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Tim O'Reilly Debates Patent Office Director
Patents Posted by jamie on Sunday May 28, @06:30PM
from the don't-want-to-be-Jerry-Springer-but dept.
jbc writes "The O'Reilly Network is running a debate between Tim O'Reilly and Patent Office Director Q. Todd Dickinson. Among the highlights is Tim's call for a Slashdot-like forum to serve as a means of identifying prior art." A bare-knuckled debate, not as in-depth as I'd have liked, but it's good to know Dickinson's perspective. Someone else mentioned a list of educational patents on computer assisted instruction techniques some of which go back to the 1960s.

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    Common Sence (Score:1)
    by TheDeal (benmchan@hotmail.com) on Sunday May 28, @06:35PM EDT (#4)
    (User Info)
    Doesn't anyone else think that there should be one shouldn't be able to file patents on things existing in nature/sudo nature (the human genome), and common sence logic (such as the single click system)?
    Rule 56 (Score:5, Funny)
    by the_other_one (other_one69@MAPSONhotmail.com) on Sunday May 28, @06:43PM EDT (#8)
    (User Info)

    They're also required, under a very stringent rule called "Rule 56," to supply to the office all the prior art of which they're aware that's material to the examination of that application.

    This is kind of like asking Bill Gates list any ways he thinks his company may have violated anti-trust laws.

    *** CENSORED ***
    This sort of bites... (Score:5, Insightful)
    by dbarclay10 on Sunday May 28, @07:01PM EDT (#22)
    (User Info)
    Mr. Dickenson said at one point "That's why you need a good lawyer," in reference to paten applications and such. Does he know how much even a mediocre lawyer costs? I had one a while ago, and for six one-hour sessions, it set me back around $3000. He also said a couple of times about how he patent system was "for the little inventor", you know, the garage-inventor type person whose intellectual property would be stolen by the big companies. So, the system is in place to protect the inventor who has just spent his life savings on his invention, but yet that same inventor is expected to have all these thousand-dollar bills around to pay a lawyer?

    Bite me.

    'Round the firewall, Out the modem, Past the server, Through the router, Down the wire, NOTHING BUT NET.
    Re:This sort of bites... (Score:2, Insightful)
    by zeck on Sunday May 28, @07:48PM EDT (#43)
    (User Info)
    Like it or not, if you're going to coexist with the legal system in the United States, you're going to have to interact with the laws. And if you're going to interact with the laws, you really should either know the laws yourself or hire an advocate who knows the laws. If you think you know patent law well enough to do it on your own, no one is forcing you to hire a lawyer, but if you're concerned that you aren't sharp enough to protect your interests on your own, you're probably going to regret it if you don't get a lawyer to do it for you.

    Many situations - for instance crossing the street - are simple enough, law-wise, that you probably don't need a lawyer. And the consequences of screwing up (legally) are appropriately low. But complex, high-stakes situations such as intellectual property require a much more complex system of laws. And if you don't know them, you tend to get screwed.

    Mr. Dickenson doesn't dictate the cost of a lawyer, nor does he decide whether big corporations will screw you out of your invention or not.

    But look on the bright side: If your idea is worth enough to warrant companies trying to screw you out of it, you'll probably be able to find someone willing to buy in and help you protect it.
    Isn't it sick? (Score:3, Interesting)
    by Danse (danse@no.s.p.a.m.satx.net) on Monday May 29, @03:29AM EDT (#121)
    (User Info)

    Let me sum up what you just said:

    "If you want any justice in this country, you'd better be able to afford it."

    While Mr. Dickenson doesn't dictate the cost of a lawyer, he does have a lot of control over how the patent system works. If it currently requires you to hire a lawyer in order to have a reasonable chance at protecting your invention, perhaps it needs to be changed.

    Re:Isn't it sick? (Score:1)
    by RomulusNR on Monday May 29, @01:01PM EDT (#142)
    (User Info) http://www.ccs.neu.edu/home/romulus

    Capitalism. Get used to it.

    Keep your school safe! http://www.waveamerica.org
    Re:Isn't it sick? (Score:1)
    by zeck on Monday May 29, @03:54PM EDT (#150)
    (User Info)
    You didn't read my post closely. You already have justice; everybody plays by the same rules. If you don't know those rules, of course you are going to get shafted. You have three choices: Learn the rules, hire someone who knows the rules to look out for you, or arrange it so that someone who can work the system by either of the former methods has the same interests to protect as you.

    The world is not a fair place, and nothing you can do will make it so as long as people are the way they are. The best you can do is draw up rules that apply to everyone and make sure everybody plays by them. But if you don't know the rules, naturally you're going to have trouble. I'm sure you've heard the phrase "ignorance of the law is no excuse". You can't expect people or corporations to give you a break because you don't know the rules.
    Re:Isn't it sick? (Score:2)
    by Danse (danse@no.s.p.a.m.satx.net) on Monday May 29, @04:21PM EDT (#152)
    (User Info)

    You are deluding yourself. Your choices are hardly choices. People go to law school for years and at great expense to learn "the rules," and even then they have to specialize in a certain area of law in order to know it well enough to succeed in court. That is not even an option for most people. You can pretend that everybody has the same resources and the same chances to learn as everybody else, but you'd be very, very wrong. Perhaps if everyone in this country was able to make a certain minimal amount of money, and this amount afforded them the ability to have good legal representation whenever they needed it, we'd have a more level playing field. We both know that that isn't how our economy works.

    If people begin to make more money, then everything starts to cost more money. Somebody has to work at McDonald's. Somebody has to work in the factories. These people are not going to be paid well, even though they are needed by these companies. When people start finding better jobs, these companies have to pay more to hire workers. That is the sort of thing that causes Mr. Greenspan to slam the brakes on the economy in order to avert inflation. This causes many people to lose jobs, thus freeing up more labor, which lowers wages again. Someone has to end up on the bottom. Millions of people, in fact. And barring some stroke of genius or luck, that is where they will remain, because the country needs someone to be on the bottom, and the economy enforces this to a great degree.

    Re:Isn't it sick? (Score:1)
    by zeck on Monday May 29, @08:14PM EDT (#158)
    (User Info)
    What you say isn't necessarily true; Buckminster Fuller maintained that with our current resources and technology, everyone on earth could potentially enjoy the standard of living which only the wealthiest enjoy now. I don't really see how inflation is in any way relevant to patent law, but you brought it up.

    Back to the original subject, the laws in place in the patent system are in place for a reason. It takes a complicated system to regulate something as complex as ideas. One doesn't necessarily need to be a lawyer to be familiar (or even competent) with patent law, but you're correct that it certainly isn't worth learning if you can afford a lawyer to help you file your patent application.

    Your idea that somehow patent law should be simple enough that no one needs any legal knowledge to file and maintain patents is more that idiotic; it's laughable. Someone will always find a way to abuse the system, and complex rules will have to be drawn up to prevent those abuses. Just as an example, preventing Amazonesque overly broad patents will probably require a more rigorous search for prior art and demand for evidence of an actual original idea. This will make it more difficult to frivolously sue for patent infringement, but at the same time make it more difficult for legitimate patents to be granted. You NEED complex rules to prevent abuses, but these same rules will make it very difficult for someone not intimately familiar with them, and will probably necessitate the hiring of an advocate familiar with the rules.
    Re:Isn't it sick? (Score:2)
    by Danse (danse@no.s.p.a.m.satx.net) on Tuesday May 30, @04:15AM EDT (#168)
    (User Info)

    What you say isn't necessarily true; Buckminster Fuller maintained that with our current resources and technology, everyone on earth could potentially enjoy the standard of living which only the wealthiest enjoy now.

    But obviously everybody does not have that standard of living. What does that comment have to do with reality?

    I don't really see how inflation is in any way relevant to patent law, but you brought it up.

    It was relevant to my point that many people cannot afford any legal representation, and most people cannot afford good legal representation. Nor do their jobs and families leave them with the kind of time it takes to learn these things, nor do most people receive the kind of education it would take to really understand the law. Then consider that they probably won't even know what area of law they need to learn about until it's too late.

    Back to the original subject, the laws in place in the patent system are in place for a reason. It takes a complicated system to regulate something as complex as ideas.

    Not the way Mr. Dickinson runs the place. Anything that doesn't get voided during a quick prior art search gets patented. Anything that does seem to have prior art gets rewritten and patented.

    One doesn't necessarily need to be a lawyer to be familiar (or even competent) with patent law

    No, but you do have to have the time (which usually means having money since money can be traded for time, and vice versa) and educational background to allow to you learn it, just as you would need those two things to learn any area of the law.

    Someone will always find a way to abuse the system, and complex rules will have to be drawn up to prevent those abuses.

    We've already seen that the patent system is laughably easy to abuse. The current director is a buffoon that wants to patent anything and everything possible, which is no wonder considering that's how the patent office makes its money (another ridiculous idea that some moron came up with in order to cut spending, without much consideration for the consequences).

    The patent system does not have to be complex to be effective. The current system is extremely subjective, so changing some guidelines and still giving examiners the ability to use their informed judgement could only be an improvement. The trick is to take away incentives to do shoddy work, and lay down some guidelines to make sure that investigations are thorough and sensible. Such a system may have some internal complexities that will be dealt with by the examiners and other PTO employees, but would not be complex for those who are seeking a patent.

    Re:Isn't it sick? (Score:1)
    by zeck on Tuesday May 30, @09:37PM EDT (#178)
    (User Info)
    But obviously everybody does not have that standard of living. What does that comment have to do with reality?

    Nothing more than your tirade about how someone has to be on the bottom, which is what it was in reply to.

    It was relevant to my point that many people cannot afford any legal representation, and most people cannot afford good legal representation.

    OK, but it still has nothing to do with inflation.

    Not the way Mr. Dickinson runs the place. Anything that doesn't get voided during a quick prior art search gets patented. Anything that does seem to have prior art gets rewritten and patented.

    The flaws you point out suggest a need for more rules, rather than less. Removing the regulations already in place aren't going to keep people from slipping by.

    The patent system does not have to be complex to be effective. The current system is extremely subjective, so changing some guidelines and still giving examiners the ability to use their informed judgement could only be an improvement.

    So what you're trying to say is that the existing clearcut rules that everyone is subjected to equally should be replaced with the impossible to quantify "informed judgement", and that everyone who tries to patent anything should be placed at the mercy of an examiner who has absolute power to reject their patent for any reason. Sounds great, except that it still won't get rid of the need for a good lawyer. Filing the patent is only the beginning; the real test is using it to keep other people from ripping off your idea.
    Re:Isn't it sick? (Score:2)
    by Danse (danse@no.s.p.a.m.satx.net) on Wednesday May 31, @02:03AM EDT (#181)
    (User Info)

    So what you're trying to say is that the existing clearcut rules that everyone is subjected to equally should be replaced with the impossible to quantify "informed judgement", and that everyone who tries to patent anything should be placed at the mercy of an examiner who has absolute power to reject their patent for any reason.

    No, I'm saying that that's basically the way it is now. The problem is that the PTO has financial incentives to grant as many patents as possible and reject as few as possible. This leads them to perform inadequate prior art searches. It leads them to ignore the whole part about not granting patents on inventions that are "obvious" to an expert in the field. It leads them to reward some examiners for granting more patents than other examiners. Basically the current system is set up completely wrong. They have incentives that are completely backwards.

    We could set the system up where the examiners still make the final judgement (which they do now), but where they don't have the same incentives they have now, and they have to follow different guidelines for the examinations than they do now. I'm not talking about making it more complex necessarily, I'm talking about changing the current system to another that is probably no more complex than the current one, but that doesn't bias the process by making the PTO depend on revenue generated by the number of patents it grants, and where examiners have no incentive to grant patents that they wouldn't grant if they went by stricter guidelines for searches and "obviousness."

    Re:Isn't it sick? (Score:1)
    by zeck on Wednesday May 31, @02:57AM EDT (#182)
    (User Info)
    I'm talking about changing the current system to another that is probably no more complex than the current one.

    Probably no more complex? That doesn't sound like a real simplification to me. You're right that the existing system needs redirection, but I still don't see how you expect to eliminate the need for a lawyer by making the system "probably no more complex."
    Re:Isn't it sick? (Score:2)
    by Danse (danse@no.s.p.a.m.satx.net) on Wednesday May 31, @02:27PM EDT (#185)
    (User Info)

    When I said it would be "no more complex," I was talking about internal PTO procedures that will be guiding the examiners. I think it could be made significantly less complex for those who are seeking patents.

    Re:Isn't it sick? (Score:1)
    by zeck on Wednesday May 31, @08:08PM EDT (#188)
    (User Info)
    You still haven't explained how you think you can simplify the patent system to the point where no one needs a lawyer, yet still provide regulatory control and prevent abuses.
    Re:This sort of bites... (Score:2)
    by Jeff Licquia (jeff@luci.org) on Tuesday May 30, @06:32PM EDT (#176)
    (User Info) http://www.luci.org/
    It does make it kind of disingenuous, though, to talk big about "protecting the small inventor" while at the same time requiring you to hire a big-time lawyer just to get anything done.

    So let's not pretend that the patent system is about its original purpose (encouraging innovation) or about "helping the little guy" (as Dickenson would have us believe). Let's just admit that patents exist to help rich guys get richer at the expense of poor bright people, and be done with it.

    Re:This sort of bites... (Score:1)
    by zeck on Wednesday May 31, @01:36AM EDT (#180)
    (User Info)
    If we did decide to admit that the patent system is designed to oppress the masses, I would certainly hope we would not just "be done with it." There are some people left in America, after all, who still believe that the system can work.
    Foreign-language translation (Score:2, Funny)
    by Yu Suzuki (dural@doramail.com) on Sunday May 28, @07:03PM EDT (#23)
    (User Info) http://www.shenmue.com
    translated using yodafish:

    writes jbc, he does "Running a debate, between Tim O'Reilly and Q. Todd Dickinson, Patent Office Director he is, it is, the O'Reilly Network is. Tim's call, for a forum, like Slashdot it is, as a means of identifying prior art, serve it will, among the highlights it is." Patents leads to hate. Hate leads to fear. Fear leads to suffering. A debate, bare-knuckled it is, not as in depth as like, I would have, it is. To know Diskinson [sic]'s perspective, good it is. Always an open mind, a Jedi must keep. A list of educational patents, on computer assisted instruction techniques, they are, which go back to the 1960s, some fo them do, mentioned someone else mentioned. Patents, intellectual property, a Jedi craves not these things.

    Yu Suzuki
    Deamcast. It's thinking.

    Kill the lawyers (Score:4, Insightful)
    by Syberghost (syberghost.NOHAM@eiv.NOPORK.com) on Sunday May 28, @07:04PM EDT (#25)
    (User Info) http://www.eiv.com/users/syberghost
    Mr. Dickinson's argument seems to be:

    If you didn't catch it when it was being maneuvered in back rooms, I don't care if it's right or not, tough shit, you should have been richer.

    Mr. Dickinson, you are part of the problem, not part of the solution, and I hope you need help with your system from a clueful hacker some day.

    Penguins are so sensitive to my needs. - Lyle Lovett
    Kill the lawyers? Okay, but improve review! (Score:5, Insightful)
    by orpheus on Sunday May 28, @08:25PM EDT (#54)
    (User Info)
    On the other hand, I think he failed to convey the full impact of something I found very compelling. We might very well *not* have demanded increased Article 56 burden, if we'd been at the hearings.

    Right now we're looking at pro-corporate examples that make out blood boil one way, but there *is* another side, even for an ardent anti-corporatist. [Let's forget for the moment that half of SlashDot is rabidly anti-IP right now. We *have* a patent system. Let's work with that] How many of us have tinkered and invented since we were kids, and at some point considered having an inventions produced and marketed? What's the first thing you worry about? The system and being ripped off by the Big Guys. Result: no one wins. The product doesn't get made -- or gets made years later, when someone else comes up with it (and probably *that* person gets ripped off.

