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Will Patents Make NCAA Football Playoffs Impossible? 177

Posted by timothy
from the life-will-go-on dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Mark Cuban recently announced plans to create a college football playoff system, which many people (including President Obama) have been claiming has been needed for years. However, after doing so, Cuban received an odd email, claiming that he'd better watch out, because a college football playoff system is patented and anything he did would likely infringe. The patent wasn't named, but Techdirt believes it has found the patent in question, along with another pending patent application (which has some amusing errors in it — such as an abstract that says it's about a boat fender, rather than a sports playoff system). So is it really true that some random guy in Arizona is the only person who can legally set up such a college football playoff system?"
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Will Patents Make NCAA Football Playoffs Impossible?

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    • by migla (1099771)

      >Yes.

      This. Or "No". Or "Maybe". Definately one of those.

      So, in a few more words, for example about 63, what would you say the answer could be?

    • by Suki I (1546431)

      Yes.

      At first blush, I had the same answer as you. Actually, this falls into the "anybody can take anybody to court over anything" category. Playoff systems existed before those patents, before the patent holders were born too. This could all be moot if the NCAA continues to drag its feet for another 20 years, lets the patent expire, IIF it applies, and use the idea at that time.

  • Reform of a field of sports for an entire nation is dependent on the whim of a random individual somewhere.

    no no. patent system isnt something that cannot work. surely. it can work. maybe. on some occasions. if, and when.

    until it works, maybe, sometime in future, youth wont be able to play in a reformed sports arena. because, well, just 'because' it spurs innovation.
    • by commlinx (1068272) on Friday December 24, 2010 @05:51AM (#34658882) Journal

      Reform of a field of sports for an entire nation is dependent on the whim of a random individual somewhere.

      This coming to light could be a good thing, maybe something a lot of the general public actually give a shit about like sport will highlight how ludicrous the system is to a wider audience.

      • Nope. They will invalidate this patent or pay the holder off just to keep this out of the news.

        This will change nothing.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by tomhudson (43916)
      The so-called patent is a joke. If you read the blog post, a "method patent" .. "issued long ago" - hint for the clueless, these things expire, so this is just someone having random fun at your expense.

      You should also consider that the playoffs are already owned by someone, as in, the patent for resolving the FBS championship by way of a playoff was issued long ago. It’s called a method patent, so be careful not to infringe it.

      Anyway, if you want to know who owns assets in this field, let me know. I can put you in touch with one of my attorneys who can let you know what you’re in for. It’s much more complex that it’s commonly understood to be.

      It's a joke, people.

      Then again, so is college football.

      Then again, so is American football.

      • by unity100 (970058)

        The so-called patent is a joke. If you read the blog post, a "method patent" .. "issued long ago" - hint for the clueless, these things expire, so this is just someone having random fun at your expense.

        yeah yeah, justify, rationalize, explain. spend THAT much effort to portray it as workable, despite we are seeing another problem every 1-2 days, on major scale.

        yeah.

        • by tomhudson (43916)
          HellOOO! Wakey-wakey, have a cup of coffee or something ... :-)

          There IS no patent.

          There IS no "Washington legal firm"

          The IS a troll. Just not a patent troll. And Cuban probably threw that in knowing that slashtards would just RTFS and not RTFA.

          -- Barbie

      • Joke? No, I don't think it is a joke. May be a bluff, may be a lame attempt to shake down a rich dude with a feeble threat, but not a joke.

        The point is, that a lot of people will believe that it is possible to get a patent that blocks an entire sport from making changes. They're right. The patent office is so permissive. Yes, such patents should not have been granted, but they are. The patent office "kicks the can down the road", all the time, leaning way too hard on the courts to clean up the mess

    • The patent system went from spurring innovation to crippling innovation via endless lawsuits.

      And non manufacturing processes shouldn't be patentable.

      • by unity100 (970058)

        The patent system went from spurring innovation to crippling innovation via endless lawsuits.

        it was certain that it would end up that way. in the end, its just a process of feudalizing. just like how capitalist system does to resources (eventual consolidation into a hierarchy), patent system does the same to intellectual life. and copyrights also do the same for arts. its just that the phase of suing successful artists because they have used shapes or sounds that were similar to copyrighted ones has not started yet.

