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What Happens When Patents Meet Antipatents? 187

Posted by timothy
from the is-my-meat-yo-yo-"too-obvious"? dept.
Roblimo pointed out an interesting piece by Grant Gross of NewsForge tying together some of the recent thoughts on Slashdot and elsewhere about preventing the creation of bad patents. Gross examines the idea of "antipatents" as formulated by Media.org co-founders Rebecca Hargrave and Carl Malamud. From the article: "'Antipatents are simple, a registration mechanism for your open-source inventions. ... Taking the time to document the antipatent prevents some clueless corporation from making it their property. Perhaps a handsome certificate, suitable for framing, can be sent with each antipatent for a modest fee.' Hargrave and Malamud also call for a formal way for the community at large to shout down 'clueless patents.'" Sounds good to me.
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What Happens When Patents Meet Antipatents?

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  • The problem isn't that people are out there inventing things and then not patenting them. It's that people are out there doing stuff that seems too obvious to patent, and then some idiot company patents it. Who would have antipatented one-click shopping? Or selling music on the 'net? Anyway, you can already get a patent for something that you don't want to make money off: I forget what it's called, but someone here knows.
  • IMO, antipatents don't seem like a great idea. Rather, I think we need better technical patent investigators and more efficient ways of investigating prior art.

    If you really want to share your invention, and ensure that nobody can patent it, release it in such a way that it can be shown to be prior art. To be effective, there should be proof of the date of the invention, etc.

    Obligatory mention - IANAL.

    YS

  • Are you volunteering to run the database?
  • > So how does the patent office define 'public'?

    I suspect they are limited to their own library as well as the contents of the Library of Congress.
  • What has the open source community produced, especially recently, that could be patented? That is to say, what original inventions can OSS claim as its own?

    • PNG's 2D "adam7" progressive display
    • PNG signature that allows you to catch
      and identify common transmission errors by the
      time you've read the first 8 bytes (JPEG-2000
      has adopted this method, too)
    • PNG's chunk safe-to-copy mechanism
    • DEFLATE compression, used in PNG and GZIP
    • Possibly PNG's adaptive filtering method
    • All published as RFCs to establish prior
      art (RFC 1950, 1951, 1952, 2083)


  • You're correct ... but (modulo some legal changes, which are sorely needed anyway), there is still lots of work to document all the "inventions" that were already invented a long time ago. Many of the patents being filed are equivalent to work that happened 10 years or more ago. Even 1-click and affinity programs were well beyond the one-year ticker.

    No system is perfect. :))
  • The S.I.R. Patent is *EXACTLY* an 'anti-patent'. I thought the name was 'Statuatory Information Patent', but in any event it is (a) lower cost than regular patents, (b) simplified form I think, and (c) designed specifically to register an idea with the patent bureau for which you claim no proprietary interest, which means the idea is protected from somebody else patenting it. Therefore, this is the ideal and existing channel for filing an idea to make sure nobody 'reinvents' something you're already using and then gives you legal hassles for using it, and it means that open-sourcers could invest a small amount of time and money to keep the work open source. Although I've filed a couple of patents, I'm no expert, but it appears pretty clear that the S.I.R. would be much greater protection than 'publication' or 'prior use', because (a) it would head the rustlers off at the pass; (b) they cannot 'overlook' your published 'prior art', and more importantly the patent *examiners* at the USPTO are far more likely to find it in USPTO records than in some software journal, and (c) you'd be spared the legal expense of later 'proving' your rights in court. I say, use the S.I.R., sir! That's what it's there for!
  • all the "evil corporation" has to do is just file their patent within one year after your publication.
    They can still file it until a year after you publish it, so long as they can show the patent office they "invented it" before you did . . .using their internal documents and lawyers.
  • by shogun (657)
    I'm afraid you'll never get this one, theres just too much prior art out there...
    Hold on thats never stopped the patent office before as we've seen recently, so go ahead and give it a try..
  • So antipatents are just another way to register your ideas so that someone else can't take them, only with automatic free licencing to the entire world.
    So the two really aren't opposites; and in fact are very similar.
    Just like pasta and antipasta. :-)
  • This exact item exists, and has been discussed on Slashdot.

