slow them down, how is this going to help any? I agree that patents need to be granted more quickly, but is giving out patents without formal examination really the answer?
    • Re:So (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Eightyford (893696)
      ...but is giving out patents without formal examination really the answer?

      I think so. This just establishes prior art in a very clean way. If the patent shouldn't have been granted, the courts can come into play. Anything is better than the system in place now.
      • If the patent shouldn't have been granted, the courts can come into play.
        You're just shifting the time/effort/cost instead of actually solving the problem.

        The problem being patents that should never have been granted.
      • Re:So (Score:5, Interesting)

        by alicenextdoor (910558) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @01:36PM (#14627497)
        This has already been tried, in Australia. In fact, the law won an IgNobel prize for John Keogh and the Australian Patent Office [improbable.com] for patenting the wheel in the year 2001. Apparently he did it to demonstrate that the new patent laws were pointless. I have no idea if his patent has ever been challenged in court!
        • Didn't this group, (or was it someone else?) use these same rules to register the sound of every possible combination of telephone number, meaning if you dial a phone in .au you technically have to pay that group a royalty.
    • Re:The only type (Score:5, Insightful)

      by symbolic (11752) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @01:26PM (#14627387)

      As far as software is concerned, and perhaps some other idiotic types of IP (like copyright on the "appearance" of a building in a public location), is to ELIMINATE it. Their absence is what got us where we are, but for some reason, people feel like they have to squeeze every last bit of "value" from something that is often completely intangible. The only thing it's doing is slowing things down and increasing costs. I imagine that not too long from now, the "leaders" in the US government will be scratching something, wondering why the US continues to either lag behind, or give up ground to, other countries in important areas like science and technology. The current patent system has shackled and menacled our ability to remain agile, and I fear that we will pay dearly for that over the long term.
    • Re:So (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fish waffle (179067) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @01:29PM (#14627418)
      We already have enough BS patents out there...

      Indeed; helping increase the volume of bad patents doesn't seem like a useful goal. The main problem with software (and other more abstract) patents is not the slow process for granting them, it's the fact that they keep granting idiotic patents that are very obvious to anyone even remotely skilled in the art. Searching and validating beforehand may be expensive, but is a lot cheaper than a court fight....at least in an overall sense.

      On the other hand, if their intention is to fuel outrage in blogs and community websites (like /.), or provide even more material for people to make fun of them, this will be a great success.
      • Re:So (Score:2, Interesting)

        by x8 (879751)
        What if the patent office had a link on each patent's web page that would allow members of the comunity to submit prior art, triggering a formal review? (Is this possible now?)

        I can think of a few benefits of this:
        1. The patent office could focus their formal review efforts, gaining efficiency.
        2. Avoids hiring a lawyer every time you find a patent that obviously should be invalid.
        3. In the proposed IEEE system, having a lot of prior art patents would make it easier to point out prior art.
        • Just FYI (Score:5, Informative)

          by orac2 (88688) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @03:20PM (#14628663)
          In the proposed IEEE system...

          I submitted a correction to /. about this, but The Powers That Be didn't bother to fix the headline, so I'll try do it here: (this is a repost of this comment)

          I'm the IEEE Spectrum editor of this article, and for the record the IEEE has made no such proposal. To quote the disclaimer we run with every issue: "The editorial content of IEEE Spectrum magazine does not represent official positions of the IEEE or its organizational units."

          Prof Hollaar's article is funtionally equivalent to an Op-Ed -- as a respected, knowledgedable, and articulate individual, he was given space in the magazine to share a proposal we found noteworthy. We've actually run a lot of articles on the "What To Do With Patents" theme recently, as our contribution to the patent reform debate, with authors advocating ideas ranging from replacing software patents completely with copyright, to more-or-less leaving well enough alone. I think it's great /. is debating Prof. Hollaar's idea, just note that it's not an official IEEE proposal.
      • I think the standard of "obvious" should be that if two different people independantly come up with the same idea, then obviously the idea was "obvious".
      • by drakaan (688386)
        I made a first attempt at reading TFA, when I ran across the first two sentences:

        There are big problems with patents, especially software patents. It takes too long to get patent protection, particularly for fast-moving high-tech industries.

