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Patents United States Government Politics

Patent Reform Bill Approved by House Committee 95

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the long-time-coming dept.
Alex Forster pointed us to this PC World story that opens, "The House Committee on the Judiciary approved far-reaching legislation to reform the nation's patent system Wednesday. The Patent Reform Act of 2007 largely reflects the IT sector's lobbying effort to curtail lengthy, expensive patent infringement lawsuits, but Wednesday's committee deliberations centered on finding compromises acceptable to opponents — namely the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, manufacturers, and large research universities — so that the bill could win approval. Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., described the current patent system as inefficient, bogged down by inappropriate litigation rules, unreliably funded, and resulting in patents of "questionable quality." The bill would make it harder to secure a patent and easier for rivals to challenge one, and it would change how courts determine an infringed patent's value."
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Patent Reform Bill Approved by House Committee

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  • by UncleWilly (1128141) * <UncleWilly07&gmail,com> on Friday July 20, 2007 @07:30AM (#19925083)
    ..would have been a better title. No real reform here. Just business as usual.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Care to cite examples? Or is this just a generally "I am cool because I am a skeptic" response?
    • by aneeshm (862723) on Friday July 20, 2007 @09:14AM (#19925841)
      The current Indian government is a coalition, and the Communist Party of India are one of the major members, without whose support the coalition would collapse.

      Though I am staunchly in favour of the free market, I still must thank the communists for one thing - they made algorithms (mathematical and non mathematical), programs, business methods/models, and software in general unpatentable, by including it in the 2005 Patent Amendments Act.

      Before that, software was patentable in the limited sense of it being a component of hardware - like the microcode of a chip, for example - basically at the point where the differences between hardware and software became a bit blurred. Now, however, it falls under the list of things which are explicitly unpatentable.

      I find it extremely ironic, and a bit sad at the same time, that it is the Communists Party of India which essentially stood up for freedom and a truly freer market.
      • by mOdQuArK! (87332)

        Though I am staunchly in favour of the free market

        Oh good grief. Anyone who supports intellectual property has completely given up the right to say they're in favor of the "free market". There's nothing "free market" about IP laws.

        • by digitig (1056110)
          Somebody didn't read the post they were replying to!
          • by mOdQuArK! (87332)
            I read it just fine. He said he was in favor of a "free market", but he didn't denounce the idea of patents altogether - just software patents/algorithms. Since he is not disagreeing with the existence of other types of patents, he is not really truly in favor of a free market.
            • by digitig (1056110)

              I read it just fine. He said he was in favor of a "free market", but he didn't denounce the idea of patents altogether - just software patents/algorithms.
              So? You didn't denounce Hitler, but I don't assume you're a nazi. An argument from silence isn't worth the pixels it doesn't occupy.
        • People who favor a free market generally recognize that it is not the solution to everything.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        Capitalists of the world unite!

        Fight those Commie free-marketers!
      • Mmm socialism in the works it sounds like ;) the best system out there
    • by tgatliff (311583)
      I agree exactly... The one thing they didnt even talk about was the patent cross licensing issue... This business tactic profits very large established players and basically blocks out any new competition.... This, in my opinion, is the worst part of the current patent system...

      It would appear that the only real competition left in the software world is OSS. Its kind of hard to sue an OSS project...
    • This bill does a lot to make the US patent system align with the EU one.

      Furthermore, it establishes a first to file system, meaning the first inventor to file gets the patent. Currently, we go through lots of litigation involving signed lab books and "dilligent" pursuit of the invention. In the future, we'll just look at the filing date. Prior art still invalidates applications as before.

      It also introduces a method for submitting prior art for the examiner's consideration before a patent issues. T
      • by HiThere (15173)
        Does it define prior art?

        One of the ways that the current system is broken is not allowing publication on web-searchable pages to be considered prior art. Perhaps they NOW consider publication in SourceForge to be prior art, but they didn't last year, and since that's an administrative decision, it may be reversed at any time. FWIW, I suspect that even if they now consider publication in SourceForge to be prior are, they probably don't consider CodeHaus, and almost certainly don't consider the Linux Kerne
        • Prior art is defined by law under 35 USC 102. 35 USC 103 refers to 102. The letter of the law says "printed publication". The reform act also says printed pub, but also says "in public use". The administrative decision is based on 1) web stuff isn't a "printed publication" and 2) the difficulty the USPTO has in determining the date of publication/public use.