    Most of us have wished it wasn't so difficult to get a patent. The more inventive you are, the more likely you've wished it. A lot of us would love to be able to support ourselves with our explorations of the possible... so that we could spend our lives inventing more.

    But we're 'little guys'. The cost, the search, lawyers, the years to approval -- all are scary!

    On the other hand, it realy burns our beans to see someone else patent something that seems 'obvious' (to us) -- often *so* obvious that it seems like the major cleverness lay in imagining the idea of patenting it. Then we start demanding more rigorous standards for patenting.

    So which will it be? Easier patents or harder? I choose "easier". Why? because a corporation can more readily carry the burden of increased Artcle 56 demands than 'the little guy', the Yankee tinkerer, the one-man R+D shop. And that seems to be Dickinson's view, too. What we need is easier, more consistent, transparent and less painful patent review. Unfortunately, he simply isn't equipped to perform that review. he wants our help (on his terms, of course - whaddya expect?)

    In the extreme, the patent system could be like the internet -- anyone can put up a site (stake a claim), but that claim can be shot down too. That isn't the no utopian vision it might seem. The Internet has plenty of problems that we wrestle with daily: spam, threatigation (coercion by threat of litigation -- just made it up), cybersquatters... you all know the list.

    But since patents aren't hobbled by free speech concerns, which *need* to be generously oversized, due to the power differential between individuals and coercive groups (private or government), there is a reasonable opportunity to construct a system where scientific and enginneering principles reign and not 'legal principles' (oxymoron).

    We don't have to have a 'wild west', we can have a collaborative 'open source patent review'

    Admittedly, a lot of people (including many lawyers I know) would find purely technical grounds to be too "cold" or "restrictive". They prefer softer standards, like 'social values' or consensus, or even fantasy. That's not a slap -- we're all sometimes a little less rational that we'd like to believe. My point is: not everyone will agree with *any* patent, when it keeps them from doing what *they* want. We all secretly hate the guy who gets 'our' girl, 'our' parking place or 'our' lottery jackpot.

    We'll all sometimes want to decide patents on the basis of what we imagine the consequences would be, rather than whether it is a genuine advance over prior art. We will find the battle for to make rational patent decisions is not, and may never be, as easy as we should.

    My 2 cents. Harder or easier? I say easier -- both to create patents and to contest them.
    If you can go to bed each night knowing you did something truly valuable, you're very lucky. If you can't... then it's not bedtime yet.
    Re:Kill the lawyers? Okay, but improve review! (Score:1)
    by -Harlequin- on Sunday May 28, @10:56PM EDT (#94)
    (User Info)
    >So which will it be? Easier patents or harder? I choose "easier".
    >Why? because a corporation can more readily carry the burden of increased Artcle 56 demands than 'the little guy',

    I disagree - the difficulty is smallfry compared to the expense. It is the _cost_ that is most prohibitive of the small guy and no obstacle for the corporation. The hoops you have to jump though are linked to this of course, but focus on the cost first. Right now, a patent for a small guy is a very big investment of hard cash and the chances of seeing any return on that cost are minimal (unless you hit the jackpot with the next "tetrapack".

    Other than that, we pretty much agree :)
    Patents as incentive (Score:2)
    by The Famous Brett Wat (famous at nutters org) on Monday May 29, @11:17PM EDT (#163)
    (User Info)

    I'll try not to be rabidly anti-IP, but I believe there is a case for abolishing patents based on what you say, rather than tweaking the system.

    Most of us have wished it wasn't so difficult to get a patent. The more inventive you are, the more likely you've wished it. A lot of us would love to be able to support ourselves with our explorations of the possible... so that we could spend our lives inventing more.

    But we're 'little guys'. The cost, the search, lawyers, the years to approval -- all are scary!

    So it goes something like this: you have a neat-o idea, and you think, "wow! I should patent that!" but the patent system scares you off. The patents have failed to act as an incentive to publish your idea, which was their very reason for existing in the first place. Not only are you not going to patent your idea, you are not likely to release it into the public domain because you don't want to give up on the opportunity for patenting it, despite the fact that there't not much chance you'll actually do so. The mere possibility that you could (theoretically) make money out of this idea by patenting it, is causing you to jealously guard it as your property rather than share it! Patents are an active disincentive to publish!

    If patents did not exist, however, you might consider one of two possible courses of action. One is to think that your idea is a good one, but probably not something that you are going to make any money out of, so you publish it somewhere in a specialist newsgroup or something. If the idea has legs, it will run on its own. You'll probably get some fame and recognition, and that can be financially rewarding in the long run, depending on how good the idea really was.

    On the other hand, maybe you think the idea is so good that you can make money out of it yourself. But how do you sell an idea without a patent to protect you? I'd suggest this approach: contact a company that could use the idea, and see if any are interested in the general concept. Invite one company to see it demonstrated. It doesn't matter if this gives the game away, because you then offer to sell them one important thing: an offer to not go and tell all their competitors the same thing. If this idea really confers a competitive advantage, then they'll appreciate the head start and pay for it.

    This has the advantage that nobody has exasperating restrictions placed on their freedom in terms of not being able to do patented things, and nobody gets to choke-point key ideas. Inventors may not Make Money Fast this way, but frankly we can do with a decrease in the rate of invention for the sake of fewer moronic restrictions on the programs that we are allowed to write, especially given the quality of the average "invention" embodied in patents these days.

    This post is (P) Public Domain. Any sources quoted are done so under "fair use" and retain their original copyright.

    Re:Patents as incentive (Score:1)
    by SedentaryZ on Tuesday May 30, @02:21PM EDT (#172)
    (User Info)
    Invite one company to see it demonstrated. It doesn't matter if this gives the game away, because you then offer to sell them one important thing: an offer to not go and tell all their competitors the same thing. If this idea really confers a competitive advantage, then they'll appreciate the head start and pay for it.

    The problem with this is that the nature of many patents is such that it is feasible for others to reverse-engineer the invention. After spilling the beans about your great new invention to a large company, the offer to *not* tell other companies in return for a significant amount of money isn't going to get you anything. The company you're making this offer to knows that their competitors will figure it out on their own, once products containing the invention are available to the public. Paying you money to not divulge the details of the invention will more often than not be a waste of money.
    Re:Patents as incentive (Score:1)
    by The Famous Brett Wat (famous at nutters org) on Wednesday May 31, @10:09PM EDT (#189)
    (User Info)
    The problem with this is that the nature of many patents is such that it is feasible for others to reverse-engineer the invention.

    Of course. In fact, some things are immediately obvious upon looking at them without the need for any formal reverse engineering techniques. The main window of opportunity here is "time to market", rather than "time to reverse engineer", although that will also be a major contributing factor in any non-trivial invention.

    To demonstrate the "time to market" concept, imagine that you are a manufacturer, and you see that a competitor has a new and innovative product, and you decide that you must produce something similar to remain competitive. How much time elapses between the moment you make the decision, and the moment the product actually hits the shelf? This is the time to market.

    The time will vary based on many factors, but if the idea is a good one then being first to market will be plenty rewarding enough without patent incentives. Of course if the idea is so trivial to implement that time to market is negligible, then true, you won't make any money by offering to keep it a secret. If it's that simple to implement, then there's a good chance everyone will do it themselves anyhow rather than buying a product. Specific examples would help here, but this thread is old and tired now, so I won't bother.

    This post is (P) Public Domain. Any sources quoted are done so under "fair use" and retain their original copyright.

    that's a shallow view point (Score:2, Insightful)
    by klieber (kurt[at]#no-spammy#lieber.org) on Sunday May 28, @10:57PM EDT (#95)
    (User Info)
    Sorry, but that's not Mr. Dickinson's argument. He's arguing for adherence to the system and, in those cases where the system doesn't work, participation by all stakeholders to improve said system.

    He repeatedly stated that he is strongly in favor of anything that will improve the patent office's access to prior art. He also made it clear that people who argued for changes in the system (i.e. the independent inventors lobby) got those changes. He rightfully pointed out that there was no significant representation from people who share Mr O'Reilly's point of view.

    What he didn't come out and say, but what I'm inferring is basically, since we didn't lobby then, we don't have a right to bitch now. And, if we *do* want to bitch, then go through the proper channels and get new legislation introduced.

    To me, this seems analogous to voting -- if you participate, you earn the right to complain. If you choose not to vote, you have no right to whine later when things don't go your way.

    Re:that's a shallow view point (Score:1)
    by cpt kangarooski on Monday May 29, @03:06AM EDT (#118)
    (User Info)
    The voting system is slightly broken. If I vote, at present, I have to vote for SOMEONE. And depending on your local voting laws, you may only be allowed to vote for some small set of people (e.g. candidates who have a sufficient number of backers already, no write-ins allowed)

    This means that the only way to not vote for anyone on the ballot is to not vote at all.

    I would be happier if I could make a vote of No Confidence in any candidate on the ballot. The fact that I voted would be on record - the fact that I didn't want to vote for any of them would be as well.

    As it stands, I really don't plan to vote for Gore or Bush this year. Maybe Nader, I dunno (I don't like the greens, I do like Nader). But I'm up shit creek with this year's Senate race here. I'll probably skip that one rather than support any of them. What else can I do?
    -- I support anonymous posting.
    Re:that's a shallow view point (Score:3, Interesting)
    by Syberghost (syberghost.NOHAM@eiv.NOPORK.com) on Monday May 29, @07:50AM EDT (#128)
    (User Info) http://www.eiv.com/users/syberghost
    If notification of the impending vote is posted on the back of a filing cabinet in the third sub-basement of an abandoned warehouse in Toadsuck, Arkansas, nobody "chose" not to vote.

    This was a major change with vast implications to everyone in this country, and it was quietly worked out where only people already engaged in the process would even know about it.

    Yes, public hearings were held; and after they'd been held, they were publicized in what amounts to "nyah nyah, missed 'em missed 'em now you gotta kiss 'em".

    I'm not foreign to the political process; one U.S. Senator voted correctly on encryption issues because I patiently explained them to him while we were waiting for his plane to arrive.

    I didn't hear anything about this, and I don't recall any of the geek news sites mentioning it until after the fact, much less the "real" news sites.

    Mr. Dickinson is aware of the hidden nature of this discussion (his remarks in the article make that readily apparent) and his remarks also seem to indicate that he doesn't feel that's at all a bad thing, that he basically sees the fact that Open Source is a grass-roots movement and thus doesn't have unlimited funding is a failing of the movement and should rightly result in the movement having no voice in a process that he vigorously defends as being by the lawyers, of the lawyers, and for the lawyers.

    His position seems to be that if you don't like the system, you should hire a lawyer to lobby for fixing it.

    He states that people writing programs should always hire an attorney first to make sure they're not stepping on some obscure patent on some obvious process, directly equating the alternative with "performing surgery on yourself". That's not my impression, it's a quote. See page 4, about halfway down.

    So basically, he should be among the first up against the wall when the revolution comes. :-)

    That is, assuming pulling the trigger doesn't violate Amazon's one-click patent.

    Penguins are so sensitive to my needs. - Lyle Lovett
    Re:that's a shallow view point (Score:2)
    by DJerman (djerman@pobox.com) on Tuesday May 30, @09:33PM EDT (#177)
    (User Info)
    Mr. Dickinson is aware of the hidden nature of this discussion (his remarks in the article make that readily apparent) and his remarks also seem to indicate that he doesn't feel that's at all a bad thing, that he basically sees the fact that Open Source is a grass-roots movement and thus doesn't have unlimited funding is a failing of the movement and should rightly result in the movement having no voice in a process that he vigorously defends as being by the lawyers, of the lawyers, and for the lawyers.

    Before we put him against the wall (not that we shouldn't, but before) let's remember that he didn't create the system, and he doesn't have a whole lot of leeway in how it works. Patent law is pretty patchy. I think it's mostly OK, except for a few of the provisions for what's patentable.

    But the law allows patent claims that are exceedingly convoluted and arcane. The main reason it's "of the lawyers"... etc. is that a lot of legal jargon is used to make the claim incomprehensible. Remember when they posted Transmeta's claims? You can't do your own patent search, 'cause you could be staring right at a conflicting claim and not recognize it. Sometimes I wonder if they're just trying to confuse the PTO into giving up and issuing the patent.

    I think part of patent reform will have to be fully-defined, simplified language, as well as an industry review for obviousness. In the meantime, the advice he gave you is about as far as he can go in print. Otherwise you might write an RSA implementation and point to his advice, as a defense :-).

    Re:Kill the lawyers (Score:1)
    by Chris Marlowe (xtofermarlowe@yahoo.com) on Monday May 29, @02:35PM EDT (#148)
    (User Info)

    Mr. Dickinson's argument seems to be:
    If you didn't catch it when it was being maneuvered in back rooms, I don't care if it's right or not, tough shit, you should have been richer.

    We could have a system in which Mr. Dickinson could decide whether Congress was right in passing a law, and if they were not, he could do what he damn well pleased (which we might hope would please us, too). We would not call that a patent system. We would call it a junta fronted by a figurehead legislature.

    The worst thing I heard in that interview (if I understand it correctly) was that the new law extinguishes prior-art defenses that had been heard administratively. That's got to be a denial of due process, and a violation of the separate powers of the judiciary. I believe Mr. Dickinson thinks this sucks as much as Mr. O'Reilly and I do.

    I also believe he thinks we aren't paying him to protect us from the flaws of representative democracy. His job places him in charge of a bad law. That he refuses to ride in on a white horse to override it does not make him the bad guy.

    Re:Kill the lawyers (Score:1)
    by b0g0n on Monday May 29, @10:03PM EDT (#160)
    (User Info)
    Several of Mr. Dickinson's comments got stuck in my craw. A few of them are listed below, along with my comments. Dickinson: Absolutely, Mr. O'Reilly. One thing we were lacking was your very cogent voice last year as this legislation was pending on Capitol Hill. We very strongly supported expanding that re-examination, and it only passed in November, and I didn't hear you or Mr. Bezos raise your voices once to try to keep that kind of loophole from being included in the legislation. Software developers are concerned with writing code, not with political wrangling in Washington. Keeping up with developments in their rapidly changing field is a full-time job. I think it's unfortunate if lawmakers should feel the need to be responsive to every group that has enough wealth or influence, or who makes enough noise to capture their attention. The point of law is to create a level playing field. The protection of the law should apply evenly to everyone regardless of wealth, influence, intelligence or political savoir-faire. Instruments of law should be designed to benefit the average citizen. The average citizen is not wealthy, is not well-connected, does not have a lawyer or lobbyist, does not represent a major corporation, and probably doesn't even vote. Dickinson: That's a tricky business because the copyright lasts for a hell of a lot longer than a patent lasts. The copyright will last fifty years past your lifetime, whereas the patent only lasts for twenty years from the date you file your application. The copyright laws just changed, did they not? I've read several complaints about the longevity of copyrights under the revised statutes. One of the great things about the old system of copyrights is that one might reasonably hope to outlive some particular copyright. One point that Mr. Dickinson does not address and that Mr. O'Reilly failed (in this interview) to articulate is that the tenor of patent law is different from that of copyright law. The rights, privileges and penalties are different. I think that is why Mr. O'Reilly (and others) prefer copyright protection for software. Dickinson: Well, that's why you need a good lawyer. I wouldn't suggest that you do surgery on yourself either. You need to consult a lawyer on what is probably one of the most arcane areas of -- It's my opinion that recommending litigiousness or recourse to lawyers is not a laudable pastime for any man, and especially not for a public servant. Rather he should be striving to make the body of law as small and simple as possible and to make its application as rapid, accessible and transparent as possible. Lawyers exist as parasites on the body politic. Elimination of this parasitism would be a fit project for anyone who would serve the public interest. Unfortunately it seems that at many levels our government is now operated by and in the interests of (You guessed it!) lawyers. This is not a healthy situation for our country. And with respect to this kind of opinion, prior art is both rich and ancient. Dickinson: Absolutely, I think that's a great idea. I would encourage you to continue to try to develop any mechanism including the Web sites that would bring additional prior art that's good and valid prior art to the surface, so we can make sure the quality of these patents is as high as we can make them, and I applaud you for doing that. Software and web sites are ephemeral by nature. Subject to constant upgrades and revisions, their life span is fleeting. The digital media wherein they dwell are equally shortlived. It would be surprising to me if the majority of software developers would be able to produce the kind of tangible documentation (in defense of prior art) that Mr. Dickinson seems to expect here.
    Small biz immunity from BIG biz patent litigation? (Score:1, Interesting)
    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 28, @07:25PM EDT (#30)
    Until the small business has 1% of the gross income of the big one, or $1 million, whichever is smaller.