    It's a class of patent in the US called the SIR, and it exists so that when government funded research is done, the SIR establishes formal prior art, and no one else can claim it as a regular patent.

    See, that was easy!
  • Not in the direct reading of the first amendment, but the idea that the government doesn't favor one group over another in cases like these, unless in a trial, but that's covered in the fifth.
  • The problem isn't that people are out there inventing things and then not patenting them. It's that people are out there doing stuff that seems too obvious to patent, and then some idiot company patents it. Who would have antipatented one-click shopping?

    Well, now we're a little bit smarter than 5 years ago. I, for example, could think of a few silly software patents myself. Lessee:

    - A mechanism to update software packages over the web, offering a list of options (Helixcode, Windows Update)
    - The message board mechanism (Slashcode?)
    - The division of a desktop into virtual desktops (Sawfish, Enlightenment, some Windows driver implementations)
    - The gettext mechanism of internationalization (a neat thing Windows doesn't have -- AND COULD BE PREVENTED FROM HAVING IF IT'S PATENTED)
    - Zero-copy sockets

    The list goes on and on. I favor the idea. The neat thing is, you don't even have to implement it -- just document it. It would help if the website hosting this had some kind of official auditing so it could stand in court. The EFF seems to be the right entity to pull this. Yo, RMS!

  • Wasn't this Jeff Bezos' idea when he and Amazon.com applied for "defensive" patents so that other companies couldn't come in and clobber them? Now we know what happened in that story. What's to stop these antipatents from becoming patents of their own?
  • OK, I'm violating my moderator status by replying, but I just have to jump in
    Yes, a patent applicant/owner can "swear behind" prior art that is less than one year prior to the effective filing date, but he must show evidence of conception of the invention and dilligence to reduce it to practice PRIOR to the publication date of the reference. Obviously, this can be faked, but that is fraud, and could ,more than invalidate the patent and subject the one commiting the fraud to criminal remedies. Apublication that is more than one year prior to the effective filing date is a "statutory bar", which cannot be "sworn behind"
  • This [eurolinux.org] petition is directed to the European Parliament.
    Its goal is to warn European Authorities against the dangers of software patents.
    This petition is supported by the EuroLinux Alliance together with European companies and non-profit associations.
    Please make this petition well known to everybody concerned.
  • IANAL but IIRC obviousness is a perfectly acceptable reason to refuse a patent. Only novel things are supposed to deserve patents. That's why they go through the trouble of getting patent examiners who know something about their fields. Sadly, they've been a little late in getting lots of programmers into the USPTO - thus the glut of stupid crap.
  • Get a business model patent on getting patents on an obvious (and heavily used) process and then suing everybody using the process (recursive). Then go out and sue everybody using that business model!

  • ..and I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to cease and desist from utilising my Global Domination process (tm) until you've agreed a suitable licensing framework with my lawyers. Failure to do so will result in my adapting the "Kill the Chairman" sub-procedure for use on your sorry ass. ;-)

    D.
    © 2000 The Dodger Group, Inc. All right reserved.
    Global Domination is a registered trademark of Dodger's Global Domination One-Stop Shop.Com, Inc., LLC, a The Dodger Group company.

  • I once considered patenting some bad ideas (along the lines of using negative numbers as sentinal values, undocumented OS capabilities, etc.) so that I would own the IP and be able to sue companies that used these bad practices. -m
  • Exposed flesh and physical violence, have we no shame?

    I had some, but it died.

    TWW

  • IT might be helpful to the PTO if people who are regularly assigned to process the prior art I f thy could figgure out where the prior art in a given document would be useful and send them directly to the Art Unit or, if known, examiner in charge, so they can go directly to where the can be of most use.