        Is that *seriously* what they wanted to lead with? The first "problem" mentioned is that it takes too long to get them?

        For as long as those with big patent portfolios have been trying to feed us the line that software patents are good, and others have been arguing

        • I believe the idea is to lure people to the shorter life patent by offering a quicker process. The time it takes for a patent to issue can be a negative for the fast movers.
          • by drakaan (688386)
            Right. I get that, it's just beside the point of the argument at hand, which is whether or not software should be patentable. I made it a bit further through the article, and noticed the author talking about software patents expiring sooner than copyright, and copyright lasting 95 years...

            That's true, but it misses the fundamental difference between copyright and patent, which is that copyright protects a particular work, and patents protect a particular invention. Since writing software in and of itsel

        • by orac2 (88688)
          Maybe there's a patent attorney who has a brother-in-law in the IEEE group that proposed this, or something.

          I submitted a correction to /. about this, but The Powers That Be didn't bother to fix the headline, so I'll try do it here: (this is a repost of a comment I've posted elsewhere)

          I'm the IEEE Spectrum editor of this article, and for the record the IEEE has made no such proposal. To quote the disclaimer we run with every issue: "The editorial content of IEEE Spectrum magazine does not represent official
          • I fail to see the difference. Obviously the IEEE doesn't object to the commentary, else why would it permit it to be printed?

            It might not have been written by an IEEE staff member, but it is definitely a de facto endorsement because of IEEE publishing it.
            • It might not have been written by an IEEE staff member, but it is definitely a de facto endorsement because of IEEE publishing it.

              There's a long tradition of organizations, especially media organizations, publishing opinion pieces without those pieces being considered "de facto endorsements," let alone official positions. When, say, an activist or politician advocates for their point of view from the Op-Ed pages of The Boston Globe, it is not considered an endorsement by the The New York Times Company. And
      • In the long run, moving towards reviewing patents and getting rid of the illegitimate ones, will be much easier than the problem they are facing now...hundred year patents.

        If companies start getting these short term patents before the old style patents pass through the system there might be interesting legal battles (no comparisons to existing patents after all)...

        4 Years is a LONG time in technology fields, having access to the patents ATI or Nvidia held 4 years ago would be totally TOTALLY useless in
  • Great idea! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by timjdot (638909) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @01:18PM (#14627287) Homepage

    This is a very good idea. My current patent application was filed Jan '01 and is still being reviewed!

    TimJowers
  • by 192939495969798999 (58312) <info@@@devinmoore...com> on Thursday February 02, 2006 @01:20PM (#14627319) Homepage Journal
    So a 4-year patent just means you have to pay them 4 times, and then you have procured the patent for the approximage 17 years of a regular patent. Or, perhaps longer... assuming pressure from all the companies to whack this once it goes into effect, so that they can keep their patents for cheaper. Any patent system's original rules will be altered by pressure from the largest patent holders. What we need to have happen is to force accountability for patent fees, i.e. force some kind of license limit on the amount you can ream people for off of them.
  • by Enigma_Man (756516) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @01:21PM (#14627320) Homepage
    So all the people that have been submitting crap to the patent office that actually gets qualified as "valid", even if it isn't will have a field day patenting everything then? If the onus is on everybody else but the patent-holder to prove that it isn't valid, that kinda sucks.

    -Jesse
    • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @01:34PM (#14627463) Homepage Journal
      Exactly.

      Imagine Acme Corp. files a 'limited patent' for Widget X and it's granted without examination. My widget, Widget Y does the same thing as Widget X, and it's actually got a real patent pending and has been on the market for 3 years.

