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Companies Petition Congress To Reform 'Business Method' Patent Process 78

Posted by timothy
from the it-seems-so-very-obvious-even-to-those-unskilled-in-the-art dept.
ectoman writes "This week, a coalition of more than 40 companies sent a letter to Congress asking for legislation that expands the Covered Business Method (CBM) program, a move some feel would stem patent abuse in the United States. Expanding the scope of CBM—a program that grants the Patent and Trademark Office the power to challenge the validity of certain business methods patents—would expedite the patent review process and significantly cut litigation costs, they say. "The vague and sweeping scope of many business method claims covering straight forward, common sense steps has led to an explosion of patent claims against processes used every day in common technologies by thousands of businesses and millions of Americans," says the letter, signed by companies like Amazon, Netflix, Red Hat, Macy's, and Kroger)."
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Companies Petition Congress To Reform 'Business Method' Patent Process

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  • Prediction (Score:4, Funny)

    by schneidafunk (795759) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @02:10PM (#44449221)
    With that kind of lobbying money, I expect a bipartisan majority pushing this through quite quickly.
    • by ackthpt (218170)

      With that kind of lobbying money, I expect a bipartisan majority pushing this through quite quickly.

      Depends... is there sufficient lobbying money opposing it. You know, shadowy patent trolls and such.

      they call these 'dollar votes', those with the most dollars get the votes

    • by bkmoore (1910118)
      Who's supposed to lobby for the people?...oh, right, the representatives whom were elected by the people should be the lobbyists for the people...I'm feeling a bit naive today.
  • You see! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by briancox2 (2417470) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @02:31PM (#44449553) Homepage Journal
    Business is not always evil. In fact sometimes business interests are very good.

    But people are prone to make sweeping assumptions because of one company at one particular time making a bad decision. In truth, as with all things, businesses need to be evaluated on a case by case basis.
    • Re:You see! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tocsy (2489832) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @02:36PM (#44449611)

      I'm not sure if you're being sarcastic right now, but I'm going to respond as if you aren't:

      Businesses are, by DEFINITION, primarily interested in profits. Given a choice, they will do what they can to maximize their profits. It seems as if in this case, expanding the CBM is good for their businesses - I'd guess because it will make it more difficult for them to be sued, allowing them to increase profits.

      Money is ALWAYS the bottom line. What we may interpret to be "good will" is nothing more than the business determining that is a better/easier/quicker way to make more money.

      • Re:You see! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 01, 2013 @02:42PM (#44449683)

        Well, of course. The point is that the pursuit of profit is neither good nor evil.
        Our task as a society is to adjust the system's incentives so that businesses' pursuit of profit aligns with our best interests.

        • Re:You see! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @02:47PM (#44449761) Journal

          In other words we have to harness the amoral powers of sociopathy to good ends. We have to convince the psychopaths we've allowed to rule our society that it's in their best interests (which is all they give a flying fuck about) not to harvest us for our flesh, but rather to use their absolute lack of concern for any human being other than themselves for the greater good.

          Does that just about sum it up?

          • Re:You see! (Score:5, Insightful)

            by briancox2 (2417470) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @03:04PM (#44449985) Homepage Journal
            I must assume that someone who paints every CEO in the entire country as a sociopath has probably never gotten to know one.
            • I think the GP wasn't speaking of the CEOs, but of the companies themselves.
              • Ah. Well here's a different point of view for you: there's no such thing really as a company -- in truth, there are only people that make up a company.

                A company cannot make any decision that isn't made by a person who made that decision. And the CEO makes the final decision in a company.
                • Yeah, but it can be argued that a company is an information system, in which the people making the decisions do so according to the informations delivered by the system, informations that are filtered on several levels based largely on what is specifically useful to the company as a whole. It's not that clear-cut.
                  • I think it's pretty clear cut when you go and actually look at the company. There are buildings, computers and paper and all kinds of machines sometimes. But none of those make decisions. When you watch a company in operation, you'll notice that it is the people that are making the decisions. A system is not capable of that.
                • by Alomex (148003)

                  A company cannot make any decision that isn't made by a person who made that decision.

                  Nonsense. A computer as a whole can take a decision that wasn't made by a single transistor in any sense of the word. It is also well known that people in groups do things that they wouldn't do alone.