  • Perhaps not impossible, but impossible without the 'idea-holder' holding his 'idea' hostage in exchange for loads of $$$$.

  • by Alex Belits (437) * on Friday December 24, 2010 @05:50AM (#34658874) Homepage

    Why supposedly educational institutions keep teams of what is essentially professional entertainers and let this business overshadow education? At the extent of admitting "special" (as in "short bus") students and pretend to educate them, spending budget on things 99% of students can never use, hiring a coach who is paid more than any other person working for the school, etc.?

    • Why supposedly educational institutions keep teams of what is essentially professional entertainers and let this business overshadow education? At the extent of admitting "special" (as in "short bus") students and pretend to educate them, spending budget on things 99% of students can never use, hiring a coach who is paid more than any other person working for the school, etc.?

      Money. Just like everything else in the world.

      Sheesh. Kid's these days.

      • by Alex Belits (437) * on Friday December 24, 2010 @06:11AM (#34658946) Homepage

        Let me clarify -- why is this allowed? Colleges have shitloads of government funding and regulation behind them, why are they allowed to engage in business that is clearly at odds with their primary purpose? And if sports are OK then why not, say, strip clubs?

        • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Friday December 24, 2010 @07:37AM (#34659186)

          >>Why is this [sports] allowed?

          Because 20,000 people won't buy tickets to watch a meeting of the Princeton Math Club.

          Because CBS isn't interested in buying the broadcast rights for the Dartmouth Glee Club's next season.

          Because rich alumni don't donate millions to keep their alma mater's Medieval History curriculum competitive.

          • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Friday December 24, 2010 @08:27AM (#34659334)

            Because 20,000 people won't buy tickets to watch a meeting of the Princeton Math Club.

            So?

            Because CBS isn't interested in buying the broadcast rights for the Dartmouth Glee Club's next season.

            So?

            Because rich alumni don't donate millions to keep their alma mater's Medieval History curriculum competitive.

            Now we hit on the real problem: rich alumni who never really appreciated the value of an education. Of course, that implies that at one time, the school accepted people who were not really interested in receiving an education, likely an ongoing problem. Really, the core problem is simple: higher education is not really about "education." With a tiny handful of exceptions, becoming an educated person is more of an optional side effect of going to college, rather than the primary aim.

            So of course those rich alumni would like to be able to say, "Yeah, that's my school!" while they are watching college football with all their friends, and could not care less about whether or not their degree actually represents anything.

            • by lyinhart (1352173)

              Now we hit on the real problem: rich alumni who never really appreciated the value of an education.

              Who said they didn't appreciate the value of an education? If they didn't, they obviously wouldn't donate any money to the university at large. And anyway, most people appreciate the value of an education these days. Look at all the students with outstanding student loans. They appreciate the value of an education because they know how much it's costing them. Besides, beyond the drinking, the parties and the sports, I think that most people appreciate the value of an education - that is, the money they want

            • What do you mean, so? It's a source of money for the school. Are you suggesting that schools should not try to raise money? Money that can be used to pay for non-sports programs?
        • More profit, less funding needed. Plus, not every college is state owned (some may not even see a penny of federal money), so it can be another source of income beyond tuition. Some franchises are pretty popular nationwide, bringing in $$$$.
        • by DesScorp (410532) <.DesScorp. .at. .Gmail.com.> on Friday December 24, 2010 @10:03AM (#34659858) Homepage Journal

          Let me clarify -- why is this allowed? Colleges have shitloads of government funding and regulation behind them, why are they allowed to engage in business that is clearly at odds with their primary purpose? And if sports are OK then why not, say, strip clubs?

          Because college sports are not in and of themselves out of place at universities. All colleges from their beginnings emphasized mental, spiritual, and physical development. It's just that the spiritual has been all but driven from campus (except for a few devout schools, not even Catholic colleges are very Catholic these days), and the physical has been overemphasized because of money and a host of other reasons. "Short Bus" students are not only admitted on sports teams because they can score touchdowns, either. Have you looked at incoming freshmen classes lately? In any one, there's going to be a large group of *fill in "underrepresented* minority here* students that are admitted with lower GPA's and test scores because of 'diversity' goals. There are indeed dum dum's on the football field, but they're also in remedial freshmen classes as well, and most don't wear a sports jersey these days.

