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Electronic Frontier Foundation Patents Your Rights Online

The Mark Cuban Chair To Eliminate Stupid Patents 121

l2718 writes "The Electronic Frontier Foundation announced today a large donation by Mark Cuban and Markus 'Notch' Persson to the EFF Patent Project. Notably, part of Cuban's donation is for the creation of the 'Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents' (the first holder is current staff attorney Julie Samuels). Time will tell if the new title will help her advocacy work. Cuban said, 'The current state of patents and patent litigation in this country is shameful," said Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks. "Silly patent lawsuits force prices to go up while competition and innovation suffer. That's bad for consumers and bad for business. It's time to fix our broken system, and EFF can help.' Notch added, 'New games and other technological tools come from improving on old things and making them better – an iterative process that the current patent environment could shut down entirely. '"
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The Mark Cuban Chair To Eliminate Stupid Patents

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  • Re:Patents = Usury (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Desler ( 1608317 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @08:11PM (#42343075)

    Because wealth wasn't concentrated into a small segment of the population during the medieval times. No, that didn't happen at all...

  • Stupid Parents (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ThePeices ( 635180 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @08:18PM (#42343137)

    OK, How many of you misread the title as Stupid Parents?

    It wasn't until I read the line "...patent litigation..." that I clicked.

    Strangely, it seemed a fantastic idea when read both ways.

  • by ciaran_o_riordan ( 662132 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @08:52PM (#42343431) Homepage

    Why does EFF never oppose software patents as a concept?

    They always want to eliminate the 10 worst software patents, but they have enough educated/informed people to know that the world isn't plagued by 10 lousy software patents. It's thickets like the 346 US patents exploited by MPEG LA.

    Or the thousands of patents held by Intellectual Ventures, Apple, and Microsoft.

    C'mon EFF. You have the cash and the lawyers. Give us a hand [] fixing the problem (legislation, court briefs) and stop trying to wipe out malaria by swatting mosquitoes []! You know that doesn't work.

  • by AaronLS ( 1804210 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @09:03PM (#42343509)

    If you have the same attitude, you tell all of your repair men and doctors to give up so easily. Sounds like the only thing doomed is you dooming yourself.

  • Re:Patents = Usury (Score:3, Insightful)

    by maeglin ( 23145 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @09:05PM (#42343533)

    Facts is 99.9% of the time and more patents work, I doubt that there is any product you own which doesn't involve at least 2-100 patents either in the products themselves or in the manufacturing processes, you just never hear about them.

    Isn't what you just said proof that patents don't work? Who other than the entrenched have the resources to identify the 2-100 arbitrary patents that apply to any given product? How is this environment supposed to move innovation forward when it is set up in favor of those who are already sitting in the innovation-limiting "cash cow" stage of their respective businesses?

    Who is going to invest millions into R&D time and time again knowing others will simply take the fruits of your labours for free and profit from it.

    I dunno.. Maybe people who understand the concepts of first to market, trade secrets, quality of implementation and brand value and don't just hide behind naive assumptions about the need for legal protection of basic ideas?

  • Step 1.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @09:20PM (#42343603) Homepage

    Invalidate and reject ALL software patents.

    ALL of them. Computers are math, you cant patent math, therefore you cant freaking patent anything that is software.

    Until they do that, they are just spinning their wheels.

  • by dweller_below ( 136040 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @10:44PM (#42344131)
    The process of reforming the US Patent Office appears to be fairly straight forward. Unfortunately, it requires political commitment.

    The heart of the US Patent problems are both conceptual and economic. But the problems are easy to understand.

    First, we have adopted the idea that more patents are better than fewer patents. This idea has been proven false. We believed that US Patents were a license to create. But, this is not true. US Patents are nothing more than a license to hire lawyers and sue a competitor. They don't guarantee creation or progress. They only guarantee legal action. A little legal action is necessary, but a lot destroys economies.

    Since we believed that more Patents were better, in the last couple decades we have 'reformed' the US patent process to maximize the creation of patents.

    We need to a admit we are wrong. Once we have managed to do that, reform is fairly easy. Reform should address:

    • 1) Running the US Patent Office as a cost-recovery operation is a mistake.

      Currently most of the revenue of the US Patent Office comes from GRANTING patents. See the USPTO FY 2013 President's Budget page 37: "..More than half of all patent fee collections are from issue and maintenance fees, which essentially subsidize examination activities."