      However, Widget Y hasn't been selling very well due to my inability to market the product, and well, I can't afford good legal representation. So I can't sue Acme Corp. at all... worse, Acme Corp. notices my product and decides to sue me! Since Acme got their 'limited patent' first and mine is just pending, Acme wins!

      Screw that. It sounds like a patent abusers' wet dream.
      • If you invented X before they invented Y, then you don't have anything to worry about regardless of whether or not you have a granted patent.
        On a related point, the granting of a patent does not give you the right to do anything other than exclude someone from using what is claimed in your patent. It does not give you the right to actually practice what your own patent claims.
        • You have to worry about taking inventor of Y to court (or having them take you to court if they decide to sue you first). Going to court costs a _lot_ of money (be it actual money, or your time that could be spent elsewhere making money), even if you are 100% and obviously correct from the start.

          -Jesse
      • If you applied for your patent first, then you would get priority in an interference. Other guy and prove he actually invented first but filed later. You would end up with the patent. PTO doesn't care, in these instances, who gets issued the patent first but rather who invented first and there is a presumption for the guy who filed first. (Makes sense.)
  • by torunforever (930672) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @01:22PM (#14627334)
    Novelty could be challenged at any point by someone submitting prior art and paying a small fee.

    A fee? That sounds counter-productive to encouraging prior art submissions.

    • A fee? That sounds counter-productive to encouraging prior art submissions.

      Actually, making someone pay a fee for prior art is an idea with some merit. But it shouldn't be the person who points out the prior art who has to pay. Instead, the person who filed for the patent should have to pay a fee to the patent office when someone points out valid prior art. After the patent office determines it really is prior art, they would take part of the fee for themselves and pay part of it as a bounty to the

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland @ y a hoo.com> on Thursday February 02, 2006 @01:22PM (#14627338) Homepage Journal
    First, while you are in patent pending, you are protected.

    Second, Patents are not expensive, paten lawyers are. You can file a patent as an individual for a few hundred dollars.

    Third, a patent is a way of saying you had it first, but there are other ways.

    Forth, This would be even more abused then the current system

    • >Third, a patent is a way of saying you had it first, but there are other ways.

      yeah my favourite, but the least well known way, is to actually release the fucking product.
      • Not always practical when you are looking for money to build it.
        There is the real crux of the issue for small inventors.

        I got nifty widget one, but I need 250,000 for manufacturing. How do I show people what I have and keep it protected?

        If you dn't have proof that you had it a specific date, anyone can claim they had it first.
    • by werdna (39029) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @01:52PM (#14627686) Journal
      You don't know what you are talking about. Professor Hollaar has an intimate understanding of these issues. He is a blue-chip expert in this arena, and your suggestions to the contrary are wholly unfounded.

      Lee Hollaar is one of our nation's most brilliant non-legal scholars regarding intellectual property issues. Lee has been active in intellectual proprerty matters for decades, and is the author of the BNA publication "Legal Protection of Digital Information," which you can read for free online [digital-law-online.info] (complete with hyperlinks to case law!) at the AUTHOR's insistance. Although he is no doubt an IP maximalist, his is frequenty a reasoned and well-informed view.

      He is the author of or worked closely with the authors of highly influential amicus briefs that led the United States Supreme Courts to decisions in landmark intellectual property law cases. He worked on the hill as a staffer, and also as an advisor to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. And he has served as technical expert and special master in many important IP and technology law cases, including United States v. Microsoft.

      As it turns out, I do not agree with Lee on the necessity or benefits of his "petit patent" proposal, and might agree with a more critically worded and substantive revision of the poster's remarks. Unlikely many on this forum, I find Lee to be open to new ideas and revisions of his old ones when confronted with solid argument. This flexibility toward truth-seeking rather than lockstep ideology is one of the principal reasons he is such a formidable opponent at a debate on IP matters, and why his opinions, even when they are wrong, are highly influential.