          All it takes is one case going to court on the issue and the administrative decision will have to change. If it can be proven that the code was
  • "Far-reaching"? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pieterh (196118) on Friday July 20, 2007 @07:38AM (#19925129) Homepage
    This bill is a small tweak of the system that cures the worst symptoms but does not fix the disease. It's at best a recognition that the US patent system is not perfect, and at worst a band-aid that will delay real reform.

    There's no substantive changes, no change of the economic incentives that drive specialists to claim every plausible invention in the name of speculative future profits. As long as experts can claim exclusive ownership of the software commons, the patent system is broken, and it'll continue to punish real innovators by creating unpredictable risk.

    Real innovators don't even seek patents. 80% of VC-funded software firms don't claim patents within four years of being funded. [digitalmajority.org] The whole patent system is a fraud, a tax on the consumer, and a blight on high-tech industries. This bill just perpetuates the fraud a little longer.

    What is needed is a total review of what patents are for, why society should grant them, and how this should operate in a post-industrial world. Compare, for example, the trademark system (an industrial-age protection) with the domain name system (proper digital age protection of the same thing), and you see what could be possible.

    • Re:"Far-reaching"? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pzs (857406) on Friday July 20, 2007 @07:53AM (#19925245)

      Real innovators don't even seek patents. 80% of VC-funded software firms don't claim patents within four years of being funded. The whole patent system is a fraud, a tax on the consumer, and a blight on high-tech industries. This bill just perpetuates the fraud a little longer.

      I totally agree with this. There is an Audi advert here in the UK where they claim that their new car is very innovative because during its production, they filed more patents than NASA did whilst developing the space shuttle. They fail to mention that NASA is government funded and focussed on progress and innovation, so they have much less interest in slapping a "this is mine" sticker on any half-idea they have and charging everybody to use it.

      This is actually related to this [slashdot.org] discussion. Number of research papers is not necessarily proportional to the quality of the research because (duh) somebody might publish one really amazing paper which contributes more than 15 crappy papers.

      It strikes me that the patent system is just another part of the corporate game playing exercise. People cynically patent anything as another revenue stream making a mockery of the purpose of protecting IP in the first place.

      Peter

      • Re:"Far-reaching"? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Friday July 20, 2007 @09:21AM (#19925895) Homepage Journal
        Why does the US have such great laws in regards to copyright of works produced by government agencies and yet no similar laws for patents?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Yfrwlf (998822)
        Agreed, and I also find it really amusing when companies mention patents in advertisements. "This product is great, because we're going to charge you more because of our stranglehold on the technology!"? You don't need patents in order to use good ideas.
      • by pzs (857406)
        I've realised that my message is blatant karma-whoring. Apologies.

        Next time, I'll just say "patents are bad, mm-kay?"

        Peter
      • People cynically patent anything as another revenue stream making a mockery of the purpose of protecting IP in the first place.

        There is also a perverse incentive for the patent examiners to approve even half baked or marginally plausible patents because their agency and its funding is based primarily on, you guessed it...patent fees. If they start tightening up what gets approved and what doesn't then fewer companies will apply for patents and pay fees which means less revenue to their (the patent exami
    • by Aladrin (926209)
      "80% of VC-funded software firms don't claim patents within four years of being funded."

      That's a great statistic, but doesn't really -mean- anything. WHY didn't they claim a patent? Ideals? Lack of anything to patent? Lack of money? (Yes, they were funded, but that doesn't mean they had extra.) Did they get beaten to the patent?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      What is needed is a total review of what patents are for, why society should grant them, and how this should operate in a post-industrial world. Compare, for example, the trademark system (an industrial-age protection) with the domain name system (proper digital age protection of the same thing), and you see what could be possible.

      Hmmm...what if you had an online database of implemented original inventions, peer-reviewed, of course. Those with truly inventions would then post them in the database. Peers i

    • by Yfrwlf (998822)
      Correct, it's not anything that actually helps everyone, it's something that helps monopolies, that helps the few squeeze even more money from the already heavily-overtaxed populace. I'd like to see the whole thing done away with, and alternate systems take it's place, even ones that may naturally develop, like companies working together to get a good product *into market* to make money. Competition! Amazing concept!

      At the VERY least, since throwing it out would send monopolies into convulsions so it'll
    • A small tweak?

      The "2+1" Limit on Continuations/RCE's:
      Each applicant gets 2 continuations and 1 RCE per application. The rules will be applied retroactively for cases that have not yet received a first action on the merits.