    The SIRs have one feature that a simple publication doesn't..they can be a party to an interference (to determine priority of invention) and can actually be effective in that context prior to the filing date. SIRs were intended to be used by US Government agencies that wanted a defensive mechanism to avoid having work that was developed by the Government tied up by a the patent of another, but anyone can apply for a SIR. It is very expensive, but if the stakes are High, then it might be useful
  • by blazer1024 (72405) on Friday September 01, 2000 @11:02AM (#810144)
    First, you must always carry a baseball bat. (Wood, aluminum, steel, lead, iron, etc. it doesn't matter)

    Second, as soon as a clueless executive says "Hey, I have an idea, let's patent sedimentary rock." you smack them in the leg with the aforementioned bat. They may limp around for awhile after that.

    Third, when they get the lawyers together and get ready to apply for the patent, hit them all in the head with the bat. (Make sure you hit at least one of the lawyers twice)

    Forth, if they are still insisting on getting this patent, don your sporty black armor with the classic skull facemask helmet, grab your trusty sword, bust in on a board meeting, kill the chairman, and exclaim "I am your leader now, fool mortals! Does anyone wish to challenge this?"

    Finally at the beginning of your first meeting with the executives, proclaim in a deep booming voice "From this day forth, no one shall patent what is already a reality! Those who defy me will be destroyed!"

    Alright, I'm done.

    Oh, and make sure you always have scantily clad female servants following you around everywhere. (Uh, mostly for your pleasure.)

    Thank you, and have a good day.

  • by (void*) (113680) on Friday September 01, 2000 @11:03AM (#810145)
    While in principle, this sounds like a good idea, having a Antipatent database just makes two databases instead of one. How will one police or regulate the other? Already patent holders are reluctant to do a comprehensive prior-art search - why should the presence of the "anti-patent" database change things?

    The central problem with the patent system is not the idea behind it, but the stupidity of the people granting that patent, and the rights it gives the patent holder. That should be fixed. It's hard to see how having another database would change things.

  • these "Antipatents" are nothing more than patents for which the owner does not enforce their rights.

    I don't agree. An antipatent is not awarded by the USPTO. It is a well-known way to log and timestamp ideas, such that when a clueless patent does get awarded by the USPTO, it can be used as prior art. It would serve as a useful resource for the USPTO clerks, too.

    ~

  • I mean, you really think the patent office is doing something useful?

    Especially being in Washington DC, we could kill not only two birds with one explosion, but the nest and breeding ground of the entire big ass bureaucracy!

    --
  • I don't really see the big win here. Surely any open source project big enough to file for an "antipatent" is big enough to show up on even the the most cursory prior art search. These typically aren't the problem; they tend to sort themselves out.

    It's the obscure or super-obvious ones (such as international e-commerce and other business methods) that tend to slip through the prior art cracks. But they're also the ones that don't have a natural constituency to file an "antipatent". Catch 22

  • First item in the antipatent database - antipatents.

    Problem solved. Pat. Pending.

  • > SCOTTY! Get more more ANTIPATENT!

    Cap'n, the examiners canna take enny more!

    Chris Mattern
  • There are people out there working on this.

    Look at http://www.halfbakery.com/editorial/links.html

    There are also idea exchanges like yet2.com.

    Jeff Veit
  • Welcome to this planet. I take it you are not familiar with humans?

    There are still people who do things just to help people, but you're right; there aren't nearly enough of them.People in this country have become overwhelmed by their own avarice. It's disgusting. Stop the f*cking planet, I want to get off. No joke.


    Check out the OSS linux clustering technology called

  • If you are an employee of a large company, antipatents would help to ensure that you could always use your ideas. The company would not be able to stop you from using your creation.

    This is also a reason why antipatents will never become law in any country controlled by large corporations who feed on the knowledge of their underpaid employees and later throw these people out on the street when they have no ideas left.
  • I gotta idea. its called the cellfone torch combo. With all these torchs the size of a coin about, it is a good idea to combine such a device with a cellular phone. this is a cool and very useful feature to add to a phone. nokia, erricson, motorolla et al: /. has my number :)
  • Thats kind of like ShouldExist.org [shouldexist.org] Its a kind of idea exchange place. Sounds a whole lot like your idea (but it doesn't run slashcode [slashcode.com], it runs scoop [kuro5hin.org].
  • As a previous poster pointed out, anti-patents already exist in the form of "technical disclosures".