      But I would Never, NEVER suggest that the proposal was founded in ignorance. Professor Hollaar has enormous gravitas in the IP community, and his influence is well-deserved. Right or wrong (I often disagree and spar with him), your suggestions about his understanding are wholly unfounded.
      • I'm anti patent, but that's really because I don't think the current system works as intended.
        There are some decent ideas in the proposal:
        - Novelty as the only condition.
        - Independant creation.
        - Much shorter duration.

        I think I could get behind something like this if and only if the current system were dropped in it's place.
        My fear is that all this will do is increase the legal fees, as you now need to defend on two fronts, and fill paperwork for two kinds of patents. From TFA:

        Protection would last fo

      • by SeattleGameboy (641456) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @02:28PM (#14628128) Journal
        We are all impressed with his resume.

        However, that still does not change the fact that increasing the number of patents and decreasing the effective duration is a dumb idea.

        Just because it is shorter does not make thing better when the number of rediculous patents will explode.

        The problem is not necessarily that the patents are too long or even it is too expensive to obtain. The problem is that too many non-novel ideas are granted patents.

        What Professor Hollaar suggests does not address those problems at all. And that does not change no matter how well respected he is.

        • I responded to the original post, which incorrectly and improperly suggested Prof. Hollaar is ignorant of patent issues. I don't disagree with you as to some of your remarks, and am not nearly so excited about this proposal as is he. However, he did make strong arguments in favor of his proposal, which require deeper analysis than to engage in name calling.

          One point to make, however, is that "novelty" is a very specialized term in this context, and it is one of the Hollaar proposal's most difficult issue.
          • I don't think your defense of Hollaar is still not on the mark.

            It is true that one of the main problems with the patent system today is that the "novel" requirement is hard to define precisely. But instead of making this requirement more defined, Hollaar pretty much suggests that we should just open the floodgates. He compliments that by shortening the patent expiration duration so that if a non-novel invention is patented, it will only affect the public for 4 short years (and more open to challenges).

        • You never tried to get a patent, did you? Patents a very expensive and take a very long time to be granted. Even more if you lack experience on requiring them.

          If you ever met someone that had the experience of creating a hight tech start-up, let he tell you how he spent eons waiting for patents, and a very big part of the capital was applied on it. This proposal has the potential to make those start-up lifes much easier.

          But he probably wasn't thinking about software patents. Remember, ./ people that there

    • First, while you are in patent pending, you are protected.

      You can't sue for patent infringement unless your patent has issued. See this about.com article [about.com]: "The protection afforded by a patent does not start until the actual grant of the patent."

      Second, Patents are not expensive, paten lawyers are.

      You can file a patent as an individual for a few hundred dollars.

      Yes, the filing fee is only $500 for an individual. But someone has to write the application. Someone has to respond to the office actions. Sure,

    • > First, while you are in patent pending, you are protected. Almost -- you are _potentially_ protected, namely if and only if your patent eventually gets accepted. > Second, Patents are not expensive, paten lawyers are. You can file a patent as an individual for a few hundred dollars. Yes, per country. Now imagine you have something in the pocket that you want to protect in all major countries, you have to provide certified translations and pay fees in all countries where you seek protection. Can e
    • ...Patents are not expensive, patent lawyers are. You can file a patent as an individual for a few hundred dollars...

      That's a distinction without a difference. In practical terms, nobody files a patent without consulting a lawyer who specializes in patent law. Why? So the patent will hold up in court and to improve the chances of it getting approved. If it's valuable enough to bother patenting, it's worth consulting a lawywer. If you can't afford a laywer, your patent is effectively worthless anyway be
    • by DRJlaw (946416)
      First, while you are in patent pending, you are protected.

      You are only protected after your application is published, and only if you have not substantially altered the scope of the claims while you're before the USPTO. A published claim must have substantially the same scope as an issued claim, or there is no practical protection. This not necessarily an easy task when there is extensive prior art. If you file an application blindly (also relevant to your second point below), it is practically impossible.