      The "3+1 Transition Rule":
      For cases that have not received a first action by the time of the new rules, a "bonus" continuation will be allowed, i.e., a total of one (1) RCE a
  • Quick... (Score:2, Funny)

    by djones101 (1021277)
    1. Patent the patent bill.
    2. Sue the government.
    3. Profit!
  • Quick! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 20, 2007 @08:00AM (#19925287)
    Dear employee:

    It has come to our attention that Congress will soon make it more difficult to patent out innovations. Under the new rules, some of our innovations such as our "two click on-line shopping" invention and our "three click shopping for healthcare" invention would be unpatentable.

    Although shocking, our legal staff tells us that it is very unlikely that our existing patents will be nullified. We'll still have patent rights on three-click healthcare.

    Please note that this is the time to ramp up the filing while we still have the chance! This week, Robert is planning to file "combination TV remote and firearm", "Fuel pump/ATM combination device", "guitar with integrated video display", and "Retail sales of iPod accessories made after 2008". People, PLEASE talk to Robert to get your filings in ASAP - because otherwise, we'll have to really innovate, and that will damage our bottom line.
    • by endianx (1006895)

      Fuel pump/ATM combination device
      That is a great idea! You should patent that.
      • by CmdrGravy (645153)
        They already exist, several petrol stations in the UK have these.
    • by erroneus (253617)
      Don't forget to "re-patent" these ideas by adding "over the internet" to the end of their descriptions.
  • Check out this article [mondaq.com] about how the Supreme Court earlier in the year revived the obviosness standard. This was one of several decisions that went against patent trolls, and leads me to believe that the justices actually read the newspaper. Now if Congress took less money from the trolls, perhaps there would be stronger legislative reform.
  • The "questionable quality" part refers to Microsoft's 235 patents.
    • by tgatliff (311583)
      So your telling me M$ has only 235 totally bogus patents? Oh, that cant be right... I mean M$ is much more "ambitious" than that... :-)
  • Bullshit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Friday July 20, 2007 @08:25AM (#19925459)

    The bill would make it harder to secure a patent and easier for rivals to challenge one
    By the time it gets out of committee it will be just another gimmee for the biggest corporations.

    • by mutterc (828335)

      That might not be a bad thing (I can't believe I just said that...)

      There's two basic bad effects from the current system: big companies squashing competition, and patent trolls submarining obvious patents then popping up demanding license fees.

      Big corps are the ones hurt most by the patent trolls, so they and we (the public) are on the same side in that fight.

      As far as squashing upstart competition goes, I'm sure they'll lobby to keep that ability.

      • The public should be for solving all the issues at once... Since separating them will lead to just solving the patents trolls.

  • now first-to-invent? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PoochieReds (4973) <(ten.sdereihcoop) (ta) (notyalj)> on Friday July 20, 2007 @08:27AM (#19925475) Homepage
    Thus spake the article:


    The bill moves the patent system from a "first-to-invent" to a "first-to-file" system, but in another nod to large universities, the committee clarified a grace period on filing patent applications for inventors who disclose or publish inventions in advance of seeking a patent.


    Does this mean that prior art can no longer invalidate a patent if the creator of the prior art never filed for one?
    • by Heisenbug (122836) on Friday July 20, 2007 @08:40AM (#19925563)
      Does this mean that prior art can no longer invalidate a patent if the creator of the prior art never filed for one?

      No, because to get a patent you have to prove the technique hasn't been previously published by someone else. This will just mean that if two people who can each prove that element file for the same patent, they won't have to argue about who kept it secret for longer.
      • No, because to get a patent you have to prove the technique hasn't been previously published by someone else.

        Where'd you get a crazy idea like that?

        C//
    • Does this mean that prior art can no longer invalidate a patent if the creator of the prior art never filed for one?
      The way I read the statement is that prior art wouldn't invalidate a patent if the prior art was by the person filing for the patent. If you're the first person to invent something, you can still patent it even if you make it public before applying for the patent.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by beavioso (853680)
      The "first-to-invent" is the system where if an application is rejected over prior art that is within one (1) year of the filing date (or priority date, which could be a provisional application, foreign application, or another US case) the applicant can file an affidavit swearing that they where the "first-to-invent". This means they can "swear back" upto 1 year behind their filing, or priority date. They need evidence to prove they were the "first-to-invent", which can be very subjective.

      The "first-to
  • by StressGuy (472374) on Friday July 20, 2007 @08:36AM (#19925539)
    I recently saw an add for a razor, you know, the kind you use to shave with. Not electric mind you, just a plain old shaving razor. The advertisement said that this particular "new and improved" razor had 20 more patents that the previous model.

