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Congress Asks Patent Office To Consider Secret Patents 285

Posted by samzenpus
from the prior-secret-art dept.
Fluffeh writes "The USPTO is considering a rather interesting request straight from lobbyists via congress: that certain 'Economically Significant' patents should be kept secret during the process (PDF Warning) of being evaluated and granted. While this does occur at the moment on a very select few patents 'due to national security' for things like nuclear energy and the like — this would allow it to go much, much further. 'By statute, patent applications are published no earlier than 18 months after the filing date, but it takes an average of about three years for a patent application to be processed. This period of time between publication and patent award provides worldwide access to the information included in those applications. In some circumstances, this information allows competitors to design around U.S. technologies and seize markets before the U.S. inventor is able to raise financing and secure a market.'"
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Congress Asks Patent Office To Consider Secret Patents

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  • by David Gerard (12369) <slashdot@@@davidgerard...co...uk> on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:05AM (#39843507) Homepage

    ... nothing to see here. The success of the corruption program has reached far enough they can pull blatant shit like this and it's hard to stop them.

    So what are the likely consequences of this terrible, terrible idea?

    • by ankhank (756164) * on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:31AM (#39843675) Journal

      .A patent for Feudalism(TM) has been issued to [not disclosed]

      To preserve economic security (not yours, the patent owner's)
      your social status will of necessity be adjusted accordingly.

      Your new position is at the the top of the heap.
      The heap is downwind of the feedlot.

      Boots, shovels and pitchforks will be issued.
      Gas masks may be purchased at the company store.
      Credit against your and your children's future earnings is, of course, available.

      • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday April 30, 2012 @09:01AM (#39843939)

        Capitalism called, citing prior art.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          Obviously feudalism came first ... that said, capitalism is just feudalism with a more even distribution of ownership of productive assets.

          Only exponential growth and socialism can keep capitalism from devolving back into feudalism ... and exponential growth has hit the wall of peak fucking everything.

          • by Poorcku (831174)

            Now I know how politicians are elected. With sweeping statements like that one.

          • Though I'm not intimately familiar with the business workings of Ancient Babylon (and other civilizations), the vast majority had private enterprise (ie capitalism) in place long before the feudal system
        • by Nyder (754090)

          Capitalism called, citing prior art.

          History called, has a patent on people not learning from the past, will see you in court.

    • Catch 22 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by roman_mir (125474) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:44AM (#39843779) Homepage Journal

      -Sir, you are being accused of violating a patent.
      -What patent?
      -We cannot tell you that, catch 22.
      -But don't you have to tell me what I am violating?
      -No, it's the law.

      • Re:Catch 22 (Score:5, Interesting)

        by vandon (233276) on Monday April 30, 2012 @11:40AM (#39845799) Homepage

        -Sir, you are being accused of violating a patent.
        -What patent?
        -We cannot tell you that, catch 22.
        -But don't you have to tell me what I am violating?
        -No, it's the law.

        I know this post was just /s, but you realize, there are already secret laws in place from Homeland security that we can be arrested, charged with, and found guilty all in secret without anything being disclosed to you or a jury.
        So, I wouldn't say it's far fetched to have this happen sometime soon.

        • Re:Catch 22 (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Creepy (93888) on Monday April 30, 2012 @01:52PM (#39847629) Journal

          I still don't see what the point is. At my company we have patents and we have trade secrets. If someone figures out our trade secret on their own and patents it and sues us, we claim and prove prior art (trade secrets are written up just like patents but filed with corporate lawyers instead - I don't know what they do with them, but I suspect they are dated and notarized). Sure you don't get 20 years of protection with a trade secret, but sometimes that is more valuable than a patent since other people that try to do the same thing may do it in a bad way like one of our competitors did copying one of our features (the one I'm referring to works, it just performs poorly compared to ours, and how we get that performance is a trade secret).

      • Re:Catch 22 (Score:5, Informative)

        by Zordak (123132) on Monday April 30, 2012 @02:08PM (#39847879) Homepage Journal

        This summary and the article it's based on are both dismal failures. They are rabid, uninformed rantings of anti-patent morons.

        The only thing you have to do to have a patent not get published until it issues is file a non-publication request, and not file in foreign countries. I do it for my clients all the time. And it's not quite what you're saying above. Until the patent issues, you can't sue somebody on it. The best you can do is inform them that they might possibly infringe your patent if and when it issues in the future. This is a regular practice, and depending on a lot of factors, may or may not accomplish something. Either way, you can't sue and your damages don't run until the day your patent issues.

