Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Patents Government Politics

Patent Office Program To Speed Computer Tech 80

Posted by kdawson
from the worth-a-try dept.
coondoggie writes "Looking to address critics, the US Patent and Trademark Office this week is starting a program to speed up and improve the review of computer hardware and software technologies. The agency is set to launch a peer-review pilot project that will give technical experts in computer technology, for the first time, the opportunity to submit technical reports relevant to the claims of a published patent application before an examiner reviews it. The idea is to get as much knowledge about a particular claim in front of an examiner as quickly as possible so they can make a decision faster, the agency said. IBM, Microsoft, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, CA, and Red Hat have already agreed to review some software patent applications for the one-year community review project. Intel, Sun, Oracle, Yahoo, and others are also part of the project. The pilot is a joint initiative with the Community Patent Review Project, organized by the New York Law School's Institute for Information and Policy.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Patent Office Program To Speed Computer Tech

Comments Filter:
  • What a great idea! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hasbeard (982620) on Monday June 11, 2007 @08:46PM (#19473175)
    I just wish they would make it retroactive to all the other patents currently awarded.
  • by Watson Ladd (955755) on Monday June 11, 2007 @08:47PM (#19473181)
    Compeditors have more to gain from a patent portfolio+cross licensing agreement then they do from invalidated patents. Unless we have public review or honest people reviewing this won't work.
    • by theantipop (803016) on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:46PM (#19473997)
      Sign up [peertopatent.org] to be a peer reviewer. I can't seem to find what kind of requirements exist to be able to participate in this, but it couldn't hurt to register if you feel this is important.
      • by cadeon (977561)
        Doesn't signing up to be a peer reviewer give you access to the 'trade secrets' patents are supposed to protect?

        Tell me if I'm wrong- but I thought one of the strengths of the old system was the fact that only a patent reviewer saw what your idea was, compared it to other like ideas, and made a decision. That way the competition never knew the in's and out's of your idea, and therefore could never correctly copy it.

        Sounds like with this idea, if your competition signs up as a peer reviewer, you're giving th
        • by eggnoglatte (1047660) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @12:02AM (#19474459)
          What on earth are you talking about? Patent applications are already published on the USPTO website. The whole idea behind the patenting process is that the full method needs to be disclosed at a level suficient for reproduction. If you want a trade secret then don't patent waht you are doing!
        • by Kijori (897770)
          Patents don't keep your methodology secret, it's a trade. In return for making your idea public knowledge you get a legal guarantee that no one copies it for x years.
        • You are correct to a point. Patent Applications can be withheld from public view as long as you specify in the begining of the process that you do not want you patent application to publish. By doing this though, you lose the ability to gain a patent in some foreign countries as they require application publication as part of their patenting procedure.

          But you are missing one of the details in a previous post/the summary: namely, it is only published applications that are part of the peer review process.
    • by Infonaut (96956)

      Compeditors have more to gain from a patent portfolio+cross licensing agreement then they do from invalidated patents.

      Why do they have more to gain from cross licensing than from invalidating patents? If I have a strong patent portfolio and I weaken a competitor's portfolio by invalidating some of his patents, don't I come out ahead?

      I get the feeling I'm missing something here.

      • OK, I'll bite.

        Companies A and B both have a patent.
        - A has a patent for moving a mouse pointer around on the screen.
        - B has a patent for clicking a mouse button.

        They make an agreement and they're doing fine. They can make applications that involve mouse operations.
        Company C doesn't have mouse patents and gets sued by A and B because it made an application with a GUI and is not doing fine at all.
        As such, A and B have much more to gain from retaining their patents for the simple fact they can then sue that t
        • by Infonaut (96956)

          Company C doesn't have mouse patents and gets sued by A and B because it made an application with a GUI and is not doing fine at all. As such, A and B have much more to gain from retaining their patents for the simple fact they can then sue that third party until it runs out of money.

