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US Patent Regime Is Absurd 202

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the self-inflicted-wound dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with an opinion piece in the Economist about the the effects of patent trolling on the US economy. The author argues that the U.S. patent regime is causing the U.S. essentially to harm itself. Things have gotten so bad that paying for protection is par for the course.
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US Patent Regime Is Absurd

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  • by Toe, The (545098) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @04:27PM (#36964464)

    The idea of patents being bad for the economy is MY intellectual property.

    I'm suing the author, the poster (meaning everyone who has ever posted as anon), and Slashdot.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @06:31PM (#36965880) Homepage Journal

      The idea of patents being bad for the economy is MY intellectual property.

      Then you might want to send a cease and desist to President Obama. In his remarks to the press today, he mentioned "patent reform" as part of his agenda for the next 14 months.

      We'll see what comes of it, but I've got the feeling we're going to be seeing hearing a little more media coverage of the issue of patent reform, at least until the next celebrity overdose or semi-attractive white woman on trial for murder.

      It'll be interesting to see how the anti-US government Fox News covers the story. Patents seem to be the very definition of "big government" and all "intellectual property" is "anti-free market".

      I say, "Get the government out of our business and do away with all patents, copyrights and trademarks. We don't need no stinkin' Big Government to be involved with their job-killing regulations and picking winners and losers by giving patents.

      We'll see if FreedomWorks and the Chamber of Commerce gets behind THAT anti-government message.

      • by bored (40072)

        Then you might want to send a cease and desist to President Obama. In his remarks to the press today, he mentioned "patent reform" as part of his agenda for the next 14 months.

        Patent reform from Obama, with the R's in the house? Right... I'm skeptical, but if we get a bill it will go something like this. Obama says "We need to remove patents from certain areas like software, and we need to shorten the length of time for other areas." The R's will say no we need "To extend the lifetimes of patents indefinite

  • Regime (Score:2, Funny)

    by mfh (56)

    Anything that is a regime is absurd!

    Just make things free and democratic okay? Otherwise it's gonna be regime-change time!

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @04:30PM (#36964504) Homepage

    Human genes [acs.org] can be legally patented, according to a Federal Appeals court.

    Now, the difference here is that the genes are isolated from the body as a whole, but it seems like we're not too far from being in breach of patent every time we get it on.

    • Oh man, our child is a red head and has freckles.. guess we have to put him down or face the consequences of gene patent violation.

      I'm still waiting for them to do to human genes what seed companies do to their patented crops: Render them sterile so they can't reproduce. That might actually make gene patents worth it.
      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        I believe the justification for this is that they don't want genetically modified crops escaping to the wild in case they have some adverse effects. It's a happy coincidence for the companies that make the seeds, but there is some non-evil logic to it as well. What would happen if they made genetic modifications to the crops than ended up wiping out huge swaths of forest. People would be saying sterilization of these crops was a good idea then.
        • by icebike (68054)

          I believe the justification for this is that they don't want genetically modified crops escaping to the wild in case they have some adverse effects. It's a happy coincidence for the companies that make the seeds, but there is some non-evil logic to it as well. .

          Actually no, making plants grown from hybrid seed sterile has been used long before there was genetic modification*. Seed companies been seeking that trait to protect their patented seed lines since the 30s.

          * Genetic modification has been going on via the much slower means since human kind started in agriculture.

        • by sjames (1099)

          The problem comes in when the pollen from those crops renders grain in neighboring fields sterile as well.

          The terminator gene is dormant until germination. At that point it becomes active and kills the plant.

      • by RingDev (879105)

        That's actually not necesarily GM work. Lots of crops work based on a breeding stock, and a yield stock. You need to grow enough of the breeding stock to get seeds to plant for the yield stock, but due to the selective breeding, the yield stock is often sterile.

        Not that Monsanto isn't 95% evil or anything (I gotta give 'em some credit for Golden Rice), but sterile yield crops isn't necessarily due to them.