    This would keep the dinosaurs from trampling freshly-sprouted businesses, and would let them pay attention to doing their thing, until they got big enough to afford paying for lawyers etc., at which point it would be time to negotiate royalties instead existence.

    I think there is enough anti-bully sentiment that something along these lines would be possible, and it would result in more choices and more businesses, and all those good things.

    Re:Small biz immunity from BIG biz patent litigati (Score:1)
    by etymxris (rostewa2@vNoSPaMt.edu) on Sunday May 28, @11:29PM EDT (#100)
    (User Info)
    One problem, what if there are 1000 mom and pop shops with 1% of the gross income of the big company. Suddenly the company has less than 10% of the market share. I personally like the idea. But the problem is like a big animal fighting off thousands of bees. If one bee stings a bear, it might get a little peeved. But if thousands of bees attack a bear, the bear could easily die.
    This is a good article, but... (Score:1)
    by FattMattP on Sunday May 28, @07:27PM EDT (#32)
    (User Info)
    This is a good article, but Dickinson constantly interrupts O'Reilly as he tries to explain his point of view. Eighty percent of the article is Dickinson missing the point because he's the one doing most of the talking.
    Re:This is a good article, but... (Score:1)
    by Scrymarch (adam.burke@iname........com) on Sunday May 28, @09:27PM EDT (#73)
    (User Info)
    I think you'll find the interruptions went both ways; it was more because of the bareknuckle nature of the discussion than rudeness on either part. Dickinson has some alien views and he certainly came out swinging, but it was pretty aggressive on both sides.
    Re:This is a good article, but... (Score:1)
    by MadAhab (736c617368657240616861622e636f6d) on Monday May 29, @12:01PM EDT (#139)
    (User Info) http://www.ahab.com
    He's also clearly dishonest, engaging in pure sophistry that would be laughed out of any rational discussion. He sounds not like someone debating, but like a very cornered, scared, and stupid bulldog. Bury this dinosaur now.

    Boss of nothin. Big deal.
    Son, go get daddy's hard plastic eyes.
    Re:This is a good article, but... (Score:3, Insightful)
    by DJerman (djerman@pobox.com) on Sunday May 28, @10:44PM EDT (#89)
    (User Info)
    Why is there no patent on using the phone to get the correct time? I'll tell you why: BECAUSE IT'S FREEKING OBVIOUS.

    I think this goes to the heart of it, and where they were talking at cross purposes. Every time Tim talked about obviousness, Dickenson talked about prior art. I agree that the patent office should only consider published material as prior art, but obviousness is a much fuzzier thing, apparently.

    I'd have thought you could show obviousness if someone tried to patent a standard mail-order or phone-order convention as applied to the Internet by citing those as prior art, and making the argument that it's obvious to do the process with another communications medium. Can anyone think of some specific examples (I've had a long day) that we can write up and send in? I'd like to see how well the process works :-).

    Patents are perverted not abused Fix by Legalizing (Score:2, Insightful)
    by Rares Marian (rmarian@winblowsstart.com) on Sunday May 28, @07:28PM EDT (#33)
    (User Info)
    The concept of patenting as opposed to the advertised concept of patenting is to trade a reasonable compensation for disclosure of works.

    The advertised concept is sole proprietorship. That's a load of bull.

    Let me explain something: Invention does not exist. The laws of physics already state what is possible and what isn't. As a result there is only educated discovery.

    The best example is the gui gallery here:

    Take note how many of ideas Xerox metions have come to life in other systems.

    Another reason this issue bothers me is that I've been fantasizing the next level of development of OSes. The idea is simple: Do what 's been done since the old days -- make the system more modularized in developer's point of than it already is. Guess what? Mac OS X is there I still hate the company and its attempt to wipe out all experienced users from the general audienmce. But aside from the coplexity this step creates, it's an amazing system. It should be called PDFos or Micromac OS. The fact that I or anyone else is capable of conceiving of such a so called breakthrough makes me very concerned about the way the system works.

    And there's also a concept of a period of time when the world is ripe for that "invention". That throws even more doubt on the concept of isolated originality, which is what the notion of invention really is.

    AmigaOS was 32-bit preemptive multitasking 10 years before the appearance of Windows9x. The Amiga also had WebTV style addons way before the explosion of the web we're used to.

    The point Dickinson refuses or fails to recognize is that the patents presented are not inventions, but integrations.

    I'd accept a 9 month period to grant monopoly on integrations in specific regions.

    Caught signal SIGSIG read this comment again.
    questionable procedures (Score:1)
    by kb9vcr (genglerbatuwplattdoteducation) on Sunday May 28, @07:28PM EDT (#34)
    (User Info) http://www.uwplatt.edu/~genglerb/
    Dickinson mentioned just how important rule 56 is yet this rule seems only to cater to a perfect world. Tim O'Reilly realizes this. If I don't submit anything for rule 56 then it is up to the patent office to go around and figure out if it is in fact patentable. What is to ensure that the patent examiner is aware of all these technologies? I'm sure there is a detailed process for approving patents but, in the case of software and internet technology, it doesn't seem to be working. I couldn't believe the emphasist that was put on patent re-examination. To me, it seems that Dickenson is using a policy of "Issue patents now and let re-examination sort 'um out!" Maybe that should be the poster outside his office. It's one thing to go around issuing challenges to people to file re-examinations and quite another to actually issue the patents in a honost and decent way.
    They should have a "laugh test" (Score:5, Funny)
    by tilly on Sunday May 28, @07:29PM EDT (#37)
    (User Info)
    The patent office should locate and talk to 3 people in the field. Ask them whether the discussed patent is an original and innovative idea. If 2/3 cannot help but laugh, throw it out.

    Most of the software patents would quickly die by this test...

    My usual seat in the cluetrain is at IWETHEY
    Dickinson isn't the one to put in the hot seat, (Score:1, Insightful)
    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 28, @07:35PM EDT (#39)
    It's your representative in congress who has sold the citizen's rights to IP down the river to large corporations. One question that I didn't see addressed is why Dickinson is asking for better/more tools to search prior art with much of the money collected from patent fees going to other congressional programs?? Why not keep all the money collected from fees in the patent office?? The fight isn't with the patent office, it's with your butthead congress.
    Patents and copyright (Score:1)
    by sholden on Sunday May 28, @07:41PM EDT (#41)
    (User Info)

    Tim: Well, how about a basketball player invents a new move. Should that be patentable?

    Dickinson: Moves aren't patentable subject matter.

    Tim: Why is that?

    Dickinson: They may be copyrightable subject matter, as dance is, but they're not
    patentable subject matter.

    Since I know nothing about US copyright and patent law (not living in the US after all)...

    Are the sets of things that can be patented and things that can be copyrighted mutually exclusive?
    Or can you patent the 'process' and copyright a specific 'implementation' of it?

    I'm guessing the second, since it's all a conspiracy after all ;)

    If it's the first, does that mean it is legal to
    somehow get your hands on the code for GIF compression or for Final Fantasy, and then use that code in your own project in a different domain so that the patent is not infringed? Since the code must be public domain since it can't
    be copyright as it is patented...

    Re:Patents and copyright (Score:1)
    by MattEvans (mhe5@cornell_HATES_SPAM.edu) on Sunday May 28, @08:03PM EDT (#49)
    (User Info)
    Patents and copyrights are in a sense mutually exclusive, since they deal with different things. You're right: patents are about "processes", and copyrights about "implementations". It's in making the distinction between the two that they're really not mutually exclusive. For instance, algorithms are patentable (e.g. LZW compression). A software implementation of an algorithm (i.e. the actual code) is copyrightable, just like any other written work. So yeah, you can patent the method, and then copyright the specific implementation.

    That's why I thought it was stupid that Dickinson brought up the fact that copyrights last longer than patents. It doesn't matter for the majority of cases. Nobody's really complaining that you're not allowed to steal source code. Barnes and Noble were taken to court for reimplementing the one-click system, not just grabbing Amazon's code and changing the logos (which would be a clear copyright violation). Software lies on a grey line between "algorithm" and "written work", and so far (unfortunately, IMHO), the courts are finding that they can be protected as both.

    Re:Patents and copyright (Score:2, Informative)
    by L. J. Beauregard on Monday May 29, @12:49AM EDT (#105)
    (User Info)
    (IANAL. IANAL ought to be assumed unless the poster says otherwise. But that's another thread.)

    Are the sets of things that can be patented and things that can be copyrighted mutually exclusive? Or can you patent the 'process' and copyright a specific 'implementation' of it?

    Patents and copyrights are orthogonal; neither diminishes or augments the right to the other. I could, for instance, patent a process, copyright a book describing the process, and trademark a name for the process. Trade secrets, OTOH, are in fact mutually exclusive to patents: a patent discloses the invention, and then it isn't a secret anymore.

    A GIF implementation would be subject to the author's copyright, unless released to the public domain; it would also be subject to Unisys's patent. One would need a license under the author's copyright and under Unisys's patent.

    Ooh, moderator points! Five more idjits go to Minus One Hell!
    Delenda est Windoze
    Ooh, moderator points! Five more idjits go to Minus One Hell!
    Delenda est Windoze

    metaphors (Score:2, Informative)
    by jabkie on Sunday May 28, @07:47PM EDT (#42)
    (User Info)
    this is great. according to Dickinson, metaphors (as part of a lawyers argument) are patentable.. too bad nobody patented "step up to the plate..." they could have made a fortune in royalties.. if he'd said that one more time i think i would have puked.

    btw, for anyone who only read the interview, i recommend you listen to the real audio stream--you can't appreciate the full humor of Dickinson's arguments without hearing his tone of voice..

    high bandwidth real audio stream
    low bandwidth real audio stream
    mp3 of interview

    the best part is when tim points out that very new subjects are being raised that need to be dealt with and Dickinson responds "Bah!" (unfortunately translated to "Nah." in the text version..)

    but what does everyone think about patenting a lawyer's argument? could a defense lawyer patent the (albeit obvious) argument that the prosecution is going to make, and thereby the prosecution couldn't make that argument? of course, patents take a while to go through the system, but what about a situation where a trial was being delayed greatly (to go to the supreme court or whatever)--could one side in the intervening time patent the other side's argument?
    .signature fault. joke dumped.

    don't kill the lawyers, starve them (Score:3, Funny)
    by @10u8 (at10u8 at yahoo dot com) on Sunday May 28, @08:00PM EDT (#47)
    (User Info)
    Unless I'm mistaken Dickinson has just guaranteed the eventual starvation of all lawyers. He admits that he would permit a patent of a legal argument if it were software. As soon as the first software lawyer becomes presentable in court, all other lawyers are going to have their arguments taken by the software developers of CyberLawyer1.0
    Programming is an art (Score:2, Insightful)
    by jimadilo (spam2@omic.onation) on Sunday May 28, @08:01PM EDT (#48)
    (User Info)
    I think a very valid point came across in that debate.

    If arguments in language are considered to be expression as art, isn't programming anything akin to prose?

    Programming languages are languages in their own right. If I describe something in a novel that's a new idea, it doesn't mean that I'm going to develop it, and therefore I shouldn't be able to patent it. If two authors come up with a similar idea for a book, one can't just sue the other.
    In code it should be the same. Two sites may allow a similar experience for their visitors, but they should really only be allowed to copyright the code to implement that. Not patent the experience. I mean, what would have happen if Eddison had patented the experience of light shining on walls?

    I think there are two real problems here:
    1. The only people who really understand what is going on are the techies and geeks, but everone else thinks they know better.
    2. The companies creating all the patents are really big and can therefore afford the legal assitance needed to squash everyone else.

    And can just say about that stuff Dickinson said about going out and getting yourself a lawyer to sort out the legal problems: what a twat. Where the fuck does he think an average programmer is going to get that sort of cash from? I think the fact that he is a lawyer helped him conceive this truely inspired comment from the back of his arse.

    '... I was here, you just didn't see me.'
    The cost of lawyers (Score:2, Insightful)
    by TekPolitik on Sunday May 28, @08:40PM EDT (#60)
    (User Info)
    And can just say about that stuff Dickinson said about going out and getting yourself a lawyer to sort out the legal problems: what a twat. Where the fuck does he think an average programmer is going to get that sort of cash from?

    This is an ongoing and increasing problem with the legal system in general. They are almost making it so you have to have lawyers working for you just so you can live, but the cost of lawyers is too high for a typical person to afford.

    The cost of justice is a major topic of debate internally in the law community as well. Believe it or not, there are honest lawyers out there who are as appalled with the cost of justice as we are, and want to do things to reduce those costs. Unfortunately, they are severely outnumbered because lawyers generally like their Armani Suits, BMWs and backyard swimming pools. What's more, Judges are lawyers, and most politicians are lawyers.

    Re:Programming is an art (Score:2)
    by Chalst (cas-at-achilles.bu.edu) on Sunday May 28, @10:52PM EDT (#92)
    (User Info) http://achilles.bu.edu/cas
    Code *is* covered by copyright. It is designs that solve coding tasks
    that are patentable. I think I am with Dickinson on this one:
    changing these ideas over to copyright creates as many problems as it
    Dickinson is far out of touch. (Score:1)
    by Kenelson (kenelson@ucdavis.edu) on Sunday May 28, @08:22PM EDT (#51)
    (User Info) http://www.ece.ucdavis.edu/~kenelson
    In reading the interview I can only conclude that Dickinson doesn't understand the concepts of patents and copyrights in the slightest. He may be a lawyer but the differences in law clearly escape him. At one point, he makes inference that it is better that software gets patented than copyrighted because that would ensure use in less time. Then when Tim disagrees, he simply cuts him off. Dickinson statemeet is clearly untrue.

    A simple examination of the rights thus far given in the courts to copyrights and patents shows this is clearly false. For example, if I copyright my implementation of an algorithm then all who see it must not duplicate it for the duration of my copyright (which is a very long time thanks to disney.) If I patent that same algorithm then yse it will become public domain in considerably less time. At least on the front, it is true.

    However, the effects during those years under patent are vastly different. Under the copyright, someone can come up with an identical output with an independent implementation without ever having seen my original and they are completely free to use it. That is a patent places a mortorium on all use of works which perform the same unique function. Boy doesn't Disney wish they could have patented Mickey, then all drawings of mouse cartoons would have been restricted to only them!

    If this is the kind of reasoning that is given to allow software patents, then I think the useful age of the patent system is long past.

    --Karl (holder of 1 software patent)

    Dickinson is playing the politician (Score:5, Insightful)
    by TekPolitik on Sunday May 28, @08:22PM EDT (#52)
    (User Info)
    Putting on my politician's hat, this guy is playing lawyer-politics. If you read the interview carefully, you'll find he avoids answering the questions he's asked. Almost every answer he gives is an answer to a different question than the one that's asked - in some cases it's blatant, in others the question he answers is subtlely different.