          I'm a huge college football fan, but heavens yes, I recognize the commercial aspect is outrageous. Alabama's coach, Nick Saban, makes $4 million dollars a year to coach the football team, a record salary. The average BCS salary is now between $1 and $2 million per head coach. But the ugly truth of it is that filling the seats at football stadiums and basketball arenas also attract more non-athlete applicants, raise donor revenue levels, and sell lots of licensed merchandise which the schools rake in tons of money with. There's absolutely no doubt that having a successful sports program benefits the school greatly overall. But is it a devil's bargain? Yes, I think maybe it is. Should we go back to the same admission standards for athletes as baseline freshmen? Of course we should. But we should also eliminate "diversity" admissions too. Either you make the grade and you're ready for college, or bye, see us after two years of junior college. You can score touchdowns but have a low high school GPA? Juco's have football teams too. See you in two years.

          We both know that'll never happen, though, for reasons of both money and politics. I'm actually against a playoff specifically because it further professionalizes the game. We've now moved up to an NCAA 12 game regular football season precisely because colleges wanted the revenue from that extra game. They cloak it in "the kids want to play", but we know that reason is secondary. I've always thought the NCAA tournament was farcical in regards to "amateur" status as well. Really, after a long, grueling basketball season, with up to two games played per week... during the semester... now you want a 64 team playoff? Just when are these kids supposed to go to class?

          I'd like to see NCAA football go back to a 10 game regular season, no championship games, and limit the number of bowls to 15 or 16. But we know that'll never happen. Young men with spotty academics will continue to be admitted along with young men with spotty academics that have no athletic talent at all as long as they're filling the right admissions quota. Just the way it is.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            All good points; no disagreement from me. I do wonder why nobody seems to have mentioned that, without college football, the professional football league(s) would need to build up an expensive "farm" system similar to what baseball has. So I imagine the NFL is a strong lobby / proponent for keeping college football.
    • by darkitecture (627408) on Friday December 24, 2010 @05:54AM (#34658896)
      Short answer: Because at the end of the day, having a high-profile and appealing sports program makes them a lot more money than they invest in it.
      • by Alex Belits (437) * on Friday December 24, 2010 @06:00AM (#34658914) Homepage

        Then those people should organize professional sports teams and stop pretending that it has anything to do with edcational institutions they run.

        • Just to confirm: you want more professional sports teams, and you want educational institutions that have substantially less in the way of monetary resources.

          Methinks this is a case of principles being at odds with reality.

        • Yeah because generating money for the school (directly and indirectly) is so bad. That money isn't locked away in some safe in the athletic department; it can (and is, depending on the school) spent for other things, like education. Just having a team also gives you some advertising.
          • Just having a team also gives you some advertising.

            Right on it. 17 year old kids are more likely to apply to schools they have heard of. Football Saturday certainly is fun, especially if your team is in the running. Criteria like Top Math Department or Nobel Prize winning professors don't matter much to someone who hasn't figured out his major yet.

        • This way the players play for almost nothing (yeah, there's scholarships, but it's hardly a burden on the school to offer 50 of these).
        • Then those people should organize professional sports teams and stop pretending that it has anything to do with edcational institutions they run.

          I can only assume you're starting an educational institution which will never have a sports team of any type.

      • by TubeSteak (669689) on Friday December 24, 2010 @08:14AM (#34659284) Journal

        Short answer: Because at the end of the day, having a high-profile and appealing sports program makes them a lot more money than they invest in it.

        [Citation Needed]
        http://www.google.com/search?q=college+sports+programs+money+losers [google.com]

        And I believe this is the original source all those articles are based on:
        http://www.centerforcollegeaffordability.org/uploads/ICA_Subsidies_RegressiveTax.pdf [centerforc...bility.org]

        The only meaningful catch is that their conclusions are based on an examination of public universities, not private ones.
        But some of the most successful sports programs are at public universities, so the analysis is worth looking at.