        But if you publish your application, you actually have a legally stronger threat, because you may get provisional rights that will date back to your publication if your patent issues substantially unchanged from when it published. That means you can send your published application to somebody and tell them, "I think this patent will issue substantially unchanged. If it does, I will be seeking a reasonable royalty starting from the day I informed you of this publication." You still can't sue until the patent issues, but you might get some money for the period between when it was published and when it issues.

        That is not what the attached request is about. There are certain applications that are prevented from being published or issued until the government decrees that they no longer have to be classified. This is generally not a good thing for an inventor. It means there is very limited opportunity to exploit his invention. It means that his patent can sit in limbo for years. This request relates to whether similar "protection" should be extended to some patents that are "economically important."

        It may or may not be a good idea. But it is not the doom and gloom scenario that the stupid article makes it sound like. This is the equivalent to some rube on the street hearing that Linus Torvalds is a famous "hacker" and demanding that Linus be jailed immediately for his heinous crimes.

    • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:54AM (#39843867) Homepage

      ... nothing to see here. Period.

      Likely consequences are absolutely nothing, in the grand scheme of information freedom. Patent protection remains the same, but there's less risk in patenting technologies that are likely to be copied outright by other companies.

      Currently, if you file a major patent for a Widget that will change the world, it'll take three years for that patent to be approved. During those three years, a smart businessman will be gathering funding to produce Widgets (or license them off to someone who can) to recoup the research investment. In 18 months, an evil company will likely see the patent application, and start preparing legal battles to screw with the inventor while producing their own FooBarBaz. If the inventor is financially weaker than the aggressor, there's a good chance FooBarBaz will be able to enter production faster and penetrate the market better, defeating the whole point of the patent process in the first place.

      By allowing patents to be secret until they're protected, the inventor doesn't need to rush into license and production negotiations, because the cloning company can't sprint past them. When they do start negotiations, the inventor has a bit more leverage, because their technology is patented, rather than just pending.

      • by h4rr4r (612664) on Monday April 30, 2012 @09:05AM (#39843975)

        By allowing secret patents people could be infringing and have no way of knowing. A applies for a patent, B produces the item not knowing of A's pending patent has good sales for two years and then is sued into the ground.

        • by ATMAvatar (648864)
          And inevitably: A applies for patent without secret protection, B notices the item after 18 months when the patent is revealed, slips some money under the table and declares that they now have a secret patent that was applied 3 years prior.
        • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday April 30, 2012 @09:27AM (#39844203) Homepage

          Then company B walks into a courtroom, says "the patent was secret. We had no way of knowing the patented technology. Unless A can prove espionage, the patent should be re-examined and thrown out as being obvious, since our researchers were clearly able to produce the same technology from simply the current state of the art."

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Then company B walks into a courtroom, says "the patent was secret. We had no way of knowing the patented technology. Unless A can prove espionage, the patent should be re-examined and thrown out as being obvious, since our researchers were clearly able to produce the same technology from simply the current state of the art."

            Ah, we fixed that with First to File.

            • by Sarten-X (1102295)

              First-to-file is irrelevant. It only clarifies who legally invented something first. Here, we know that A invented first, and we know that B didn't know it was already invented.

        • by zalas (682627)

          I'm pretty sure this already happens without secret patents. For example, companies will tell software engineers to never read anything about patents so that if they do infringe, it won't be wilful.

        • by tnk1 (899206)

          The patents aren't secret here, the approval process for one is. Yes, there may be a company that somehow goes from zero to patentable process in the 3 years of the secret process and when they go to patent it, it gets denied due to a secret patent application.

          On the other hand, there could be a requirement that the simple fact that the process has been discovered is public, but the details are secret. That way no one knows to bother with investing in it.

          There is a real concern that companies in places li

      • by Baloroth (2370816)

        Then the legal process around enforcing the patent itself should be reformed, not the patenting process. In the example you just gave, the inventor could (or should be able to) sue the maker of FooBarBaz and be awarded not only the money from the sales of the device, but also block all further sales. That means the evil company loses all the money from making and selling the device, plus being unable to sell it anymore. That is the point of the patent process. If the inventor can't do that under the current

        • by Sarten-X (1102295)

          I'm in favor of both.