    Seriously, how do you get 20+ patents out of a razor?

    I think the math pseudo-code works like this:

    IF [1 razor] >= [20 patents] THEN {ACTUAL-PATENT-VALUE} = {TRIVIAL}

    Yet, the value of an "infringed" patent can be hundereds of thousands of dollars in court (if not millions).

    Therefore, while I do believe the original idea of the patent was to protect honest innovation, it appears that all we are really doing these days is creating a litigation industry. The more patents you can attach to something, the greater the likelihood of generating additional revenue in court.

    I'm not opposed to the idea of a patent, but it seems to me that businesses are simply "gaming the system" here....or am I missing something?
    • by rmstar (114746) on Friday July 20, 2007 @09:11AM (#19925819)
      Go to a startbucks. The little cardboard ring that you use to keep your fingers from burning is protected by two patents. A piece of cardboard and a bit of glue, and you are a patent infringer. Now that I told you, you would be liable for trebble damages.

      And if you need a further wake-up, read how patent litigation really works here [law.com].
      • by duerra (684053) *
        That is lunacy. Coffee cups have been around for AGES. That sounds to me like a patent for "doing [x], but on the INTERNET!"

        I have a hard time believing that such patents would stand up to the new standard set forth by the SCOTUS.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dragonslicer (991472)
      At least the razor is a physical object that might have some amount of research (probably in the materials used) to it. I hear ads on the radio from a bank that rounds all debit card purchases up to the next dollar and transfers the difference into your savings account. At the end of the ad, they say "patent pending". They have actually applied for a patent that covers the combination of basic arithmetic and transferring money between accounts (which most people have been able to do for years, even online o
  • Yeah, right (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dgun (1056422) on Friday July 20, 2007 @08:38AM (#19925551) Homepage

    There will be no real reform of the patent systems as long as congress is bought and paid for by campaign contributions.

    And real reform means eliminating all software patents. And that will never happen as long as:

    Microsoft Campaign Contributions: $8,907,025 (1999 - Present)

    And I'm sure there are many other companies in the industry that throw dollars at congress. Source [campaignmoney.com]

  • by dc_dog (767092) on Friday July 20, 2007 @08:39AM (#19925561)
    The Senate Judiciary Committee passed their own version of the bill (S. 1145) yesterday afternoon. The bi-partisan bills now move to a vote in the full House and Senate. Trolls beware...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Maybe they should have lobbied for the removal of software patents instead. Major companies only use them defensively for the most part, and the ones who have a legitimate claim who sue infringers are mostly buried by defensive patents instead.
  • I read the whole text of the bill at thomas.loc.gov today. It's long, drawn out, runs circles around itself, and really does nothing. You can tell that mercantilist businesses helped write it -- it will still make things worse.

    If you want to reform something, you don't do it with steps like this. You don't write new laws to amend old laws -- it leaves loopholes and gaps that you and I can not find, but that patent lawyers are aware of and can help manage through IF you can afford them. It makes it more
    • I'm anti-patent, of course, but I also would be happy to see a return to a Constitutional patent system. I have a recommendation for Congress to make the patent system more level

      Your suggestions seem nice in the abstract, but saying you want to strip down the patent system and start from scratch is completely unworkable. The US is party to several international treaties that make a complete overhaul impossible, for starters.

      The current bill is certainly not as far-reaching as most reformers would like

      • It is tempting to say that you must have all or nothing solutions, but politics is about compromise. I'd rather have slow change than no change at all.

        In your personal life, slow changes make sense. You slowly learn a new trade, or you slowly fix your home, or you slowly save for retirement. It's just you, so you know what your goals are.

        In politics, slow always means "more tyranny," because the people voting for a bill today will not be the ones to enforce it tomorrow. When the Executive takes on new po
        • Think about what you're saying...you don't trust politicians to make small changes to large complex systems, but you trust them to trash the systems then put up quick replacements?

          In the real world, you can't toss programs around left and right and expect any sort of success. The only real way to get stuff to work is through an evolutionary type process where there is improvement over time. Yes, this can lead to bloat when you involve idiots, but when done reasonably well it's the only real way to build so
        • In politics, slow always means "more tyranny," because the people voting for a bill today will not be the ones to enforce it tomorrow.