    I'm only up to page 4 so far, but the feeling Im coming away with is that Dickinson was engaged in an entirely separate and unrelated conversation to the one O'Reilly and the moderater were having.

    Take, for example, O'Reilly's question of "How would you feel if a legal argument could be patented?" Dickinson avoids answering the question several times. He starts of saying "sure, if it meets the statutory requirements and is incorporated in software" - but the O'Reilly question asked about a theoretical change in statutory requirements. Dickinson then falls back on arguing that lawyers arguments are not patentable. At no stage did he answer that question, although he tried his best to appear to have answered it!

    Dickinson is also adopting clearly partisan positions on the issue, and is commenting on issues he's clearly not up to speed on. His argument actually outlines a definition of "obvious" - he only considers things obvious if prior art exists! This ignores the fact that if there wasn't a prior need, then prior art cannot exist. Prior art is only a valid qualifier if you can also establish long standing prior need.

    Perhaps this would be one way to fix the patent system. Make it a requirement to establish prior need dating back, say, the same amount of time as the patent will last. If there is no significant prior need, or if there is prior art, no patent can be granted.

    As things are, Dickinson is claiming that if somebody arrives at a particular need first, arrives at an instant and obvious solution, and patents it, then the patent should be allowed because by his definiton it's not obvious (there is no prior art).

    I'm pretty sure the Amazon One-Click patent will fail this test, because the patent itself is little more than a patent of that which is needed! In this case, once you have the need you have the "invention".

    Re:Dickinson is playing the politician (Score:1)
    by Crock on Sunday May 28, @10:26PM EDT (#85)
    (User Info)
    Yes, It seems that prior art is the only way to prove that something is not trivial. The argument is: If it were trivial then someone would have invented it before. That combined with the lazy search for prior art seems to be the loop hole needed to patent any old idea. They need to consult experts! -Crock
    Re:Dickinson is playing the politician (Score:2)
    by Chalst (cas-at-achilles.bu.edu) on Sunday May 28, @11:08PM EDT (#98)
    (User Info) http://achilles.bu.edu/cas
    I don't agree with him, but I thought Dickinson's tone was just
    right. He was pretty fact oriented, and I don't think he avoided the
    question, even the one you talk about. What I did hink was wrong with
    interview was that he got more time than Tim.

    The point about obviousness and prior need is a good one, but I
    think your proposed solution isn't so hot. I don't think inventions
    should be punished for stepping outside of the framework of recognised
    needs. The telephone was useful without being needed. Though maybe
    the idea could be adapted: either demonstrate prior need, or
    demonstrate non-obviousness. The latter could be achieved by Tim's
    peer review.

    Re:Dickinson is playing the politician (Score:1)
    by TekPolitik on Monday May 29, @01:27AM EDT (#110)
    (User Info)
    The telephone was useful without being needed.

    Not true. The concept of the telephone was already directly implied by the telegraph - that is, the problem is to transmit messages from one place to the next. To do so with sound is a clear improvement over doing so with Morse Code. There were 30 or 40 years (depending on who you believe) between the invention of the Telegraph and the invention of the Telephone, a more than ample gap. In fact, Bell's 1876 patent described the telephone as the "talking telegraph".

    Even if we take a different standard, Bell came up with the concept of the telephone two years before he had a working model, so getting from the need to the reality involved significant amounts of research.

    The concept of transmitting voice at a distance had already been used previously, with the "speaking telegraph", having been invented in 1848. While this wasn't an electrical device, the comparison with the electrical telegraph was already present in the name, and it clearly implied the need to transmit voice over a distance. These devices were still used on ocean vessels well into the 20th century!

    In 1861, Reis created a device that transmitted voice over a distance via an electrical wire. The name of the device - "das Telefon". In 1868, Dolbear was already working on the telephone concept.

    The Microphone was invented 50 years before the telephone by Wheatstone, who was heavily into the concept of electrical transmission of sound.

    Gray began work on trying to devise a workable telephone in 1872 - two years before Bell came up with his idea.

    So all in all, there was plenty of demonstrated need long before Bell succeeded in making a working telephone.

    In any case, you may want to rethink the telephone as a good example of the benefits of the patent system. In as much as it was a device that transmitted sounds via electrical current, there was more than ample prior art! The patentable part of the invention was not in the concept, but in the specific implementation, and if the patent system had worked the way it should have, Gray and Edison would probably have won due to being better funded, having invented an equivalent device and having filed their patent application a mere 2 hours later!

    A good chronology can be found at http://www.das.ha rvard.edu/~jones/cscie129/pages/comm_chron1.html

    Re:Dickinson is playing the politician (Score:1)
    by Felinoid (correct@e-mail.address.on.website) on Monday May 29, @12:43AM EDT (#104)
    (User Info) http://www.meowpawjects.com/
    > If you read the interview carefully, you'll find he avoids answering the questions he's asked.

    This is a tactic recomended to me to deal with questions I don't have a preparied answer for.

    I never took that advice BTW...

    But this suggests to me Dickinson dose not understand the patent law issues...
    Bending space and time sence 2035
    Re:Dickinson is playing the politician (Score:1)
    by sottovoce (justin at eh gee en eye dubya ee be dot com) on Monday May 29, @02:06AM EDT (#113)
    (User Info)
    If there is no significant prior need, or if there is prior art, no patent can be granted.

    The problem with this is that there can be original, patent-worthy inventions without prior need and without prior art. It is possible that someone could come up with an invention that is completely novel, something that doesn't necessarily fulfill any need--an entertainment device, for example. As far as I know, it doesn't have to solve any practical problems to be patentable.


    Re:Dickinson is playing the politician (Score:1)
    by TekPolitik on Monday May 29, @02:21AM EDT (#114)
    (User Info)
    The problem with this is that there can be original, patent-worthy inventions without prior need and without prior art

    I am not referring to "need" in the economic sense, but including any prior statement of value. The "need" that I am talking about is necessary for any invention to have value in itself.

    To put it another way, every invention must have a purpose. The concept of that purpose arises no later than the invention itself, but usually arises earlier. The "prior need" test I am suggesting is a measure of the time period between the concept of the purpose, and the satisfaction of that purpose by an invention. If the time period is too small, the invention itself is obvious, and cannot be patented.

    You might argue that there is some value in the concept of the purpose on some occasions, but the intent of patents was never to protect the concept of the purpose - the intent is to offer protection to the implementation only.

    Re:Dickinson is playing the politician (Score:1)
    by RomulusNR on Monday May 29, @01:09PM EDT (#143)
    (User Info) http://www.ccs.neu.edu/home/romulus
    The cop outs about "well, that's a policy issue, not my problem" are annoying. On the plus side, his insistence that he can't do anything about it, makes him look like an ineffective schlep, not worth talking to. He's more worried about defending his office, and probably his employees, and his own job. Which is reasonable but not at all admirable, or responsible.

    On the other hand, I have to say Tim isn't doing a good job debating him. I realize it was done on the spot; and with a jittery moderator who is (to use the vernacular) a wuss, it probably felt like walking on eggshells. "Let's not talk about that -- its a hot issue." I hate that. 'Let's avoid the issues that need resolution, because if we ignore them they will just simmer down and go away.' But as for Tim vs. Dickinson, Tim should have been more prepared for Dick to come on the heavily defensive. He shouldn't have let Dick turn the tables around with lame attacks like 'hey, you should have brought that up last year. You didn't, so you lose, game over.'

    Keep your school safe! http://www.waveamerica.org
    Anomalous increase? (Score:1)
    by craw on Sunday May 28, @08:32PM EDT (#55)
    (User Info)
    Dickinson pooh-pahs the notion that internet patents are inherently different from other telecommunication technologies like the telephone, telegraph, and television. Deja vu all over again. However, it seems to me that there is something different.

    Why has there been an incredible increase in the number of computer software related patents such that the USPTO cannot keep up with the work load? Well, this is relatively new technology (especially internet related things) and one would expect an increase. However, I believe that the increase in the number of patents is anomalously large even for a new technology. And the reason for this is simply frivolous patent applications for things that are obvious and/or have prior art.

    Finally, if the USPTO keeps issuing these obvious or prior art patents, the number of these types of patent applications will continue to increase (accelerate).

    Re:Anomalous increase? (Score:2)
    by gilroy on Sunday May 28, @09:57PM EDT (#76)
    (User Info) http://www.mindspring.com/~gilroy
    Asketh the poster:
    Why has there been an incredible increase in the number of computer software related patents such that the USPTO cannot keep up with the work load?
    Actually, this sort of ticked me off. What Dickinson failed to say -- perhaps, because he honestly doesn't know -- is that something fundamental has changed in the past decade. Previously, only functioning physical devices could be patented. Since the late 1980s, however, the courts have (unwisely, IMHO) expanded patents to include non-tangibles like software and "business methods". A lot of the abuses seem to stem from that.
    --- Open standards. Open source. Open minds. The command line is the front line.

    how depressing (Score:5, Insightful)
    by swinge (swinge_2000@yahoo.com) on Sunday May 28, @08:39PM EDT (#58)
    (User Info)
    When Tim O'Reilly can best you in an argument, you know you're in trouble :)

    We don't patent obvious inventions. We just don't. And if you believe that it's obvious, and you've got prior art to show that it is obvious, send it on in

    our patent system is in the hands of a moron. Dickenson doesn't understand the difference between "obvious" and "prior art". If there is prior art, it doesn't matter if it's obvious. Obvious is for the case where there is no prior art.

    And saying that the one-click patent was very narrow: Barnes and Noble used two clicks so they didn't infringe? That is the stupidest reasoning ever!

    People don't hate lawyers because they are stupid. We hate them because they are stupid and have influence over anything.

    hating the bottom feeders (Score:1)
    by quux26 (j@nospam#intap.net) on Sunday May 28, @11:02PM EDT (#96)
    (User Info) http://www.intap.net/~j
    I hate lawyers because they have a vested interest in making people fight. A lot.

    My .02
    Re:how depressing (Score:1)
    by mavenguy on Monday May 29, @11:48AM EDT (#138)
    (User Info)
    I am late to the discussion here and some of what I will say has been addressed by prior replies to this post, but I just can't resist adding my 2 cents (US), particularly since the moderator saw fit to award this post so richly. As background, I am a former Patent Examiner with 18 years in the PTO, although I no longer have anything to do with the IP field. The poster states: "Dickenson doesn't understand the difference between 'obvious' and 'prior art'. If there is prior art, it doesn't matter if it's obvious. Obvious is for the case where there is no prior art." This is totally WRONG; The statutory standard for obviousness is set forth in 35 USC 103, where the term "Prior Art" appears, the gist of which states: (a) A patent may not be obtained though the invention is not identically disclosed or described as set forth in section 102 of this title, if the differences between the subject matter sought to be patented and the prior art are such that the subject matter as a whole would have been obvious at the time the invention was made to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which said subject matter pertains. Patentability shall not be negatived by the manner in which the invention was made. ... Perhaps ther poster simply didn't understand the use of terminology in patent law, but the implied notion that "obviousness" is done in a vacuum without reference to prior art is totally bogus; the Commissioner is quite correct in stating that obvious needs to be supported by prior art; By prior art it is not limited to a single piece of prior art that identially shows the claimed invention; that circumstance is called anticipation, whcih is covered in section 102 of the patent statute; If the invention is anticipated, it is also (but redundantly) obvious, for anticipation is the epitome of obviousness. (That comes from some court opinion I won't bother to waste time looking up); section 103 simply extends the prohibition of patenting an invention not exactly previously known to the case where it is an "obvious" variant. But, how much variation is needed to escape section 103? That's the money shot of the patent biz (Well, after the definition of proper subject matter under section 101, perhaps). That staute only gives some broad guidelines: On is to look at the differences between the claimed invention and the prior art (Which can be one or more individual pieces of prior art), and then evaluate what the prior art shows (or "teaches" as it is sometimes expressed), taking the view of one "skilled in the art" to which the invention pertains. As a practical matter, the art of the prior art references will generally be the same as the claimed invention; it then boils down to evaluating the significance of the differences. There is no hard and fast rule here, but it amounts to how significantly, in one or more functional aspects, the claimed invention "works" compared to the functionality exhibited by the prior art. So, what Dickenson said is, on its face, perfectly correct: If you think the invention is obvious, prove it, according to law, by providing the prior art AND arguing how that prior art applies against the claim. Now, in all this I am not stating that the searches and decisions on patents by the PTO are perfect, in any way; in fact, as I have indicated in my few past posts on patents, the PTO has serious management deficiencies in the way patents are examined, that have their roots back in the 1960's and have only gotten worse over the years to a deplorable state. But silly, uninformed attacks like this post that are so EASILY rebuttable do liitle to advance the debate on this subject. And the moderator who bumped this up to 5 (without a "funny" reason) needs to get a clue; the post was really not worth much more than a run of the mill AC 0.
    Re:how depressing (Score:2)
    by swinge (swinge_2000@yahoo.com) on Monday May 29, @01:09PM EDT (#144)
    (User Info)
    I thank you for the clarification. looks like I was using "prior art" to refer to something close to the thing being patented, rather than to the pieces of the patent. However, you are endorsing my definition of obviousness.

    But, let me point out that your clarification makes Dickenson, the patent office, and Amazon's one-click patent even emptier: if the patent is "one-click ordering", are you really having trouble seeing the prior art, your definition? Do you know what a mouse is? They click. That's what they do. Do you know what a browser cookie is? Did you realize that the standard for cookies allows for them to be saved between sessions, or not? Why would the standard allow for it if they didn't expect it to be used that way? Plenty of websites allow clicking. Plenty of websites allow ordering. Plenty of websites recognize who you are when you come back. There is nothing new here, including the business practice: "you know who I am, put it on my tab" probably goes back to the early days of the world's oldest profession.

    So, by clarifying my language, you have still utterly failed to "rebut" my position; rather, you have sharpened it. What scientists are good at doing is integrating new information with what they already know. We admit when we're wrong because it is necessary to find the truth. I'm not a lawyer and I'm not ashamed about not knowing the exact definitions lawyers have made up for common words. But I do know that patents shouldn't be allowed on obvious things and that the Amazon patent is one that was. Too bad lawyers and government bureaucrats don't have the same egoless approach to the the truth. We won't hate you if you'd just admit that you were wrong about the Amazon one-click patent. Actually, we will only if you don't.

    Re:how depressing (Score:1)
    by mavenguy on Wednesday May 31, @09:10AM EDT (#183)
    (User Info)
    Hey, take it easy on the Jolt! Calm down.... there, that's better.

    I was not attacking your take on the validity of the Amazon "one-click" patent, just trying to clarify some blatent misapprehension of patent law. Without a clear understanding of the patent law arguments based on the resulting misunderstanding lose a lot of their effectiveness, even if, with the proper application of law, might reach the exact same conclusion. I have not expressed any personal conclusion of the validity of Amazon, nor does anything 9n patent law DEMAND that its validity is ultimately assured. Yes, there is a presumption of validity of the patent, but presuptions are rebuttable.

    If I were to review Amazon, as with any patant, I would want to see the entire "file wrapper" and all other prior art, plus any "evidence" of those skilled in the art at the time the invention was made. I emphasize, again, I haven't done this for Amazon, and I have no plans to get into this since it is likely that lots of others have done this. All I am trying to express, here, is the process one uses to make the decision.

