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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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  • by apk1 ( 2628805 ) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:20AM (#39843597)

    where there are laws forbidding child labor

    Just to take out this part out of the comment, what is wrong with "child labor"? I'm not talking about forcing kids to work in unsafe conditions or things they are not capable to do, but for example around here many family-owned businesses have their kids to do some work too. For example cleaning, or other simple things. It's good thing to teach your children about working, responsibility and how to take care of things, even at young age. This way those kids don't become lazy and losers later. Maybe this is one of the reasons USA is falling - the people have been taught to be lazy.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Monday April 30, 2012 @11:05AM (#39845333) Homepage

    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 coal, and his connections were about what you'd expect for a coal-shoveler. After filing for a patent, he turned his own employer into his first customer, founding a company that eventually made him a small fortune engineering solids-handling machines. Bearing in mind that these were pre-union, post-industrial-revolution days, the patent was the biggest thing preventing his employer from firing him and building the feeder themselves.

    Despite the pervasive paranoia of Slashdot, that's the kind of story the patent system is actually pretty good at creating. I've personally seen it happen about a half-dozen times. Making it easier for an average person to build connections before getting screwed is a good thing, in my opinion.

  • 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).

A committee takes root and grows, it flowers, wilts and dies, scattering the seed from which other committees will bloom. -- Parkinson