          Your example seems to make sense. I was thinking more of a situation not involving a third party, but I suppose in reality there are never just two players in a given market, so the dominant players have an incentive to kee

  • by Zashi (992673) on Monday June 11, 2007 @08:47PM (#19473183) Homepage Journal
    Realize that software is not a patentable innovation.

    The use of patents has seriously gotten ridiculous and has made me lose faith in the US Patent Office.
    • by mr_death (106532) on Monday June 11, 2007 @09:32PM (#19473473)
      Realize that software is not a patentable innovation.

      At least in the US, the courts have ruled differently. Imagine the absurdity of Ron Rivest being granted a patent on the hardware version of RSA, but not the software version. Both are the same truly innovative system, yet there are those that argue that the software version is somehow less worthy of protection.
      • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:12PM (#19473725) Homepage Journal
        Imagine the absurdity of Ron Rivest being granted a patent on the hardware version of RSA, but not the software version. Both are the same truly innovative system, yet there are those that argue that the software version is somehow less worthy of protection.

        Because one is a mathematical expression, and the other is a physical device. Why is this difficult to understand?
        • by mr_death (106532) on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:20PM (#19473785)
          Because one is a mathematical expression, and the other is a physical device. Why is this difficult to understand?

          I must disagree. One is (I'm guessing the preferred hardware embodiment) an asic, where the RSA functionality is enabled by the function blocks, their connections and topologies; one is general purpose hardware where the RSA functionality is enabled by the software. Both devices give the same functionality; both are enabled by the directions of a smart person. Why is only one deserving of a patent? Or, to phrase it another way, why is the world free to copy one but not the other?
          • by vux984 (928602) on Monday June 11, 2007 @11:38PM (#19474329)
            Why is only one deserving of a patent?

            IMO neither is deserving of a patent. The hardware implementation is hardly innovative.

            Or, to phrase it another way, why is the world free to copy one but not the other?

            Its better to work with examples that make sense, like the difference between a working hard disc, and someones obersvation that hey you could use magnets to change state of something. Its not that the latter wasn't innovative thinking when it was thought up, but its not a patentable *invention*. There are countless different ways an idea might be 'implemented' in an invention. But if you simply patent the abstract idea for the process itself, then it covers every possible implementation.

            And when the 'idea' itself is simply a mathematical equation, patenting leads to near absurdities. RSA encryption is really simple to implement; anyone who is given the algorithm, or even just the underlying mathematics and rough explanation of technique can do it. I'm not saying RSA wasn't an innovative idea, merely that it didn't lead to or require any innovative inventions to make real.

            The RSA idea itself was the hard part. Unfortunately, the RSA idea is really no different than the Pythagorean theorem, or the forumula for computing the volume of an oval cylinder, its pure math. Do we really want to live in a world where the first person to solve an equation 'owns' the solution. And once solved, no one else may find the area of a triangle or compute the volume of a cylinder without licensing fees, even if the problem is easy enough for a high schooler to solve and merely no one had been asked to solve it?

            Should the equation: sum(1..n) = (n^2-n)/2 be something someone can own, just because it requires some creativity to prove it?

            As ideas not inventions become patentable innovation and creativity are stopped in their tracks because truly innovative inventions are limited in scope -- so you can identify them, license them, or take a different approach when you prefer to step around them. But abstract ideas? rough processes or techniques?... its impossible not to borrow from them, reuse them, derive from them, even completely innocently.

            • Should the equation: sum(1..n) = (n^2-n)/2 be something someone can own, just because it requires some creativity to prove it?

              Sure, you can own that one, as long as I can own sum(1..n) = (n^2+n)/2 ;-)
              • by vux984 (928602)
                Oooooo crap!

                How will I make any money now with a broken equation?

                Oh wait, its not broken, it just computers sum(1..n-1)

                So not only is it still useful, but I can tell my customers that if they want to use the sum(1..n) they just need to plug in n+1 into my patented solution, whew, that's an easy fix!