    OF course, then, the decision, itself, is then the key. Again, without expressing any opinion about this particular patent, I have serious doubts about the quality, in general, of PTO substantive decisions. In my previous post I described the PTO in hardly flattering terms. When I joined the PTO in 1973 there was a core, still, of bright, dedicated examiners who were really interested in getting to the truth and were not shy about resisting crap from being issued. The legal environment was not as "legalistic" as it has become, in the sense that an examiner could use an expression like "any kid on the street knows that" to support an obviousness rejection, and therre was a good likelyhood that, on appeal, that reasoning woould be supported. However, two factors changed this. Firstly, the courts reviewing most appeals from the PTO, First the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals, now superceded by the Court of Appeal for the Federal Circuit, started enforcing a more legalistic process in writting office actions, requiring a stricter standard for showing, in an obviusness rejection, not just a showing of the various parts of the invention in the reference(s), but how the REFERENCES, and the NOT the examiner, would "suggest" the claimed invention. This, then, had the effect of requiring more analysis to justify rejections. The only effect this could have of years of prior accepted practice, I maintain, is fewer reasons to reject claims, on average. Since examiners can't persue reversals made by the PTO's Board of Appeals and Patent Interferences the application gets issued.

    The second infuence, and, by far, the most destructive, was an ill informed, and, even hostile, management who clearly chose bean counting over quality, so that they could crow to Congress "We processed over 100,000 applicatins last fiscal year! We cut average application pendency (time from filing to issue/abandonment) to 22 months! Ain't we great?!" Almost all of this volume was taken out of the examination process; making your numbers took precidence over quality; Almost all examiners who got into performance problems were based on production or timeliness violations, not quality.

    That old core of dedicated examiners just dwindled away; those that could retire did so at the first opportunity; other just had to "get with the program", newly hired examiners were thoroghly indoctinated into the prevailing bean counter mentality. Applications are processed, although the process is still called "examination".

    I keep in contact with a colleage who came in a few years after I did; He sort of had a foot in both camps, but now even he is appalled at how the "kids" comming in nowadays are doing the work. He reviews the work of juniors and is distressed at how they allow claims that are as blatently rejectable as the One-Cl^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H Hell.

    But, yet again, I still offer no opinion as to Amazon.
    Re:how depressing (Score:2)
    by Wah (Hello!?thewah@uswest.netWhat?!) on Monday May 29, @01:17PM EDT (#145)
    (User Info) http://wahcentral.net
    Thanks for the VERY informative post. A couple nit piks, though, mostly in the are of "form"

    1) Line breaks : These are GOOD, they help people read and understand. Try changing that little box below your reply to "Plain Old Text" to help here.

    2) The Moderator : It is not the moderator, but moderator(s) which moderate posts. They are picked from the user base of /. They are us, we are they, and all of us are stupid at something. It's a community, and it has biases and misconceptions like any other.


    That being said, thanks for clearing up the "obvious" part of the patent process. Keeping things in context is VERY important.

    There is one area that I think still leaves a chink in the armor of the patent system (at least for IP).

    If the invention is anticipated, it is also (but redundantly) obvious, for anticipation is the epitome of obviousness.

    Could you clarify this? How must an invention be anticipated? What proof is needed? As far as software and internet business process patents go, a great deal of things can be anticipated, and in fact, have been anticipated. How does one prove this?

    Either way, thanks for a VERY useful post.

    currently at V.9
    Re:how depressing (Score:1)
    by mavenguy on Wednesday May 31, @09:34AM EDT (#184)
    (User Info)
    Thanks for the clue about post formatting. I am an infrequnet contributor, and I missed the drop down box.

    Sorry about the confusion about "anticipation". This term simply says that a sincle reference (alternate term for "prior art", typically shown in a "printed" publication) EXACTLY shows the claimed invention. The whole concept of obviousness originated as judge made case law to bar patentees from making a minor, insignificant change to the claims that would avoid the strict showing of the prior art yet remain still very broad. The idea of the patentee was to then sue everyone for infringement except for the very narrow thing exactly shown in the prior art reference. This was eventually put into the patent statutes, today embodied by section 103.

    The comment I made applies in the case where the examiner rejected a claim under 103 for obviousness and not under section 102 for anticipation; the applicant/or patentee then argues that the reference anticipates the claim, so the rejection under 103 is not proper; thus, there is no valid rejection of the claim to appeal. Not a very promising future for this claim, but, if upheld, there could be more proceedings, more chances to make mischief, etc.

    Well, the court who decided this said, in effect, no way! A claim which is actually anticipated for prior art under 102 is inherently rejectable under section 103 over the same prior art for obviousness. It's kind of like saying if you hit the bullseye, you've also hit the target.

    These kinds of situation can occur if there are minor but possible interpretations of what a reference is showing or what the meanings of the words in the claim are. It is safer for an examiner to use the broader obviouness rejection, but it is also not improper (ah, legal double negatives!) to make BOTH rejections as long as the ambiguities are addressed.

    Anticipation is usually rather stark; generally no fudge factors like with obviusness whree you have to argue the differences (see my reply to the other replyer to my post for my obsevations about current PTO quality)

    Re:Oracles of Obviousness (Score:2)
    by Danse (danse@no.s.p.a.m.satx.net) on Monday May 29, @03:58AM EDT (#125)
    (User Info)

    Your standard, on the other hand, degenerates into a pissing match between an inventor and an Oracle of Obviousness, whose sole duty is to say, "I could have done that," without needing any evidence to back him up.

    Couldn't be any worse than the current system where they just patent any old crap that someone sends in. Personally, I'd rather see fewer patents than the flood of patents we have now. I think the flood is doing a lot more harm.

    Re:how depressing (Score:1)
    by swinge (swinge_2000@yahoo.com) on Monday May 29, @09:13AM EDT (#132)
    (User Info)
    I thought Tim got smoked in that debate.

    sorta like Don Quixote got smoked by the windmill? I thought that for a lawyer in a plum job to come off looking like a windmill was worse than for a run-of-the-mill geek to come off looking run-of-the-mill. But I just read the transcript. Your comment suggests to me that the audio might have been worse for the whitehat with the moderate hatsize.

    Obvious fallacy (Score:1)
    by swinge (swinge_2000@yahoo.com) on Monday May 29, @09:41AM EDT (#134)
    (User Info)
    You are engaging in the most classic of geek fallacies, that if you can think of some definition of a word that opens a hole for some interpretation that you'd like to see, that you win. Bill Gates is still learning the folly of this kind of thinking.Your standard [for patent obviousness] degenerates into ...

    What my standard degenerates into is the law legal system that governs the U.S. and the rest of the civilized world. Ever heard of "guilt beyond reasonable doubt"? Well, who defines reasonable? Ever heard of "good faith effort"? Who defines good faith? Therefore, by your reasoning, our entire legal system is a failure. But it's not.

    Phrases like "shouting match" (and its vulgar cousins) should be reserved for situations where there is no arbiter. When there is an arbiter, as in court, experts are called to testify, just as you suggest, and the judge and jury decide. In the case of an "obviousness" standard, it's quite simple. There is no "prior art" for "one-click" ordering. But any number of experts, myself included, would be happy to testify that we've been in product planning meetings where we discussed leaving non-volatile cookies on client browsers, and where we discussed inserting confirmation "screens" (with attendant mouseclicks) to make sure that the user did not order something by accident. If management had said, "this is too difficult, can't we make the ordering process simpler, with just one click, mistakes be damned?", then any engineer I know would have arrived at the solution chosen by Amazon: it is just that obvious. The "idea" of one-click is not patentable. If a solution to the one-click idea is obvious to a practitioner of the art, the solution is not patentable either.

    Obviousness is as workable a legal standard as any. Is the sytem perfect? Do health insurance companies always make the right call as to whether a procedure is experimental or necessary? No. Does the system work pretty well? Yes. What causes the system to break? Despicable self-interest shown by litigants who range from O.J. to Amazon, when brought before stupid and biased arbiters.

    Re:Obvious fallacy (Score:2)
    by swinge (swinge_2000@yahoo.com) on Monday May 29, @05:12PM EDT (#155)
    (User Info)
    survey says: you are not making sense.
    RMS, ESR, ... (Score:2, Interesting)
    by Shaheen (gandhimail@spam.worldnet.att.net) on Sunday May 28, @08:43PM EDT (#61)
    (User Info) http://floach.pimpin.net/visigoth
    Isn't it obvious that, by now, the Slashdot community should be calling Tim O'Reilley by his earned TLA? It's time to add TOR to the list of people immortalized by a TLA :P

    You should never take life too seriously - You'll never get out of it alive.
    Re:RMS, ESR, ... (Score:2)
    by DJerman (djerman@pobox.com) on Sunday May 28, @10:00PM EDT (#78)
    (User Info)
    No, TOR is and allways will be Tor Johnson from "Plan 9 From Outer Space" and other bad movie gems.
    Re:RMS, ESR, ... (Score:2)
    by dodobh (d o d o b h @ v s n l . c o m) on Monday May 29, @08:40AM EDT (#131)
    (User Info)
    How about Tim then? Ken, Linus, Tim. I think he deserves that honour.
    Tired of GPFs? Take a look at www.gpf-comics.com
    O'Reilly's talking straight (Score:3, Interesting)
    by magic (byte_limited@yahoo.com) on Sunday May 28, @08:59PM EDT (#62)
    (User Info)
    I've filed 4 patents on behalf of employeers who required me to do so. One was very good about it and actually required me to prove my results, search prior art, etc. The others specifically instructed me not to search prior art or perform too much work verifying my results, because if I knew that anything was wrong with the application, we'd legally have to withdraw it. This really pisses me off. I'm really glad O'Reilly came out and talked about this practice.

    The sad fact is that software patents are downright stupid. They skirt the very edge of patenting "laws of mathematics" (many of them blatantly patent trivial algorithms like interpolation, run length encoding, etc.) But even without that debate, allowing the entire 20 years that it will be valid for well over the useful lifetime of many of these patents; completely destroying the patent system which was designed to encourage inventors to publicly release their secret techniques in exchange for a time limited monopoly. Since it takes about two years for a patent to be processed, the patent is often useless by the time it is granted, let alone when it expires.


    Patent dispute is punishment itself (Score:1)
    by ttyRazor (slapinski@bigfoot.nospamforyou.com) on Sunday May 28, @09:09PM EDT (#65)
    (User Info)

    Tim: No, actually when I read the claims as a layperson, you know, not a lawyer, they look extremely broad to me. Now maybe in court they were narrowed, but in fact just reading the claims as somebody who doesn't know the system --

    Dickinson: Well, that's why you need a good lawyer. I wouldn't suggest that you do surgery on yourself either. You need to consult a lawyer on what is probably one of the most arcane areas of --

    Unfortunately, many of the amateur programmers on the receiving end of a patent dispute can't afford a patent lawyer or the time and resources to challenge it in court. In such a case, the very act of suing for patent infringement is a punishment itself, sustained on the alleged violator even before the defendent sets foot in court.

    The Internet allows programmers working on their own the chance to distribute their software as widely as a patent-holding corporation, and until the system can allow someone to contest a patent without the need to hire a lawyer, this battle is going to be very lopsided
    -- It's all fun and games until someone loses a mind
    A simple clause change will do nicely (Score:1)
    by RennieScum (e l n i n o /at/ e a r t h l i n g /dot/ n e t) on Sunday May 28, @09:13PM EDT (#67)
    (User Info) http://www.angelfire.com/de/chains
    Of course the patent office is swamped, and it shows no signs of letting up, either. (see also this month's Wired)

    Technology can be applied, in the form of a prior artdatabase, forum, etc. But it won't be very effective unless you put the prior art burden on the applicants:

    [the applicant must] supply to the office all the prior art of which they're aware, and that is publicly available, and that could be considered obvious or already in the public domain

    With a forum and a public access db, garage-inventors, small biz, and other "little guys" will be able to do the prior art searches, without the corporate obfuscation lockout that has kept them in control (while feeding hordes of lawyers with some of the fat)
    ...Time is the best teacher, unfortunately it kills all of its students.

    European comparison; politics (Score:2)
    by jetson123 (br_9801 at hotmail dot com) on Sunday May 28, @09:37PM EDT (#74)
    (User Info)
    Dickinson likes to congratulate himself about how well his agency is doing. But there actually are objective indications of the performance of his agency.

    Many companies submit the same patent to European and the US patent offices. In my experience, the USPTO just rubber stamps them. The European patent examiners frequently make insightful technical comments, point at related prior art, and narrow claims considerably. The European patent offices also have largely refused to broaden notions of patentability in areas like business methods, biology, and software without explicit legislative direction.

    Republicans often like to claim that the EPA or other federal agencies are bureaucracies out of control. I think the USPTO is a much clearer example of a bureaucracy that makes policy without much oversight, and people like Dickinson are responsible. The kind of intellectual pollution the USPTO creates will stifle innovation and US competitiveness for decades to come.

    Of course, none of this is surprising giving Dickinson's legal background. The benefits of the patent system that Dickinson has seen throughout his career are the ability to extract big legal fees from patent disputes among large corporations.

    I think the USPTO should be run by people with creative engineering backgrounds, not by lawyers. Engineers should become politically more active to fill such posts with people who actually have first hand experience with innovation and creativity. If we leave it to law school graduates to run these kinds of institutions, we shouldn't be surprised at the results. So, get politically active: that's the only way this is going to change.

    Re:European comparison; politics (Score:2, Interesting)
    by Nonymous Coward (Brennan.Peterson.leland.stanford.edu) on Monday May 29, @12:09AM EDT (#103)
    (User Info)
    Read a bit about most of the current laws. The introduction of the european system is a large part of what is going wrong with the patent system. Do you like the idea of first to file as opposed to first to invent. Or, to put in perspective, if you, the little german inventor, work out someting cool and new, but file a patent after BMW, you are screwed, completely, because their lawyer took 2 months to file and it took your little lawyer 8 months. 20 year terms are european. And business law patents stem directly from chemical methods patents.
    In any case, I have noticed that engineers are usually about as dumb as lawyers. And judging from the contents of these responses, far more close minded.
    Re:European comparison; politics (Score:2)
    by jetson123 (br_9801 at hotmail dot com) on Tuesday May 30, @02:43AM EDT (#167)
    (User Info)
    I made a comment about the quality of European patent examinations, not European patent law.

    But let's talk about law. I think your comment is pretty characteristic of the irrational polemics that surround many of these discussions. You paint first-to-invent as a small inventor vs. big company issue and try to gain sympathy and support for the current US patent system by trying to get sympathy for a hypothetical small inventor that might get harmed under a particular set of circumstances by a big company.

    Of course, you provide no support, not even anecdotal, for your situation. If we analyze it theoretically, I would think the small inventor is much more likely to be harmed by first-to-invent: big companies are much more likely to have the paper trail to document first-to-invent and much more likely to have the legal muscle to push through a first-to-invent case. Unlike first-to-file, first-to-invent is a fuzzy and complex doctrine, and those kinds of legal complexities favor interests with good legal support.

    Of course, implicit in your statement is also the assumption that the delay for the small inventor is caused by the inadequate legal representation he has for the preparation of his patent. I think we should ask why the inventor ought to require complex legal assistance for filing a patent in the first place. That, too, strikes me as a serious flaw, in particular in the US patent system, something that greatly stacks the deck against the small inventor. If you are concerned about small inventors, address that issue.

    So, in short, yes I favor first-to-file because it's easy to understand and easy to adjudicate. I also think the US notion that you can patent within a year of publication is wrong because it makes it even easier for companies to get their patented technology into standards without anybody knowing until it's too late.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "business law patents", but if you are referring to "business method patents", I don't see what the problem is. Business methods aren't chemical process methods, and the patent office ought to have no problem distinguishing the two; allowing one does not in any way require allowing the other. I don't know what the current status of business method patents is in Europe, but I would be surprised if they were allowed.

    In fact, chemical process patents are, in my opinion, far preferable to the patents on chemical substances themselves that are allowed now; the whole reason industry hasn't been satisfied with chemical process patents is because they feel that chemical process patents do not afford enough of a monopolistic protection--clever competitors have become increasingly good at finding alternative chemical processes, so that effectively process patents were much more short-lived.