        • by dunc78 (583090) on Friday December 24, 2010 @10:04AM (#34659868)
          I believe the parent of this thread was specifically referring to college footbal, as this is the sport that has the highest paid coaches. The first reference you provide (don't have time to read the second one) is about athletic programs as a whole. You would likely find, that without football, athletic programs would lose substantially more.

          Some quick googling found me the following article from 2006, http://money.cnn.com/2006/01/04/commentary/column_sportsbiz/sportsbiz/ [cnn.com]. One pertinent line is "USC's profit as a percentage of revenue is just 43 percent, below the average of 48 percent for all the reporting bowl teams [55], even when you include the 11 schools which lost money on their football programs. The top 20 football programs in terms of revenue have profit margins of about 60 percent, on average." And even these stats leave out secondary benefits, such as increased enrollment, donations, ...

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 24, 2010 @08:28AM (#34659346)

        Probably not. There are some schools where the teams (on paper at least) make money for the school - the very biggest football/basketball teams. Or so it is claimed. I work at a university where one team recently got a big donation and by the conditions of the donation it all had to go to the athletics program (unlike, say, an NSF grant where a big chunk of change is taken in 'overhead'). The donation ended up costing the school a whole pile of money. For instance, traffic to games increased (a lot) and this required more parking, overtime for school security, and so on. And this is only one way that the donation has cost the school money.

        I am also involved in the budgeting process and can tell you that there is a bunch of Hollywood accounting going on. Lots of costs for the athletics programs are funded through other budget items. Again, as a for-instance, a dorm has to be opened for the fall in the middle of the summer to support the football team and support people for the dorm have to be brought in, food service has to go from closed or minimal staffing/hours up to almost full time, food needs to be purchased - and these things are absorbed as part of university overhead and not charged as part of the athletic budget.

        On the plus side, there are a bunch of non-athletic students who get a boost from this - they get paid to take tests for team members, and to write papers for them. So it ain't all bad.

    • by lyinhart (1352173)
      Because it's easier to have people rally around a football, basketball or other team than it is for basically anything else you can think of. This is especially true in universities that aren't specifically technical or liberal arts and/or aren't Ivy League schools whose primary selling point is academics. You're less likely to get thousands of people to come to a poetry slam or robotics competition than to see Michigan State trounce Ohio State on the gridiron.
      • by edmicman (830206)

        And if we got to see Michigan State trounce Ohio State on the gridiron this year we wouldn't be seeing those punk ass Badgers in the Rose Bowl!

    • by Nidi62 (1525137)

      Yes, because my small rural university of about 1500 students(almost half of which were commuters) just rakes in the money with football, and blows millions on it every year. Our conference was made up of small, private, mostly Christian schools, and did not even allow the full complement of athletic scholarships that the NCAA allows. In fact, there was probably no one on my team getting a full ride unless it included academic money as well. And I can assure you our coaches made about as much as a teache

    • by wilgibson (933961)
      Because it isn't always the university paying for it. I attended the University of Arkansas, and it was well known that the Razorback Foundation, Inc. (a separate business entity) payed for the vast majority of the sports programs (buildings, scholarships, coaches salaries) not the university proper. I can bet you there is a similar case at SEC and Pac-10 universities.
    • by Yhippa (443967)
      The longer I'm alive the less this makes sense to me. With all the publicity around players selling their awards (Ohio State Buckeyes) and agents getting involved with players in college (Reggie Bush) for day-to-day money think the goals of the athletes in college basketball and football are at odds with the rest of the campus.

      So why don't we stop pretending that the athletes in those sports are there to get a degree in liberal arts or engineering? They should start a secondary pre-professional league w
    • by fermion (181285)
      One reason that it is a way to provide scholarships to people who want to go to college but don't have personal funds or an academic record that will win scholarships. This system does work and I know many professionals with advanced degrees who went to college using this method.

