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Inventor Says Google Is Patenting His Public Domain Work (arstechnica.com) 164

Rob Riggs writes: Jarek Duda, the inventor of a compression technique called asymmetric numeral systems (ANS), dedicated the invention to the public domain. Since 2014, Facebook, Apple, and Google have all created software based on his breakthrough. Google is now trying to patent a video encoding scheme using the compression technique. The inventor is fighting Google in the European courts and has won a preliminary ruling. The fight's not over and Google is also seeking a patent with the USPTO. A Google spokesperson says Duda came up with a theoretical concept that isn't directly patentable, "while Google's lawyers are seeking to patent a specific application of that theory that reflects additional work by Google's engineers," reports Ars Technica. "But Duda says he suggested the exact technique Google is trying to patent in a 2014 email exchange with Google engineers."

Inventor Says Google Is Patenting His Public Domain Work

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  • Dumb smart people (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Monday June 11, 2018 @10:30PM (#56769518)
    There's a lesson here. If you have a good idea, don't fucking tell Google about it! Don't put it on your android phone, don't discuss it in email, don't type more than you have to in the search bar.
    • email should have read 'gmail'.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      That's ridiculous. You had up to a year to file before Obama changed that if you were the inventor. Now, Obama changed the rules to first to file so that has destroyed the concept of the small guy using patents to protect their work.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot@@@worf...net> on Tuesday June 12, 2018 @05:02AM (#56770560)

        That's ridiculous. You had up to a year to file before Obama changed that if you were the inventor. Now, Obama changed the rules to first to file so that has destroyed the concept of the small guy using patents to protect their work.

        The only difference between first to invent and first to file is when two people try to patent the same thing. In first to invent, the patent office has to examine all the documentation behind it and figure out who rightfully invented it first. In first to file, it's simple - whoever gets their application to the patent office first wins.

        The "1 year disclosure" is a separate issue - in the US, you could disclose your idea to the public up to a year before filing your patent. That's it. Obviously, under first to file, this is no longer workable (since someone could see your idea and patent it first).

        Be aware the US was the only country in the world with first to invent and 1 year disclosure. Every other country in the world was first to file, and no disclosure.

        The implications are bigger - first, no disclosure means the first time someone speaks out in public about the idea, the idea is no longer patentable. By spilling the beans prior to filing the patent, you've invalidated your right to the patent (after all, what's to keep someone else from filing a patent somewhere else and stealing it from you?).

        First to file makes no attempt to figure out who invented something first - so the little guy no longer has to prove he got this idea while hanging a clock, slipping and bonking his head on the toilet. BTW, it was rumored that Bell got the patent for the telephone by beating whomever else it was by about 15 minutes to the patent office.

        This way, disclosure trumps patenting worldwide. The fact this guy's algorithm is public means you cannot patent it at all. What can be patented is a novel modification to it, though I'm not sure what Google did to it to make it work with video.

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

          Getting to the patent office first is a lie. You can publish it and then only you can patent it there in after. First to patent is a lie, first to publicly demonstrate win, it's called prior art. You must prove new and original work and you can not do that in the face of existing public work. Oh sure the USPTO will accept it but they are as corrupt as fuck and have been set up to accept pretty much anything because woo hoo, get to contest it in a US court and US lawyers make all the money, hence done corrup

        • He beat out a guy named Gray. Grays company is now a nationwide wholesale electrical supplier and is one of the largest employee owned companies in the US.
    • There's a lesson here. If you have a good idea, don't fucking tell Google about it! Don't put it on your android phone, don't discuss it in email, don't type more than you have to in the search bar.

      Classic example of availability bias.

      The vast majority of inventions are lost to the world because the person who thought it up (in a form that was by no means complete and practicable unto itself) failed to solicit enough outside involvement to fully move the idea forward.

      It's simply human nature that ideas die

    • Good ideas are worth nothing. Lots of people have good ideas all of the time.

      It's the implementation that's worth something.

  • by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Monday June 11, 2018 @10:44PM (#56769558)

    Patent examiners only look at prior patents for prior art. They don't have the time to look else where.
    If you share an invention that isn't patented, someone will find it and apply for a patent. It it really is novel and nothing like it has been patented before it will be granted. They will then use it to sue everyone you shared the information with. Starting with the little guys who can't afford a decent lawyer.

    It's extremely time consuming and expensive to invalidate a patent.

    • by StormReaver ( 59959 ) on Monday June 11, 2018 @10:46PM (#56769564)

      [If] it really is novel and nothing like it has been patented before it will be granted.

      If you work for a large company, use the phrase, "with a computer," and can pay the application fees, it will be granted.

      • [If] it really is novel and nothing like it has been patented before it will be granted.

        If you work for a large company, use the phrase, "with a computer," and can pay the application fees, it will be granted.

        Why is this comment modded down as "funny"? There is so much truth in this statement. It's so funny that it makes me want to cry. This comment should be modded up, and the moderator should be modded down.

        • [If] it really is novel and nothing like it has been patented before it will be granted.

          If you work for a large company, use the phrase, "with a computer," and can pay the application fees, it will be granted.

          Why is this comment modded down as "funny"? There is so much truth in this statement. It's so funny that it makes me want to cry. This comment should be modded up, and the moderator should be modded down.

          Because it's not true? Google Patents provides free and fast searching of issued patents. Go find one that was granted just because it says "with a computer".

          • [If] it really is novel and nothing like it has been patented before it will be granted.

            If you work for a large company, use the phrase, "with a computer," and can pay the application fees, it will be granted.

            Why is this comment modded down as "funny"? There is so much truth in this statement. It's so funny that it makes me want to cry. This comment should be modded up, and the moderator should be modded down.

            Because it's not true? Google Patents provides free and fast searching of issued patents. Go find one that was granted just because it says "with a computer".

            It's definitely true. Of course, no one actually writes those exact words into the title. One has to give the patent examiner a little credit for finding prior art, so the ideas that are simply reapplied to a computer, a phone, a GPU, etc. are written such that the idea sounds novel. It's easier to get these patents through larger companies because they don't care about the $10k/patent fees and they're mostly concerned about the bragging rights to having more patents. The quality of the patents don't ma

            • [If] it really is novel and nothing like it has been patented before it will be granted.

              If you work for a large company, use the phrase, "with a computer," and can pay the application fees, it will be granted.

              Why is this comment modded down as "funny"? There is so much truth in this statement. It's so funny that it makes me want to cry. This comment should be modded up, and the moderator should be modded down.

              Because it's not true? Google Patents provides free and fast searching of issued patents. Go find one that was granted just because it says "with a computer".

              It's definitely true. Of course, no one actually writes those exact words into the title.

              So, definitely not true then? Got it.

              One has to give the patent examiner a little credit for finding prior art, so the ideas that are simply reapplied to a computer, a phone, a GPU, etc. are written such that the idea sounds novel.

              If something is written such that the idea sounds novel, maybe it's, you know, novel?

              I should point out that you've backed away from the "use the phrase 'on a computer' and it'll be granted" claim to "write something that achieves a known result in a novel way on a device that couldn't previously do it and your patent will be granted," and I don't see why that's a bad result.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Thankfully not any more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/danielfisher/2014/06/19/saying-do-it-on-a-computer-not-enough-for-a-patent-supreme-court-rules/

    • by Anonymous Coward

      My brother is a patent examiner. They look at more than just prior patents. If you want them to do a better job, lobby your congress creatures to give them more money so they can hire enough people so they can properly do their jobs. Or make it illegal to swamp the patent office with bullshit in order to bog it down. DoS attacks are supposed to be illegal when carried out using a computer, which emails and electronic forms use, so a lot of these 'top companies' are illegally attacking the patent office.

      • by jaa101 ( 627731 )

        The patent office gets to charge for applications; DDoS victims don't get to charge for attacks against themselves. The simple solution is for the patent office to charge enough to cover their full costs to properly examine every application. This can fund the employment of as many patent examiners as are required to process applications in a timely way. If this isn't happening, complain to the government about the administration of the patent office.

    • by shanen ( 462549 )

      Slashdot needs an IOttMCO mod point for such comments. Moot for me (of course), since I never get a mod point to give. Actual solution would be fixing the moderation system properly, but you know that ain't never goinna happen because whoever owns Slashdot [whipslash et al. are owners #4? #7? Or someone else now?], no one can figure out a better financial model to pay for the MUCH needed improvements.

      Maybe the real problem is "No patent here"? If Slashdot were a patent-generating profitable corporate cancer

    • by 1ucius ( 697592 )

      "Patent examiners only look at prior patents for prior art."

      Not true. Examiners routinely cite websites (Wayback machine), books and other printed material, technical disclosure bulletins, etc., particularly in those technical areas where non-patent sources are cutting edge.

    • by eddeye ( 85134 )

      Patent examiners only look at prior patents for prior art.

