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Why Patent Reform Won't Happen Anytime Soon 110

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-it-is-patented dept.
jfruhlinger writes "'If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.' So said Bill Gates in the 1980s. Now, of course, Microsoft is one of the biggest software patent holders around. And that's the key to the problem of software patent reform: the companies that had the most incentive to face the problem found it cheaper and easier to buy up patent war chests instead. And Congress won't act unless big stakeholders (read: big companies) make a stink."
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Why Patent Reform Won't Happen Anytime Soon

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  • by backslashdot (95548) * on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @06:13PM (#37321648)

    It's called the "America Invents Act" and it stands to make the patent system 100x worse: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/America_Invents_Act [wikipedia.org]

    Very few patents are for actual original innovations that warrant an up to 21 year monopoly (1 year from disclosure plus 20 from filing date). Let me give you an example .. the concept of a magnetic breakaway safety mechanism for power cords was invented in the 1990's for deep fryers (though it may actually have a longer history than that). In the early 2000s, Apple got a patent for the same concept when applied to electronic devices. Does Apple really deserve a 21 year monopoly for copying an idea that someone else came up with .. just because they added the word "electronics devices" ?

    There should be standards for obviousness .. for example if it's a combination of a two things .. one of which recently came into existence .. then there is no reason for the patent issuance .. since it's likely an obvious idea to combine the two. Also for patent interference (when two people file a patent on the same thing before either has publicly disclosed it), the patent should be denied. Why? because if two people can come up with the idea around the same time that means it's probably not a great idea in the first place -- most likely it's an inevitable evolution.

    Everytime a new device comes out people will rush to the patent office to file claims. For example when a new flying car comes out .. people will rush to file a patent on "GPS in flying cars" or maybe even ridiculous things like "doors in flying cars". A company in 1994, Acacia, got a patent on HTML in CDROMs and started trying to sue everyone who made CDROMS that have HTML code in it (sounds crazy, but google it).

    OK, now there's that .. now here is something scarier .. the America Invents Act .. which is very shortly due to become law (its in the reconciliation process). The new law redefines what an inventor is (in order to get around the US Constitution which says only inventors can have patents) .. by defining inventor to be anyong who independently comes up with an idea. So that means that if you come with an idea before me, and can even prove it .. say you posted in online (somewhere which doesn't count as printed publication) .. I can still get the patent for your idea .. as long as I 1) File for the and pay the patent fee first and 2) state that I came up with the idea independently (though after you).

    Not only that think about all the stuff out there that has not been patented .. for example .. In computer science .. the Bubble sort (to be honest I am not sure if it's patented .. but there are other algorithms out there of equal value that haven't) .. today maybe many apps on mobile phones may be implementing bubble sort in mobile phones applications .. but nobody got the patent on it .. I can file for a patent on "using the bubble sort patent in a mobile phone app" .. similarly I can go through all the computer science books and start patenting all the various algorithms by appending "on a mobile device" to it. The pay off will be huge and it will all be legal. Heck maybe I can patent the Bubble sort itself .. by claiming that I independently came up with it!

    Of course, I sound ridiculous right ? How could they really be making such a dumb law? And why (it's to take away the burden from the patent office for having to google for prior art because a lot of patents were being overturned in lawsuits when it turned out that a simple google search would have brought up prior art .. thus humiliating the patent office). Read it for yourself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/America_Invents_Act [wikipedia.org]

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.

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