        -Rick

    • Now, the difference here is that the genes are isolated from the body as a whole, but it seems like we're not too far from being in breach of patent every time we get it on.

      No we're not, but the company is already charging thousands of dollars [blogspot.com] for you to know if YOUR copy of the relevant gene is mutated and if you should be more vigilant about breast or ovarian cancer*, which is of course criminal by any sane standards.

      (* to those two women who are reading slashdot, this applies. For everyone else, well, it still raises your health insurance)

    • by Genda (560240)

      Here's the really ugly part

      A doctor receives a patient. The patient has cancer, and to the amazement of the doctor the man survives and is discovered to have extraordinary traits of interest to the doctor. The doctor patents the cell line he develops from the man, keeping him coming to his office for years after he has been cured on threat of relapse and death, all for the purpose of furthering his personal research. The doctor can make the argument that this ones man's year perhaps even decades of sufferin

      • On a similar note, I suppose you have never heard of Henrietta Lacks [hamptonroads.com] and how pharmaceutical companies patented her cancer cells, the strain which makes them billions of dollars and responsible for causing her untimely demise.

  • In other news (Score:2, Insightful)

    by White Flame (1074973)

    Water is wet, the sky is blue, and I didn't RTFA.

  • Podcast about this (Score:5, Informative)

    by MrEricSir (398214) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @04:37PM (#36964578) Homepage

    The often-wonderful This American Life show covered this topic quite recently. They tried to find out what the deal was with Intellectual Ventures and their ilk, and made some surprising discoveries. (I don't want to give away any spoilers.)

    You can listen to a podcast of the show here:
    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/441/when-patents-attack [thisamericanlife.org]

    • The Economist, Public Radio... we might be reaching a tipping point regarding patent trolls. When CNBC starts covering the idiocy of patent trolls, I'll know that the end of the insanity is near.

    • The piece on This American Life is basically the same as the Planet Money piece mentioned in the Economist article - the same Planet Money people did both. When TAL did their award-winning show on sub-prime mortgages [thisamericanlife.org], it was a compilation of Planet Money shows from the foregoing months.

      They're the go-to guys when it comes to clarifying these financial issues. I've been listening to them for years, and can highly recommend them. I mean, how many other journalists actually went out and bought a toxic asset [thisamericanlife.org]?

    • Very fascinating podcast. If I were the reporters, I would follow the transaction from Intellectual Ventures to Oasis Research and other companies that it sells its patents to...

      I'm thinking that the companies that paid the protection money are still not sued by the new patent owners... thus still receive the 'benefits' of the protection. I would also think that the sales are designed to isolate I.V. from being "evil" and open the opportunity for predatory enforcement/collection (to promote settlement re

  • I wonder if they feel the "copyright regime" is absurd too.
    • Re:The Economist? (Score:5, Informative)

      by MetalliQaZ (539913) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @05:04PM (#36964914)

      Copyright isn't absurd the way software patents are.

      Pretty much everyone, including OSS software developers, desire the benefits of copyright. The way that the MPAA/RIAA goes about enforcement is definitely out of control, but the fundamental issue is okay.

      Software patents, on the other hand, are (at least) well in the the grey area surrounding "what should be patentable". A business process, a mathematical formula, a procedure, an idea? How ethereal can something be and still be someone's property?

      The MAFIAA are trying to change the rules to suit their own interests. Patent trolls, on the other hand, are functioning just fine with the rules the way they are.

      • by bky1701 (979071)
        "Pretty much everyone, including OSS software developers, desire the benefits of copyright."

        Don't confuse the use of copyright with wanting copyright. A good number of open source developers use licenses to prevent their code from getting into copyrighted corporate products, but wouldn't object to just doing away with the whole system. I am one of them.
    • by Cogita (1119237)
      The point of the Economist's article is not that Patents are inherently completely useless. It is that patents, as they currently work, slow innovation. They point out that innovating individuals are no longer able to proceed with their inventions because they are being attacked with patent infringement lawsuits as soon as they prove they have a viable product.