          Currently, suing against FooBarBaz is only feasible if the Widget inventor has enough money to start the legal process. Of course, this isn't restricted to just patent lawsuits, so the entire legal climate will need to change to reduce the starting cost of a suit, which also means better means to expedite frivolous lawsuits, etc...

          As a stopgap measure until we revamp the entire American legal system, this helps.

      • by rmstar (114746)

        By allowing patents to be secret until they're protected, the inventor doesn't need to rush into license and production negotiations, because the cloning company can't sprint past them. When they do start negotiations, the inventor has a bit more leverage, because their technology is patented, rather than just pending.

        As far as I am concerned, that is a bad thing. I want cloning companies to sprint past "inventors", so that they can keep single players from holding back progress. If sprinting past them is e

        • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday April 30, 2012 @10:05AM (#39844641) Homepage

          I want cloning companies to sprint past "inventors", so that they can keep single players from holding back progress.

          So you're saying you don't want patents at all. Okay. "Survival of the most-connected" is a valid theory, though I personally don't think it's best for most people.

          If sprinting past them is even possible, then the "inventor" has no business getting a patent.

          "I've spent 5 years inventing this Widget, but I'm not a shrewd businessman who's well-connected to suppliers and fabricators. I guess I shouldn't be inventing."

          What you want is further empowerment of trolls. This is downright evil, and I have no choice but assuming that you work for a patent troll or are one yourself.

          I want empowerment of people who invest their time and money inventing things. I'm one myself, and so's my uncle, my father, great-grandfather, and more of my inlaws than I can recall. Not one of our patents have ever been trollish, or done anything but contribute to their field (though the portable chiropractic table is debatable). You must be right though... since I disagree with you, I'm clearly a paid shill working for a patent troll. Funny how it looks like the IT department of a financial service company...

          As it stands, it is possible to corner huge markets with pretty minor contributions by just being shrewd in ways that have nothing to do with the technology itself

          Congratulations, you've discovered marketing. Welcome to the last millennium.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Lumpy (12016)

            "Survival of the most-connected" is a valid theory, though I personally don't think it's best for most people.

            it's the one we are currently running on, contrary to the fairy tales told to you in school.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Sarten-X (1102295)

              Contrary to the horror stories told to you by the hivemind, it's also what the patent system helps reduce. The patent protection (should, and often does) keep the well-connected people and companies at bay while you have a chance to build your own connections so you can compete in the real world. Patents do not guarantee profit or even breaking even... they give the inventor a chance.

              One of those patents I'm connected to is for a particular type of gravimetric feeder. The inventor's day job was shoveling co

              • by s73v3r (963317)

                Sadly, today, that employee would have been forced to sign an agreement saying that anything he invents is property of the company, and not his.

      • by devent (1627873)
        How about Plan B, reform the justice system so your scenario will become more unlikly? But of course, the solution is to make new laws that will benefit only a few big companies, instead of making it more fairer for everyone.
    • by sl4shd0rk (755837)

      So what are the likely consequences of this terrible, terrible idea?

      The 1% will not only control congress and copyright, but also the patent system.

    • by Sez Zero (586611)
      Secrets lead to corruption.
  • Trade secrets (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bradley13 (1118935) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:07AM (#39843515) Homepage

    If you want to keep you sooper-seekrit advantage, it's called a "trade secret" and you don't patent it.

    If your technology is so non-useful that someone can easily design around it and capture the market in 18 months, it is either useless, or so trivial that it shouldn't be patented in the first place.

    Sound like the patent trolls are funding lobbiests.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If it is cheaper to design around a patent than it is to license it, the license cost is too high. This is very common for patent that are worth next to nothing. Being awarded a patent is no guarenty that it is worth more than zero.
      Interestingly, the "design around" is worth _exactly_ as much as the license cost of the original patent, and your competitor can patent and market this work-around.

      • Re:Trade secrets (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mwvdlee (775178) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:47AM (#39843799) Homepage

        Yet these are exactly the kind of thing patents were invented for.
        Patents are meant to publically disclose specific solution in exchange for a short period of exclusivity.
        Ideas should not be patentable.
        Problems should not be patentable.
        Implementations of a solution should not be patentable (copyright applies in this case).
        Any protection stretching beyond the period of commercial viability of the solution should not be allowed (IMHO, it should be less).

        Patents were not meant to reward the act of inventing. They were meant to compensate for act of sharing.

        • by iPaul (559200)

          I can't mod you up more, but totally agree. The enlightenment beliefs underly to the US constitution believed that sharing scientific and industrial information would allow for greater progress.