                  • Getting back to the context for a moment, are you implying that computers can make decisions which cause businesses to be evil?
                  • And aren't people who do things while in a group still responisble for their actions?
                    • by Alomex (148003)

                      They are responsible for their actions if they are or should reasonably be aware of the consequences. The point is that the system, as a whole can end up "making" decisions that no individual person made. This is the whole basis of the "invisible hand" economic theory from Adam Smith.

          • Re:You see! (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Logger (9214) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @03:09PM (#44450031) Homepage

            Yes. And that's one of the reasons why we need regulated capitalism. It's a means of harnessing sociopaths. In unregulated capitalism, the sociopaths will run rampant with their businesses. In communist societies, lacking other outlets, the sociopaths seem to take power in the government where they tend to do a lot more harm.

            • Re:You see! (Score:5, Insightful)

              by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Thursday August 01, 2013 @04:00PM (#44450531) Homepage Journal

              sociopaths seem to take power in the government where they tend to do a lot more harm

              To work in the government, you have to be OK with forcing people to do things against their will, even if they're harming nobody else. That's a very self-selecting job description.

              Now, you want to let them tell businesses how they need to operate too? Think they'll have a moral problem with those businesses paying for special treatment?

              Exhibit A: Wall Street.
              Exhibit B: K Street.

      • Re:You see! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by briancox2 (2417470) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @02:48PM (#44449783) Homepage Journal
        There's an underlying assumption in your response that profits are bad.

        Because we have a finite amount of resources as a nation (man hours, kilowatts, lumber, etc.) at any given time, the only way to make everyone richer is to use those resources as efficiently as we possibly can to provide what people need and want.

        Profit is the measurement of how efficiently an endeavor is providing what is needed and wanted. Therefore, it is not always evil and always has an element of good to it.

        Notice I didn't say it is always good. If a company makes decisions that deny to some people what is needed and wanted, in order to provide to a select few what is needed and wanted for the purpose of profit, then they have not been as good as they could have been. So thus, Microsoft is more evil and Red Hat is more good.

        But to over-simplify the truth and say, "Profits are an evil motivator," is, as over-simplification always is, ignorant. There's an unwillingness to really look at everything when you over-simplify so you are by default being ignorant of the whole truth.
        • Re:You see! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @03:05PM (#44449991) Homepage

          Because we have a finite amount of resources as a nation (man hours, kilowatts, lumber, etc.) at any given time, the only way to make everyone richer is to use those resources as efficiently as we possibly can to provide what people need and want.

          And what evidence do you have to suggest that is happening? The gap between rich and poor grows every year, which means it isn't making 'everyone richer'. In fact, it certainly looks like the opposite is happening.

          And as far as using those resources as efficiently as possible, again, I'm not convinced we do. How is it more 'efficient' to make Larry Ellison even more wealthy and a bigger asshole? Is he proportionally doing more work, or is he just the guy at the top collecting massive rewards?

          Profit is the measurement of how efficiently an endeavor is providing what is needed and wanted.

          Bullshit. It's a measure of how much it costs you to extract money from your clients relative to how much you rake in.

          A credit card scam can be hugely profitable, but it has no relation whatsoever to 'how efficiently an endeavor is providing what is needed and wanted'.

          So many corporate profits these days are a shell game to make one thing look more expensive and defray the costs to someone else. You think Hollywood accounting is about 'how efficiently an endeavor is providing what is needed and wanted'? Or do you think it's about shuffling around money to tell one group of people you lost massive amounts of money and can't pay them, and tell another group how much money you raked in.

          There's an unwillingness to really look at everything when you over-simplify so you are by default being ignorant of the whole truth.

          And you have so over simplified what 'profits' mean as to make everything you said meaningless drivel.

          • by Alomex (148003)

            The gap between rich and poor grows every year, which means it isn't making 'everyone richer'.

            Seriously dude? If I have $1 and you have $2 and we both double our wealth, now I have $2 and you have $4. Everyone is richer yet the gap grew from $1 to $2. Now lets say you tripled your money while I doubled mine. The gap is even bigger but still we are both richer.

            It is perfectly possible for the gap to grow and everyone get richer. I'm not saying this is or isn't happening right now. I'm just pointing out that your mathematical reasoning is flawed.

            • Oh, it's happening right this very minute! It happens especially during periods of stagflation (because the government keeps spending money it doesn't have). Individuals or entities that have money to invest in (homes, property, stocks...etc) gain a lot over someone living paycheck to paycheck once the market picks up and inflation kicks in (gov printing money to offset the new debt ratio from prior years of spending). Only a wealthy fool with money to spend will lock it up in cash. Cash devalues during inf

            • Seriously dude?