      One of the interesting points they bring up is the inherent fallacy in the "defensive patent". Since patents are by definition supposed to be
  • It can be fixed (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by sqrt(2) (786011)

    The solutions are simple, but not easy, for political reasons. End software and genetic patents, reduce the length of remaining valid patents. It's clear that the vast majority of businesses that have a stake in producing imaginary property wish for nothing to ever enter the public domain ever again--these same corporations are also the most effective lobbyists in the debate and have controlled the message for years, or decades depending on which specific industry you look at.

  • Learn from History (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Daniel_Staal (609844) <DStaal@usa.net> on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @04:42PM (#36964642)

    The exact extent of how much this can impact an Empire's economy can easily be seen by looking back a little bit into history. A couple of hundred years ago a major world-spanning power had quite restrictive and onerous patent and copyright laws (to the point where certain types of boats could only be constructed in particular home ports), and one of their upstart colonies took advantage of that with much more open and innovation-friendly rules.

    The countries in question of course are England and the USA.

    • The Rise and Fall of the British Empire has absolutely nothing to do with it's patent regulations.

      • by robot256 (1635039)
        But you didn't deny the correlation. Absurd patent systems could simply be a symptom rather than a cause of failing empires.
      • Economic power was very much at the core of the British Empire.  Read "Open Veins of Latin America" to get a taste of that from another perspective if you haven't already.  I think the original posters point, though perhaps over-reaching and misunderstanding the motivations of the rich, white land-owners who started the revolution, is still fairly accurate.
        • I mostly think it was a piece of the puzzle. And I don't believe it was a major influence in the why of the split. But it did provide a major benefit after the split that the USA didn't have to abide by England's patent system any longer. In certain industries, (notably shipbuilding) this had major impacts, and basically revived US industries. I think it correlated more closely to the decline of the economic power of the British Empire than anything else, probably as a part of a self-feedback loop like

    • The exact extent of how much this can impact an Empire's economy can easily be seen by looking back a little bit into history. A long time ago a major galaxy-spanning power had quite restrictive and onerous patent and copyright laws (to the point where certain types of ships could only be constructed in particular space ports), and a few of their upstart colonies took advantage of that with much more open and innovation-friendly rules.

      The groups in question of course are the Empire and the Rebel Alliance.

      FTFY, and it still has just as much applicability as what you said!

  • There just isn't any interest among politicians in changing the patent system (or copyright either) until they get nice fat juicy campaign contributions from the people who are screwed by the current "intellectual property" regime.

  • by tp1024 (2409684) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @04:49PM (#36964720)
    The Wright brothers may have been the first to build airplanes that could be adequately controlled and sure they patented it. However, the Americans were the only nation who didn't have operational airplanes during WWI because the patent protection basically prevented improvements of the flaws in the Wright brother's patent protected design. They ended up buying French airplanes instead.
    • by Daniel_Staal (609844) <DStaal@usa.net> on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @06:42PM (#36965986)

      And no current airplanes are direct decedents of the Wright brother's planes. All current planes are derived from competing models that didn't violate the Wright brother's patents.

    • The Wright brothers may have been the first to build airplanes that could be adequately controlled and sure they patented it. However, the Americans were the only nation who didn't have operational airplanes during WWI because the patent protection basically prevented improvements of the flaws in the Wright brother's patent protected design. They ended up buying French airplanes instead.

      This is wrong in almost every way. The Wright brothers had patents in France. And the Americans had operational airplanes during WWI both from the Wright brothers and from the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company. Now, sure, the Americans bought airplanes in France for WWI... because, y'know, the war was in France, and they didn't exactly have transatlantic aircraft carriers or flights then.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tp1024 (2409684)
        Patents that they were incapable of enforcing. Also, back then airplanes were disassembled and transported in boxes.

