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UK Launches 'Peer To Patent' Pilot Project 78

Posted by timothy
from the needs-a-leaderboard dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Inspired by a proposal by Beth Noveck, professor of law at New York Law School, the Minister for Intellectual Property, Baroness Wilcox, launched a UK 'Peer To Patent' pilot project to identify prior art in patent applications by harnessing the wider community of experts and engaged citizens." We could use something like that, too. Perhaps Noveck could get together with Carl Malamud to hash out a system that encourages participation.
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UK Launches 'Peer To Patent' Pilot Project

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Sorry, we Brits have prior art on that.

  • They have a Minister of Intellectual Property? Does he work in the same building as the Ministry of Silly Walks?

    Wait, this is for real?
    • by jopsen (885607)

      Wait, this is for real?

      Most, likely in Denmark we have a ministry of gender equality :)

      • by Calydor (739835)

        And I still say we need a minister there who's in the middle of a gender change operation. No one else can call themselves fully qualified!

    • Re:Minister? (Score:4, Informative)

      by xaxa (988988) on Monday June 06, 2011 @07:25AM (#36348574)

      They have a Minister of Intellectual Property? Does he work in the same building as the Ministry of Silly Walks?

      Wait, this is for real?

      Here's the list [cabinetoffice.gov.uk] of ministers.

      But if you find the words amusing I think you'll have more fun with "Assistant Government Whip", or "Lords Chief Whip". This is what happens when you're country has had a parliament for approaching 800 years. You have a Secretary of the Treasury, we have a Chancellor of the Exchequer :-)

      • by russotto (537200)

        But if you find the words amusing I think you'll have more fun with "Assistant Government Whip", or "Lords Chief Whip". This is what happens when you're country has had a parliament for approaching 800 years.

        Even our mere 200-year-old Congress has a "Minority Whip".

  • I know this is kind of unrelated to TFA, but let me say something I enjoy thinking of: Decentralization is on the way.

    More and more, governments and corps realize that a single entity to enforce law is nowhere near as efficient as it used to be.
    Having a police or a cyberpolice to track crimes and enforce whatever you thought was right used to be quite efficient. But the ease at which people communicate and exchange informations or objects now makes it nearly impossible (if not totally) to monitor what ever
    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      I know this is kind of unrelated to TFA, but let me say something I enjoy thinking of: Decentralization is on the way.

      More and more, governments and corps realize that a single entity to enforce law is nowhere near as efficient as it used to be.
      Having a police or a cyberpolice to track crimes and enforce whatever you thought was right used to be quite efficient. But the ease at which people communicate and exchange informations or objects now makes it nearly impossible (if not totally) to monitor what every single one does. Sure they could cross that fated line and start walking into people's privacy for no appearant reason, but they should prepare for a mob of "mah freedon of spech!!!11!".

      Point is, it's now much safer to rely on people themselves (the educated kind, of course (whatever the fuck that means)) to regulate the rest. But it's putting the very existence of a government, and more generally, of a single law enforcing entity, in question. Slowly. Everytime.

      Feels good to believe in Anarchy.

      The Gestapo called. They claim prior art for networking.

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      Point is, it's now much safer to rely on people themselves (the educated kind, of course (whatever the fuck that means)) to regulate the rest. But it's putting the very existence of a government, and more generally, of a single law enforcing entity, in question. Slowly. Everytime.
      Feels good to believe in Anarchy.

      Yeah, and all of us educated people should be able to regulate all those fucking plebs, although luckily we won't have to bother with all that tiresome democracy and shit.
      I'd rather have an elected government and democratically accountable law enforcement structure than a society run by a bunch of arrogant, morally bankrupt psychopaths.
      You're describing fascism, not anarchy.

  • Not a win (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Monday June 06, 2011 @05:53AM (#36348276) Homepage

    This may help or slightly harm the situation.

    We have a problem with thickets of patents, like the 900+ patents in the MPEG LA portfolio. Weeding out a few here and there will not help.

    In the 90s, there were problems with single patents (public key crypto, LZW, etc.), but corporations nowadays don't gamble their monopolies on single patents. They use thickets.

    The USA have been trying peer-to-patent, but there's no visible change in the patent problem there. What we need, for software, is abolition.

    http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Patent_review_by_the_public [swpat.org]
    http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Raising_examination_standards_wouldn't_fix_much [swpat.org]

    • by Sabriel (134364)

      What we need, for patents, is abolition.

      The patent system is fundamentally a legalised protection racket.

