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Intel Mandates Universities Receiving Funds Not File Patents 223

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the constructive-solutions-who-would-have-thought dept.
sproketboy writes "Since January, four U.S. universities have agreed to host Intel Science and Technology Centers that will be funded at the rate of $2.5 million a year for five years. But wait, there's a catch: the company has made it a condition that in order to receive the millions, your university must open source any resulting software and inventions that come out of this research funding."
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Intel Mandates Universities Receiving Funds Not File Patents

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  • Wait... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Shikaku (1129753) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @03:05PM (#37391150)

    Intel NOT acting anticompetitive?

    • by Noughmad (1044096)

      With Meego, giving away tablets at free software conferences, and Nokia siding with Microsoft, Intel might just be the best hope for free software.

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      This is anticompetitive, it ensures no one else can use these patents as an advantage against intel. Works out well for all of us, but it prevents someone using this money to find something out, patent it, and then bend intel over for the patented tech.

      They've extinguished POTENTIAL competition before it actually existed.

      On that note however, nothing from any university that receives any public funding what so ever should be patentable. You must apply it to the university as a whole, not one program or pa

      • by Sabriel (134364)

        This is anticompetitive, it ensures no one else can use these patents as an advantage against intel

        "These patents" don't exist yet. Intel is simply saying, "You can either have our money now (via funding) or you can have it later (via licensing), but not both. Your choice."

        Works out well for all of us, but it prevents someone using Intel's money to find something out, patent it, and then bend intel over for the patented tech.

        Fixed that for you. :)

        They've extinguished POTENTIAL competition before it act

      • by mysidia (191772) *

        This is anticompetitive, it ensures no one else can use these patents as an advantage against intel.

        No, it ensures noone can use those patents against anyone else.....

        No law prohibits a company from being anticompetitive in the form of disallowing another company from stealing the legal rights to their own investment, to enable the 'competitor' to put the company who made the original investment at a disadvantage, by having rights to research the original company funded.

        Intel could have specified

  • While I like this idea, doesn't it cause problems with first to file?

    I just imagine a scenario where a university discovers something, doesn't file a patent, and megacorp comes along and patents it. With first to file, Megacorp gets the patent.

    Maybe there's something I'm missing, but to me it would seem better that the university file the patent, but not be able to enforce it.

    • Re:First to file? (Score:5, Informative)

      by psst (777711) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @03:11PM (#37391212) Homepage
      In that scenario, the university publishes the idea and it becomes prior art.
      • Its even easier than that. A patent is granted to the inventor. You can't take another persons invention to the patent office.
    • Re:First to file? (Score:5, Informative)

      by BitterOak (537666) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @03:12PM (#37391216)

      While I like this idea, doesn't it cause problems with first to file?

      I just imagine a scenario where a university discovers something, doesn't file a patent, and megacorp comes along and patents it. With first to file, Megacorp gets the patent.

      Maybe there's something I'm missing, but to me it would seem better that the university file the patent, but not be able to enforce it.

      As long as the university publishes their discoveries, there would be demonstrable prior art.

    • Re:First to file? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Znork (31774) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @03:16PM (#37391278)

      With first to file you still cannot patent anything that has already been published, so as long as the university publishes instead of sitting on the invention then nobody else can come along and file for a patent.

    • by gurps_npc (621217)
      You are missing the prior art requirement. If someone else publishes, then no one can legally file to patent.
  • ...as long as Intel makes all their software and inventions open source as well.
    • by Noughmad (1044096) <miha.cancula@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @03:20PM (#37391324) Homepage

      For one, they are the only major GPU maker that actually releases open source drivers.

      • For two, if you want them to OSS their internal research, you can pay for it.

      • But Nvidias closed source linux drivers are still better.

        My preference for awesome open source drivers but if my choice is for awesome binary blobs or sucky open source drivers
        ill take binary blobs for $100 alex.

  • by Lexx Greatrex (1160847) * on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @03:15PM (#37391270) Homepage Journal

    I like bashing faceless mega corporations as much as the next guy, but this seems to be ... a benign act.

    • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @03:37PM (#37391506) Homepage

      I like bashing faceless mega corporations as much as the next guy, but this seems to be ... a benign act.

      It's worse than that ... it's almost designed to improve the overall state of the art, without Intel gaining exclusive access to the research, thereby making it possible for just anybody to gain from this. I'm outraged.

      I mean, that's almost communism. No patents? No royalties? No licensing fees? No lawyers? Just good old fashioned university research opened up for all to see?

      Do you realize how badly this could cripple the economy? ;-)

      (Kidding aside ... I wonder if the academic journals would muck with this somehow. They take copyright of the papers, for instance.)

      I do applaud Intel for this ... when I first read this, I thought the string was they they get the patents. This really is funding open research.

      • by Talderas (1212466)

        Intel gets to ensure that they get to use the discoveries causes by the research without having to pay licensing for it.

        They're essentially outsourcing brain-storming to universities then take what they come up with and refine it with their own engineers at a cost far lower than what they would need to self invest. It's open source because Intel wants to be able to use the research and there's no way the universities would accept the money and give any inventions that came from it to Intel.

      • by Bengie (1121981)

        copyright != patent

        While they could lay claim to the paper, they could never claim ownership to what the paper describes.

    • by tunapez (1161697)

      I, too, am skeptical. What's in the other hand? Would they be able to patent the tech ex post facto with the 'First To File' rules?

  • Makes sense to me (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Intel simply doesn't want to pay for patents on ideas generates with its financial support. Here's the precedent they are trying to prevent from happening again: http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/1557536/intel-settles-university-wisconsin [theinquirer.net]
  • Hope it sticks. Also should result in more of the money going to research instead of being used up on patent fees.

  • NSF Next? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xphile101361 (1017774) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @03:37PM (#37391504)
    So why aren't we doing this with the national science foundation as well? Shouldn't research paid for "by the people" be available "to the people"?
    • by steelfood (895457)

      Maybe this will set a precedent, where all research funded by an external agent has patent clauses attached to them.

      Of course, this could swing both ways. Oracle could insist that all patents to research results it funded be assigned to Oracle.

    • by DRJlaw (946416)

      Because the Bayh-Dole Act [wikipedia.org] was enacted by a Congress (which funds the NSF) that does not agree with you in the the same sense.

      Research money has to come from somewhere. It can come from your taxes, it can come from university money, or it can (and does) come from a combination of the two. Universities can make money by charging students fees or by licensing patents to inventions developed by their staff (and student employees). Money made by licensing patents has the advantage of coming from commercial pa

      • by pavon (30274)

        Research money has to come from somewhere. It can come from your taxes, it can come from university money, or it can (and does) come from a combination of the two.

        The entire reason that we fund research is because we believe the knowledge will help advance society. Given that, more widely this knowledge is used, the greater effect it will have and the more it will improve the standard of living. By restricting who can use the knowledge we are artificially decreasing our return on investment for tax-funded research. I would argue that the opportunity cost of doing so far outweighs the money saved by university patent revenue.

        It is -- in the same way that a public ampitheater paid for by the people is available "to the people." Not every person has the right to use the stage at any given time,

        That is because it is impossible for everyo

        • by DRJlaw (946416)

          I would argue that the opportunity cost of doing so far outweighs the money saved by university patent revenue.

          [citation needed]

          Congress argues differently. There's a legislative history of debate to support it.

          Congress wins.

  • Now if only the government would grow some balls and make the same condition for government research grants...
    • by FudRucker (866063)
      heck yeah, since the tax payers are footing the bill for a lot of research and development then the taxpayers and public should be among the first to benefit from products developed by them
  • ... someone else will. We have a first to file situation here. This is RIDICULOUSLY dumb on Intel's part. A nice sentiment, better executed by stating, "All fruits of this research must be patented by this foundation we've set up, which allows open, free licensing to anybody and everybody." Defensive patents are the only security you have; non-patent clauses just guarantee somebody other than your allies will patent! Ask Google, specifically whomever wrote the $12.1 billion check to acquire defensive patent

    • by 2short (466733)

      Prior art: look it up.

      • Sure. You'd win a legal challenge. If you spent millions litigating it first. And you get a decent judge/jury. A small startup wouldn't stand a prayer, prior art or no. Look at the suits Rambus won with 2 patents that were later invalidated (think it was on /. today). You think those companies are getting their money back? Why take the risk?

        • If we are going with the cold realities of our broken patent system, you can get patents on stuff that's already patented by someone else if you word it differently enough, so it doesn't really matter what the universities do.
          • Sure, but why not take all the defensive steps available to you?

            • by idontgno (624372)

              Which devolves into everyone engaging in free-for-all patent blackmail, patenting everyone else's portfolios just to obscure the landscape. Oh, just like it actually is right now.

              Here's a hint: the phrase "defensive patent" is best understood in the context of the old rubric, "The best defense is a strong offense."

        • by c0lo (1497653)

          Sure. You'd win a legal challenge. If you spent millions litigating it first.

          With a prior art in public domain, why should I litigate first? I mean: I already have a proof in the public domain that I discovered that, shouldn't be the burden of the other to demonstrate the validity of its patent in the conditions of prior art?

          • Because when somebody sues you, even if there's prior art, you're still litigating. You're still paying your lawyers to prepare your claims, etc. That all takes time and money.

            Just because you're right, doesn't mean there won't be a fight. More than half the lawsuits between corporations are settled because one company can't afford to keep up its legal defense.

    • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @03:59PM (#37391716)

      As others have commented, first to file doesn't apply if the research has been made public. Since universities rely on publish or perish, the most likely scenario is that anything produced through Intel funding will be considered prior art when an outside party then tries to patent it. Assuming that the software is GPL'd, then it must include the GPL required headers, etc. So, if somebody does try to usurp it, then the university can sue them for license violations.

      What Intel is proposing is how Universities used to operate prior to the 1980s. Somebody did research, presented a paper at a conference, others picked it up and expanded on that research and then presented at another conference, etc., etc. There were no patents and information flowed relatively freely and knowledge expanded. That is how the university system was designed to work.

      Come the 1980s and tax law changes, universities focused more on monetarizing their research to fund other things (not necessarily a bad thing), but the way it played out was that the patents were then sold to other companies who then used them to build war chests and limit competition.

      Intel is every bit in its right to insist that if you want to use their money for research, these are the stipulations. If a university doesn't like having to make the fruits of the research public and available to all, they are free to use the money from somebody else.

      It is interesting to note that the biggest advances in science, at least in the US, came under systems in which the information was freely shared. Since keeping research private and seeking patents, the US has gone from being a leader int he scientific community to a follower. But at least somebody made a bunch of money of them.

      • I agree, openness is the point and I applaud Intel for taking that stance. I just think that patenting and putting into an open consortium that anyone could use would be a safer way to do it. Before the 1980s and the era when universities had to fight for survival, things were much less cut-throat. Now, it's everybody for themselves, and I sense that anything you don't explicitly protect is open to attack from all corners. Complicating matters is that in most IP disputes, might (money) makes right.

      • As others have commented, first to file doesn't apply if the research has been made public. Since universities rely on publish or perish, the most likely scenario is that anything produced through Intel funding will be considered prior art when an outside party then tries to patent it. Assuming that the software is GPL'd, then it must include the GPL required headers, etc. So, if somebody does try to usurp it, then the university can sue them for license violations.

        Plus, open source is the best kind of publication in some respects, because it is a complete disclosure of the exact technique being used. Of course, a patent examiner will rarely have time to dig into source code to figure out if a claim can be rejected on that basis, so it's also important to provide other publication such as a conference or journal article.

  • They're probably doing this because universities were selling the patents to companies that would then compete with Intel.

  • Sounds like Intel is basically crowdsourcing the universities for it's research. They can go back and apply for the patents themselves.

  • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @03:49PM (#37391612)

    I wish the US government would take a similar approach -- any royalties a university receives should go back to the government in the proportion of the funding provided. If a university payed for research costs with 50% from the government then royalties from the patent should be split 50% with the government. If the government provided 100% funding, then 100% of the royalties should go beck to the government. In doing this, then the government is truly investing in research instead of just paying the bills.

    I also would include corporations, too. If the government provides x% of funding for the creation of a new drug, then x% of the profits should come back to the government, since it is the taxpayer that footed the bill in the first place.

    The other alternative is what Intel is proposing -- we will pay for the research, but everybody has the right to benefit from it.

    • I think you are being far to generous. If government funding of a project is over x% or $x, then you can't get a patent at all on the research that money resulted in. Patents are much like a subsidy, and government funding is a subsidy. Allowing one organization to receive both in any substantial manner is double dipping, which should not be tolerated.
  • I for one would like to say "thank you" to Intel. For once you've chosen not to go evil. Hopefully this "federal funding for state adoption of policy" style of coercion will catch on a bit more with respect to freeing up university research from patent encumbrance. Now if only a similar carrot could be invented and dangled in front of the rest of the corporate world. Tax breaks in proportion to the value of openly published not patented R&D...?
  • Nothing can be open with the incoming patent changes. The new first to file rule means I could file a patent on anything open, and they can't do jack.

    I spent several hours learning the expected ramification on the law last weekend. You think it's borken now? ha!

    You heard me!

    • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

      While first to file is about to become a reality in the US, if the patent is for something that you don't hold a license or copyright for, how can you patent it? Unlike the person sitting at home who develops something and somebody copies it (or even a corporation), Intel states specifically that it needs to be released as open source (which would imply something like GPL). Code under a GPL license doesn't grant the user the right to patent it. Just like if I broke into a research facility and stole thei

  • I wonder if this move is influenced from patent madness occurring in the mobile world, where Intel is currently behind on the curve and wants to catch up.
  • It's apparent from jobs.intel.com that Intel has a large appetite for employees who hold PhDs. Maybe they actually want more people to perform advanced research in semiconductors, computer science, and computer architecture, so they can hire those people? It certainly looks like they're willing to put their money where their appetite is. The "open source" provision is a no-brainier way of protecting themselves from having to pay royalties steaming from research they contribute to. At the very worst, it
  • by mbkennel (97636) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @06:49PM (#37393062)

    It's decided that the advantages of patenting have started to flow less and less to companies like Intel, and more to patent trolls. Intel is not the bad guy here.

    Therefore, it is in Intel's interest to fund research in areas it may want to commercialize, and simultaneously preclude patenting by insisting on open publication and no patenting.

    In this scenario, the entity with the most money (i.e. somebody like Intel) wins if they have sufficient drive.

    More realistically, they want to preclude the people funded by Intel to set up a startup on their own, one whose primary asset is the people and the patent estate. This way Intel can hire them as ordinary employees who are impoverished postdocs instead of having to first buy them out and then hire them.

    • by paulsnx2 (453081)
      It is possible that Intel just wants to do the right thing, and that is because doing the right thing will help them. They know Universities and their research are not going to spawn Chip Fabs. Those efforts cost Billions. No, the small start ups are going to compete against other companies more than they will against Intel. It is about taking down many competitors more than it will take down Intel.

      And fewer trolls will mean more start ups to buy. They couldn't care less about impoverishing post doc
  • by muecksteiner (102093) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @02:50AM (#37395794)

    Recently, we hosted a small-ish academic conference here at the university where I work, and I was one of the local organisers. Since we are in CS, potential sponsors are all the big name computing companies - Intel et. al.

    Intel was very nice (it helped that we knew some researchers who work there, but still - everyone else was genuinely nice as well), and sponsored us. And interestingly, they have one non-negotiable condition for sponsoring academic conferences: the authors of presented papers *must* be allowed to put pre-prints of the papers (i.e. PDFs of the paper) on the web free of charge.

    And that is a seriously cool think to ask for, because it prevents any sponsoring to go to the sort of conference which has papers disappear from general sight after publication, and only stores them behind a paywall of some sort. This is almost as important for research as the whole patents thing - *huge* kudos to Intel overall, someone has a major clue there!

    A.

"Bureaucracy is the enemy of innovation." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments

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