        • Re:Trade secrets (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday April 30, 2012 @09:16AM (#39844093) Homepage

          Implementations of a solution should not be patentable (copyright applies in this case).

          Yes they should, and no, it doesn't.

          A patent covers the mechanism of an implementation: Lever A pushes toggle B changing path C...

          Copyright covers the details: Lever A (which is built of steel truss and painted royal blue, whose fulcrum is an axle mounted between two oak panels) pushes toggle B (built of brushed aluminum, and attached to a platform holding so a little statue of a German holding a full beer stein, raised to chin level as in a toast) changing path C (which is a semicircular track made from copper mesh, which carries blue marbles made of recycled glass, at a 5% incline)...

          Or, to put it another absurd way, copyright covers Star Wars. A patent would cover the monomyth. You can write a different story using the same design by changing the characters and circumstances, but the underlying design is still the same.

          Copyright and patents have entirely different intents. Neither one solves the other's problem.

          • by mwvdlee (775178)

            Agreed. My intent of the word "implementation" would be more akin to the specific type of bricks and mortar rather than the method by which they are stacked to create a wall. We need a definition which states where an implementation ends and the description of the implementation (the mechanism) ends.

            • by Sarten-X (1102295)

              I doubt there's any definitions that will suffice.

              To build a wall 100 feet high, you must use Chit's Bricks, stacked as so, and connected with Chit's Mortar. Now is that because Chit's Bricks and Mortar are made stronger, so they'll support a wall 100 feet high, or is it because they're shiny, so it'll look good? One's a patent issue, the other's copyright (or design patent, but that overlap really only exists for trivial cases)

              The practical distinction is that a patent for covers only the vital components

    • by wbr1 (2538558)
      Mod parent up...
      That is what trade secrets are for. To use food examples, coke has never patented it's formula.. all the copies and generics are just guesses. The same is true of General Mills. I remember watching a documentary a year or two ago, where no one was allowed in the area where they design new breakfast cereals. Simply for the fact that they are very closely held trade secrets, and to patent them would allow others to derive similar but different recipes much more easily.
      If you need the prot
      • Re:Trade secrets (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Moryath (553296) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:56AM (#39843897)

        Hate to spoil a few things for you but:

        - Colonel's original recipe:chicken grease salt.
        - Coca Cola recipe: right here [snopes.com], most likely genuine.

        Now as to the USPTO, the problem is that they are no longer paid to DENY patents. In the late 1970s/early 1980s, republicans in key positions began playing games with the system, setting up metrics for the patent examiners that judged their performance not by the number of processed patents, but by the number of APPROVED patents. Examine several patents a week, deny most of them, and your "job performance" was not as good as the moron who just rubber-stamped stuff a few cubicles down.

        To top that, corporations came up with the idea of "patent slamming." The idea was to overload the patent system; every time the tiniest change to a system was made, it was filed as a new patent by the giant companies like IBM, Microsoft, Apple, GM, GE, etc. Particularly nauseating about it have been certain software houses, where it seems every new line of code ends up farted out by some shyster in the legal department as a new patent application.

        The result has been that for about the last 30 years, the USPTO has been pointless. Not to say that meaningful patents are denied, but so many meaningless patents are granted that any patent in the past 30 years is suspect.

        Patents like making a rectangle [forbes.com]. Or turning a playing card sideways [gatheringmagic.com], a patent so fucking stupidly absurd it should have been laughed out of the office and shipped back to the fucking morons at WOTC/Hasborg along with a copy of Hoyle's Rules for Card Games as century-old prior art.

        • Patents like making a rectangle. Or turning a playing card sideways, a patent so fucking stupidly absurd it should have been laughed out of the office and shipped back to the fucking morons at WOTC/Hasborg along with a copy of Hoyle's Rules for Card Games as century-old prior art.

          Your first link just goes to an article, not a patent. The second link goes to the original M:tG patent, which has many more limitations than just "turning a playing card sideways." Specifically:

          1. A method of playing games involving two or more players, the method being suitable for games having rules for game play that include instructions on drawing, playing, and discarding game components, and a reservoir of multiple copies of a plurality of game components, the method comprising the steps of:

          each player constructing their own library of a predetermined number of game components by examining and selecting game components from the reservoir of game components;

          each player obtaining an initial hand of a predetermined number of game components by shuffling the library of game components and drawing at random game components from the player's library of game components; and

          each player executing turns in sequence with other players by drawing, playing, and discarding game components in accordance with the rules until the game ends, said step of executing a turn comprises:

          (a) making one or more game components from the player's hand of game components available for play by taking the one or more game components from the player's hand and placing the one or more game components on a playing surface; and

          (b) bringing into play one or more of the available game components by:

          (i) selecting one or more game components; and

          (ii) designating the one or more game components being brought into play by rotating the one or more game components from an original orientation to a second orientation.