    A few years back when I was working in a research lab, even if we weren't going to go the whole hog and patent something, then we would make sure that the idea was published as a technical disclosure. Once this was done then basically the idea was in the public domain and was not patentable.

    -- Harry
  • by Chris Johnson (580) on Friday September 01, 2000 @01:41PM (#810157) Homepage Journal
    "Antipatents" should not be thought of as a weapon against patents, even bad patents- they are not an effective approach to doing this, and they're still less effective at punishing patent filers (in much the same way that the GPL is not effective at punishing programmers for working at Microsoft).

    What they are is a very effective tool for fulfilling the ORIGINAL INTENT of the patent system- furthering the arts and sciences. This is a social benefit and those who cannot see beyond individual benefit will be at a disadvantage in understanding it, but there are individual benefits to antipatents too, again in the same way that there are individual benefits in GPLed software authoring. The significant factor is that the creator of the idea must be thought of in a context of 'what other ideas might this person produce?' rather than 'how much money's worth of ideas does this person keep control over?'.

    Phrased that way, maybe it might make more sense to people who can only think in terms of how much idea-property is controlled by a given person. Ideas, code are all well and good, but the real jackpot comes from implementation- putting the idea into action- and a person's real value can be considered in terms of their capacity to adapt to new situations and environments and get the most out of the new situations.

    In a way this is strikingly reminiscent of Alvin Toffler's pontifications: he postulates a future in which change accelerates so unbearably that only the most adaptable people will thrive. We are in fact seeing that- Napster, for instance, is a type of change that few people predicted, and the environment of music distribution is still changing. The key concept to remain aware of is that the change can't be willed away- in the case of Napster, the RIAA is already dead, even with all its money, because it is determined to prevent the change in its mode of business, and in the long run it must fail. If it succeeds in totally controlling audio, suppose people begin producing and exchanging forms of interpretive dance, or audiovisual media like film off their desktops? To completely bind a media (like audio) and force it to be an unchanging 'cash cow' is dooming it to irrelevance as the change will swirl on without it.

    To apply this to patents/antipatents, it's instructive to consider that patents are by nature denials of change. They are attempts to define ideas as if they were indispensable as laws of nature, and charge a toll for them- as if the context for the ideas won't change and leave the idea as orphaned as a patent bull-powered combine harvester. By contrast, antipatents are by nature completely dependent on change, as is the GPLing of software- to put out an idea as utterly free and unencumbered (i.e. antipatent, the only restriction is that someone else can't patent it) is by nature accepting that the idea itself is of transient use- the important thing is on the one hand showing "Hey, I can think of ideas like this!" which has value, and on the other hand putting an unencumbered idea into the hands of others who might find it inspires other ideas- cross-pollination.

    The more hysteria over all these IP issues I see, the more I think that Toffler was right- the rules are changing faster and faster, and the only survival technique worth a damn is to develop the capacity to react to new situations and make the most of them. Establishing a community that can communicate ideas is a very good way to do this- as illustrated by the rise of Linux. There's no reason to believe this is any different when it comes to _physical_ inventions, or for that matter business models- as interactivity rises, rigidity is death, and patents and hysterical IP protectionism are rigidity, with very bad survival value.

    In the spirit of change and getting thrown nasty curve balls by life, might I make note that mp3.com has begun committing suicide by changing their contracts and embarking on a brave new learn-to-spam-hopefully-responsibly-to-appease-RIA A-labels program? So as a _result_ of this, if you ever wanted to check out that music I so often go on about, OR BUY ONE OF THE 5.99$ CDS that mp3.com makes, be advised that now would be a good time because my page with them is going to go AWAY once small issues like payment are resolved. In the future I will repeat WILL be selling CDs myself, probably not as cheaply as that but better quality audio (mp3.com CDs are a convenience burning of the mp3s to Red Book CD, with nice cover art and labeled media) but I'm not going to have squat for a while. So if anyone ever considered picking up some of that music on CD, do it before the music goes away, 'cos it WILL go away at some point- I am absolutely not going to consent to mp3.com's new artist agreement terms, so our relationship is maintaining under the old agreement and no future development will be possible.