      Also, if you examine the fee structure in Public Law 112 - 29 - Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, you see that patent application fees are 1/3 or less that the Issue fee. See: []

      This means that, regardless of merit, about 1/3 of all patent applications must be granted in order to fund the US Patent Office. This economy creates unavoidable pressure to grant many patents that should not otherwise be considered. It also creates economic pressure that greatly decreases the time that can be devoted to examination.

      Reform could come in many forms, but the simplest and most reliable would be to eliminate and unify the Patent office fees into a single filing fee. This fee would provide no guarantee of receiving a patent, only a guarantee that your patent would be considered. This would free the Patent Office to be able to deny poor patents.

    • 2) Granting too many Patents is a mistake.

      Currently, we expand the number of patent examiners based on demand. See the USPTO FY 2013 President's Budget, page 60, Gap Assessment: "Meeting this commitment assumes efficiency improvements brought about by reengineering many USPTO management and operational processes (e.g., the patent examination process) and systems, and hiring about 3,000 patent examiners in the two-year period FY 2012 and FY 2013 (including examiners for Three-Track Examination)."

      Again, the assumption is, more patents are better, even if it means decreasing examination, and increasing the number of untrained examiners. Poor quality is an inevitable result of this patent process.

      The resulting flood of patents creates patent thickets. These thickets eliminate competition and stagnate markets.

      Reform would require somehow limiting the number of granted patents in a field. This could be accomplished several ways. The easiest would be to restrict the number of Patent examiners. If you eliminate the idea of cost recovery, then the natural process of limited congressional funding would probably suffice to limit the examination staff. Patent quotas would also work, but an PTO quota would be subject to regulatory capture. Patent Quotas would work best if they were set by Congressional Act.

    • 3) It is a mistake to grant all patents that meet minimum standards.

      A review of recent Patent Law will reveal that the minimum standard for granting a patent has consistently shifted downwards during the past few decades. We must abandon the idea that any patent that meets minimum standards is granted. Over time, the standard always de

  • Re:Guy is no dummy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by l0kl1n ( 1670272 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @11:55PM (#42344513)
    Yeah, fair enough, but he was one of the very few people who sold his shitty company at the peak of the bubble who was able to think ahead enough to actually keep his fortune.
  • by CuteSteveJobs ( 1343851 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @01:03AM (#42344883)
    > One of the qualifications of a patent is that it is non-obvious to a professional in that industry. That is pretty well ignored when most patents that I see litigated are 100% obvious to people well outside that area. Keyboards on a cell phone for texting. Wow that must have take a room full of geniuses working since Edison to work out that combo.

    The law is an ass, especially the Adversarial system of law practiced in the US where lawyers dispute everything, no matter how obvious. They say "In my opinion, my client's patent is most certainly not obvious and my client has a strong case." Rules forbid lawyers from bringing weak cases "without merit", but the lawyer simply insist they believe their case is strong and the judge (also a lawyer) will agree the only way to sort it out is in court, at great expense. You can't rely on "truth" winning in the end. Court room proceedings aren't debates like you have in highschool: All you have to do is convince an ignorant jury to go with your side. Look at the Koh Samsung debacle. It's very hard to get a wrong decision reversed since Judges don't like looking stupid or making other judge's look stupid. There are some very dirty and entirely legal tactics that lawyers use to bring the juries over to their side. I can't list them here because I would be howled down. This is why it's in your interests to settle with a troll, no matter how crazy their claim. Don't expect the judge to save you: There are some very one-eyed judges out there in patent troll county.

    Litigating a patent, whether you are the plaintiff or defendant costs $3M-$5M. Lawyers get paid no matter what. Even if you win, it's very unlikely the other side will be ordered to pay your full costs. You have to treat that money as a write off. You won't see it again. Some lawyers work on contingency for patent trolls, but this makes it worse for the victim because neither the plaintiff or their lawyers need to give a s*** about costs and refuse to settle. If they can fool a stupid jury they can end up owning your business, so why settle for a modest and mutually agreeable fee?

    The system is so bad that the smartest thing a software developer can do is take the money and run at the first chance before someone sues you, because you can't write a program these days without infringing a hundred 'obvious' patents. As soon as you get the whiff of money around you, the trolls will come. Expect submarine patents and out right bogus ones too. Writing software is like being an OB-GYN... too risky. Find something safer.

    Lawyers are opportunists, and I blame the USPTO and Congress for giving them the opportunity. Instead of looking at stupid patents, they need to go after the root cause.
  • Re:Guy is no dummy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oursland ( 1898514 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @03:09AM (#42345373)
    Actually, that sounds pretty smart to me.

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin