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"Fair Trolls" To Fight Patents With Patents 113

FlorianMueller writes "Can a patent troll ever be fair? Yes. The primary concern over the upcoming Defensive Patent License — a GPL-like non-aggression pact for patents — is that it might be too defensive to have the desired impact. But actually the DPL could grow very big if one or more 'Fair Trolls' are brought to life and enforce patents against companies that don't support the DPL. The 'Fair Trolls' would commit to the DPL's terms, so they would have to leave other DPL backers alone. In exchange for this, the community would gladly feed them with patentable ideas (financial rewards for contributors included). Over time, staying outside the DPL alliance would become a costly choice for companies whose products might infringe patents. The bigger the DPL pool gets, the more valuable it becomes to its members. The more aggressive the Fair Trolls are, the better for the cause."
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"Fair Trolls" To Fight Patents With Patents

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  • Problem (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @04:04PM (#32257284)

    This assumes that those with vested interests in for-profit patent prosecution can't get the laws changed.

    There are some great things about this planet, but I'm occasionally stunned by the filth and villainy of some of its residents.

    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

      No, this assumes that doing this will get those folks to change the laws. Honestly, this is going to be the only way to protect FREE software.

      • by mcvos ( 645701 )

        I don't think anyone sane disagrees that patent laws suck. But if it's possible to get something good by abusing those bad laws through DPL trolls, I say let's do it. It's better than being at the mercy of the big corps and just hope they leave us alone.

    • Re:Problem (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Tekfactory ( 937086 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @04:16PM (#32257462) Homepage

      In what way could for-profit patent holders get the laws changed such that not-for-profit patent holders can't use the same laws to bully them back?

      Many of the for-profit patent holders that actually make things besides patents have a vested interest in keeping the system of offense and defense balanced.

      For example if patent offense is too powered some no-name entity or shell corporation (SCO) could bring huge suits against IBM and win. IBM wouldn't like that. If patent defense were too strong IBM couldn't use its huge arsenal of patents against its competitors.

      So there are some reasonably powerful entities out there that will do the right thing (not screw with patent law) out of self interest. IBM, Apple, Google, Microsoft will outspend any Patent Troll out there to maintain the current balance of terror.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        You're basically missing the point.

        If IBM joined the coalition for Patent Defense, then it would only be able to sue companies suing IBM for patent infringement. Companies inside the coalition would be exempt from such a risk, and would lose their exemption the moment they sued a fellow member of the coalition.

        In the case you listed above, using the scenerio that SCO was not a member of the coalition, and IBM was, IBM would not only have its own patents, but all the other members would be able to add theirs

        • by mea37 ( 1201159 )

          Actually, it looks like you're the one missing the point. If you go read the thread again, remembering that each post is a reply to its parent post, I think you'll find that the SCO example was not presented as a flaw in the patent defense idea; but rather that it was presented as a reason to doubt that changes to the law will gut the patent defense idea (which the prior post had suggested without providing any supporting details).

          I'm not sure whether I think the logic is valid, but if you're going to crit

  • I'm fairly sure... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @04:05PM (#32257294) Journal
    That this is the plot to "Colossus: The Forbin Project"; but with lawyers instead of ICBMs...
    • I will alert Gordon Pinsent err, I mean the President!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      That this is the plot to "Colossus: The Forbin Project"; but with lawyers instead of ICBMs...

      Yes, but although Colossus took over the world and eliminated the US and USSR while nuking a few cities to do so, and then went on to make himself a benevolent dictator, in the end, it turned out that there really was an alien threat and Colossus was needed to protect not only against the self destructive tendencies of mankind, but them as well.

    • by Jawnn ( 445279 )
      Yeah, and stinkin' socialist lawyers at that.
  • by 3seas ( 184403 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @04:06PM (#32257322) Homepage Journal patent. So there can't be a thing called a fair patent troll regarding software.
    Maybe on non software patents.

    All software patents are acts of fraud and public deception.

    Software is not of patentable matter []

    • There is no such thing as a fair gun. So there can't be such a thing as a fair gunfight. So I'll just bring this knife.

      Um, yeah, here in the real world, we have software patents. Yes, I agree they suck. You are preaching to the choir here at Slashdot on that one, champ. Having to shoot someone in the head sucks too, but if I've got to do it, I'd like a gun, thank you very much. The other guy has one. You are asking us to bring a knife to a gunfight here. But you aren't even going to this gunfight, so sit do

      • As long as everyone gets one.

        Why might I want an automatic weapon? Hunting my ass, that argument should never have been raised.

        You just never know when you might need to kill a non-trivial number of people in rapid succession.

        That is neither a jest nor a threat. The express purpose of the second amendment to the constitution can be found in any civics book when reading about the actions of the British Red Coats as an occupying force. This is actually true of virtually all of the bill of rights. The citizenr

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by 3seas ( 184403 )

        Your rationality is in error. All you need to protect against patent trolls is to establish copyright date time.

        Prior art. Thats what I did, and even managed to get the patent office to publish it. see references on the link I gave. And understand what it is I did. One knife, uh err double edge sword, to end all software patent fighting.

        This is how I know the most powerful tool man has is denial. But denial doesn't change what is, only trys to ignore it. But denial won't last. Sooner or later both sides wil

        • by spun ( 1352 ) <loverevolutionar ... m ['oo.' in gap]> on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @04:57PM (#32257954) Journal

          Um, yeah, see, the thing is: your method has not worked. Demonstrably has not worked. So I'm ready to try something new, you go on doing what hasn't worked. Or did I miss something, and software patents are no longer an issue?

          • by 3seas ( 184403 )

            Your something new is not going to work.

            Like I said, the strongest tool man has is "denial".

            There is no "not working" except for human brains not working in acceptance of reality happening here.

            So long as the reality of the non-patentability of software is being denied, all there is is illusion being promoted.

            And this is why software patents are acts of fraud and public deception.
            Such denial goes against reality and as such it is predictable what problems will surface as a result and manifestation of this d

            • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

              by spun ( 1352 )

              You seem to approach software patents as if they were a violation of some imagined laws of nature, rather than just a bad idea. Patents are a social construct, and as such, defined how society sees fit. There are no natural patents.

              Trying to show that they are an illusion is silly and will only lose you the attention of intelligent people. You need to put your arguments in practical terms to win people. What will fighting patents, no holds barred and no compromise, actually achieve for real people? All argu

        • by dissy ( 172727 )

          Your rationality is in error. All you need to protect against patent trolls is to establish copyright date time.
          Prior art. Thats what I did, and even managed to get the patent office to publish it.

          Woah, you got the patent office to accept a copyright, and the copyright office to accept your patent?!
          That truly is amazing!

        • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Sooner or later both sides will give in and accept what is of that which is universally not patentable. Physical Phenomenon, Abstract ideas, Natural Law of which mathematical equations (which many want to argue against software patents with) are only a subset of these.

          Is anything patentable then? Every process or method can be abstracted as algorithm. Every invention has plan, a blueprint, which is as abstract as computer program. In fact, each patent application is an algorithm, you can't put matter in writing. What if someone "computerizes" someone's patented method and claims that patent doesn't apply "because it is an algorithm"? What happens once we have nanotech "smart matter"? If I program it to form a into shape of, say, some patented wrench, am I in breach of pa

    • You aren't a court.
    • by jythie ( 914043 )
      Laws are an arbitrary agreement within a state which regulates human behavior.. If the state decides that software can be patented, then it can be patented. Good or bad idea, it is not fraud.
  • Okay... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @04:07PM (#32257326) Journal

    The benefit would be limited to non-aggression between DPL members. By agreeing to the terms of the DPL, they effectively accede to a multilateral non-aggression pact.
    What's needed is at least one (ideally more than one) entity that will assert patents from the DPL pool very aggressively and systematically against entities who don't support the DPL. By acceding to the DPL once they are attacked, the pressured parties could limit the problem to backroyalties (paying for past infringement of the patents in question) because once they make their own patents available under the DPL, they will have access to the patents in the pool.

    How is this not a cartel agreement?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Microlith ( 54737 )

      Ask the MPEG-LA and any other standards body.

    • You mean like the GPL?

    • From Wikipedia []:

      A cartel is a formal (explicit) agreement among competing firms. It is a formal organization of producers that agree to coordinate prices, marketing, and production.[1] Cartels usually occur in an oligopolistic industry, where there is a small number of sellers and usually involve homogeneous products. Cartel members may agree on such matters as price fixing, total industry output, market shares, allocation of customers, allocation of territories, bid rigging, establishment of common sales agencies, and the division of profits or combination of these. The aim of such collusion (also called the cartel agreement) is to increase individual members' profits by reducing competition.

      The DPL does not fit the generally accepted definition of a cartel because the companies involved are not doing so to reduce competition--they are in fact doing so to encourage competition by preventing the monopolization of ideas by a few patent holders.

      In practice, it is quite literally a legal alliance in the same way NATO is a military alliance--if one member is sued, the other members counter-sue to deter the attacker. But all the actions taken are legal, with the intention of upholdin

  • No effect on NPE's (Score:5, Insightful)

    by micheas ( 231635 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @04:08PM (#32257338) Homepage Journal

    The big rewards lately have gone to Non-practicing entities. Those with no products. AKA Patent Trolls.

    This provides no relief against someone that has no products.

    • by TopherC ( 412335 )

      I was wondering if someone was going to point this out, and there you go! That's the Achilles' heel.

      • by hingo ( 687307 )

        Yes. Kind of.

        The perfect solution would be to just abolish software patents. But as long as that is not happening, at least this is something...

        There are 2 things that do try to address that:
        1) Some trolls may decide to join the DPL pool, as this would give them access to inventions from the community, which they could use for new patents to extort money from those companies that remain outside the pool. Not all trolls would choose this, but there would be an incentive to do so.

        2) It would create more press

    • The big rewards lately have gone to Non-practicing entities. Those with no products. AKA Patent Trolls.

      Which is why IP law - not just patent law but also copyright (though possibly not trademark) needs to be completely rethought. Bandaid solutions aren't going to work for a system that sees the original inventor or creator of a work not rewarded AND others seeking to create or invent thwarted. The current system is madness and guarantees stagnation and corruption. This is the opposite to the stated goal of such law for the whole of society and the only ones seeking to uphold it and ever increase draconian pu

      • The problem is that this doesn't work for software, but does work (well, works the way the industry wants it to work) for other industries, especially drugs and manufacturing.

        After all, patent law was developed and refined into something that works well for those industries over many many years.

        The problem is that in manufacturing you have to have a working prototype, and in the drugs industry you have to patent a specific compound, but in software you can patent an idea or broad concept without a prototype

        • I work in the drug industry. Competitor drug patents are aggressively read for clues on what to do and what to work on. In short, they often contain valuable, non-obvious knowledge that, once they are made public, spur further innovation in others. In short, at least at times they work exactly how they are supposed to. (Other times the benefit is less clear cut.)

          In the software industry, my understanding is that no one reads patents because they aren't helpful and it's better to have no knowledge of a p

          • by cduffy ( 652 )

            I agree -- there are areas where the patent system works; software just isn't one of them.

            I've built a few software products I would describe as innovative over the course of my career. In each case, the "inventive step" involved taking a good idea originally conceived for one application and applying it to a completely different purpose. In each case, this was a 5-minute "a-ha" moment, followed by weeks to years of development effort to build an embodiment.

            I don't feel any entitlement to a 20-year monopoly

    • by perrin ( 891 )

      When only patent trolls use patents, the patent law will be changed. The problem now is that the big corporations are lobbing for the insane patent system because they think it is a net benefit to them. If this new license pool can make it not in their interest to do so, we all win.