          I'd say it's exactly the opposite. Look at the history of tyranny in the 20th Century. Tyranny moves swiftly, often by popular demand. The Russian Revolution, the rule of Mussolini, the rule of Hitler, and the Killing Fields in Cambodia all came about through rapid unchecked political action. The swiftness with which the Bush White House consolidated Executive Branch powe

    • 2. Work on a new bill that is easy to understand, and doesn't provide for loopholes. Have no exceptions.
      You must be new here. Let me be the first to welcome you to the American legal system.
  • Approval from who? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by farker haiku (883529) on Friday July 20, 2007 @10:00AM (#19926327) Journal
    Wednesday's committee deliberations centered on finding compromises acceptable to opponents -- namely the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, manufacturers, and large research universities -- so that the bill could win approval.

    I wasn't aware that the biotech industries, manufacturers, and large research universities were the ones voting on it.
    • I wasn't aware that the biotech industries, manufacturers, and large research universities were the ones voting on it.

      Do you really think Congresspeople don't vote for the interests of those that fund their campaigns and push lobbyists in their faces?

      Besides that cynical view, it's also true that a lot of politicians feel that one of their repsonsibilities is to ensure the health of industry for economic reasons. Many politicians would worry that overly zealous patent reform would cause unemployment in th

  • The patent system will never really be reformed. Any legislation claimed to be patent reform will be cleverly written to have the opposite effect and enhance the present woes of the patent system instead of having the desired and claimed effect. This is simply one piece of the government sponsored corporate welfare standard of operation today.

    Note the standard corporate business model of today:

    1. Take a half assed product. No not a good product, a half assed product.

    2. Patent the hell out of technologies us
  • Patents are not my field, so there may be a number of important issues elsewhere in the bill which are escaping my notice, but there is a big problem with at least one aspect of this proposal: a first-to-file system is unconstitutional.

    The Constitution requires that if patents are granted at all, that they must be granted to inventors. The second person to come up with something however, even if they do so independently, is in the same boat as the third, or fourth, or five hundredth -- they're not the inven
    • First to file used to be the way the US Patent system worked, so it is tested law and very likely to hold up under constitutionality attacks. As you note it is how most of the rest of the world works, and for good reason, it is less evil than first to invent. The problem with first to invent is twofold - it leads to submarine patents, and it also leads to a lot more litigation. With First To File it is pretty clearcut who has priority. With first to invent it often requires a lengthy discovery process, ext
      • First to file used to be the way the US Patent system worked, so it is tested law and very likely to hold up under constitutionality attacks.

        That's news to me, though as I said, patents aren't my field. Please cite the law to which you refer and the dates when it was in force. But IIRC we've been first-to-invent since the 1793 Patent Act.

        The problem with first to invent is twofold - it leads to submarine patents, and it also leads to a lot more litigation.

        No, submarine patents are caused by having terminati
  • Wednesday's committee deliberations centered on finding compromises acceptable to opponents -- namely the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, manufacturers, and large research universities Am I the only one who thinks how powerful interests have to be consulted (so they can stay powerful) before a bill passes is a pretty F****D-UP kind of democracy? It looks like whether we have communism or capitalism, if either system gets too hoary and entrenched the people get pwned.
  • ...etc..

    The IT industry sector here = IBM

    Things that cannot be patented: Natural Law, Physical Phenomenon, Abstract Ideas are the three primaries. Mathematical algorithms are also considered non-patentable but in fact are a subset of abstract ideas.

    Man is unlike other animal life, he is capable of consciousness or in other words, abstraction above basic level. It is the nature or natural law of human character. It is further a physical phenomenon that man converts abstract thinking into physical movement an
  • ... is that corporations have been granted rights that citizen's don't even have. And while abolishing the concept of a corporation as a legal entity isn't a workable solution, neither is how corporations and special interest money are used to "tweak" the government into granting loopholes, exceptions, and many other financially lucrative little deals against the citizenry of the nation, which in the end amount to nothing more than special rights based on money -- an idea 100% counter to American ideals.

    Unl

  • Why do I mention this?

    Here is another related but seemingly off topic point; The Media and our Government, have told us; "Oh my Social Security is going to go bankrupt." What I just learned is that SS isn't supposed to BE AN ACCOUNT. It is supposed to go to Zero once the Baby Boomers are done retiring. In the 1980's, Reagan doubled the SS tax on the individual from 7 to 14% in order to allow for the Baby Boomer increase. SS was always intended as a money transfer from people working and too people retiring.

Make headway at work. Continue to let things deteriorate at home.

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