              The gap between rich and poor (gini coefficient) is invariant to (among other things) linear scalings. IOW if everyone doubles their wealth, the coefficient does not change.

              It is perfectly possible for the gap to grow and everyone get richer.

              The very reason that no one measures it the way you think they do is precisely for all the bad reasons you'e pointed out.

        • Re:You see! (Score:4, Interesting)

          by s.petry (762400) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @05:00PM (#44451115)

          Profits are bad, because profits are not the point of society nor a benefit to society. Society is a benefit to society, not profits.

          Understanding that the ideal just expressed is utopian and unrealistic at this point in time does not change the fact that profits are bad.

          Consider Socrates and the Allegory of the Artisan. The duty of the Republic is to ensure that a good artisan remains a good artisan. Pay him too much, and he will no longer produce works. He will not only stop producing, but spend his time and money meddling in other peoples affairs. The Republic has given him an opportunity to harm others as well as no longer be productive for society. If the Republic does not pay the Artisan enough, he will no longer produce. The artisan will be worried about the welfare of his children and home, and seek opportunities other than being an artisan to ensure survival.

          The duty of the Republic is to ensure that people are rewarded for producing in society, but never so much that they become unproductive. This does not just go for the artisan, but also the farmer and cobbler and baker and every other job we have deemed critical to societies purpose and function.

          Now if you consider that among Americans if you ask people "How much money is too much money?", you know damn well that the answer will be "no such thing". This is a socially deficient teaching which is not beneficial to society. People have been duped.

          **and now I step down from my philanthropic soap box.**

          • by steve79 (1368223)

            Your perspective strikes me as deeply naive -- almost to the point that it isn't worth responding to, but I guess I've already started typing. What kind of a fool would say "profits are bad"? Profits are neither good nor bad, obviously.......... You do know that just about every pharmaceutical / computer / technology you rely on has been pursued for the sake of profit. You should read Wealth of Nations.

            • by s.petry (762400)

              Yeah, Socrates was just an idiot and nobody should ever study that guy right?

              Sarcasm aside, the logic is given. If you choose not to read or comprehend the logic, that is not something I can not possibly repair. That also does not reflect on your ability to comprehend data and desire to use ad hominem to attack his words.

              To put those thoughts to real practical use, why do we have the Sherman Act to prevent monopolies? It is an extension of profits which allows monopolies to occur, not someone trying to b

              • by steve79 (1368223)

                Socrates never says profits are bad, that is you saying that. If you actually read the passage above that you quote, you'd see Socrates is arguing for an incentives system to encourage the artisan to produce... one such incentives system is the pursuit of profits and all of its benefits. In econ 101 you learn that it is competition that drives down profits, and monopolies are discouraged because they harm competition (they are not going after profits... they are going after anti-compeititive activity). T

                • by s.petry (762400)

                  If you bothered to read instead of spewing your opinion you would find that Socrates does state that profits are bad. He states, very clearly, numerous reasons for profits being bad. The summary in the Allegory of the Artisan is a logical conclusion of a much longer discussion claiming the need for purposeful control of profits by the Republic.

                  I'm sure you won't let a little fact get into the way of your fantasy, but I'll recommend that you not speculate on verifiable history in the future. If your argume

                  • by steve79 (1368223)

                    You're the one that's saying Socrates says profits are bad -- if he says it "very clearly" certainly you can easily provide such text to back up your assertion. Please provide.

                    Do you think any pharma company would develop a new drug without a patent system in place? There are obviously downsides to the patent system, but anybody who just critiques it's downsides without appreciating its upsides is just whining and short-sighted.

                    You aren't seeing the enormous benefit *your* life has had based on the system

                    • by s.petry (762400)

                      No, I'm not going to quote over 900 pages of text because you don't want to visit the Library. It's a nonsense request so that you can maintain your delusional opinion. I own 3 separate translations of each of his works, and most can be found on Amazon for a nominal $30.00USD price tag.

                      Your Pharma comment continues to show you are devoid of any research at all and simply wish to back your opinion using fantasy. In fact I'll go further and point out that you fail to consider extremely recent history in yo

                    • by steve79 (1368223)

                      Seems it should be pretty simple to just quote where Socrates says "profits are bad"... you're the one asserting it; you carry the burden of proof. The fact is he's never said such a silly thing, and if it takes him 900 pages to say what you think he's saying, you're over-simplifying what he's saying by several orders of magnitude.