      • When only patent trolls use patents, the patent law will be changed.

        Only if the Trolls don't become big business themselves. Witness the RIAA creating no product themselves, yet the US pushing ACTA in their defense.

        The problem now is that the big corporations are lobbing for the insane patent system because they think it is a net benefit to them. If this new license pool can make it not in their interest to do so, we all win.

        I think you're right that software patents will go when big corporations want them to, and the issue is changing their attitude. But this isn't the way to do that: you don't play their game to win it, you subvert and break the game. Copyleft may depend on copyright but it's not playing the same game.

        The way forward is to fight everywhere, and get lots of valua

  • by clone53421 ( 1310749 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @04:10PM (#32257368) Journal

    and in the darkness bind them?

    Sounds like they’re taking a bunch of small trolls and defeating them with a mega-troll, but it’s okay because this one’s a nice troll. It’s our troll.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @04:10PM (#32257372)

    So imagine you're a small-time inventor. You come up with something cool, which unfortunately infringes on a few common-sense patents that the DPL has pre-emptively snatched up (to keep them out of the hands of the actually evil trolls).

    Do you have to commit your patent to the DPL to keep them from suing you? And in return, they'll give you a cut of the profits? That sounds...well, it's starting to sound evil. Less evil, but still evil.

    • by Dthief ( 1700318 )
      I think the idea is that the people in the DPL are "good" and so if you asked them, and told them about your project, and you were not some large corporation trying to steal their work, they would grant you use of it.
    • by Arker ( 91948 )

      Yes, it is evil.

      The whole patent system is evil.

      Until it can be abolished, any practical solution is going to involve 'getting your hands dirty' as the phrase goes.

      The alternative, continuation of the status quo, is infinitely more evil.

  • ... is derp.

    Seriously. What the PTO needs to do is throw out any patent on a software implementation on anything. MPEG-4 for example.

    Viva la GNU!

  • "There were seven and a hundred Trolls,
            They were both ugly and grim,
            A visit they would Justice make,
            Both eat and drink with him.

            Out then spake the tiniest Troll,
            No bigger than an emmet was he,
            Hither is come an honest man,
            And manage him will I surelie..."

  • odd question (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Coraon ( 1080675 )
    why doesn't someone patent the business plan of, buying up patents and suing companies when they try to actually produce it? then put all the trolls out of business?
    • The patent trolls would be able to easily argue prior art by pointing to themselves, or slashdot (in particular your posting of the idea and everyone who has posted the same idea over and over again for the last ten years).

      Now enacting a law that it was legal to shoot to 5% disable any lawyer who files any motion for any NPE wouldn't go amiss. After all, 5% of the gross should be fair and non-discriminatory entropy cost to the practitioner, right?

    • Because its 'obvious' and the big companies would fight it on those grounds alone and spank anyone who tried. Then of course there is prior art.

      Smaller companies can't really fight against someone like MS when the argument is 'its obvious'

    • by manicb ( 1633645 )

      Not quite the same, but still oddly familiar... []

    • This was tried already: business models are not patentable. No, I'm not going to google that for you. You're a big boy, you can use that input bar in the upper right as well as I can.

  • The trolls don't need to license squat thus they won't be bothered by this. It is somewhat rare for the larger companies to beat tiny people up with their massive patent portfolios and that is why it makes the news. Even the "evil" microsoft has a massive patent portfolio and it is infrequent when they beat people up. The FAT patent nonsense is sort of odd for them. I suspect their marketing department is more responsible for the lawsuits than their legal department.
    But patent trolls are just evil lawyers
  • A patent troll love affair where the only ones protected are other patent trolls. It's like all the wolves of the world unite to divide and concur the rest of us sheep. Makes me sick. TheWitness
    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      It's like all the wolves of the world unite to divide and concur the rest of us sheep.