                Of course, seeing as that substitution yeilds 'your' patented solution:

                ((n+1)^2-(n+1))/2 = ((n^2+2n+1)-(n+1))/2 = (n^2+2n+1-n-1)/2 = (n^2+n)/2

                Or, alternatively they could just compute sum(1..n) and add n. Clearly
            • by jabuzz (182671)
              Thing is that the RSA patent should never have been granted. Firstly the algorithm had previously been "invented" by Clifford Cocks working at GCHQ. Now admittedly this was kept a secret, however it clearly means that the algorithm was obvious to someone skilled in the arts and denied. Secondly the algorithm was an implementation of a much earlier idea by James H. Ellis that was widely known in the field, but nobody who had worked on the problem had the mathematical skill to work it out.

              The RSA patent is a
            • The RSA idea itself was the hard part.

              In the hard disk example, the design of the spinning disk was the "hard part." All he had to do after thinking up the new design was just buy a motor, disk and an electromagnet. The new disk works because of physics, "physics" isn't any more real than mathematics. If we let him patent a hard disk, think of all the people who won't be allowed to build hard disks. Or how about a new way of chlorinating a pool with tobacco leaves. Perhaps it's less expensive, safer for the environment, cures warts when yo

              • by vux984 (928602)
                The motivation to further science 'commercially' has historically been the ability to patent inventions that are derived from that science. We didn't allow intellectual protection of the science itself. That was not an accident.

                Protecting a particular applied use of the science vs protecting the science itself.

                The reason we don't wish to protect basic science is that it does not serve society to have it protected. Its not intrinsically different in terms of how hard it is, or phsyics vs math, or real vs men
            • by Thinghy (1115145)
              You are absolutely right, in the rest of the world but not in the U.S.! Because ongoing pressure from Micro$oft et al., the U.S. patent office has bowed down and allows patenting of things such as concepts (to a more or less greater degree. But now, the clamour is increasing to stop this and revoke hundreds, if not thousands of patents because these 'patents' are effectively hindering teaching, research, development and further innovation. This is the main reason why research in the U.S. is increasingly cos
          • why is the world free to copy one but not the other?

            Patents were only ever intended to encourage innovation by individuals. It was never intended to protect companies for long periods of time. A patent was to allow an inventor sole rights to the production and sale of a unique invention (like, an actual, honest-to-God device) to provide financial incentive to invent and to provide a way to stop the ludicrous trade secret nonsense that was leading to lost productivity and even lost knowledge. With a paten

      • The question is not "why should the software be less patentable than the hardware?" but rather, "why should the hardware be more patentable than the software?" They're both just implementations of a mathematical algorithm; neither should be patentable!

      • by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:43PM (#19473973) Journal
        OK, I'm imagining it: A world where software implementations of RSA were never covered by a patent.

        And what I see is a world, circa 1996, in which early adoption of SSL was not hindered a patent on RSA. In this world, telnet became deprecated much earlier on, free browsers included strong authentication and encryption, and it wasn't illegal to run Apache with mod-ssl in the US.

        It doesn't sound like such a bad place.

        Now, of course, what really happened is that RSA was only successfully patented in the US. The rest of the world was free to do whatever they felt like, as outlined above.

        Yay us!

      • It dosent really work like that, RSA is an encryption algorithm, there is no harware version of it only computer that resolve the RSA algo.
      • by stud9920 (236753)
        Lemme see, the hardware version, the source code and the binary of the soft version should all arguably be protected by COPYRIGHT, but no, you should not patent the algorithm. Especially when the data stream produced/processable is used in interworking with other systems
        • by Jimb0v (830603)
          Maybe I'm missing something, but why would the person who "solved" the algorithm come forward if he was not afforded any protection? Wouldn't he just keep it secret and propreitary? At least with the system now, its in the public domain in a few years.
        • by Thinghy (1115145)
          In essence, you are quite correct, everywhere EXCEPT the U.S. And then again, big companies are looking to prolong copyright so that it's 150 years...
    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by Spy der Mann (805235)
      and has made me lose faith in the US Patent Office.