        Also see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wright_brothers_patent_war [wikipedia.org]

        The Wrights' preoccupation with the legal issue hindered their development of new aircraft designs, and by 1911 Wright aircraft were inferior to those made by other firms in Europe.[9] Indeed, aviation development in the US was suppressed to such an extent that when the U.S. entered World War I no acceptable American-designed aircraft were available, and the U.S. forces were compelled to use French machines.

  • Doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @04:52PM (#36964752) Journal

    The US government plainly does not care whether their policies make sense, or help the people they ostensibly intend to. All that matters is that the right people get kickbacks and that politicians get reelected.

    See the War on Drug Users. This has always been an absurd effort. There has never been an honest argument in favor of criminalizing drugs, and every effort to define a rational policy(from LaGuardia in 1939 to the present day) has recommended decriminalization. Still, the US has waged war on its own citizens for decades, refusing to even allow serious discussion on alternative policies.

    You can expect to see the same here. There will be a war on patent infringers and a war on copyright infringers. They will be devastating to individual liberties, and they will be a drag on our economy. Still, the US will not consider alternatives, and will even put the full force of the US propaganda machine against those who do.

    • War on drugs is different. America is puritan and most politicians are afraid to take a stance that the electorate could see as not being morally pure. But with patents, majority of people either wouldn't care or would favor the little guy. So if a compelling case is made and an anti-software-patent lobby starts pushing (led by Google maybe?), things may change.

  • So how exactly is the US going to fix these problems, given its current political, economical structure and corporate culture? Is there any hope of fixing all the big problems from within the system?

    • There is no such thing as a benevolent dictator. The concept is self-contradictory.
      Can we "fix" the system from within? Sure, as long as we don't resort to stupid solutions like setting up dictators.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        I refuse to accept any benevolent dictator! Unless I get to be the dictator of course...

  • by obarthelemy (160321) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @05:01PM (#36964872)

    the patent system is good for lawyers, who are disproportionately represented in the pools of elected officials, lobbyists, and political contributors. The current system is extremely good for them, and mildly good for politicians in generals as it helps finance the whole lobbying/contributions rigmarole.

    since both parties benefit, and have no balls anyway... things will stay that way.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @05:02PM (#36964888)
    It is true that software patents, such as the one mentioned in the article, should never have been allowed in the first place. They have done almost nothing but damage.

    But aside from the bad decision of allowing software patents, the big problem has been the apparent incompetence of the Patent Office itself: issuing patents for things it never should have (because of things like prior art for example).

    If we want to have rational debate about the matter, we have to distinguish between bad laws (software patents), and bad administration of good laws (just about all the rest).

    Other than the software patent ruling, the system per se isn't flawed. It has just been badly administered, and in some cases abused. Those are not the same things.

    If you're playing poker, and somebody cheats (or fumbles while dealing the cards), that is not a flaw in the rules of poker. Similarly, the fact that our "patent system" is currently being abused in some cases and badly implemented in others is not a flaw in "the system", per se. It's just failure of the responsible parties to do it properly. There is a rather big difference.
    • by robot256 (1635039)
      I agree. Would you like to add isolated genetic material [slashdot.org] to your list of never-should-have-been-patentable patents?
      • Yes, I would. In my opinion that was another mistake. Genetic material is not "altered" and therefore no longer "natural" because it has been taken out of a cell. A dolphin in an aquarium is not "not natural" or "patentable" for that reason, why should DNA be?
    • by Trintech (1137007)

      But aside from the bad decision of allowing software patents, the big problem has been the apparent incompetence of the Patent Office itself: issuing patents for things it never should have (because of things like prior art for example).