      No thats the European Union. Or maybe NATO. The UN?

  • Yeah..... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HeckRuler ( 1369601 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @04:21PM (#32257536)
    No matter how good the intentions may be here, I just can't see how this system could wind up as a force of good. You want some sort of benevolent dictator wielding the axe of patent infringement over the heads of everyone as some sort of deterrence system. That seems ripe for abuse. A good system has no head to cut off and no central authority to be corrupted.

    Even at it's best, it's still sort of a colluding of the powers that be.
    • by spmkk ( 528421 )

      "Over time, staying outside the DPL alliance would become a costly choice for companies whose products might infringe patents."

      Geez - labor unions meet the Godfather. "Of course you don't have to join The Alliance, but if you don't join The Alliance you better watch your step veeeery closely..."

      The law of unintended consequences is strong in this one.

  • If such a thing got going strong, one or more detractors might accuse it of being an anti-competitive practice. I'd be curious how that would play out in court.

  • Ah, but who trolls the fair trolls?

  • Waiting for Bilski (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mark Gordon ( 14545 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @04:31PM (#32257666) Homepage

    I feel like I'm trapped in a Samuel Beckett play.

  • Sounds too much like racketeering to me.

    • by Bugamn ( 1769722 )
      What is this non-sense? We are just businessmen, capice? All we ask is for your friendship in this small matter, and you will always have our undying friendship.
  • Wouldn't be better to make patents non-transferable and therefore only those who actually created them could enforce the patents?

    • by Arker ( 91948 )
      It would be better to abolish patents entirely. But as long as that isnt happening, this looks like the first and only idea I've seen for patching the system that could conveivably work.
    • Wouldn't be better to make patents non-transferable and therefore only those who actually created them could enforce the patents?

      In other words, make it so patents are only useful for large companies? Why would you want that?

  • Manfred Max would be proud.

  • Eye for an eye (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Fight fire with fire. Nice, how about fixing the patent system instead.

  • If they want to protect inventions from patent monopolization, they'll just publish the invention with a declaration that it's in the public domain. Which prevents anyone from patenting it.

    The rest of this posturing is nonsense.

  • The alternative is paying taxes to a government formed by We The People, to defend the Constitution. Since the current regime refuses to do that, such a benevolent organization of patent trolls would be the equivalent of that branch of the government charged with enforcing sound, Constitutional intellectual property. The agreement and/or whatever relatively modest means required to fund the organization would be like a tax.

  • The way to get participation is to offer the heart and blood of the enemy to eat and drink in a lust of carnage. This "patent commune" sounds too "milk toast" for that. We all know the road to hell is paved with pure souls and funded by good intentions.
  • Business methods and software and patent trolls don't matter anymore.

    At this point, ideas are patents, not how they work. That is why there are so many patent trolls. If you had to actually design a specific device, it become a lot harder to patent troll and it's not nearly as cost effective.

  • Just set these people up with a huge portfolio of patents and they'll look after you. Yeah, right - would you like a bridge to go along with that?

    This kind of deal is how trusts / cartels are born. It always sounds like a good idea at first, but once the combination is established it does what every other combination of this type has always done. Power corrupts, and the leaders of this cartel will have a large amount of power. They'll use it for their own benefit - not ours.

  • The more aggressive the Fair Trolls are, the better for the cause."

    And how long until the Patent Trolls buy off the Fair Trolls, especially when they are Major corporations withe billions of dollars to piss away on this?

  • The way the US patent office works is that they check their data and any data that the submitter has provided. They aren't allowed to use search engines to find out if the thing had been done before since they would be leaking information out to the search engine provider. This means that the 1st software patent issued could have been for something very common if the patent office didn't have any reasonable documentation showing that it existed.

    I think a solution to this problem (as it rolls into other co

  • If I don't own a patent but infringe a dozen (i.e. I am a free software developer) what happens ?

Keep up the good work! But please don't ask me to help.