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Congress Asks Patent Office To Consider Secret Patents 285

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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  • Just Say No (Score:2, Informative)

    by shawnhcorey ( 1315781 ) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:14AM (#39843559) Homepage
    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.
  • 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

  • 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.

    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.

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

    by Bill_the_Engineer ( 772575 ) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:55AM (#39843891)

    I remember in the good o' days when companies rushed their products to market and marked certain parts of it "patent pending". Now days venture capitalists are using these patents as collateral betting that the inventor's lack of business experience will allow the portfolio to fall into the VC's hands. Afterwards the VC will be free to profit from selling or licensing the patent to others. It seems this new "requirement' to maintain secrecy for "competitive reasons" is really a ploy to give venture capitalist more time to market the patent to others.

    You'd think the patent itself would be protection enough and that this need for secrecy goes against the reasoning behind patents to begin with...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2012 @09:33AM (#39844259)

    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 dtmos ( 447842 ) * on Monday April 30, 2012 @09:51AM (#39844453)

    Are we confusing design patents [] and utility patents? From the link, "A design consists of the visual ornamental characteristics embodied in, or applied to, an article of manufacture. Since a design is manifested in appearance, the subject matter of a design patent application may relate to the configuration or shape of an article, to the surface ornamentation applied to an article, or to the combination of configuration and surface ornamentation."

    "In general terms [], a “utility patent” protects the way an article is used and works (35 U.S.C. 101), while a “design patent” protects the way an article looks (35 U.S.C. 171)."

  • Free market capitalism stopped child labour, not any amount of laws.

    My god, you are so full of bullshit. In the 19th century, free market capitalists were all for child labour precisely because the children could get underneath the weaving and spinning machines to clean up without the machine having to be stopped or slowed down. It was wonderful for the capitalist, especially as they had to wash the cloth afterwards anyway, so the blood and mashed up body parts from when there were accidents wouldn't add significantly to the overall cost of production, and you didn't have to pay nearly as much to children either (though of course it helped a lot that you also owned the only store in town and all the accommodation too, so you could be sure to get all those irritating "wages" back anyway).

    Free market capitalists have demonstrated beyond all shadow of a doubt that they are the scum of the earth. We have laws and regulations that prevent the worst excesses, but you seem to think that according everyone some rights is a Bad Thing. That's so fucked up an attitude that I really have nothing polite to say about it at all.

  • 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;


    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.

  • Easy question (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2012 @10:48AM (#39845133)

    What mechanism do you think allowed those feudal lords to accrue the power and wealth to get to their positions?

    The sword.

  • Re:Easy question (Score:5, Informative)

    by Creepy ( 93888 ) on Monday April 30, 2012 @12:58PM (#39846775) Journal

    Feudalism started mainly because the Carolingan (Frankish Empire associated with Charlemagne) bureaucracy couldn't afford cavalry, so manors started to foot the bill on taxes they collected on their land and made the cavalry hereditary (which is how we got knights). Peasants would voluntarily subject themselves to serfdom in exchange for protection and a plot of land and maybe a cottage, so in a way the sword is correct (they offered military protection), but it was really more about cavalry.

  • 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.

Marvelous! The super-user's going to boot me! What a finely tuned response to the situation!