    I don't know what your background is or whether you have ever even written a patent. But perhaps you should seek the cause for the "closed minded responses" from engineers in the insubstantial nature of your own arguments. If you want to make arguments about protecting small inventors, I suggest you support them with actual facts: how frequently do these cases arise, who usually wins them, etc.

    As for me, I'll stick to what I observe directly, and that is that European patent examinations appear to be significantly more skilled and careful than US patent examinations. It won't fix the US patent system, but I think it would certainly help if examinations could be brought up at least to that level of care.

    prior art (Score:1)
    by pfaut (pfau@spamfree.maherterminals.com) on Sunday May 28, @09:58PM EDT (#77)
    (User Info) http://www.eclipse.net/~pfau/
    Patent applications are supposed to cite prior art. The problem in the area of software development is that much of the prior art is hidden inside proprietary software that is protected not by patents but by trade secret status. Now these same companies come to the web and there's no such thing as trade secrets because everything is out in the open. They have to use patents in order to protect their space.
    TOR gets last fall, and the second round. (Score:1)
    by BlackHat (peagreen!no.spam!intergate.ca) on Sunday May 28, @10:04PM EDT (#79)
    (User Info)
    Dickinson: Oh, the examiners in the software development area have an average of four years of experience, the average as they come to our office of four years of experience in this area.

    So is that; Each has 8 years made up of 4 software and 4 Patent Law? Or is that 2 dudes with 30 years Patent Law and Software each, and a bunch'o'drones with less than a year each?
    The Computer Security Translation (Score:4, Insightful)
    by Effugas (effugas@best.com) on Sunday May 28, @10:15PM EDT (#81)
    (User Info) http://www.doxpara.com
    Dickinson: I think there's a disconnect there, Tim. You just told me that all these folks, they have eight out of ten of these in their back pocket. If they've got them in their back pocket, they don't even need to do a search. If they're aware of invalidating prior art, send it on in.

    Our system derives a substantial portion of the information it requires to reject patents by trusting the client to provide that information.

    If you're aware of prior art out there that invalidates a patent that is existing, file a re-examination. We'll be happy to take a look at it. I've done a couple of these. Mr. O'Reilly hasn't filed any. I've actually filed two myself in the last six months.

    In six months, I've initiated formal procedures to correct two misappropriations of IP assignments. You've merely noted that the entire procedure of assigning IP is hopelessly insecure.

    Tim: But let me just ask the other question. In terms of filing for a re-examination, my understanding is that once you ask for a re-examination, the patent holder gets to comment to the private ruling, and then that prior art can no longer be used in any court cases, so it seems weighted very heavily in favor of the applicant.

    Should a flaw be found with our security system, that flaw will only be recognized once, with us trusting the original client to determine whether that flaw was indeed serious. After this initial evaluation, no futher challenges will be accepted.

    Dickinson: Absolutely, Mr. O'Reilly. One thing we were lacking was your very cogent voice last year as this legislation was pending on Capitol Hill. We very strongly supported expanding that re-examination, and it only passed in November, and I didn't hear you or Mr. Bezos raise your voices once to try to keep that kind of loophole from being included in the legislation.

    It's not our fault that our security policy is broken; you didn't email our management any detailed proposals defining exactly what a loophole was.

    Tim: How would you feel if a lawyer was able to patent an argument?

    Dickinson: If it was new and non-obvious, I wouldn't have a problem with it at all.

    Tim: And the ability to basically extract a royalty from other lawyers for using that same legal argument?

    Dickinson: As I say, if it's new, and if it met the statutory standards for patentability (and that's the key question here), and it was incorporated into software in some form, that wouldn't be a problem.

    Today's security policy is brought to you by Franz Kafka.

    (side note: We now have the world's best example to get software patents eradicated.)

    Dickinson: Obvious functions are not patentable. We don't patent obvious inventions. We just don't.

    Attacks against our system do not exist, have never existed, will never exist. Our trust of the client is completely secure.

    And if you believe that it's obvious, and you've got prior art to show that it is obvious, send it on in, as I've said many times.

    We respond to systematic failures in our security policy by analyzing each penetration on a case by case basis, rather than rewriting our access control lists to actually do something.

    I am eager for Mr. Bezos to get moving and fund the comprehensive software database he said he was going to fund, because we need that kind of prior art, we need those kinds of databases to help us do our work better.

    We have no problem moving from a system where nobody respects our patents to one where nobody can write a line of code without knowing which dozen patents they're violating. We like the idea of insecurely authorized policies being grandfathered into our system.

    Yours Truly,

          Dan Kaminsky
          DoxPara Research

    ==QOTD: RFC 1750 is the Bible. Shannon is the Prophet.==
    Abandon hope all ye who enter here... (Score:1)
    by -Harlequin- on Sunday May 28, @10:22PM EDT (#84)
    (User Info)
    Well I've given up hope. It's not just that I disagree with Dickenson on many issues, it's that Dickinson's attitude makes it quite clear he's not interested - he continually talks down to O'Reilly, he pontificates from an assumption of moral high-ground when the issues are bigger than his losing face, he resorts to the sort of slimey tactics I wouldn't expect from someone other than a PR propagandist trying to spin something dirty. In fact, "slimey" is a really good one-word description...

    And we shouldn't complain about the system being flawed on the grounds that if we really cared, we would have somehow miraculously foreseen the abuses before they were thrust upon us and so lobbied for the appropriate changes in time?!? There are so many fallacies and idiotic assumptions in his reasoning that I despair reason ever coming out of his department.

    Not only does he effectively deny any problems whatsoever, he also goes straight into excuse mode whenever a new or potentially useful suggestion is made - anything suggestion that would make any change at all to any part of the process is immediately met with (often pathetic) kneejerk opposition.

    This guy refuses to see any problems or shortfalls at all. And if there are no problems, then nothing needs fixing.

    "Dickinson"... (Score:2)
    by Wakko Warner (wakko@qwerty.bitey.net) on Sunday May 28, @10:26PM EDT (#86)
    (User Info) http://www.BigDigSucks.com/
    ...boy. I think he's just upset because he has such an unfortunate last name.

    - A.P.

    "One World, one Web, one Program" - Microsoft promotional ad
    "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuhrer" - Adolf Hitler

    The Only Important Things (Score:4, Insightful)
    by FFFish on Sunday May 28, @10:32PM EDT (#87)
    (User Info)
    1) Business Methods and Software Methods are not part of the 'traditional' patent system. They have only recently been allowed.
    2) The only way to change the system is to get political. When you sat back and let Congress allow the above changes to the Patent Office's mandate, *you* made it possible for this current absurd situation to arise.
    Now, IMHO, it's too damn late. The mandate has been expanded, and it is *impossible* to shrink it back.
    Which leads to...
    3) The *ONLY* solution is to work *with* the PO and *with* Congress.

    Work with the PO to help them get their shit together wrt prior art and obviousness. Sounds like the database idea is a good start.

    Work with Congress to exert pressure to help refine the way that Business Methods and Software Methods go through the patent process. You can't remove them from the process: you can only change the way they're validated.

    You gotta get involved. S'only way.

    Do not try to read the sig, for that is impossible. Instead... only try to realize the truth. There is no sig.
    How do we do that? (Score:2)
    by Danse (danse@no.s.p.a.m.satx.net) on Monday May 29, @04:06AM EDT (#127)
    (User Info)

    What does one have to do in order to be heard by these people? I've written many letters to my congresscritters. I rarely get any kind of response, except the occaisional cookie-cutter, "thank you for your comment" reply. What's it take to get their ear if you don't happen to be the CEO of a large corporation?

    Ancient prior art - tongue firmly in cheek! (Score:1)
    by Feral Wylde I (feral@mysterymeat.neandertal.org) on Sunday May 28, @10:47PM EDT (#90)
    (User Info)
    Greeks and democracy Athens, etc al
    Italy and lawyers(?) Rome
    Egypt and divine right(monarchy) Ancient Egypt
    Egypt and monotheism (religion) Ancient Eygpt
    Pharoah Akhnaton, I believe.

    The English could patent English until the
    Germans and the Scandinavians proved prior
    art derivatives and the whole thing would be shot
    to hell by the heirs of the Indo-Aryan language
    group (India)when they would step in.

    And all those pesky nation-states that invented

    And which ever one has the record now for the
    oldest know civilization. civilization

    And if you believe in evolution, the Africans
    could patent being human and claim the Human
    Genome as theirs. And arent we breaking the
    law by reverse engineering DNA.

    If all this were possible the lawyers would be
    drooling, the rest of us would laugh so we
    wouldnt cry and ponder voluntary extinction
    of the species.

    I personally hope there arent any aliens out
    there. They might blockade/quarantine us,
    drop a rock in the sun or sell tickets.

    "Look zigik#$5, they are at it again!"

    Dickenson is not stupid (Score:2, Interesting)
    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 28, @10:49PM EDT (#91)
    After having read the interview/debate and most of the posts
    here, so far, I conclude that the posts here are just as out
    of touch with reality as Dickenson's answers seemed to be.

    Dickenson is not stupid. He is perfectly capable of understanding
    that software is like a regular human language - it is not a
    mechanical invention. Human languages and software concepts
    and are like evolving organisms or ecosystems. Further, the
    kind of logic employed in 99% of software design is very, very
    basic and simple - much simpler than high school algebra.
    It's nothing new. What the software engineer or programmer
    does more than anything is write a meaningful story - one
    which is meaningful both to the machine and to the human user
    or human designed meta interface, as in imbedded systems
    where there is no immediate "human" interface. This is true
    just as much in the creation of a new computer language as
    it is in a simple file processing application or graphics hack.
    Like any story, software can be copyrighted, perhaps, but it
    is not an "invention" in a real sense.

    The problem with Mr. Dickenson is that he has sold his soul.
    He pretends not to know. The kind of "knowledge" that
    people are trying to patent in software and internet applications
    is so basic and so central to ALL forms of human intelligence
    and logic that it is part of our heritage and belongs only to God
    or, if you are an atheist, to nature or to the universe. Mr.
    Dickenson and his ilk will destroy our civilization. He has
    no heart or soul. Maybe he did at one time, but such a person
    has no place as the administrator of our patent system which
    has a larger responsibility to protect the repository of human
    knowledge and to help nurture it, even. Instead, he does the
    exact opposite - he poisons the wellsprings of creativity by
    serving the corrupt interests of corporations which also lack
    a heart or soul. His arguments are so empty and vapid that
    no prior art is required to reveal them for what they are -
    boldface lies to cover up a massive corruption of our system'
    of government by lawyers and corporate interests over the
    rights of persons and of society itself.

    What we need is a revolution. An evolution of conciousness
    would be preferable, but it may be too late for that. When
    things reach the point that people are afraid to write any
    new software unless they have corporate sponsors with
    deep pocketbooks, "open source" and "free software" as we
    know it will be dead. This is worth a fight. If you think your
    petty little job is more important you are wrong, and if you are
    not prepared to lose it for your right, and the rights of
    others, to create software at all in the future, then you are no
    better than Mr.Dickerson.

    Ain't hard to turn thios barge around just takes a (Score:1)
    by Rares Marian (rmarian@winblowsstart.com) on Sunday May 28, @11:03PM EDT (#97)
    (User Info)

    Actually we could with a study of the machine in both virtual contexts and real contexts and record a proper mechanical analysis of the whole not just what we find comfortable or convenient.
    Caught signal SIGSIG read this comment again.
    Rude (Score:1)
    by quux26 (j@nospam#intap.net) on Sunday May 28, @10:54PM EDT (#93)
    (User Info) http://www.intap.net/~j
    I'm listening to the mp3 of this debate, and while O'Reilly isn't coming across nearly as smoothly as Todd Dickson, the Patent Office Director is rude, condescending, interruptive and fairly often either twisting O'Reilly's arguments, answering what he never asked, or ignoring them outright.

    For example, O'Reilly is trying to bring up the point that the system heavily favors corporations, Dickson is just talking right over him and saying the small guy has recourse - utterly ignoring the point that he's trying to make.

    There was one point where O'Reilly asked if a legal argument should be patentable (an excelent question), Dickson evaded the real point of the question by saying it should if it fell under all the rules. That's not what he was asking - he wanted to know if it was reasonable, not legal.

    This guy is such a lawyer.

    My .02

    Reading the "debate" reminded me of... (Score:1)
    by Minstrel78 on Sunday May 28, @11:54PM EDT (#102)
    (User Info)
    The beginning of the Hitchhiker's Guide.

    "If you had any interest in this patent, you should have piped up when it was in review. You can't complain now, you should have said something earlier."

    "The notice was posted in a basement with no lights and no stairs, locked in a file cabinet in a disused lavitory behind a sign reading 'beware of the leapord!'"

    (not an attempt at an exact quote.)
    Fundamental flaws (Score:1)
    by sreeram (sreeram@sreeram.org) on Monday May 29, @01:06AM EDT (#108)
    (User Info) http://sreeram.org/
    I think everyone agrees that the original intent of the patent system is to reward inventors in return for making their inventions public.

    Although I support the LPF's point of view, I agree that there is room for argument here, especially on the side of small inventors who worry about getting ripped off by companies.

    But I can never reconcile two of the fundamental flaws in the patent system:

    Licensing: Currently, I am not obliged to license my patent to anyone. What good does it do to the public if I patent something and sit my ass on it, refusing to license it to anybody. Progress is stifled in the patented area for atleast 17 years. Shouldn't the system allow for mandatory licensing to whoever wishes to do so, of course in return for a monetary benefit to the patent holder? Of course, the license fees should have a cap on them, otherwise I could set the fees so sky-high as to make licensing impractical.

    Independent invention: Currently, even if someone else independently invents my patented stuff, they are violating my patent. I don't understand the logic for this. Copyright system allows for a perfect reproduction to be possible, if I can show that it was done totally without reference to the original. Why should the patent system be any different in this regard? It seems very hypocritical and outright unjust to hold a true inventor liable in this case.

    Observation is the essence of art.

    Means and Ends (Score:2, Insightful)
    by Michael Woodhams (michaelw@peace.co.nz.no.spam.please) on Monday May 29, @01:34AM EDT (#112)
    (User Info)
    There is one fairly simple change I would like to see: a distinction between means and ends, and recognition that the patentability of each could be different.

    For example, the first time I realized the patent system was out of control was when I read in New Scientist that a company had succeeded in genetically engineering cotton for the first time and had patented *all genetic engineering of cotton*.

    Here we have a case where the means was inobvious and patentable, but the end (genetically engineered cotton) was obvious and should not have been patentable. Similarly, patents such as "selling music downloads over the internet" should not be patentable, but implementation details possibly should be.

    A reverse example is the Hula Hoop. It was not at all obvious that this object was desirable, but once you know what it is, how to make it is obvious. Nobody should be able to make Hula Hoops by other methods, but the Hula Hoop patent (assuming it exists) should not prevent people from using loops of hose in other ways.

    (Of course IANAL. Perhaps the distinction exists already, but the patents I see being granted doesn't give me any confidence that it does.)

    I will always moderate down posts that refer to their own moderation level. The moderation rules save me from myself.

    Ass is the keyword here! (Score:3, Interesting)
    by dbryson on Monday May 29, @02:46AM EDT (#117)
    (User Info) http://www.techass.com
    Too bad Tim didn't get to say what he meant by
    18 out of 20 developers having whatever in their back pockets. What he meant (and should have said, outright) was that they could pull it out of their ASSES! These are patents of obvious solutions to common problems. Any developer faced with the same problem to solve, would come up with the same solution (patentwise).