      Of course, some people are not using sports in this way. College is being used as a method to train athletes for professional life. This in itself is not bad, if the student is paying his or her own way. But a scholarship shou

  • by 91degrees (207121) on Friday December 24, 2010 @05:52AM (#34658886) Journal
    The patent is on "A method for conducting championship playoff", not on conducting championship playoffs. There's a difference. Do the same general thing in a way that isn't covered by the patent and you're safe. Honestly, I can't see any reaon you have to use the weighted result of polls.
    • by Walzmyn (913748)

      I don't understand how the patent could apply anyway. The individual football teams are part of individual universities. the NCAA is a collection of those universities. They have made an agreement between themselves on how they are going to determine an arbitrary designation for one of their members. How could any outsider have any claim over that process?

      It'd be like me trying to go patent "apricot coke-a-cola" some something foolish like that.

  • No (Score:3, Informative)

    by notext (461158) on Friday December 24, 2010 @05:56AM (#34658902)

    There are already NCAA football playoffs. Just not the FCS division, formerly known as Division I.

  • by drphil (320469) on Friday December 24, 2010 @06:09AM (#34658938)

    As exemplified by the summary, there's a pervasive misunderstanding on Slashdot on how patents work. Just because someone is able to patent one method in the field of X does *not* exclude others from practicing in the field of X.
    Don't get me wrong - method patents like this stink worse than the NY Giant's defense in the 4th quarter, but they are generally pretty easy to avoid by simply doing one step differently. Rival companies do this all the time with ligit process patents.

    • by Chrisq (894406)

      As exemplified by the summary, there's a pervasive misunderstanding on Slashdot on how patents work. Just because someone is able to patent one method in the field of X does *not* exclude others from practicing in the field of X. Don't get me wrong - method patents like this stink worse than the NY Giant's defense in the 4th quarter, but they are generally pretty easy to avoid by simply doing one step differently. Rival companies do this all the time with ligit process patents.

      Rival companies who have a lot of money to contest the patent and show that it does not apply if necessary. If you don't have deep pockets don't even try.

      • by dtmos (447842) on Friday December 24, 2010 @07:24AM (#34659150)

        No, the GP is absolutely right.

        If you've never seen one of these patent lawsuits, they start by going through each claim (that the petitioner claims infringement), and identifies how the infringing technology contains each element of the claim. The easiest way to have such a suit dismissed is to have at least one element different (or missing) in the supposedly-infringing technology. In the case of method claims, as the GP says, just do one step differently.

        As an example, the issued patent (6,053,823) has only one independent claim, which has the elements (steps) of:

        --------
        - adding the rank of each participating team from a first poll to the rank of each team in a second poll to obtain an initial overall rank; [element 1]

        - assigning a final rank for each team, with the lowest sum of the initial overall rank constituting the highest rank, and the highest sum from the initial overall rank constituting the lowest rank; [element 2]

        - conducting a championship tournament with at least the three teams having the highest final rank, comprising the steps of:

                  - conducting at least a first round of events to determine the two teams to play in a championship game; and

                  - conducting a championship game with the two teams determined from the previous round of events, to determine a champion. [element 3]
        --------

        So to start out we see that this method requires adding the rank of each team from a couple of polls. Don't use polls? No infringement. Don't add the rankings from the two polls to establish the initial overall rank? No infringement.

        Secondly, a final rank for each team must be calculated, with the highest and lowest ranks determined as described. Don't have a final rank for each team? No infringement. Determine highest and lowest differently? No infringement.

        Finally, a championship tournament must be held with at least the three teams having the highest final rank, which must also have the two steps of (1) a first round of "events" to determine the two teams to play in the championship game, and (2) playing the championship game. Have only two teams in the tournament? No infringement. Don't have a first round of events? No infringement.

        As I hope you can see, there are lots of ways (I've identified only a few) to have a playoff that avoids this patent. What the headline to the linked article should say is, "One Method of College Football Playoffs Patented."

    • by AndGodSed (968378)

      You use the term "defense" pretty loosely...

  • Isn't it lucky (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Chrisq (894406) on Friday December 24, 2010 @06:09AM (#34658940)
    Isn't it lucky that the guy has got the patents system to enable him to innovate on how to organise playoffs
    • by mug funky (910186)

      i should patent the process of organising a root in a brothel with a bagful of money. the patent office could certainly use this information for itself.