      S
  • If your "invention" isn't in the same class as Penicillin or the Cotton Gin, it's not important enough to require a patent
    • History seems to indicate that if your invention is that important, you don't get patent protection anyway (as a matter of practial application).

      Neither of the guys that invented these got rich off their patents, because people ignored them and the establishment was too invested in the patented invention to object. The whole RIM vs. NTP thing is the same effect happening in small today (though one could more easily argue that those patents actually are invalid... not trying to say anything about that).

  • OMFG!! Cheap Patents!! No validation!! And it only starts ticking down after the other guy brings his product to market!! IP companies are on the up!!!! zOMFGBBQ!!!!11!11oneone!eleven!!

    They'll bring the patents, and the USPTO will bring the stamps.
    • Cheap Patents!! No validation!! And it only starts ticking down after the other guy brings his product to market!!

      OMFG!! A Slashdot poster didn't read the article closely!!

      The patent is only enforceable when the patent holder brings it to market, not when the other guy brings it to market.

      So there is a simple affirmative defense to an infringement claim that could be handled by an administrative judge with no fuss: If you claim that I am infringing on your patent, and I can show that I used the innov

  • by truckaxle (883149) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @01:27PM (#14627400) Homepage
    The current patent duration of 20 years was established in the prior revolution, the industrial revolution. It is way to long and benefits the major corporate holds the most. A patent in todays faster moving world should be short as is being proposed. That would reduced their importance and significance. Is an "innovative" idea like one click shopping significant enough to lock up for 20 years? I don't think so. The whole idea behing the duration is to to help an inventor recover the cost of an invention and capitalize on it. Today's entrepreneurs can recover an investment much more quickly than in the past.
    • Actually, the term of patents was changed to 20 years (after filing) on June 8, 1995.
    • I've been advocating this for a while. Patents should be of variable duration, depending primarily on the sunk costs necessary to innovate in a field.

      For example, I can't think of any software innovations that required billion dollar investments. Most innovative research can be done by a lone person or a small group in a basement somewhere. Since the cost of software innovation is low, the potential payback is fast, and so the period of protection should be low as well. I suggest roughly 2 years.

      OTO

      • "depending primarily on the sunk costs necessary to innovate in a field."

        Unfortunately, there is a strong correlation between patents and cost of innovating in a field. Once you start handing out monopolies, the overhead costs simply grow without competetive pressure to hold them down.

        "Since the cost of software innovation is low, the potential payback is fast, and so the period of protection should be low as well."

        It's low now. But once you have those two years protection in the field, you need to start hi
        • Unfortunately it appears to be a solid law of economics, removing competetive pressure does not create a more competetive industry, it creates a less competetive industry whose costs will ballon as capital becomes available.

          And even more unfortunately, it holds true not only for the software business, but for things like pharmaceuticals as well. They dont need patents because development is horrendously expensive; development (not to mention marketing and administration) has become horrendously expensive


    • > It is way to long [...]

      One of the words in your sentence is way too short.
    • The patent length depends on the type of patent.

      Howevr, the problem with your examples isn't that it is locked up for 20 years. The proble is software abd business methods should not be patentable, only copyrightable.

      "Today's entrepreneurs can recover an investment much more quickly than in the past."
      that is totally incorrect. Where people get this idea is beyond me.

  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @01:29PM (#14627412) Journal
    One thing the /. summary left out is this sentence:
    Inventions not actually available in the marketplace would not be protected.
    The main idea is to keep people from copying your work. It doesn't stop anyone with similar ideas but different implementations.
    • Interesting ... in the current climate, there's pressure to keep stuff in Beta for a long time (e.g., Google News, anyone?).

      In the new climate...

      Inventions not actually available in the marketplace would not be protected.

      ... which means that people will rush unfinished buggy crapware to market as '1.0' to grab their 4 years of prior art protection, and take their sweet time actually making improvements.

      The Law of Unintended [wikipedia.org] Consequences [atfreeweb.com] strikes again.