      History [wikipedia.org] paints a slightly different story. The Patent Office initially refused to allow software patents and the total number of patents granted per year was fairly small. After being overruled by the supreme court in Diamond v. Diehr, the Patent Office was forced to change its policies. From the wikipedia article:

      In the 1981 case of Diamond v. Diehr, the United States Supreme Court upheld the CCPA's reversal of the USPTO, and ordered the grant of a patent on an invention, a substantial part of which involved use of a computer program which used a well-known formula (the Arrhenius Equation) for calculating the time when rubber was cured and the mold could therefore be opened. The Supreme Court stated that in this case, the invention was not merely a mathematical algorithm, but a process for molding rubber, which was therefore patentable. In the Diehr case, there was no concession that the implementation was conventional, and the process did effectuate a transformation of substances (from uncured rubber to cured rubber). After this point, more patents on software began to be granted, albeit with conflicting and confusing results. After its creation in 1982, the CAFC charted a course that tried to follow the Diehr precedent. Patents were allowed only if the claim included some sort of apparatus, even rather nominal apparatus at times, such as an analog-to-digital converter front end, or in one case a scratch-pad memory for storing intermediate data. A representative decision from this period is In re Schrader, in which the CAFC set forth probably its best and most detailed formulation of the rule it was attempting to follow. Dissatisfaction with the perceived artificiality of this rule erupted, however, in rulings beginning with the en banc 1994 decision in In re Alappat, in which the CAFC majority held that a novel algorithm combined with a trivial physical step constitutes a novel physical device. Therefore, a computing device on which is loaded a mathematical algorithm is a "new machine", which is patentable. This ruling was followed up in In re Lowry, which held that a data structure representing information on a computer's hard drive or memory is similarly to be treated as a patent-eligible physical device. Finally, in State Street Bank v. Signature Financial Group, the CAFC ruled that a numerical calculation that produces a "useful, concrete and tangible result", such as a price, is patent-eligible.

      • "History [wikipedia.org] paints a slightly different story. The Patent Office initially refused to allow software patents and the total number of patents granted per year was fairly small. After being overruled by the supreme court in Diamond v. Diehr, the Patent Office was forced to change its policies. From the wikipedia article:"

        You must have misunderstood me or gotten my context wrong, because I do not (and did not) disagree with any of this.

        • by Trintech (1137007)

          You must have misunderstood me or gotten my context wrong, because I do not (and did not) disagree with any of this.

          Sorry, I should have clarified my point after the except. Basically, what I was trying to point out is that, per the new policy, the addition of an 'apparatus' makes an idea novel. Thus, adding the word 'the internet' to another patent already granted is technically a valid, patentable idea. While anyone with common sense can see its not novel or can think of similar things that have already been done, the fact is the USPTO must follow these ridiculous policies and blaming them for this mess when there is

          • But I did say that was an exception: software patents. That's what software patents are all about: it isn't the software per se that is being patented, but the process. However, it is considered differently because it is implemented by "some apparatus".

            That was simply a bad decision. For something like 80-100 years prior, software was unpatentable (but copyrightable), regardless of whether it controlled some "apparatus". That was the famous ruling in regard to player pianos. The courts reasoned (correct
    • I'd love for you to explain in detail with real world examples what makes software patents so much worse than regular patents. With brothers in both chemical and mechanical engineering, they deal with the same crap we do.

      The problem is not with the patent office itself. Its 'easy' for us to decide what is and is not a valid patent in hindsight looking back on history and dealing with abstracts.

      It's much harder to figure out what a patent is when reading the claims section of an actual patent when an indus

      • "I'd love for you to explain in detail with real world examples what makes software patents so much worse than regular patents. With brothers in both chemical and mechanical engineering, they deal with the same crap we do."

        And I'd love to take a couple of hours to explain it all to you. But I have done so here on Slashdot about 5 different times in the past, when this subject has come up, and I really don't feel like doing it again, even if I had the time to do it.

        But I will briefly summarize, and you can look it up for yourself:

        Software is fundamentally nothing more than a collection of very simple instructions, slung together into different combinations, in order to produce an effect. Guess what else is like that? Wri

        • by ProfBooty (172603)

          Even if you were to end software patents, you would still have methods as a statutory class of invention. I must say that I am unsure what additional protection simply claiming a computer readable medium on which is stored software that preforms the same steps that the applicant claimed in a separate method claim actually provides.