      • by JustOK (667959)

        i should patent the process of organising a root in a brothel with a bagful of money. the patent office could certainly use this information for itself.

        politicians and lawyers would be interested. Most normal people would be interested in a root in a brothel with one of the workers.

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Friday December 24, 2010 @06:13AM (#34658950)
    Bin Laden family has taken a patent out on the concept of the USA winning a war against and Islamic state. The US troops have been instructed not to fight too hard in case they infringe this patent.
    • Re:Also in the news (Score:4, Interesting)

      by AndGodSed (968378) on Friday December 24, 2010 @08:06AM (#34659258) Homepage Journal

      Funny but true, if you rewind to WW1.

      The US rifle that the troops used copied the bolt action design used by the German Mauser rifle. The Germans sued, and the US was forced to pay royalties to the Germans for this design.

      While the US was fighting the Germans, they were paying royalties for the bolt action on the rifle used to shoot at them.

      Ironic, but true.

      • by shentino (1139071)

        Wow...

        Not even national security is more important than commerce.

        Unless this is just some tiwsted diplomacy

    • If they would only field an army of gays, the war could be immediately.

      The terror inflicted by a gay army marching down on American forces would cause them to fold like 1000 Thread Count Solid Egyptian Cotton Sheets.

  • by Frankie70 (803801) on Friday December 24, 2010 @06:39AM (#34659012)

    What the hell is a playoff system?

    Is it a way of taking lots of team & play them against each other & narrowing them & finally 2 of them play in a Final match to decide the winner?

    If so, don't tournaments around the world in other sports already do this?

    For eg.
    In the last cricket world cup help in 2007
    - 16 teams played
    - 4 Groups each with 4 teams. Each team played the other team in the group once.
    - 2 top teams chosen from each group. So 8 teams left out of 16.
    - The 8 teams now played round robin against each other team in the group of 8 except the team which was from their group. They had already played this team in group stage - so their result against this team was carried forward & added to the result of their other 6 matches.
    - Four top teams emerged from the 8.
    - Team 1 played Team 4 in one semi final & Team 2 played Team 3 in the other.
    - The Winner of the two semi-finals played in the final.

    Is this a playoff system? Did I infringe any patent by posting this?

    • by NoSig (1919688)

      Is this a playoff system? Did I infringe any patent by posting this?

      Certainly. There is no activity that cannot be construed to infringe a patent. E.g. you just infringed on my asking-if-this-infringes-a-patent-patent. As a precaution, I've already patented patenting-asking-if-this-infringes-a-patent-patent.

    • by dcollins (135727)

      "Is this a playoff system? Did I infringe any patent by posting this?"

      (1) Yes. (2) Maybe not; now you get to argue about specific claims in the patent.

      For example, in the granted patent, it has specific claims on two polls that would be used to establish initial placements, a weighting formula for the polls, a primary tournament with specifically 12 teams, a secondary tournament held on different days from the primary tournament, initial games scheduled the week after Thanksgiving, championship game held on

      • by Sique (173459)

        If someone actually granted that as a patent, then what constitutes a patent?
        Just because I do something different than my neighbor I am not an inventor.
        Otherwise I just build a random tournament generator and every schedule it throws out which is not played anywhere yet is patentworthy.

    • The question is how you choose the teams to play. Take a look at the two top 25 lists on this [go.com] page. Notice that while they contain mostly the same teams, the order does vary a bit. The many historic conferences (see here [go.com] vary quite a bit in difficulty - and since a large part of your schedule necessarily consists of in-conference teams, the difficulty of the schedule can vary quite a lot. For example, 6 of the 12 teams in the Southeastern Conference and 5 of 12 in the Big 12 are in the top 25; only 1 of
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      16 teams played
      ...
      The Winner of the two semi-finals played in the final.

      Is this a playoff system?

      No.

      The slightly longer, but still short version:
      Figuring out *which* 16 teams go to the playoffs and *how they're matched* is the meat and bones of a playoff system.

    • by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Friday December 24, 2010 @10:05AM (#34659870)

      I read the patent but I'm not a lawyer, and it seems easily avoided. He makes specific claims. All the claims 2-? seem to be defined in combination with claim #1. None of them seemed to have any novelty aside from combination with claim #1, so claim #1 is probably what really matters.