    • I think the basic premise that you cant apply for a patent unless your invention is within the marketplace is sound. However, it is contrary to international law and the Paris convention. The vast majority of nations require an inventor to file for a patent *before* placing his invention in the marketplace. Anyone who files for one of these "petit" patents would waive patent protection in most foreign countries due to Paris convention requirements. Thus, no one with a valuable invention would ever appl
  • Incomplete summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tethys_was_taken (813654) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @01:30PM (#14627424) Homepage
    First off, a better view of the article [ieee.org](plaintext, one page).

    What the submitter failed to mention is that the patent claim is validated only when the patent owner attempts to sue an alleged infringer of that patent. FTFA: "Should the patent owner try to sue an alleged infringer, an examination for novelty would be the initial step in any litigation." And goes on to claim that this is better because the alleged violator will have to provide prior art to invalidate the patent.

    This seems to increase the amount of time developers will have to spend in courts, attacking and defending, while reducing the burden on the patent office. Less chance of mistakes, but probably not a viable option for smaller developers without the resources to spend on litigation.

    Also, the other linked article [blogspot.com] claims that "Novelty could be challenged at any point by someone submitting prior art and paying a small fee." Anyone have any idea where this information comes from?
    • Okay, I didn't RTFA, but I thought I'd mention that it is indeed possible for an anonymous third party to challenge a patent. Anyone can put such a challenge into a patent file, although nobody really looks at it and nothing really happens (except the current patent holder gets notified), unless the patent is actually challenged or re-examined (this is my understanding, but IANAL). I believe this is the case that since patents are presumed valid, nobody will look at this new evidence unless there is an ac
  • by TheNoxx (412624)
    Microsoft and its lackeys did tons of lobbying to get this done... just a guess. *Less* technical review for software patents? That's the worst idea I've heard in years. Most patent reviewers for IT patents are already approving the most ridiculous things... (before I get flamed, by all means, put the word "patent" into a search here for /. stories)
  • The IEEE Spectrum proposes a new type of patent that wouldn't require formal examination

    Judging by the quality of the examination for the current types of patents, this part wouldn't be much of a change. They might as well do away with examination of patents all together, considering some of the crap that gets approved.
  • ...arise defending your patent against a challenge by a billion $ company. That is the problem that must be addressed, not changing patents themselves (though a real examination of claims by the patent office would be nice as well.)
  • by burnin1965 (535071) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @01:44PM (#14627580) Homepage
    "would last only 4 years from date of first commercial product"

    This part I can buy, and I would go further and change the entire patent system to limit to 4 years on ALL patents from date of first commercial product. After all, the original objective of the patent system was to advance science, industry, etc. in the United States, it was not intended as a means of leeching cash from a productive industry or building monopolies. Shorter terms would force the hand of patent holders to put up or shut up.

    I would also implement stricter rules on acceptance of patents. Today we hear over and over the excuse that lame patents are accepted because the office is overworked. I've read the rules on the uspto.gov website and several of the questionable patents that have been in the news and from what I've seen every one of them should have been rejected in the first 5 minutes of reading the abstract and claims.

    The rules are simple and most patents don't pass muster. The patent office should be pushing back on those who file patents to submit applications which easily pass the initial tests:

    "The patent law specifies that the subject matter must be "useful." The term "useful" in this connection refers to the condition that the subject matter has a useful purpose and also includes operativeness, that is, a machine which will not operate to perform the intended purpose would not be called useful, and therefore would not be granted a patent.

    Interpretations of the statute by the courts have defined the limits of the field of subject matter that can be patented, thus it has been held that the laws of nature, physical phenomena, and abstract ideas are not patentable subject matter.