                      Whether the patent system is a net detriment or benefit to society is an interesting debate -- hard to prove either way. At best anybody that looks at it should admit the quest

                    • by s.petry (762400)

                      It should be painfully obvious in the allegory provided that profits are problem but you refuse to see, acknowledge, or read anything that hurts your belief. If Socrates was not of the belief that profits were a detriment beyond an obvious point why would he state that the Republic needed to regulate them? I realize that many people today have difficulty with critical thinking, but the Allegory of the Artisan makes the point very obvious. If you are having difficulty because Socrates does not use the spe

            • by s.petry (762400)
              s/reflect/reflect\ well/
        • Profit is the measurement of how efficiently an endeavor is providing what is needed and wanted. Therefore, it is not always evil and always has an element of good to it.

          Thanks for explaining the tenets of your religion. Now, any time you want to discuss economics, let us know.

      • You're too cynical (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sjbe (173966) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @02:55PM (#44449865)

        Businesses are, by DEFINITION, primarily interested in profits.

        Primarily but not exclusively. The degree of their interest depends very much on who is running the business. Even the biggest businesses have stakeholders whose interest is not in maximizing corporate profits - many employees of the company not the least among them. And a profit motive does not mean that a company cannot engage in social good at the same time. Sometimes the two will conflict but often they will not.

        Furthermore there are not-for-profit businesses who typically have some sort of dominant social agenda to which profit is merely an enabler rather than a driving force.

        Money is ALWAYS the bottom line. What we may interpret to be "good will" is nothing more than the business determining that is a better/easier/quicker way to make more money.

        I disagree that money is "always" the bottom line. Often, yes. Usually, maybe. Always, no. If your assertion were true then there are a lot of corporate activities that make little sense, starting with charitable giving. (for the cynics among you, charity generally makes for a terrible ROI even if you think of it as marketing) Furthermore a profit motive can, and often does, align with a social good. The two are not fundamentally incompatible. Reducing energy use has both an environmental benefit and an economic one. Reforming patent law can accomplish the same thing.

        • Business are not non-profit, those are organizations. If a company has stockholders their objective is to make as much money as possible, bottom line. Money is always the bottom line, charitable givings are a tax right off and good publicity, despite your complaints on return of investment. Companies give for exactly that reason, they don't donate to charity out of the bottom of their heart, they make press releases around it constantly. Patent reform as these companies want it, is to increase profits.
          • by lgw (121541)

            You have a very simple model of businesses. It's easier to think about things if all of your models are very simple, to be sure, but it's not the best approach to getting the right answer.

            Many strongly moral people own companies. Many strongly moral people own stock. Many strongly moral people run companies. It's not the norm, but it's about as common as strongly moral are in society in general.

            Profits are a goal, to be sure. Companies exist that have no other goals, and no compunction whatsoever about

          • tax write off

            A tax write off benifits the charity not the donor. Say my company has $1,000. If I give it all away to charity the taxman asks for nothing, if I keep the $1,000 in my own pocket then the taxman will demands his cut (around $300 in the US). What that does is ensure that charitable donations go to the charity in full and is not counted as income by the taxman. From the company's POV, it makes no difference to the what the taxman does, they are still down $1,000.

          • Business are not non-profit, those are organizations.

            Not-for-profits absolutely can be a form of business. Most are treated as a type of corporation by law and they can and do engage in many of the same practices as for-profit businesses. I've served on the board of several non-profits and with the better run ones you'd have to look carefully at times to tell that they are not profit seeking institutions. Lots of hospitals are non-profits but I assure you that they are without question businesses.

            Money is always the bottom line, charitable givings are a tax right off and good publicity

            Tax write offs due to charitable giving are typically not re

      • by bkmoore (1910118)
        Businesses, at least corporations, are required by law to maximize profits. Otherwise they are negligent in their fiduciary duties to their shareholders and could be sued for fraud.
        • Businesses, at least corporations, are required by law to maximize profits

          I hear this often but have never seen such a law. In simplistic terms the board of publicly traded companies are required to do what the shareholders (ie: the owners) tell them to do, normally they say "maximise profits" but not because it's required by law.

      • Re:You see! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Alomex (148003) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @10:33PM (#44453325) Homepage

        Businesses are, by DEFINITION, primarily interested in profits.