      You mean, like electronic journals [uspto.gov] (not the slashdot kind)? Yeah too bad USPTO doesn't have any of those. Well not many. Just a few:

      "The Scientific and Technical Information (STIC) provides examiners access to Non-Patent Literature (NPL) through multiple electronic tools purchased from various publishers.... NPL encompasses all the TC subject areas and includes electronic books, periodicals, conferences, standards, dissertations, and much more

  • by Trogre ( 513942 ) on Monday June 11, 2018 @10:55PM (#56769596) Homepage

    Then how the hell did it get anywhere near a patent office?

  • Be Evil. Why not? Don't be evil is not in the code of ethics any more! (Was it ever?) Now Google is just dropping all pretense.

    • I'm sure he'll do fine in the courts. After all, Google doesn't really have the resources to fight this and they have a history of just rolling over in the face of adversity.
    • Be Evil. Why not? Don't be evil is not in the code of ethics any more! (Was it ever?) Now Google is just dropping all pretense.

      A Googler with modpoints slunk onto Slashdot?

  • This is just not how they work. You can only patent concrete implementations.
  • If you have nothing original to say you look up an article on Reddit or Arstechnicha or Techdirt and post to Slashdot.

    Slashdot editors aren't pros. They are people like all of us and they say "Oh wow this is of interest" and publish it. Except that's not publishing. It's rehashing what someone else actually researched.

    Lazy ass slashdot contributors -- if all you can do is rehash Reddit, Arstechnica, and Techdirt posts... please don't.
    Lasdhot editors (lol) - if the "author" adds NOTHING ORIGINAL and is me

  • So far, this is following a 'Silicon Valley' plotline. Wonder if the compression technique was originally conceived in the same manner!
  • If we can google slashdot, maybe we can slashdot google.

  • by ath1901 ( 1570281 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2018 @06:37AM (#56770752)

    Let's see if we can find a pattern here:

    1. Creating a general algorithm that can be applied to many different problems - No protection since math is neither patentable nor copyrightable.
    2. Apply the algorithm to a specific problem - Patentable. 25 years of protection.
    3. Writing a shitty almost off-topic post on slashdot in a thread about the algorithm - Copyright. Life + 70 years!

    So, the less important the creative work is to society is, the more protection it gets.

    • The general algorithm was probably patentable if the specific implementation was. Just expensive to get done.

      • Actually no. Algorithms and mathematics are not patentable, not even in the united states. An idea which uses math is patentable though. So, you can use any algorithm you want in the MPEG-LAs portfolio for anything but video encoding, which is patented.

        • I know algorithms cannot be patented, but an implementation can be. "Use XYZ to compress arbitrary bits" is as patentable as "Use XYZ to compress video bits".

    • by 1ucius ( 697592 )

      " the more protection it gets."

      OTOH, copyright only protects against copying the code (i.e., this specific expression), not use of the underlying algorithm.

    • Let's see if we can find a pattern here:

      1. Creating a general algorithm that can be applied to many different problems - No protection since math is neither patentable nor copyrightable.
      2. Apply the algorithm to a specific problem - Patentable. 25 years of protection.
      3. Writing a shitty almost off-topic post on slashdot in a thread about the algorithm - Copyright. Life + 70 years!

      So, the less important the creative work is to society is, the more protection it gets.

      Only 20 years for patents, not 25. But yes, copyright term is significantly longer, but it's much narrower. Copyright only protects that specific item. So if you copy-paste someone's source code, you violate their copyright. If you reverse engineer it and rewrite it, then you don't, but you may violate their patent. In fact, if you independently come up with the same code, even if it's 100% identical down to variable names, you don't violate their copyright because you haven't actually "copied" anything, bu

      • Only 20 years for patents, not 25. But yes, copyright term is significantly longer, but it's much narrower. Copyright only protects that specific item. So if you copy-paste someone's source code, you violate their copyright. If you reverse engineer it and rewrite it, then you don't, but you may violate their patent. In fact, if you independently come up with the same code, even if it's 100% identical down to variable names, you don't violate their copyright because you haven't actually "copied" anything, bu
  • by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2018 @08:48AM (#56771156)
    yes, that can be expensive, at least in the US, but then he could have freely licensed it and have an easier time preventing other from patenting his idea. if it gets rejected as not patentable, that also helps prevent others from trying to patent his idea later since there would already be prior art.
  • So that would be all about "do not evil", or have I missed already this phrase becoming a meaningless slogan?
  • This is actually a good thing he is doing. Mr. Duda could have patented his work himself and became financially very successful in a short period of time. But instead he is spending money to ensure the technology is available to everyone at no cost, simply improving everyone's products. He would much rather say I improved upon Huffman and walk away. Presumably not in a solid gold Lambo.
  • - Hayao Miyazaki

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