      • "And no, I absolutely don't think you should ever separate the laws from the administration of said laws. I think this is one of the absolute WORST things you can do as a public official."

        No, I did not say that public officials should separate the administration of laws from the laws themselves. What I wrote was that in discussing what the problems are, we need to recognize that sometimes the problem is the law, and sometimes the problem is bad administration of the law.

        Johnson was not exactly my favorite President, but he hit that right on the head:

        "You [should] not examine legislation in the light of the benefits it will convey if properly administered, but in the light of the wrongs

    • by trout007 (975317)

      The flaw in your logic is the same as all centrally planned things. It is easy to describe something in a law or paper but impossible to administer in the real world. It stems from the fact lawyers write laws to be confusing because it gives politicians mo power since you never know if you are violating one.

      Engineers deal with this all of the time with project requirements. A real requirement needs a way to verify it has been met. So a requirement that an assembly machine should run quickly and scrap a mini

      • "The flaw in your logic is the same as all centrally planned things."

        The flaw in MY logic? I think you may have gotten a couple of things backward.

        First off, that's basically what I was saying: we have to recognize that at least sometimes it is bad administration of the law, rather than the law itself.

        But secondly, patents have absolutely nothing to do with "central planning". Quite the contrary. Apples and oranges.

        By law, patents are granted to inventors based on the merits of the invention. The government itself (theoretically) has no control over that. According

    • by chrb (1083577)

      Other than the software patent ruling, the system per se isn't flawed.

      Why do you think software is fundamentally different to, say, electronics? Or design patents? Should someone really be able to patent a phone with a "flat glass screen and rounded edges", or any one of the other patents that the cell phone industry is currently tearing itself apart with?

      Maybe software patents only seem ridiculous because we are all familiar with how software is written? Maybe a patent on wood bonding techniques seems equally ridiculous to a carpenter. Perhaps patents on circuit designs ar

      • by ProfBooty (172603)

        Patents are supposed to be non-obvious to an expert in the field. If that were actually enforced, I suspect 99% of patents would cease to exist.

        It's not supposed to be non-obvious to an expert, rather to one of ordinary skill in the art. In some fields that might require PHd knowledge, others a high school education. Now that being said, how would you meet that standard? The examiner might say its obvious, but that is based on opinion. The applicant will say no its not, and bring a 1.132 declaration by a to

    • by Coppit (2441)

      How do you propose that the USPTO become expert in all non-software endeavors? This isn't purely a question of just administration.

      • That's its job. If it doesn't have experts in a field, it should be consulting those who are.

        I don't know why that would not work. It used to.
    • by slinches (1540051)

      It seems to me that software patents aren't all that great, but I'm no expert on that and can't easily say whether reforms or just better enforcement of the existing rules are needed. There are other issues with the patent system, though, that aren't purely mismanagement.

      Patent trolls have found a loophole in patent law. Namely, that someone other than the inventor can claim ownership of an invention they have no intention of producing. I think something along the lines of the rules below could help solv

      • I don't disagree. I particularly like #2. But for better or worse, software patents have seemed to be by far the single worst "product" for patent trolling. I mean by a long ways.

        Get rid of software patents, and you would probably eliminate about 80% of patent trolling at the same time.
    • by KiloByte (825081)

      It's not just software patents, that's bullshit. Patents are bad in all fields of technology, full stop.

      Just look at Edison's patent trolling. Or how US patents of Wright brothers [wikimedia.org] made the US the only side of WW1 without planes usable in war. Or the effects of patents on medicine.

  • Case in point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msclrhd (1211086) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @05:03PM (#36964896)

    Let's look at two areas of technology: video quality and JavaScript performance.

    With video quality, the relevant technologies for modern techniques are patented. This means that competing products are of a poorer quality or are artificially restricted. The companies that hold the patents are less likely to innovate and build on their existing work (except to create more patents), so the state of the art gets held back and is slow to advance.

    Now with JavaScript performance, take a look at the competition between Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera and Internet Explorer. All these products are competing against each other without resorting to patents. The net result is that you end up with faster JavaScript on all products, allowing for more advanced and interactive websites to be used. It also makes the competitors (Firefox and Internet Explorer) to improve and advance as the other products compete for user share. The net result is that the users of all web browsers benefit and the technology advances rapidly.

    So which one is better for innovation?

    • by mcmonkey (96054)

      With video quality, the relevant technologies for modern techniques are patented. This means...

      ...competing companies have incentive to innovate and build on their existing work to compete with the patented technologies, so the state of the art is fast to advance.

      • by suutar (1860506)
        The catch, though, is they have to make _every single step_ of the process completely new and unrelated to anything that has gone before. That means lots of basic research, which is expensive and unreliable. What company is going to spend that kind of money on something that may not pan out (probably won't) instead of on improving something they already have some control over?
      • by robot256 (1635039)

        With video quality, the relevant technologies for modern techniques are patented. This means...

        ...competing companies have incentive to innovate and build on their existing work to compete with the patented technologies, so the state of the art is fast to advance.

        The key part of your sentence is "build on their existing work". They can't build on the existing work of the patented standard. They can only duplicate effort. And if, by chance, the patent in question covers a mathematical algorithm that is provably the most efficient, then it is inevitable that they will come to the same result (the patent), either intentionally or accidentally, and be unable to continue. Meanwhile, the owner of the patent knows this, and takes his jolly good time improving the paten

  • A big company or even a ghost company can blow up your proyect because it looks like the application of a concept they patented but never developed. On the other hand, China is allowed to mass produce copies of western products and never face the consequences.

  • by RenderSeven (938535) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @05:14PM (#36965052)
    As a small business I have a few patents. Nothing earth-shaking but they're OK and make me a little coin. I dont have even the slightest whiff of the finances to fight off a challenge, or patent war, or even outright theft from any substantial company. So I figure if that ever happens my best recourse is to sell the IP to a Troll in exchange for a percentage of the winnings and let them battle it out.

    Maybe thats the new paradigm, grant a Troll say 20% of future revenue of any patent in exchange for them defending it. Not much different from insurance. Such an arrangement might make someone else think harder before infringing.

    And sorry for using the word 'paradigm' in an open forum.

    • by Urkki (668283)

      Why would patent troll settle for 20%, when a patent is becoming useless to the inventor, and they're expected to take the risk of losing in court? They might give you 20%, if the patents are especially exploitable. Likely you could only use them as a means to exact revenge, giving all financial gain (and risk) to the patent troll.

      • Im just throwing out the 20% number. But the Troll would get 20% of every patent and all future royalties and gains even if its never challenged. Thats not bad money for doing absolutely nothing except expressing a vague threat to potential infringers. But point taken it may not be much compared to litigating. Perhaps sweeten the deal so that the Troll gets 100% of damages and 50% of anything else collected? I cant believe there isnt a new business model in there somewhere for a disreputable lawyer to fines
  • Is /. so stagnated now that they've resorted to just reporting basic facts!?

  • and the other side AKA china is just as bad where any thing can get ripped off with little to no recourse.

  • The author of the linked blog post is Will Wilkinson [willwilkinson.net]. That wasn't immediately obvious to me when I clicked through, so I thought I'd share it. Wikipedia describes his approach [wikipedia.org] as libertarian and "a mixture of John Rawls's principles and Friedrich von Hayek's methods".

    Interesting guy and a good writer.

  • My darlings... the people that have ever greater control over the very atoms of modern life, from our government to our choice of breakfast cereal, have been busy reshaping the world in their own interest. Whatever purpose the patent system might have served when it was created, it now exists to bludgeon the common man into shutting up and doing what corporations tell him to do. IP has been collected and packaged like so many bad home loans, and now the laws are bent to give corporations dominion over what

I came, I saw, I deleted all your files.

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