    A patent cannot be obtained upon a mere idea or suggestion. The patent is granted upon the new machine, manufacture, etc., as has been said, and not upon the idea or suggestion of the new machine. A complete description of the actual machine or other subject matter for which a patent is sought is required."

    http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/doc/general/i ndex.html#whatpat [uspto.gov]

    And from these basic rules it becomes obvious that SOFTWARE IS NOT PATENTABLE, you use copyrights for software. And just to add to the rant, a reimplementation of a concept or idea by someone else is not infringement of a copyright. I suspect that is why we have this big mess with software patents. I also suspect that part of the problem is interference from lawyers and lawmakers who have beaten the USPTO into submission, but at some point we need to stop all this stupidity.

    burnin
  • ...a new class of peanuts.. I must take a break and/or get some glasses.
  • by GrEp (89884) <(crb002) (at) (gmail.com)> on Thursday February 02, 2006 @01:54PM (#14627707) Homepage Journal
    Mandatory licencing via a maximum 15% tariff on patented goods would solve the problem.

    Right now the little guys get eaten alive having the burden of getting their goods to market without the propper resources to do so. With the 15% tariff all they need to do is patent their invention and the market will reap the profits for them.

    Yes, big pharma might get lowballed for their R/D costs, but on the bright side they wouldn't have to spend billons on those drug ads that appear during prime time.

    Also, software patents wouldn't be a problem because paying an extra 15 cents on your $1 software download isn't going to hurt much.

  • That would allow inventors to have immediate protection against knockoffs of a technology even as they try to get broader protection by meeting the more stringent requirements for a conventional patent.

    That is absolutely unacceptable because it would give people the benefits of both patent types. It would make the current situation far worse because, not only would people get the long term protection in some cases, they would get the short term protection even for the most bogus of inventions.

    If people dec
  • Right now the main problems are: high cost and
    slow ands bad processing. The cost, btw, while
    high is relatively fixed and is usually below
    10K for a simple US patent.
    What this does is takes the cost out of USPTO
    and moves it to courtroom but you just know
    this will be more expensive. For that money
    you may or may not get a better patent examination
    and this will then depend on how good a
    lawyer you can afford.
    End result: full valid patent will cost more,
    be obtained as slowly or slower (our courts
    aren't the fastest
    • " Right now the main problems are: high cost and
      slow ands bad processing. The cost, btw, while
      high is relatively fixed and is usually below
      10K for a simple US patent."

      that is wildly incorrect.
      it cost a few hunder for an individual to file a patent.
      Noy, if you want to paty for someone else to do a patent search for you, that's your option, but it is not a requirement of the patent office.

      "1. Reduce all patent validity to 4-5 years."
      not practical, and people who state that must be pretty far removed from the
      • 0. The 10K is not the cost of USPTO processing. A few years ago when I
        went through the patenting, a simple patent was about 3K to file and
        3K to prosecute - fees for a reputable but not top IP firm. BTW, prosecute
        refers to the stage where you are convincing the patent office that your
        patent is valid and has nothing to do with criminal prosecution.
        My 10K is a bit high but I was assuming the prices went up in the last
        10 years. See, most people who come up with new ideas are real bad at
        communicating them, putti
  • by DavidD_CA (750156) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @02:42PM (#14628275) Homepage
    Everyone on /. consistently bashes the current IP/patent system and the PTO, always offering heaps of reasons why it sucks.

    This guy, an actual *professional* in that field, comes up with some ideas and spends the time to think them through, document them, review them with peers, and even has a huge body (IEEE) behind him.

    Yet 90% of the posts on here are negative, with absolutely no substantial suggestions that would improve the situation.
    • Just FYI (Score:3, Informative)

      by orac2 (88688)
      even has a huge body (IEEE) behind him.

      I submitted a correction to /. about this, but The Powers That Be didn't bother to fix the headline, so I'll try do it here: (this is a repost of a comment I've posted elsewhere)

      I'm the IEEE Spectrum editor of this article, and for the record the IEEE has made no such proposal. To quote the disclaimer we run with every issue: "The editorial content of IEEE Spectrum magazine does not represent official positions of the IEEE or its organizational units."

      Prof Hollaar's ar
  • It makes sense until you pay attention to "until a patent is granted." That screws the whole thing up. Effectively he's proposing that patents get published immediately instead of after 18 months. Yeah, publications don't carry the same weight, but people still pay attention to them. IFF you have to decide between short and patents, then it starts sounding attractive. Maybe it needs some tweeks, but it's a start. You file, you automatically get a short patent. Validity is tested only when it's chall
  • by orac2 (88688) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @03:18PM (#14628635)
    I submitted a correction to /. about this, but The Powers That Be didn't bother to fix the headline, so I'll try do it here:

    I'm the IEEE Spectrum editor of this article, and for the record the IEEE has made no such proposal. To quote the disclaimer we run with every issue: "The editorial content of IEEE Spectrum magazine does not represent official positions of the IEEE or its organizational units."

    Prof Hollaar's article is funtionally equivalent to an Op-Ed -- as a respected, knowledgedable, and articulate individual, he was given space in the magazine to share a proposal we found noteworthy. We've actually run a lot of articles on the "What To Do With Patents" theme recently, as our contribution to the patent reform debate, with authors advocating ideas ranging from replacing software patents completely with copyright, to more-or-less leaving well enough alone. I think it's great /. is debating Prof. Hollaar's idea, just note that it's not an official IEEE proposal.
  • RTFA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dr. Donuts (232269) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:32PM (#14629336)
    I see a lot of comments from people that obviously didn't read the article. Some have made some good points, for those that did.

    After reading the article, the solution proposed is a good solution IMO. A patent granted through this system solves many of the problems with the current patent process.

    1. Eliminates the upfront burden on the patent office.
    2. A patent is only enforceable if a commercial product is produced by the patentee. That's a biggie. This gets rid of the current batch of "IP" companies, whose sole existance is pumping out patents and litigating. No product, no enforceable patent.
    3. The first step in any litigation is an examination by the USPTO.
    4. These mini-patents can be challenged via prior art with a small fee.
    5. It will help build up the prior art database, which should allow the USPTO to be quicker in making prior art determinations in any examinations they have to do.

    Although people might bemoan the fact that this would grant a lot of trivial patents, those same trivial patents also mean that prior art has been established. Those trivial patents are meaningless unless a commercial product is produced. And if it's trivial, then chances are it will be easily refuted upon a full USPTO examination. Which means you've now established both prior art and refuted the patent, both of which can be referenced by the USPTO directly for later patent examinations, which should help them make determinations for prior art quicker.

    Since the fee involved with one of these patents is small, it will also mean that people would be free to submit patents for the sole purpose of establishing prior art, even if they have no intent of bringing a product to market. This could be used to actually prevent folks from taking out trivial patents in the future, making a product, and then trying to enforce it, since a prior patent had already been issued. Even if that prior patent is not enforceable, it still establishes the prior art, thus invalidating the subsequent patent.

    Would love to see someone's reasoned arguments as to what the pitfalls might be under such a system.
    • "2. A patent is only enforceable if a commercial product is produced by the patentee. That's a biggie. This gets rid of the current batch of "IP" companies, whose sole existance is pumping out patents and litigating. No product, no enforceable patent."

      so if I patent my nifty new super bode imaginging system, I can only enforce my patentent after I manage to get financing? hello, anybody home?

      "3. The first step in any litigation is an examination by the USPTO."

      That would raise the cost, and put an extremely
      • so if I patent my nifty new super bode imaginging system, I can only enforce my patentent after I manage to get financing? hello, anybody home?

        No. The proposed limited patents do not negate your ability to apply for a traditional patent, with traditional protection. You could still choose that instead.

        Prior art isn't just previous patents.

        Technically you are correct. Practically (and sadly), prior art is just previous patents.

COMPASS [for the CDC-6000 series] is the sort of assembler one expects from a corporation whose president codes in octal. -- J.N. Gray

Working...