      Remove the words "Patent Office", and I'll agree with you 100%.
  • Claims of misuse? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TwistedEvo (974889) on Monday June 11, 2007 @08:49PM (#19473201)
    How long until we start seeing reports of rejected patents, that are later submitted by the big companies involved in the peer review?
  • Oh man, bring on the FUD. These examiners are going to get buried in bullshit by the competitors of whoever applies for the patent.

    • No they won't:

      "Existing law allows USPTO to accept what it calls "prior art" from the public, but it doesn't allow the public to submit any commentary related to the art without the approval of the applicant."

      No wonder patent law is screwed up! The examiner is stuck with whatever the applicant wants to supply, augmented only with whatever he can come up with himself.

  • This is great progress. Hopefully some precedence can be set. If there is precedence in the review process it *will* affect past patents because the standard will be naturally raised and those flimsy ones will either be ignored or challenged in a different light.

    I hope this momentum continues. Computer Science will be better for it. This benefits everyone, individuals and large companies alike. In general, the hope is that we start focusing on solving problems and not on being sued. And, as a develope
    • This is great progress.

      Actually, it's not. I can understand why you would think so. You are a rational human being. You also probably have never worked for the US government. Some years ago I did work for the US government as a computer programmer and I can promise you that what you think is going to happen is not going to happen.

      Government bureaucrats excell at protecting themselves. Think about it. The Patent Office makes money. It's not like, say, the FBI where they just spend tax dollars. We
      • by pilbender (925017)
        Thanks for the well thought out reply. I wish I could moderate you up. I can't disagree with your thoughts or predictions.

        And you're right. I've never worked for the government. I am disgusted with it on a regular basis. Especially on tax day. I can't believe that our democracy, the richest regime in the history of the world, always seems to want more money. I can't believe they can't make do with less. I always make do with less, but they never do. Government only grows and never shrinks.

        So, I sim
  • At last, some progress is being made on the insanity that's tech patents today. However, this won't help the other big problem with the US patent system -- the submarine patent. I thought we were supposed to switch to a first-to-file system [wikipedia.org] like every other country to fix this ... has this already happened? There seem to have been two bills passed to reform the system but I'm not sure what the current status of patent law in the US is.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mr_death (106532)
      First-to-file sounds great at first blush, but it ends up screwing the small, innovative company. Imagine a discussion between Startup LLC and Microsoft. While discussing a partnership agreement, Startup mentions some tech they're working on. One of MS's patent lawyers is in the meeting, writes up what Startup talked about, and submits a patent app. Startup LLC is now screwed.

      Give me first-to-invent any day of the week.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by roseanne (541833)
        First to file doesn't mean you can steal ideas. You still have to show independent invention. If you're a startup discussing any plans with MS, you really should get some papers signed, if only to leave a paper trail to show that MS was aware of your tech, thereby damaging their ability to claim independent invention.
      • by edwdig (47888) on Monday June 11, 2007 @09:49PM (#19473569)
        What meeting between a startup and Microsoft doesn't result in the startup getting screwed?
      • No it doesn't (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Flying pig (925874)
        Under first to file in the UK you submit a low-cost provisional application the moment you have the idea. Now you can go and discuss it with VCs etc. and you have established your priority. Only if it then looks like a worthwhile invention, or when you have the funding, do you have to pay the full application costs. What's more, if you decide not to file, the provisional application then lapses to prior art so nobody can come along afterwards and patent it.

        The US system has now changed, but under the old sy

    • by Jimb0v (830603)
      Submarine patent issue was solved a while ago when it switched from 17 years from issue date to 20 years from filing date. You can't submarine a patent any longer.
  • by Consul (119169) on Monday June 11, 2007 @08:56PM (#19473245) Journal
    "from the foxes-guarding-the-henhouse dept."

    That's basically what this is.
  • by pembo13 (770295) on Monday June 11, 2007 @08:58PM (#19473259) Homepage
    as to if software patents are good at all? I would like to believe that there is enough money involved that finding out whether or not any effort should be spent on them would be a necessary thing. I myself aren't convinced that software patents are useful, but I don't claim to be an expert - some evidence would be nice however.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kyojin (672334)
      Agreed. The patent system was intended to promote innovation by ensuring that individuals and companies would be able to recoup the costs involved in inventing a new product by giving the individual or company a monopoly on that product for a set period of time. In the pharmaceutical industry, billions of dollars are spent on new drugs, most of which never work, let alone go to market. Unless the pharmaceutical companies were sure they could recoup these billions of dollars, there would be no incentive t
      • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @01:36AM (#19474871)
        Unless the pharmaceutical companies were sure they could recoup these billions of dollars, there would be no incentive to invent any new drugs.

        I don't even like your Patents don't really serve the public interest here either, because we don't really need pharmaceutical companies in the first place. One sign that our kleptocracy has completely warped our thinking is this strange assumption everyone makes: if drug companies don't make lots of profits inventing new drugs, nobody will have any incentive to invent drugs.

        We really don't need pharmaceutical companies. The public wants access to a wide range of cheap effective medicines. So we have a natural incentive to invent new drugs because we keep getting sick and dying. There are plenty of ways to solve the problem. A straightforward one would be to create public drug discovery laboratories, fund university labs, and pay for scientists to find the drugs. That's a "tax and spend" solution. We decided on a solution where we replace our natural incentive for better drugs with Pfizer's incentive to get rich selling them to us.

        That works to the extent your desire for better drugs remains compatible with the perogatives of a for-profit corporation. Sometimes it isn't. A company makes more money by developing treatments as opposed to cures. It saves money by making copycats of drugs already shown to be profitable, like penis pills. They concentrate their efforts on diseases with the widest markets, and don't do much research into rare diseases. And of course they spend a lot of time looking into what they should do if they want to pull even more money out of your pocket. My wife and I are still young but we each have our own chronic neurological problem. Just the copays on these prescriptions are exploding. Ours are running about $150-200/month. And the trail of patents and monopoly rights left behind by this process is undesirable in and of itself, even if getting them did provide the company's incentive. For one thing, the patents rise into the atmosphere and do not expire for years and years. The air becomes clogged with patents and they accumulate into a dark cloud that casts shadows and disincentives upon drug research below- no matter who is doing it. So our current path isn't sustainable.

        There is plenty of incentive to invest in new drugs as long as people are sick and dying. Even if a private company isn't interested, there are enough people who do that research, and sufficient public interest in getting it done, to ensure that it will get done, even if nobody is getting rich running commercials for me-too penis pills. Only patents could screw it up.
    • I'll do a "study!" (Score:3, Informative)

      by mrchaotica (681592) *

      Studies for a bit...

      Nope, software is still just math, so it's not patentable. And it's already covered by copyright, so it's doubly not patentable!

      What more evidence do you need?

  • IBM, Microsoft, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, CA, and Red Hat have already agreed to review some software patent applications for the one-year community review project. Intel, Sun, Oracle, Yahoo, and others are also part of the project.

    I find that part interesting. I imagine each company has their engineers spend a few hours a week poring over the latest patent applications to see which ideas would be useful.

    Behold, the patent office has become an idea distribution center. (Which was probably once one of its more useful functions, back before a million patents were awarded each year.)

  • Does this mean that they finaly discovered freaking google?
  • to save the burned out building instead of just letting the damn thing fall.
  • by aldheorte (162967) on Monday June 11, 2007 @09:42PM (#19473525)
    FTA

    "IBM, Microsoft, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, CA and Red Hat have already agreed to review some software patent applications for the one-year community review project."

    Wait... so large companies with lots of existing patents have volunteered to review new patents in the field to try and help the examiner dismiss them? Was not the patent system set up in part to encourage small inventors and entrepreneurs? Could this be an even more obvious conflict of interest?