          And, contrary to what you think, the Patent Office cannot simply laugh an application "out of the office". Patents are legal documents, and the Patent Office is an administrative entity, subject to the Constitutional requirements of due process. A judge can't simply convict someone of murder based on a gut feeling w

          • Re:Trade secrets (Score:4, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2012 @10:27AM (#39844903)

            And you're a fucking moron. Because prior art is FUCKING EVERYWHERE.

            each player constructing their own library of a predetermined number of game components by examining and selecting game components from the reservoir of game components;

            Stratego.

            each player obtaining an initial hand of a predetermined number of game components by shuffling the library of game components and drawing at random game components from the player's library of game components; and

            Poker. Go Fish.

            each player executing turns in sequence with other players by drawing, playing, and discarding game components in accordance with the rules until the game ends, said step of executing a turn comprises:

            Go Fish. Or Steve Jackson's Car Wars. Or Robo Rally.

            In other words, you're a fucking moron. Go step in front of a bus and die before you breed and infect the next generation.

        • by Nidi62 (1525137)

          Hate to spoil a few things for you but:

          - Coca Cola recipe: right here [snopes.com], most likely genuine.

          Except as that snopes article says, that was the original recipe. The recipe was modified in the first 40 years of coke's existence (as, again, the article says). The current recipe probably has a significantly different flavor than the original recipe, certainly enough to tell the difference. So yes, Coke's current recipe certainly still falls under that of "trade secret".

    • by cvtan (752695)
      You mean "lobbeasts".
    • If you want to keep you sooper-seekrit advantage, it's called a "trade secret" and you don't patent it.

      If your technology is so non-useful that someone can easily design around it and capture the market in 18 months, it is either useless, or so trivial that it shouldn't be patented in the first place.

      The problem is that a new invention (patentable) is often tied to a business idea (not patentable). Disclosing the invention means implicitly disclosing at least part of the idea. The inventor is forked: either his business idea is revealed to the market before time, and can therefore be copied approximately before launch; or he keeps it secret but foregoes all legal protection and the thing can be copied almost exactly after launch.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Sound like the patent trolls are funding lobbiests.

      The problem, of course, is that it seems to be working. With the lobbyists in turn funding Congress.

      Congress is basically rubber stamping things from their 'real' constituents and letting them write drafts of laws that they never read.

      American government is now basically a paid arm of corporations to help further stack the deck in their favor.

      Which, of course, the American government then tries to export to the rest of the world via things like ACTA -- it

  • All this beating around the bush just makes me sick.

    We just need to start declaring war on any country which hosts terrorist corporations, by which I mean specifically foreign corporations that seek to undermine the American way of life by doing "end runs" around American inventors and by "seizing marketshare" from the rightful American owners of said market share.
    • All corporations are foreign now - multinationals have no allegiance to you or your nation, regardless of the origins, or the country that their CEO comes from.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:09AM (#39843533)
    ...and fixing the apparent actual problem instead? The USPTO should make the process faster and/or the US should become more innovative in general, if they don't want to be overtaken by "non-US" competitors.
  • Just Say No (Score:2, Informative)

    by shawnhcorey (1315781)
    An excellent example of why patents should be eliminated. The main problem with patents is that they are relatively easy to get but very, very hard to get rid of. This means they will expand and encroach into very corner of business. Look at the illegal patents we have so far: software patents and genome patents. It's time to get rid of them completely.
    • The only way that is going to happen is through jury nullification of patent law. http://fija.org/ [fija.org]

      • by Sarten-X (1102295)

        ...which is like using a wrench to nail a door closed so it won't squeak when someone opens it. It's the wrong tool to do a job that's the wrong solution to a relatively minor problem.

        • I can understand your sentiments, but what tool would you suggest?

          • by Sarten-X (1102295)

            A bit of oil, applied repeatedly and worked into the hinge over many cycles of opening and closing the door. You might also need a plane to trim down the frame to compensate for warping and a screwdriver to remount the hinge.

            Also letters, protests, and lobbyists. They aren't as self-gratifying as jury nullification, but they're more effective in the long run.

  • by loren (2875) <linux_dr@ya h o o . com> on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:15AM (#39843561) Homepage Journal

    Sounds like they're playing right into the hands of the patent trolls... The whole point seems to be to hope someone accidentally infringes so they can go after them later. I thought the goal of the patent system was to foster innovation. How does this do anything but impede it?

  • by jenningsthecat (1525947) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:19AM (#39843587)

    Totally aside from the gob-smacking, appalling stupidity of this proposal, if they did implement this cosmically bad idea, how in hell would they determine which patents are 'economically significant'? And if some patents are secret from the outset, what's to prevent the government from falsely claiming to a new patent applicant "Sorry, that one's already in the pipeline", and then backdating an application and stealing some poor schmuck's idea?

    If there was ever any doubt in anyone's mind that we now have 'government by the corporate sector, for the corporate sector, and individual citizens' rights be damned', this ought to dispel them.

    • by xtal (49134)

      There's no deciding. There's just some new paperwork on my desk, as I describe to the legal staff what the far-reaching economic impacts of whatever it is I'm patenting.

      In short, just about every patent will fit under this new proposed scheme.

      If you don't want to benefit from patent protection, it's called a trade secret.

  • by Wdi (142463) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:20AM (#39843595)

    will be filed simultaneously (*) in Europe, Japan, and increasingly in BRIC countries to protect world-wide market potential.

    So what is to be gained if the US text is kept secret, but the essentially identical application is in the open in three dozen other countries?

    (*) especially after the recent changes in the US patent system to use the same principles as the rest of the world

    • - Bring US patent law in line with other countries
      - Emphasize just how much easier we're making it for inventors in other countries to file in the US
      - Add a little more to US patent law
      - Put pressure on other countries to follow our lead
      - Wake up and all the world has adopted our model

  • Trap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by glorybe (946151) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:23AM (#39843617)
    If secret patents are in the works how are others with similar product ideas protected? To not be able to discover that a patent or art work exists for an invention and then be forced to pay for violating the patent seems like an outrage to me.
    • by djmurdoch (306849)

      It's not an outrage, it's a business model. The submarine patent industry needs to increase its profits.

    • by jeti (105266)

      We only need to combine this with another initiative to make patent infringement a crime. Then finally people will realize the value of patents and the US will become a leader in innovation again.

  • by bazmail (764941) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:25AM (#39843623)
    They make it seem like its helping the US vs the rest of the world. Much like the loftily titled "The Patriot Act!!!", how could that possibly be bad?
    FTA: "In some circumstances, this information allows competitors to design around U.S. technologies and seize markets before the U.S. inventor is able to raise financing and secure a market"


    In reality it will be used to stifle commentary of the sheer ridiculousness of the current patent system.
  • Wrong Solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:26AM (#39843631)

    The answer is not 'Secret Patents'.

    It's to fully staff the US Patent Office with sufficient qualified researches that granting patents does not have an average three-year schedule.

    'Secret Patents' are one of the worst ideas I've ever heard. You thought the NPE problem was bad -before-?

    • Re:Wrong Solution (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Spy Handler (822350) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:45AM (#39843785) Homepage Journal

      I agree that secret patents are a stupid idea. However,

      fully staff the US Patent Office with sufficient qualified researches that granting patents does not have an average three-year schedule

      This is also the wrong solution. We could do without yet even more federal employees.

      The correct solution is to not allow stupid shit like software patents and one-click business model patents in the first place. Then BAM, watch the number of patent applications plummet.

      AFAIK, all of the software patent insanity stemmed from *one* activist judge in the early 80's who interpreted existing patent laws to encompass software. Again AFAIK, patent laws do not (yet) explicitly state whether computer software is patentable or not... it was a court ruling that said it is.

      • by caseih (160668)

        Without a full staff of patent examiners, how is the patent office to know whether a patent filed is a stupid software patent or not? Bad patents were being filed before the court ruling. Having an overworked and understaffed patent office isn't helping in this regard. So whether we allow software patents or not, we do in fact need more federal employees in the patent office who are well qualified.