      Claim #1 specifies two things: a way of combining polls, and a playoff of 3 or more teams. From my non-lawyerly standpoint, I'd say that he's proposing exactly what they're doing now for 2 teams and extending it to 3+. For the non-Americans in the audience, the NCAA has a system of combining multiple polls, choosing the top 2 teams, and letting them play for the championship. So he turns that 2 into 3+.

      First problem is that indeed it seems obvious. This idea probably occurred to anyone with a pulse who watched college football over the last few decades. What's more, the NCAA has more lawyers than he does. So does Mark Cuban.

      If 'death by lawyer' is not enough, tons of journalists have been clamoring for exactly what's patented - namely, form a playoff from the final rankings basically as described. Go find somebody who published an article prior to the patent describing the same basic thing.

      Other than that, just avoid claim one and the whole thing seems to fall apart. One might use a method of combining polls to seed the teams as he describes. Absent that, I don't know what's left besides a single-elimination tournament as you mention, for which ample prior art exists going back, oh, thousands of years probably.

      I don't think it should be hard to avoid stepping on this patent. Currently, the NCAA uses a committee to select the (at large) teams that play in the basketball tournament, which they've been doing for many decades.

      So despite Mr. Patent Troll's assertions, there are probably a number of ways around this patent, in my non-professional opinion.

    • It is an aberration in sports. All professional sports in the US, and as far as I know the world, do a playoff system like you talk about (with all kinds of variations of course). So do other college sports like basketball. In fact, so do other level of college football. See universities are put in divisions based on size and money and that kind of thing. Makes sure that you don't have tiny little schools getting stomped all the time by big ones. 1A are the big schools, the ones that play on TV all the time

  • Basic research FTW (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dachannien (617929) on Friday December 24, 2010 @07:12AM (#34659100)

    The patent application mentioned in TFA went abandoned 17 August 2009. Importantly, all of the claims were rejected under 35 USC 101, i.e., they were determined not to be patentable subject matter. The examiner in that case also noted that the prevailing judicial wisdom on 101 had changed over the past few years, which was why they were able to cite an issued patent as prior art.

    It's also notable that, in a general sense, the claims of the issued patent mentioned in TFA are not structurally dissimilar from the rejected claims in the abandoned application. That doesn't necessarily mean that a court would hold the claims of the issued patent to be invalid, but it does provide some insight into what might happen if a lawsuit came out of this.

  • Submarine patent (Score:5, Informative)

    by demiurg (108464) on Friday December 24, 2010 @07:24AM (#34659146) Homepage Journal

    This is not an error, this is called a "submarine patent" were one intentionally writes an abstract which different from the claims. As a typical patent search returns hundreds of patents, reading the whole patent is not feasible, so people either don't bother with patent search at all or read just the abstracts. Having abstract different from the claims makes the patent "invisible", i.e. impossible to find - hence the "submarine" term.

    • Re:Submarine patent (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Dachannien (617929) on Friday December 24, 2010 @09:03AM (#34659566)

      No. A submarine patent is a patent issued on an application that was filed, or claims continuity to an effective filing date, before 8 June 1995, which means it gets a patent term of 17 years from the date of issue. The submarine strategy is then to keep the application pending (a relatively inexpensive proposition, given the potential profit) until an infringing product pops up in the marketplace, and then get the claims allowable, pay the issue fee, and sue.

      Submarine patents were largely remedied by switching to a patent term of 20 years from the filing date (though there are still a very few applications still pending that have an effective filing date that gives them the old patent term). Now, if you keep your application pending for 20 years (plus patent term adjustments, a topic too complex to cover here), then when it issues, the term will already be expired.

      As for the abstract not matching the invention, it's not really that great a loss, although the examiner should have objected to it. Patent searches are rarely done by flipping through abstracts. More often, they're done by classification along with keywords to search through the entire text of the patent. In this case, it's hard to tell why that abstract is attached to that application. It was probably a paperwork error, either on the part of the attorney getting their pages mixed up or at the USPTO mailroom. It's moot, though, since that application went abandoned.

  • Now, what is needed is to push this in the face of all of these congressmen that supported method patents. It was an evil that MUST BE DESTROYED. It is destructive in the software industry most of all, but all businesses will suffer due to it. Then we can get ppl back to focusing on building things rather than gov. protected services.
    • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

      Maybe someone should just patent the method of pantenting something. That way, nobody could obtain a method patent without violating it.

  • fascinating (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@nOSpaM.gmail.com> on Friday December 24, 2010 @08:15AM (#34659286) Homepage
    I just find it fascinating how posters on this story are blasting the patent system and the entirety of the United States itself based on a single, solitary email from some unknown guy. I don't know how any reasonable person would assume with such 100% certainty that this single patent proves anything about any fact other than "once upon a time some guy managed to obtain a bad patent."
    • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

      I just find it fascinating how posters on this story are blasting the patent system and the entirety of the United States itself based on a single, solitary email from some unknown guy. I don't know how any reasonable person would assume with such 100% certainty that this single patent proves anything about any fact other than "once upon a time some guy managed to obtain a bad patent."

      Because this is Slashdot. You don't really expect people to use reason or research before they post something, do you? Present company excluded, of course.

    • I just find it fascinating how posters on this story are blasting the patent system and the entirety of the United States itself based on a single, solitary email from some unknown guy.

      It's called the Two Minutes Hate [wikipedia.org].

    • by dcollins (135727)

      Here's more data, then:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Patent_Office#Criticisms [wikipedia.org]

  • If there truly is a patent for the playoffs, then why not use a system that is already in existence? NCAA basketball tournament seems to be non-infringing. Nobody says you have to start with 64 teams. Take the top sixteen BCS teams, pair them like in the basketball tournament and let them have at it. It adds a total of 15 games for the public (not much different than the current bowl system) and a total of 4 more games to the season for whomever makes it all the way to the championship game (only 1 more

  • I hear incessantly that any system that doesn't have a playoff can't crown a champion, and that playoffs are inherently more fair.

    A couple years back in the NFL, the Patriots went 11-5 in a very tough division and still stayed home while a 9-7 team in a weak division went to the playoffs. Pundits calls that team perhaps the weakest team to ever make an NFL playoff. That said team got lucky during the playoffs and made the Super Bowl. Clearly, it wasn't one of the two best teams in the league, but it got luc

    • Was there a team better than the 11-5 Patriots in the playoffs? Did they beat the Patriots? the answer to both of those questions is yes. Did the 9-7 team go on to the superbowl? No. Your argument is a strawman.

      Currently there are 119 teams in the NCAA Div I. There are 7 weeks between the traditional "last game" in regular season (the weekend after thanksgiving) and the second weekend in January, when the title game is usually played. You could let EVERY SINGLE TEAM into the playoff system and still have

    • Sorry, I missed something. Have you actually looked at the schedules? They're already conference games and patsies, with the occasional "money" game thrown in. Nobody plays a tough schedule BECAUSE there isn't a playoff system. One loss, esp near end of the season - to ANYONE - and you're out.

      Schedules would mean more, as teams would want a higher seed, but a single loss wouldn't be devastating since it wouldn't keep you out of the title hunt.

  • ...screw with football. It will be the ONLY way the know-nothings that comprise the majority of our population will even take of the major issue of patent trolling...

    • by gordguide (307383)

      Or the NCAA could patent the current system whereby no Playoff Game is possible.

      The resulting pair of conflicting patents could kill all sport entirely; thus demonstrating the untold benefits the current USPTO regimen is surely designed to achieve.

  • Many of the schools with division 1 teams also have top rated law schools. Looks like they all have a project for the spring...

  • by acoustix (123925) on Friday December 24, 2010 @10:46AM (#34660160) Homepage

    We already have championship playoffs for NCAA Div I (FCS), Div II, Div III and NAIA. They've been around for decades.

  • This wouldn't even be the system I'd use. My system would take the champion/team with best record from each FBS conference, and the top 5-ranked teams that don't fall into this category.

I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it in the right way, did not become still more complicated. -- Poul Anderson

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