    "Technical experts in the computer arts registering with the CPRP website will review and submit information for up to 250 published patent applications, with no mare than 15 patens being accepted from one applicant/company at a time, the USPPTO said."

    250? Drop in the bucket? Only 15 at a time from one company sounds like convenient plausible deniability for organizations that file hundreds per year.

    "Consent will be obtained from all applicants whose applications are volunteered and selected for this pilot... Some applicants today can wait up to four years for a first response on software applications. The idea with the pilot is to shorten that wait considerably."

    So you can either go to the end of the line or get to run the gauntlet of the entrenched companies trying to help dismiss your patent?
    • by Jimb0v (830603)
      Presumably the big companies would be happy with less patents out there. They are scared of patent trolls, people who patent things and just sue big companies. They want money, not for them to stop. If two giants sue each other, it will eventually settle because they just cross-license. They can't do that with a patent troll, because the patent troll doesn't make anything. They just have patents. Thats why big companies are on this band wagon. At this point big companies actually patent things just t
  • I haven't ever seen an opponent of software patents complain about the speed at which a patent is granted. Somehow the "improvement" of the system needed to involve speeding up the granting of nebulous and superfluous patents?

    That being said, I'm all for any attempt at improvement, and peer reviews will certainly make it interesting. Bring it on!
  • I thought they already had something to deal with the speed of patents - money?
  • by tezza (539307) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @06:01AM (#19475887)
    if("Microsoft".equals(patent.client.name) ) {
          approve(); return;
    }
    else if ("Google".equals(patent.client.name)) {
          approve(); return;
    }
    else if ("IBM".equals(patent.client.name)) {
          approve(); return;
    }
    else {
          inspect(); return;
    }

  • I don't know if I like this idea or not.
    More review = good
    Quicker review = good
    Big companies seeing ideas before the examiner < good?
    Outside chance this backfires, kills the system, and software patents are deprecated... priceless.

    Where's the disinterested yet knowledgeable third party?
    The Big Companies can see the publicly available applications anyway, as mentioned above, so no harm there.
    Gotta chew on this a while.

  • Here is my simple script to speed up the process:

    #!/bin/bash

    echo "rejected"

    Now if you'll excuse me... I have to get this patented before it is put into effect.

  • If people read (late) Phil Salin's article, people might start saying the right things. Right now the state of affairs on both sides just sucks.

    http://www.philsalin.com/patents.html [philsalin.com]

    Consider it the bibble on anti-patents.
  • Moving forward, this may be a great idea, but what about the countless patents already issued? Will such a group be tasked to review existing patents?
  • If the USPTO wants to start dealing with software more, they are going to need to change their bizarre rules for who can sit the patent bar.

    Currently, the USPTO only allows attorneys with certain undergraduate degrees to sit the bar. Many are engineering degrees: electrical engineering, civil engineering, ceramic engineering, etc. Some are more general: biology, general chemistry, food technology, etc.

    Computer science is also one of the degrees listed, but there is an asterisk next to it. CS is the on

  • Though clearly INAL....

    Letting the big boys review patent applications is a blatant conflict of interest!

    I propose that patent applications be listed in Slashdot for peer review. That should speed up the review process to something between 1 day and 1 week. (sometimes I get behind om my /. reading)

    Think about it.
    * Peer review in mass.
    * dopes and dupes flamed immediately.
    * prior art identified and referenced.
    * total review transparency

    It's a win win situation. The only way to improve upon it would be to re
  • this could be a good thing since for the first time it recognizes that there is a need for qualified people to review tech matters. honestly we should have the same process for technology based laws so that a guy with a good smile in congress isn't the one voting on and making tech laws. the original idea of congress creating the laws was good when matters were not so over their heads, but corporate lobbying and lack of knowledge is pushing us into self-destruction.

Innovation is hard to schedule. -- Dan Fylstra

Working...