    • by hackula (2596247)
      How about remove all the staff. Never feed the trolls.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:28AM (#39843655)

    My claims:
    1. The problem is the patent office takes 18 months to evaluate a patent,
    2. It takes that long because the patent office is swamped with spam patent requests from non-inventors.
    3. It's swamped with spam patent requests because it made patents so easy to get that every patent troll files patents on existing inventions.
    4. Thus real inventors are outnumbered by the spam competitors, who often clone their ideas knowing the patent office gives patents for everything.

    The fix therefore:
    1. Reject more patents for obviousness
    2. Reject patents if the inventor doesn't actually make the thing they claim to have invented, because if they haven't physically made it, they haven't physically solved the real world problems with their invention. Anyone can draw a flying car, but an inventor is the one who actually MAKES the car fly.
    3. Reapplication requires repeat fees, you want to waste the patent office time with an obvious idea, then pay and pay again.
    4. That will dissuade the trolls for swamping the patent office with spam patents for inventions they haven't made. Reducing the delay.
    5. Thus the patent will be approved before the publish date and the inventor will have had the chance to obtain financing to go into production.

    Whereas:
    1. Hiding patents makes it impossible for others to show prior art at an early stage.
    2. It makes the submarining problem worse. Where a troll files a vague patent, then watches as technology is developed, and tweaks the wording to be more like the devices the real inventors are inventing.
    3. It encourages trolls to set traps around genuinely inventive companies. e.g. flying car used for school trips, flying car with shopping trolly attached etc. etc.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      http://www.bu.edu/law/faculty/scholarship/workingpapers/documents/Bessen-Ford-Meurer-no-11-45rev.pdf

      Patent trolls cost real companies making real exportable goods and services $80 billion. Each true R&D company needs to earn significantly more per invention to make it viable in order to pay these trolls.

      The patent is protection for an invention, not a *concept* for an invention. The patent is the DESCRIPTION of the invention. You can't describe something that does not exist. If you haven't made the inve

    • As to fix 1, clearly you've never read or seen a patent before. There is nothing obvious in the legalese and obscure terminology used to describe potential inventions. It isnt as easy as waving your hands at a document to determine originality. Besides that, there is the Columbus egg problem.

      A typical patent, where i work costs somewhere around twenty thousand dollars to file when legal fees are taken into account. Pennies for ACME Corp, but a lot for average Joe patent troll.
  • So, basically those are Patent-Landmines, easily usable for Trolls? Slogan: "They'll not know what him 'em!"
    • Submarines patents [wikipedia.org] are when a patent is deliberately kept hidden until the competitors develop competing products. They are particularly effective when they allow a company to patent an industry standard, as in the Rambus lawsuit against DDR-RAM. [wikipedia.org]

      This proposal would allow lawyers to easily create submarine patents. Because of the secrecy, it could even happen that more than one company has submarine patents on the same industry standard technology.

      Submarine patents block industry standards and free sof

  • Rip off (Score:3, Interesting)

    by X10 (186866) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:44AM (#39843771) Homepage

    The patent office just wants to make more money. Currently, I don't apply for a patent if I can see that someone else has applied recently. When they keep the applications secret, dozens of people will apply for patents that in the end, are replaced by the one who was first. It's kind of a rip off.

    We should abandon the idea of patents altoghether.

    • If you apply for a patent for something that already has a "secret" patent pending, your patent should not be simply rejected, either they both ought to be (as the solution must be at least somewhat obvious as multiple people came to it), or you should get a stub patent that protects you from having to license the "original" patent that you never had the opportunity to see.

      Neither of these things will probably happen, though....

  • Must stress this again [slashdot.org] and again, just like in all those previous cases there will be people opposing to the idea that all patents and copyrights must be abolished and government must be explicitly prohibited from issuing them and from dealing with them.

    Well, that, and government must be prohibited from meddling with business, money, economy, it must be prohibited from collecting income taxes, starting illegal wars.

  • I would be all for this as long as if someone else sends in a patent application for the same/similar invention both are then considered "obvious for those practicing the art", and thus, unpatentable.
  • "This period of time between publication and patent award provides worldwide access to the information included in those applications. In some circumstances, this information allows competitors to design around U.S. technologies and seize markets before the U.S. inventor is able to raise financing and secure a market.'"

    As James Boswell noted of Samuel Johnson in his Life" [gutenberg.org](1791):" Patriotism having become one of our topicks, Johnson suddenly uttered, in a strong determined tone, an apophthegm, at which many

  • The contents of this comment are secret for national security purposes.