    And, to have the Director of the Patent Office of the USA state that "no obvious patents have been granted" is very embarassing for me (note the bare assing part) as an American. Given that I have only looked at a very small number of patents granted and ignoring the slew of internet patents issued recently, I have seen several which are beyond obvious, such as patents relating to database cursors (which are beyond obvious); certainly the idea of having a reference (pointer? index? handle?) to your current location within a list of data objects is not patentable, Right?! Not so. Thank god (or whomever you want to thank) that the company holding this patent isn't defending its patent! Everyone using a linked-list (much less a database engine) is in violation right now! Perhaps the Director would like to examine the amount of software he is using on a regular basis that are not paying royalties to the legal patent owners for their illegal use of patented (i.e. those granted patents, not those which deserve patents) inventions. The fact is, the patent owners know their patent is bogus and that only the legal fees required to defend against a patent infringement suit are a deterent.
    Hence the need to patent everything, so you have a defense against everyone else.

    In the case of the Internet, prior art is almost useless given the pace the internet and internet software are progressing. As someone else said, you can't have prior art without prior need. This stuff hasn't existed long enough for prior art to be developed.

    From the interview, the Director is:

        A) A moron
        B) Doesn't care and is simply carrying out his duties
        C) Part of the system

    I don't think he's A, as he was very good at cutting Tim off and reciting the law and the charter of the patent office. I can't decide between B and C. In any case, he is certainly an ASS!

    Citing actual inventions, such as the light bulb, morse code, the telegraph or the telephone, in defense of the patent system is a very good ploy; however, it doesn't really stand up very well to the situation at hand. These inventions (with perhaps the exception of the lightbulb) preceeded their need. No one even thought about calling someone else before the the telephone was invented, patent applied for, and marketed. Too bad Tim didn't push this further.

    Perhaps, rather than attempting to help the patent grantors (not just the patent office in the US, but patent grantors worldwide), we should show them for the idiots they are! Rather than submitting "re-examination applications", simply show how simple the patented idea is or show prior art where available or provide a multitude of alternate solutions to the problem solved by newly granted patents. Instead of having a website which provides prior art, maybe we should have website that debunks patents granted. Show them for the fools they are! If nothing else, perhaps we could make these patents useless and undefendable.

    Derry Bryson
    What ORA should have said... (Score:1)
    by caolan (caolan.mcnamara@ul.ie) on Monday May 29, @03:16AM EDT (#119)
    (User Info) http://www.csn.ul.ie/~caolan
    Will you shutup for two seconds and let me finish a sentence for christsakes.

    You have allowed moronic patents for trivial issues, open up the process the exact same way the European Patent Office does and let the world see the patents before they are granted so that they can defend against stupidity in their own core competencies. That way we can police the patents ourselves and defend ourselves against what is basically a system which is currently stealing large tracts of commenage out from under us.


    no debate (Score:1)
    by CMU_Nort on Monday May 29, @03:30AM EDT (#122)
    (User Info)
    I really didn't find this to be a debate so much as idiot on parade. If the patent officer had said one straight-forward intelligent thing during the entire thing, I'd be more lenient.

    --------- If I had a billion dollars for everytime somebody said that to me, I'd still be broke.
    Tim O'Reily couldn't hold an argument with a wall. (Score:1)
    by Dishwasha on Monday May 29, @03:59AM EDT (#126)
    (User Info) http://perfidity.dyndns.org
    Is it just me or does it seem like Tim can't site specific examples for Director Q? Tim argues "How would you feel if a lawyer was able to patent an argument?" Director Q gave a very satisfactor reply that if it were filed properly through all the proper channels then it should be patentable and whomever patents it should be able to collect royalties. The problem with the whole Amazon one-click shopping thing is not the idea, but how many people are ill-informed about what is patentable. The physical action of pressing your finger to the mouse button on a html link is not patentable, and even if it were, there would be millions of pages of prior art out there you could send in to rebuff that patent. What is patentable is the process that is used to store and retrieve customer information. From here we have the issue, are data structures patentable, and is the process patentable if Amazon is claiming the usage of a database server a part of their patent. Perhaps they can patent the interface to that database as long as no prior art shows that a technologically similar interface was designed previously. The basic problem is computer people don't spend enough time and resources to protect their interests. When there are children with medical conditions no-one has seen before doctors flock across the world offering their services for free to cure the child because #1) the child is paying with the possibility of their life and/or the lives of others beyond them, #2) because it brings prestige upon the doctor and could help them establish a clinic to treat the very same disease in the future, and for the knowledge. Why aren't computer people doing the same? Who here has actually examined the Amazon.com one-click patent? What exactly is it that they're patenting? You may find out that this patent is not so preposterous as it seems on the surface. Try going to WWW.USPTO.GOV, go under the patents section and the searchable database, Term 1: Amazon.com, Field 1, Assignee Name, then see 6,029,141 Internet-based customer referral system. My first qualm is Amazon trying to patent the idea of a shopping cart? If so, I'm sure every one of you could send the patent office examples of prior art. Next, are they trying to patent using html links? By what I can tell here they are patenting the algorithms/cataloging system used to extract the data from the system, but also trying to patent the abstract system itself. Probably a good question to ask Director Q. is about previous legal battles over the Dewey Decimal system (I'm sure somebody down the road tried to patent it). Is something like that system patentable and if so what arguments have been used for and against it in the past. Lets try to learn from history here. Another issue is if I'm allowed to patent an equation (or system), what draws the line between innovating from the idea and coming up with something original, and somebody just using algorithm+-some_constant which is obvious plagiarism. This is where computer philosophers need to come together and figure something out and I personally don't think Tim O'Reily has anywhere near the communication skills to devise a system of distinguishing what makes an origional idea on both a system and code level and present this to the patent office. If after that route has been taken and no action is taken THEN it is time to vye for the services of a lobbyist who IS politically savy in patent reform. For the sake of all developers out there I hope somebody is able to step to the plate who is knowledgeable of computers, government, and holds the interests of the greatest example of communism in history. The Internet.
    So, who's going to set up a site? (Score:1)
    by davecb (davecb@oreilly.com) on Monday May 29, @08:19AM EDT (#130)
    (User Info) http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/samba/author.html

    Tim suggests a slashdot-like site to post and coment on proposed patents.

    There are already sites discussing the desirability/undesirability of software patents (eg, here), and at least one database of prior art. Rumor has it that ther is also a new-patent site somewhere, but I've not found it.

    So, who's interested in getting the appropriate folks together with slashcode to build just such a site?

    obvious (Score:1)
    by Tharsis (tharsis@overflow.concepts.nl) on Monday May 29, @09:31AM EDT (#133)
    (User Info)
    you really cannot judge obviousness, at hindsight everything is obvious...
    O'Reilly Got His Butt Kicked (Score:1)
    by the Epopt (uce@ftc.gov) on Monday May 29, @10:25AM EDT (#135)
    (User Info)

    O'Reilly would still be looking for his ass if Dickinson hadn't handed it to him. If O'Reilly is the best advocate we've got, we're in deep d··d··.

    Yeah, yeah, -1 Flamebait: Dared to Criticize an Anointed Slashgod. Moderate me, big boy.

    Most people who need to be shot need to be shot soon and a lot. Very few people need to be shot later or just a little.
    Prior Art and What to Do About It (Score:1, Interesting)
    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 29, @10:39AM EDT (#136)
    If Alice designs a new garden implement, and Bob later tries to patent a similar implement, it will be pretty obvious that Alice had prior art, and thus Bob probably won't receive a patent. But if Alice comes up with a new software concept, and Bob later tries to patent a similar concept, it won't necessarily be obvious that Alice had prior art, and the patent may be granted.

    The problem here is that the software design is relatively opaque, while the garden implement design is relatively transparent. Thousands (or millions) of people will be aware of the garden implement design, but only a few may be aware of the software design. So the patent review process is much more likely to uncover prior art for the garden implement than the software, even though prior art exists in both cases.

    So, What to do?

    (1) create/support a forum where people can post descriptions of what they are doing, what they have done, or what others have done. This will help create, publicize, and/or document prior art. This might even include an area where people can ask if anyone knows of prior art for specific patents.

    (2) Support open source software, which is easily documentable as prior art.

    (3) work to understand the patent "claims" on any offending software. This is the section of the patent which actually describes what is protected, and is (as Dickenson said) often much narrower than you might think from reading press reports.

    (4) don't worry too much about infringing on a patent that is clearly invalid. The burden of proof is on the patent holder, who must first learn about your alleged infringement, and then must prove you infringed. If their patent is weak (note that patents can be invalidated as a result of an infringement lawsuit), then they probably won't waste their time/money and take the risk. If they have collected any royalties on their patent, they may be even less willing to subject their patent to this scrutiny that a lawsuit would cause.

    (5) if you have a great "new" idea, then try to patent it. For a low cost approach, I would recommend reading "Patent it Yourself" from Nolo press. The book is expensive (about $50) but is very comprehensive, very highly recommended, widely used, and much cheaper than a lawyer. If nothing else, the experience will teach you enormously about the system. And you really can do it without a lawyer.

    (6) If you don't like the system, get involved politically to change it. You may be surprised how receptive your legislators are to hearing your ideas.

    Finally, although the patent system can be frustrating, in my view it serves a valid and significant public policy objective. The system makes the following offer: if you have a great idea, and agree to put their idea in the public domain, then you get a 20 year monopoly. Utimately this means that good ideas get put into practice sooner than they might otherwise. It also means that the rewards go to the creative people who come up with the new ideas, rather than to the large companies who have the resources to copy and market those ideas, and who could do so legally if the patent system didn't exist.

    Purpose of each in the interview (Score:2)
    by blakestah (dblake@phy.ucsf.edu) on Monday May 29, @10:46AM EDT (#137)
    (User Info) http://www.keck.ucsf.edu/~dblake
    In reading the interview, one thing became clear. O'Reilly was interested in discussing the theory of patents. While Dickinson is from the patent office, he largely deals with the technical aspects of patents.

    So when O'Reilly asks if Dickinson believes a legal argument should be patentable, Dickinson gives a technical answer. When O'Reilly questions other aspects of our patent system, Dickinson informs O'Reilly that a LARGE review was held a year ago, and no one voiced the opinions that O'Reilly had.

    Patents need a certain degree of secrecy in the review process. Otherwise the intellectual property could be easily stolen. That is why having a peer review patent process would not work. If O'Reilly stopped to think about this from an inventor's viewpoint, he might get this.

    Prior art, as used by Dickinson, is not just an existing implementation of the invention and claims, but is also anything similar enough that the invention and claims are an obvious extension. Do not forget that. Prior art is NOT just a pre-existing invention, but is also anything from which the invention would be an obvious extension.

    Thus, if you can demonstrate that 8 out of 10 software engineers could create the same invention given the same starting point and a not-so-hard amount of effort, the invention does not meet patent criteria.

    Free software advocates are just not used to working the patent system. Many people get rich from their inventions. It is an idea that was framed in the constitution of the US. The problems people point out have historically been considered problems with every major technological advance - the Motion Picture (Edison vigorously defended his rights), the telephone...

    The problem, of course, is money. It takes a few thousand dollars for a fairly simple patent. And that alone puts it out of reach for a lot of programmers with great ideas.

    -- Dave Blake dblake@phy.ucsf.edu
    Jerk of a lawyer (Score:1)
    by Omnifarious (hopper@omnifarious.mn.org) on Monday May 29, @12:07PM EDT (#140)
    (User Info) http://www.omnifarious.org/~hopper

    Dickinson was being a disrespectful jerk. He wasn't interested in having a dicussion, he was interested in cutting down this upstart who was stirring up so much trouble. He never once bothered to listen to a thing Tim O'Reilly said, and Tim made every effort to listen to what he said.

    What a stupid jerk. I wish we had enough political power to rip him out of his office and leave him penniless on the streets.

    No incentive to innovate? (Score:2)
    by interiot (newcumdb at cs blaupunkt purdue grunpunkt edu) on Monday May 29, @01:44PM EDT (#146)
    (User Info)
    From what I know, there are two goals to the USPTO:
    • To give an incentive to invent things. You invent something new, you get 20 years to try to profit from it. No incentive, and no one will want to invent things, right?
    • To bring these new inventions into public knowledge. No patents, and everyone will keep their ideas secret and everyone will be reinventing the wheel without knowing it

    Slashdoters seem to feel a lot of cognitive dissonance with these ideas. Perhaps one reason is that, in the area of programming and the internet, these goals are already being accomplished without patents... through Open Source. If open source can generate a lot of very novel ideas (linux, apache...) without legislation, then patents don't seem to be very necssary. And even if patents are necessary, then only for ideas that require great amounts of thought (on par with html standards or linux), not something on the level of one-click shopping.

    Patents are somewhat costly to the public; taxpayers have to fund the USPTO... competing organizations have to spend time and resources to make sure that they're not accidentally using an idea that's already patented. Therefore, patents should only be issued if they provide more advantage to the public than their cost to the public. Again, patents akin to one-click shopping don't seem to fit the bill.

    The Lawyer Twists the Main Point (Score:1)
    by sabattahoe on Monday May 29, @02:22PM EDT (#147)
    (User Info)
    What is disturbing is that the Patent Guy apparently thinks we'll fall for Lawyer Tricks.

    Example: Tim makes the point that 8 out of 10 patents are known within the Industry as obvious or already-invented. Then he makes the point that engineers in companies are encouraged not to look for prior art.

    The Patent Guy twists these two points so they sound like they contradict each other. If everyone already knows about the prior art, why would engineers have to look? And why wouldn't they just report it?

    This is so sadly naive, as well as deceptive. Engineers in a company would not do well to report prior art. Sure, jobs are plentiful -- but who wants to be a whistle-blower? I'll move on when it's time to move on, not because I want to take some sort of moral stand that gets me fired. That isn't obvious to Dickenson?

    The real point is the obfuscation, though. 8 out of 10 patents are known by many people in the industry as obvious or already-invented. This doesn't mean the engineers at the company know this! It just means there are people in our community who know -- AND THEY ARE NEVER ASKED. THAT is Tim's point.

    I'm a little disappointed that Tim didn't get to make this point. Tim's a great spokesman for us on this issue, and I appreciate his efforts. But I think he's a better writer than he is a speaker. Maybe he should stick to written debates.

    You cannot Patent Physical Phenomenon, Natural.... (Score:2, Informative)
    by 3seas on Monday May 29, @04:21PM EDT (#151)
    (User Info) http://www.mindspring.com/~timrue/
    You cannot patent physical phenomenon, natural law or abstract ideas.

    as so many subjects on slashdot dance around a central issue, I find myself repeating and wondering when I'm gonna be wrongly accused of advertising.


    I could give the url to the patent office doc that contains this information, but it's a little more difficult to access.

    3 S.E.A.S - Virtual Interaction Configuration (VIC) - VISION OF VISIONS!
    ~ ~ ~ Advancing How we Perceive and Use the Tool of Computers!

    "Ripped off" - What does that mean? (Score:2, Insightful)
    by qseep (qseep_at_iname_dot_com) on Monday May 29, @04:50PM EDT (#153)
    (User Info)
    I'm tired of hearing the argument that we should support patents, because, after all, we wouldn't want to be "ripped off," would we?

    That presupposes that inventions are our property and that someone else is harming us by implementing the idea. However, there are several problems with this:

    1) An invention is simply someone's mind coming to an understanding of reality.

    2) Why is the first person who comes to this understanding (actually, the first person to apply for the patent) enshrined as the "owner" of this concept, while everyone else with the same understanding must pay royalties simply to implement that same understanding?

    3) The more people who are able to freely share of this idea, the more the world has been enriched! Actually, a person who is able to claim exclusive rights is the one who is stealing from humankind.

    The truth is, patents were created not because some person has an inalienable right to that idea, but as a mechanism of a) encouraging invention and b) encouraging the disclosure of that invention to the public in exchange for "protection" (otherwise it could be kept as a trade secret).

    I hardly think that in this day and age, invention needs to be encouraged. People enjoy inventing things and there are plenty of ways of making money off inventions without being exclusive rightsholders. For example, if someone comes up with an idea for a hoozit, they could express their idea, and perhaps a dozen manufacturers might start making hoozits. The manufacturers profit and compete with each other to make the best hoozits. The inventor is honored for being such a clever person, but let's face it - anyone can and will come up with ideas. The inventor doesn't "deserve" loads of money for it - in fact, their reward will be simply to see the product come to be used in the real world.

    I know someone is going to ask about the small inventor who can't get any company to take their idea seriously and so needs funding for themself. If they go big time, and another company "steals" the invention, it was all for naught. But I argue that it is much harder for the inventor to get off the ground with this product than it would be for an existing manufacturer to start producing it. In the long run nobody's hurt if it's left to those with the capital.

    As for the trade secret problem, that's fine. If it's an obvious invention, everyone else will figure it out anyway and it won't be a secret anymore. If it's not obvious, well we'll all just have to wonder how they do it. And someone else will figure it out eventually.

    As for the history of "marvelous inventions" produced by patent law, let's take an example: the light bulb. If Edison hadn't been able to patent it, would he have done it? Perhaps, perhaps not. I tend to think he would be motivated enough by the sheer fun of it all, if he hadn't been turned greedy by the opportunity to patent his work. If not, someone else would have done it.

    The problem is, in this great experiment of intellectual property law, that we haven't got a control to compare against. What if IP law didn't exist? Would we be better or worse off? Let's try it. Obviously, the transition would be painful, and could perhaps be attempted gradually. But in the end, I think the world would be better off without it.

    No obvious patents, eh? (Score:1)
    by gary.flake (gary.flake@bigfoot.com) on Monday May 29, @06:36PM EDT (#156)
    (User Info) http://mitpress.mit.edu/flake/
    In terms of allowing obvious patents, this one is about the most absurd one I've yet to find.

    -- GWF
    ShouldExist.org-reverse patents, open source ideas (Score:1)
    by mebreathing on Monday May 29, @06:51PM EDT (#157)
    (User Info) http://www.ShouldExist.org/

    ShouldExist.org is a band-aid on some of the problems with the patent system. It acts as an intellectual property repository and a place where anyone can post their ideas. All ideas, patentable or not, are released into the public domain as "reverse patented". They can be used by anyone for anything and act as "prior art", preventing ideas from being patented by someone else with more selfish intentions.


    US Patent Office is clueless (Score:1)
    by shirro on Monday May 29, @10:33PM EDT (#161)
    (User Info)
    Are the patents office totally out of touch or what? Wake up guys, software patents are wrong.

    Doctors have this wonderful creed "Do no harm"

    From the directors comments I suspect the lawyers equivalent is "Cover our asses"

    Patents are for lightbulbs and can openers not for giving street directions.

    The attitude is appaling (Score:1)
    by swm (swmcd@world.std.com) on Tuesday May 30, @08:13AM EDT (#169)
    (User Info) http://world.std.com/~swmcd/steven/
    Dickinson has the arrogant self-assurance of an armed robber:
    Everybody stay calm. Just hand over the money, and no one's going to get hurt.

    Bad things survive, too (Score:1)
    by swm (swmcd@world.std.com) on Tuesday May 30, @08:41AM EDT (#170)
    (User Info) http://world.std.com/~swmcd/steven/
    We've had the patent system in this country for over two hundred and twenty-five years ... I think that the arguments you made were made about polymers, they were made about automobiles, they were made about telephones, and they were made about telegraph, and the system survived very well...

    The fact that something survives doesn't mean that it is good. Malaria and tuberculosis survive, but we'd really rather they went away. The relevant question isn't whether the patent system survives. The relevant question is whether its benefits are greater than its costs.


    • the cost of running the patent office
    • the costs of dealing with the patent system
      • writing patents
      • reading patents
      • litigating patents
      • negotiating patent licenses
    • the burden of license fees for every invention that would have been invented even without a patent system.
    The burden isn't the license fee itself: that just moves money from one pocket to another; the overall wealth of the economy is unchanged. The burden is the cost to the economy when individuals forgo the use of an invention because the license fee is more than the invention is worth to them. This decreases the aggregate wealth of the economy.


    • The value of every invention that wouldn't have been invented in the absence of a patent system.

    Dear Mr Dickerson (Score:1)
    by Tiger Smile on Tuesday May 30, @03:12PM EDT (#173)
    (User Info)

    You have an interesting method for building up your little tiny kingdom within the bowels of the legal system, while promoting your own profession. I am impressed. You indicate that if anything is to be done, that it would require action a year ago, making action unlikely. You infact blame Beozs and Tim for not defending the people whom your office attacts.

    You office may have had it's uses once, but it only serves to retard the software world. You talk as if we cannot see the slimy smile that crawls across your evil face, but we can. We know that your office would not exist, and that you might have to prove you could hold a job, if things were set right. That scares you.

    We should not place our efforts into creating a system to defend those that have done nothing, except maybe not file to patent folks, knives, and spoons. Our efforts are better spending our time removing the patent office. No new patents, and Mr Dickerson, I'd like to see you go the way of all other Bond villians.

    -- James Dornan
    Obviousness vs Prior Art? (Score:1)
    by fugue (bwpearre@alumni.princeton.edu) on Tuesday May 30, @04:27PM EDT (#175)
    (User Info) http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~bwpearre
    Yet another problem: Why is it that whenever Tim mentioned obviousness, Dickinson recast it to prior art? Was that intentional? I assume that it's because obviousness is such a loaded concept, but Tim never got around to delving into it. If a new building goes up, and no-one's ever taken the elevator to the ninth floor of that particular building, and someone does, and patents it, there's no prior art. Here, the database won't help!
    People who think "Industry Standard" is a compliment probably haven't used industrial toilet paper.
    Re:Biting the hand.. (Score:1)
    by Tardigrade (roevans--at--linknet.kitsap.lib.wa.us) on Sunday May 28, @07:00PM EDT (#21)
    (User Info)
    It is much easier to get around copyright, though. One must simply reword enough. It is much harder to get around a patent.

    The written word/code also has the ability to, if used improperly, denigrate the reputation of the original writer. The object of a patent, per say, usually does not.
    Re:Biting the hand.. (Score:2)
    by Frater 219 on Sunday May 28, @07:14PM EDT (#28)
    (User Info)
    I think O'Reilly may be running the danger of being hypocritical. I have here a book on C algorithms ("Mastering Algorithms with C", ISBN 1-56592-453-3) put out by O'Reilly. At the opening of the book are the words: "Copyright (C) 1999 O'Reilly & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved". If I were to take, say, the chapter on double-linked lists and use the code as a template for my own program, wouldn't I be in violation of copyright law? I mean, code is copyrightable and, infact, the GNU GPL depends on it.
    If you distributed copies of the actual code or a modified version thereof, yes, that might (depending on the license) technically be a violation of copyright. If you use the ideas presented in the book without copying the code, that isn't. Ideas can't be copyrighted; only specific expressions of those ideas (e.g. strings of words, pictures, chunks of source code, pieces of music) can be.

    So what does the license on the code say? I find the following in the example file to which you refer:

    The source code on this disk can be freely used, adapted, and redistributed in source or binary form, so long as an acknowledgment appears in derived source files. The citation should list that the code comes from the book "Mastering Algorithms with C" by Kyle Loudon, published by O'Reilly & Associates. This code is under copyright and cannot be included in any other book, publication, or educational product without permission from O'Reilly & Associates. No warranty is attached; we cannot take responsibility for errors or fitness for use.
    This is not a free-software or open-source license, because of the clause restricting users from using the code in "any other book, publication, or educational product" without special permission. Free software, according to the Debian Free Software Guidelines or the Open Source Definition, requires "no discrimination against fields of endeavor". Discounting that provision, however, it does permit you to use, modify, and redistribute the code "in source or binary form, so long as an acknowledgment appears in derived source files."

    Hypocrisy? Not here.

    No hypocrisy there... (Score:2)
    by Millennium (millennium@spam.spam.eggs.bacon.andspam.mac.com) on Sunday May 28, @07:23PM EDT (#29)
    (User Info)
    There's a very large difference between copyrights and patents.

    Copyright means, under normal circumstances, that you cannot lift the code outright and use it in your own stuff. It's possible that the book you mention does allow you to use the code in your own stuff. In fact, I'd put money on that assertion. Check the book out; it should say.

    Patents are different. Patents protect more than a person's work. Let's say I one-up Amaon and write a "no-click system" for e-commerce (impossible with current technology, I know, but it makes for a handy example). You can't lift my code, because it's copyrighted. However, you cannot write any no-click system at all, due to the patent. This is simply unethical practice, as it's applied to discourage competition in the marketplace.

    What is software? Software is code, in both object and source form. Code is copyrightable, and this is good; it lets you protect your work from those who would steal it, by whatever you define "stealing" to be (the GPL and Microsoft's standard EULA differ only in their definition of what stealing code is; other than this they do exactly the same thing).

    But patents, copyrights, and trademarks were always meant to be mutually exclusive. Can you copyright a car? Hardly; that's a patent's job. Can you patent a specific word, perhaps "Microsoft"? Again, no; that's what a trademark is for. Why, then, should you be able to patent something which is copyrightable? There is no difference between that example and any of the others.

    Taking back Slashdot: United Coalition of Slashdotters for the Strengthening of Moderation
    Re:No hypocrisy there... (Score:1)
    by Signal 11 (signal11@mediaone.net?Subject=Slashdot comment) on Sunday May 28, @07:29PM EDT (#36)
    (User Info) http://www.malign.net/~bojay/
    Let's say I one-up Amaon and write a "no-click system" for e-commerce (impossible with current technology, I know, but it makes for a handy example).

    Use javascript's "OnMouseOver" function. There's your no-click patent. =)

    -o Disclaimer: My employer doesn't even agree with me about C indentation style. o-

    Re:No hypocrisy there... (Score:1)
    by the_other_one (other_one69@MAPSONhotmail.com) on Sunday May 28, @08:11PM EDT (#50)
    (User Info)
    You are infringing on my patent

    or violating my copyright from a previous post

    One up Amazon. The smart no click shopping cart tied in to doubleclick would anticipate your purchasing desires based on sites you visit. It would extract your credit card number from your hard disk and make the purchases it deemed necessary. Best of all you wouldn't have to click to sign up for the service. It would automatically purchase itself for you.

    *** CENSORED ***
    Re:No hypocrisy there... (Score:1)
    by VP on Monday May 29, @03:18AM EDT (#120)
    (User Info)
    What is software? Software is code, in both object and source form. Code is copyrightable, and this is good; it lets you protect your work from those who would steal it, by whatever you define "stealing" to be (the GPL and Microsoft's standard EULA differ only in their definition of what stealing code is; other than this they do exactly the same thing).

    Not true: the GPL grants you additional rights to the ones you would normally have with copyrighted material, while most EULAs try to take away rights you should normally have with copyrighted material (e.g. reverse engineering).

    GPL and EULA same arrow pointed in opposite dir (Score:1)
    by Rares Marian (rmarian@winblowsstart.com) on Tuesday May 30, @01:56AM EDT (#166)
    (User Info)
    There's no doubleplusungood, there's no more. There's no less. Just opposites. I happen to like the GPL. But honestly they're both viral. And they both deny warranty. The GPL has the excuse of many hands touching the code, but the EULA has no excuse.

    Caught signal SIGSIG read this comment again.
    Nope; still the same... (Score:2)
    by Millennium (millennium@spam.spam.eggs.bacon.andspam.mac.com) on Tuesday May 30, @09:07AM EDT (#171)
    (User Info)
    The only real difference, as I said, is how the two licenses define "stealing code."

    The GPL defines code theft as hoarding the code, making modifications and not releasing them as the original code was released to you. It grants you additional rights, but these are only means of preventing said theft.

    Microsoft's EULA, by contrast, defines code theft as using it in any capacity other than a certain narrow range (the Win95 and 98 licenses don't even let you run servers on them for more than 5 users). It takes away rights, even those normally granted under typicl copyright, but again they're only a means to preventing you from "stealing" the code.

    Both very different licenses, but still similar in many ways. Just opposite ends of the same pole.
    Taking back Slashdot: United Coalition of Slashdotters for the Strengthening of Moderation
    Re:lawyer mafia (Score:1)
    by Rares Marian (rmarian@winblowsstart.com) on Sunday May 28, @07:31PM EDT (#38)
    (User Info)
    Mafia, communism, fascism, take your pick all the same.
    Caught signal SIGSIG read this comment again.
    Re:lawyer mafia (Score:1)
    by Rares Marian (rmarian@winblowsstart.com) on Tuesday May 30, @12:03AM EDT (#164)
    (User Info)
    It doesn't belong there. There's a saying: We are conditioned to condemn politics. This allows those in power to stay in power.

    Carefully with your chosen prejudices.

    Caught signal SIGSIG read this comment again.
    Re:Biting the hand.. (Score:1)
    by lemuru on Sunday May 28, @08:32PM EDT (#56)
    (User Info)
    Patents, copyrights, IP, they are all interchangable

    Uh, okay, no more pot for you. Stop making up your own words. You get informed.

    Patents grant one the right to a monopoly over an invention or process.

    Copyrights grant one the right to a monopoly over an implementation.

    Now why don't you make a post that contributes something instead of making no sense. Start by telling me this, if you will--do you not think that the inventor of something as fantastically novel and useful as the printing press deserves credit and royalties in return? Do you not think Martin Luther King and his estate deserve credit and royalties for his "I Have a Dream" speech?

    Yes. There are thousands of cases where there are patents or copyrights that are stupid and shouldn't exist. But they aren't all like that, as your sweeping statement against all forms of intellectual property suggests. Yes, Perhaps patents and copyrights shouldn't last for as long as they do. I know I think that they shouldn't. But if you think they are entirely unnecessary, maybe you should actually give some indication as to why instead of semi-troll like posts.
    You're both wrong (Score:1)
    by Rares Marian (rmarian@winblowsstart.com) on Sunday May 28, @08:40PM EDT (#59)
    (User Info)
    Patents are monopolies granted to encourage disclosure. Read the Law. It specifically says patrents are NOT REWARDS. In fact it says the same of COPYRIGHT as well.
    Caught signal SIGSIG read this comment again.
    Re:You're both wrong (Score:1)
    by lemuru on Sunday May 28, @09:16PM EDT (#69)
    (User Info)
    Well, they aren't "rewards" in a theoretical sense, but in a practical sense, they wind up being just that--a way for the inventor/writer to gather royalties for their creation. I don't know if this was the original intention of those who framed the law, but that is without a doubt the way things tend towards nowadays.
    Re:Biting the hand.. (Score:1)
    by Rares Marian (rmarian@winblowsstart.com) on Sunday May 28, @08:35PM EDT (#57)
    (User Info)
    Fair use asshole.

    Patents are govenment sponsored monopolies in EXCHANGE for disclosure. You can only own a work. Not an idea.

    Furthermore, the patents disputed are patents no one works but on integrations. Nothing new was made that no one else uses.
    Caught signal SIGSIG read this comment again.
    I totally agree (Score:1)
    by argoff on Sunday May 28, @10:34PM EDT (#88)
    (User Info)

    The whole idea behind western society is that people have peoperty rights even if no government exists at all, but people typically organize in government to secure those rights.

    In that manner, copyrights and patents are a slap in the face. With them, property rights exist just because the government defines them as property rights - even though any bafoon can tell patents and copyrights have no natural limit in supply or demad.

    The natural resource that has limits is peoples time and creativity, and that is the real value of things like the Linux paradigm. It undoes enough of the damage done by copyrights and patents for real and natural market forces to kick in - rather artificial limits in supply and demand created by government coersion.

      What this country needs is a good five dollar plasma weapon.
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