      It does not allow independent innovation and it is exploited by the already powerful to exclude poorer parties. It also does not scale, and rather than recognise this, the idiots in government think that in addition to bearing this millstone around our necks, we should contribute our own labour towards making it even bigger?

      • by Yvanhoe (564877)
        I still think that short patents can be a positive force. It IS true that research do not bear immediate benefits and that it is more profitable to be a copycat than an innovator. The cost of research in software is so low that such a protection is ridiculous, but I can see why some other fields would like to enjoy some kind of protection. Also note that a patent mandates to explain how a given process works and means that after a period (currently 20 years, we should shorten that) imitation becomes fair ga
        • by Sabriel (134364)

          Also note that a patent mandates to explain how a given process works and means that after a period (currently 20 years, we should shorten that) imitation becomes fair game.

          In theory, that's true; in practice, corporate strategy is to build those "patent thickets" that the GP mentioned: a large set of adjacent/overlapping patents, with new patents filed every so often that are often merely minor advancements/alterations of the old patents. The end result that if you try to use an expired patent from someo

        • I still think that short patents can be a positive force.

          Patents are fundamentally theft. Party A works for X years on idea G. Party B works for X years on idea G. Both achieve success (in patent terms, a working implementation.) The patent system will arbitrarily completely zero out the worth of time and investment of the last party in the door at the patent office. This is theft, pure and simple. There's no way to sugar coat it.

          The only fair thing to do is let both these innovations be brought to market

      • by fyngyrz (762201)

        What we need, for patents, is abolition.
        What we need, for patents, is abolition.

        That's exactly right. The US patent system -- and most of the US legal system -- is utterly broken as far as being anything that is intended to serve the needs of the citizens in general.

        However, as the citizens in general are no longer in any semblance of control, nor is there a mechanism remaining in place by which they can restore control, nothing is going to change.

  • by Halo1 (136547) <<eb.tnegu.sile> <ta> <ebeam.sanoj>> on Monday June 06, 2011 @05:56AM (#36348292) Homepage

    US version: http://peertopatent.org/ [peertopatent.org]

    The problem is that this approach is the world upside down. The correct approach would be that the polluter pays: make patent applicants put a certain amount of money into escrow (more and more general claims = larger amount of money), and if prior art is found then this money goes to the person/institution that dug it up (either the patent office or a third party).

    This way you compensate people for spending their time on rooting out bad patents/claims, rather than more or less forcing them to do it for free because otherwise they may be badly affected by the granted patents.

    • by SkunkPussy (85271)

      yes - now we would have an incentive for finding prior art. Maybe businesses would be set up purely to locate prior art for patents.

      give this man a medal.

      • And now "the little guy" would have no way in hell of ever getting a patent filed, since only already-big businesses would be able to afford it.

        • by delinear (991444)
          So scale it. If you've filed less than 20 patents it could cost practically nothing, if you've filed hundreds the price goes up massively since, at that point, you've either made a fortune off your prior patents, or you're a patent troll, or you're just polluting the patent system. You'd need a way to prevent companies working out loopholes with patents in named people's names that revert to them, or umbrella companies, etc but it wouldn't be a bad start.
          • I think such scaling is a good idea, but it should depend on the number of patents filed within a certain period of time, rather than in absolute terms.

            • Or make it the "freemium" model (even if I do hate that word) - where you can apply for (say) 3 patents per year with no "prior art surcharge." 4-10 patents = $1000 each. 20 = $2000 each, etc?

        • by Halo1 (136547)

          Filing good patents could actually be made cheaper under this system, since the polluters would be paying their dues. You'd probably also soon get insurance-style companies paying the escrow for you in return for an insurance fee. Coupled with cheaper filing fees, it could well be a wash in the end.

    • by Calydor (739835)

      I'm so gonna patent that business idea.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    And it's: ERASE the IP Rights. If we, as HUMANITY, want to evolute, we must ERRADICATE what it's a scourge to the society and what impossibilitate new creations.

    So, as said, no IP in no-way (knowledge is not a "property"), just the "right to authority recognition" (who are the author and need recognition). Every right else, to the trashbin. So, no need for lawyers, no need for ministers, no need for any unusefulness.

    Now, it's the moment. Now, it's our chance.

    Sincerely,
    Franz

    • And it's: ERASE the IP Rights. If we, as HUMANITY, want to evolute, we must ERRADICATE what it's a scourge to the society and what impossibilitate new creations.

      I'm not 100% sure about impossibilitate, but I can promise you that ERRADICATE is not a word. Please spell-check your all-caps words at least...

  • First off, this is awesome! Secondly, now that the US is "first to file" we could adopt this very system too -- There's no good reason to keep any part of the patent application secret (as similar projects have in the previous US & AU pilots). I mean... Why not give the public a few leads to go on when searching for prior art? We are doing their jobs for them, the PTO might as well give us the tools/information we need to work with (otherwise: Hamstring much?).

    The secrecy needs to be barred outright: If a patent is valid, who cares if someone uses your idea sooner; This just means you can make money on it sooner. If the patent is invalid, well, that's the risk you take when you seek a legal monopoly over an idea... Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Since the purported purpose of patents is to get the ideas to the public (for the betterment of society) then this is a win on both accounts.

    I used to believe that the US patent system was fundamentally flawed because they have no test for obviousness (hint: just because no one already patented it doesn't mean it's not obvious), and that they are trying to filter an entire world's prior art via a relatively small number of examiners in a relatively short period of time (the odds of that working out for the benefit of society are inconceivable!).

    However, with some of the ridiculous, and outright wrong patents (swinging on swings, duplicate patents, "on-the fly" hash table modifications, etc.) It's apparent that the applications aren't even being read (esp. not by anyone who's even remotely "skilled in the arts").

    I seriously hope this pilot project becomes permanent, and that the World adopts a similar public standard test (though 90 days is a bit short, esp. when granting monopolies that could destroy entire markets). Then, we could be sure that the patent filings will actually have a chance of being read by people other than those who have a vested interest in granting more patents...

    P.S. If this practice were made permanent it would cause me to release more of my code as FLOSS just to provide more proof of prior art (another win for the claimed mission patents serve) -- currently I've been close sourcing a few things because my code being open makes it too easy for patent trolls...

    • I thought that the "First to File" law (if passed) would remove the whole idea of prior art invalidating a Patent. Am I wrong?

      • "First to File" doesn't remove "no prior art" requirement.
      • I thought that the "First to File" law (if passed) would remove the whole idea of prior art invalidating a Patent. Am I wrong?

        Yes.

        First-to-file (or, in the US proposal, "first inventor to file", intended to note some remaining differences between the US proposal and other countries' systems) would simply mean that applicants would no longer be permitted to get an earlier invention date than the date they filed their application.

        In current US law, prior art under 35 USC 102(a) and 102(e) can be "sworn behind" if the applicant can show that they invented their invention before the publication date (for (a), which covers publications

  • The patent system isn't actually that bad in the UK. We don't have software patents, which are a ridiculously stupid idea, for instance. Thus this doesn't really solve pretty much the biggest problem in patent law anywhere in the world - US software patents.

    If I were to write an iPhone app, and it gets sold on the US iPhone app store, some moron can try to sue me because I used anti-aliases fonts, or whatever, even if in my own country that's a meaningless and invalid patent. That will probably get my ap

    • Sorry, but we *do* have software patents again as far as I can tell. There was a brief spell between 2006 and 2008 when we didn't, but they are back and in full effect.

      Quoting from [wikipedia.org]

      "...permitting claims to computer programs if claims to a method performed by running a suitably programmed computer or to a computer programmed to carry out the method were themselves allowable."

      I am not a lawyer, but to me that means pretty much any software patent will be accepted provided the language of the patent is suitably constructed. This is similar, as far as I can tell, to the way that software patents became allowable in the U.S.

      • by ledow (319597)

        If other words - if the underlying method was allowable, the computerised version was also allowable.

        The point is that "business method" and other nonsensical mathematical processes aren't allowable. I.e. you could have patented computer-controlled ABS in a car (because it was new, innovative, non-obvious, and the computer wasn't necessary to the invention) but you STILL can't patent ways to advertise at clients using sounds (because that's a business method patent, is obvious, has prior art, etc. and thus

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday June 06, 2011 @11:33AM (#36350830) Homepage

    Most of the whining I read about patents is from people who don't do much original work.

    The MPEG issue isn't a patent validity issue, anyway. It's an antitrust issue. Narrow patents are easy to get but only useful in areas where there's a de-facto standard. Classics in this area were the Hayes modem escape sequence patent (wait, send "+++", wait), the GIF compression patent, and the DOS file system long name patent. Each was quite narrow, and there were other ways to do something equivalent. But because the dominant company in the industry was able to establish a de-facto standard in that area, with which others had to be compatible, it was hard to work around the patents.

    Note the phrase "dominant company in the industry". That's a phrase from antitrust law. Only a company with a monopoly, or a trust (which MPEG-LA is) can exploit a narrow patent in that way. If the US DOJ had an antitrust operation that was as aggressive as it was from 1940 to 1970, we wouldn't have this problem.

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