  • There's still a bunch of countries that are not members of the WIPO [wikipedia.org].
    And then I ask myself: what if I ask for a patent and the answer that it's already patented but I'm not allowed to know the details?
    From that point on I do know at least a part of the details of the secret patent!

  • Ideas and even great ideas are a part of our humanity. They are born from the ideas that came before them partnered with need or want of something better than we have now. With or without the patent system in place, they will happen just as music and the various arts do.

    The problem is and always has been that there are people who think they should be able to take ideas and horde and control them as they do physical resources. Worse still, lots of people in all walks of life think it's a great idea. "I worked hard coming up with..." No you didn't. If you did, you're doing it wrong and it's probably not all that great and even if it were, it's till built on and born of ideas that came before yours and you are simply failing to credit them. The people who are good at inventing things do it for the joy of having done it. Profiting from it is just nice, but the people who love working and doing that sort of work would die sooner if they stopped working.

    But here we are, at the beginning of the end of US dominance. We've sold off and farmed out all the tangible things that made us great. They are too expensive to maintain, after all, we have quarterly gains to measure! We've industrialized food production and we import our fresh fruits and vegetables from other parts of the world now. Manufacturing was a short-lived career because the unions forced business to pay a fair wage to workers in the US. We have to Sell More and spend less. The people of the US are demanding lower prices for everything. [Mostly because they can't afford as much any longer because of the afore mentioned cuts from increasing quarterly gains.]

    We are in imbalance. The wealth and cash flows are flowing mostly in one direction. This cannot last forever even if the Fed prints more money. Somehow the "markets" seem to believe they create money from thin air and create value through the magical practice of buying and selling things at carefully timed moments.

    This has been going on a LOT longer than most people realize. We would have seen it long, long ago but people were told "you have to have credit! You aren't a real person unless you have credit! And you can't have credit unless you are in debt are carrying a balance!" (And you're a complete idiot if you think paying off the balance every month gives you a good credit score. Want a better score? Don't pay it all off.... run a balance. Your "score" is what you are worth to them. You aren't worth as much if you aren't paying them interest.) So now we're all living on debt financing instead of using a savings account. And we don't feel the sting as because "credit" is bottomless while savings are always finite. But here's a clue to measure how badly you are actually doing: Account for your total debt today. If you tried to pay it off now, would you be able to? Could you liquidate and come out with money in your pocket? If not, you have to admit to yourself that you and pretty much every "commoner" has been living in the red for decades and for many, their whole lives.

    And what does it all mean? The original idea which I seem to have moved away from is "The last 'thing' of the US." We're exporting intangible things -- patents and copyrights and we're exporting our laws to support our failing business models to the world in hopes of indebting the rest of the world the way they have done the population of the US. By controlling ideas and creativity, they control production. Production: where the real work and costs of goods sold are found.

    The world is resisting this push with everything it can. Their governments are being bought and we all see it happening anyway. But eventually, those few countries that can't be bought will be destroyed through violence. This is imperialism.

    Welcome to the new world... same as the old world...

  • I would have thought publishing the proposed patents was being done intentionally to allow submission of prior art notices so bad patents can be blocked before it costs someone millions of dollars to defend against it in court.

    Once approved, the new patent holder can go against everyone who copied the patent. And if the only way they can make money off the idea is to license the patent, then they haven't INVENTED something, have they? You need to be able to develop PRODUCTS for a patent to be useful or

  • There is a little known form you can find on the USPTO that lets you ask for your patent not to be published until granted, just like in the old system. If not granted you can still try to keep it a trade secret.

    The catch is that you can't use the filing date as the priority date for international patents. The reason patents are normally published after 18 months is because of international patent treaties.

    IIUC, this proposed change is meaningless - you can already get it now if you are willing to give up i

  • ....If there ever was a huge billboard sign that says "We intend to rip you off" this is it.
    for this goes totally against the genuine idea of free enterprise and fair competition.
    The key word here is competition and think for a moment, what sort of patent can possible be granted that hiding its patent protests it?
    There is only one type of patent this could apply to... products line that are kept off the market via patent trolling with "what ever we don't like we'll claim there is a patent for it but you can

  • The whole purpose of the patent system is that in exchange for a temporary protection of their invention, inventors release them publicly so that they can be examined and others learn from them. That's why a patent application is not only a declaration but must include sufficiently detailed descriptions of the invention to be able to duplicate it. This proposal is just absurd.

Prototype designs always work. -- Don Vonada

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