        Not in Germany, where by law they must consider the social good as well.

  • This will crush the groove of lots of lawyers -- lawyers who also donate. Watch the votes.

  • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @02:41PM (#44449661)

    I wonder why the lack of Microsoft and Apple.

    Amazon.com, Inc.
    AOL Inc.
    Dell Inc.
    Demandware, Inc.
    Dropbox Inc.
    EarthLink, Inc.
    eBay, Inc.
    Eddie Bauer LLC.
    Facebook, Inc.
    Gilt Groupe, Inc.
    Google Inc.
    Hearst Corporation
    HomeAway, Inc.
    HTC Americas Inc.
    J.Crew Group, Inc.
    Netflix, Inc.
    Newegg.com Inc.
    Overstock.com
    Priceline.com Incorporated
    Public Service Enterprise Group Inc.
    QVC Inc.
    Rackspace Inc.
    Red Hat, Inc.
    Safeway Inc.
    Salesforce.com Inc.
    Samsung Electronics America
    SAS Institute Inc.
    Southern Company
    Spotify USA Inc.
    SurveyMonkey
    Jewelry Television
    The Kroger Co.
    LinkedIn Corporation
    Macyâ(TM)s, Inc.
    Media Temple, Inc.
    Morgan Stanley
    Mozilla
    Twitter, Inc.
    Verizon Communications Inc.
    Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
    Whataburger
    XO Communications
    Yahoo! Inc.
    Zynga, Inc.

    • by i kan reed (749298) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @03:23PM (#44450195) Homepage Journal

      Amazon.com Inc.

      Amazon is the very definition of very definition of a holder of a stupid Business Method patent. I'm now afraid that reform means what copyright reform meant in 1998.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        referring to one-click, i'm guessing. that dates back to september 1999, so it's nearing its end. maybe that is why amazon in on-board this future so-called "reform" of business method patents?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Also note no IBM. IBM's business model now relies on billion dollar annual revenues from licensing patents, many of dubious validity ("but we have so many of them, some of them are bound to stick in court so you'd better license.")

  • Can it be a sensible act of congress? Perhaps they will even revive ethics in business, a move in the right direction... can it be?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    They're one of the worst offenders. Seriously. Bezos...license out, in free terms, your one-click patent and those like it and **MAYBE** we'll believe you on this score.

  • by SCHecklerX (229973) <thecaptain@captaincodo.net> on Thursday August 01, 2013 @03:58PM (#44450513) Homepage

    Business methods should not be patentable, nor should software. Period.

    • by steve79 (1368223)

      This is very narrow minded. There's a reason the vast majority of every software company doing cool things is in the USA, which has protection for software innovations. If a new algorithm is novel and unobvious, why should it not be protectable?

      • Because an idea is not an invention, it is an idea. The implementation of an idea is not an invention either, it is however literary in coding and protected by copyright.
  • What do these companies pay in taxes vs. the peoples tax payments. But I suppose as a matter of accountability is to also consider what these companies lobbyists put in politicians pockets.

    Still, The people most probably pay a great deal more.... And with this, where is teh tax return paper work that allows the people to say where their taxes are to be used? Rather than corporate tax avoidance saying?

    Patents that stifle or hinder benefits the people would otherwise have......

  • the vast majority of patents that "trolls" use to sue companies are not "business methods" -- I know everybody loves to hate business methods but the fact is nobody knows what a business method is, except in the most extreme cases (and such cases are very rare). Recent legislation did away with some kinds of things that might be called business methods (tax strategies being one). This is a fundamental problem -- most that bitch about business methods never define what they're talking about.

  • Why not completely abolish patents on business methods, along with patents on algorithms? Shouldn't patents be limited to inventions, as God and the spaghetti monster intended?
  • Translation: "Make our business process patents sweeping, broad and invulnerable. Make everybody else's go away so we can file on them later and outright steal them. Oh, and backdating these patents would be lovely, if you get the chance..."
  • I despise the creeping over-reach of patent law, the obscene expense of actually getting a patent, the ridiculously low de facto standards of patentability, the difficulty and expense of challenging a competitor's patent that should never have been issued in the first place, and the all-too-convenient Slashdot attitude that patents should be eliminated in their entirety. Moreover, there is almost nothing I despise more than copycat business models, franchises, and turnkey businesses. Franchise owners are

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