    Don't you just _love_ change? ;P now I gotta start pricing _CD_ _duplicators_ and stuff like that, oh joy. But at least I understand the importance of being ready to adapt to such change. I think mp3.com are going to die by the side of the major labels they're trying so hard to appease.

  • Yes, double letters in the english language trip me up, but I can blame them on my key board. English has got to be the only language less consistent than VB.
  • Yes, thanks, the SIR exists. But reading the form (sb0094.pdf [uspto.gov]), it appears that this is an add-on to a regular patent-filing, so the costs and difficulty are at least slightly higher with the SIR. i therefore don't quite understand the motivation for filing this (though maybe the patent issue fee is waived). After all, you are not req'd to enforce a patent if it's granted to you, it's just an option. I think that what Mr Malamud is proposing is a way to inexpensively file antipatents (the utility patent app filing is currently $345).
  • Ahhhhh. Thank you for that answer, that helps a lot.

    --Parity
  • When patents and anti-patents collide, a gigantic burst of litigation energy is released. Patents are theorized to be composed of six sub-patent particles, called "actions", named, arbitrarily: sue, settle, bribe, extort, lock-out, and monopolize. Hopefully definitive proof will come after the IES (International Ethics Smasher) collider is built.
  • They anihilate eachother, creating a burst of legal briefs containing just as many letters as the combined text of the patents and the antipatents.

  • That's a damn good idea. I was wondering when someone was going to come up with something to actually defend good ideas from patent mongers instead of just complaining about it. Cheers to those involved.
  • I've been all over the patent office website (uspto.gov) this past year (filing two patent apps) and never came across a SIR. Are you sure about this?

    I tried to check just now but searching is down at the PTO:

    "We apologize for the inconvenience, but this search feature has been temporarily disabled while we address performance issues. We do not anticipate restoration of this site search feature until after 9/4/2000." -- http://www.uspto.gov/web/menu/ptoindex.htm

  • A long time ago, a friend and I would try to play stupid tricks on the post office. Things like sending letters with the name and city only, mailing rocks postage due and then rejecting them on reciept and so on.

    One thing that didn't work was sending an open letter. The post office taped it up and stamped "SEALED FOR YOUR PRIVACY" all over it about 15 times.
  • Publishing to prevent patents is not original. If you want to look into details, the term of art for this is "defensive publication."

    If a company decides that something is a good idea, but not good enough to patent, they publish in a rather obscure journal. You can find copies of the journal in any patent library, at the PTO, and in most law school libraries.

    This was the purpose of the IBM Technical Bulletin [ibm.com].

    Currently, according to IBM, the defensive publication of choice is:

    Research Disclosure, published by Emsworth Design, Inc., 147 West 24th Street, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10011 (212) 366-4363 - Attention: Tony Drobinski.

    Thalia

  • by JonahC (125010) on Friday September 01, 2000 @10:48AM (#810167) Homepage
    What if somebody patents the concept of the antipatent? Then do they own all our antipatented ideas?
  • Most of the patents we care about are of the type that make you scratch your head and say "How could they patent that?" (examples abound). So, it seems to me that to make this work, we'd pretty much have to anti-patent _everything_, no matter how crazy and dumb it sounds. By the end of this idea, we'd have so many anti-patents.

    If I had a real patentable idea, I wouldn't even bother with the anti-patent. I'd get the real patent.

    Well, my two cents worth anyway...
  • by MenTaLguY (5483)

    ...what about preventing people who aren't even aware of the difference between copyrights, patents, and trademarks, from pontificating on IP issues?

    I really think slashdot should have little "reference cards" at the bottom of the article for various pieces of information like this.

    Since discussion now is invariably so mis-informed on even the basics, perhaps such a brief reference would raise the general level of discussion, at least a bit?

    Of course, that assumes the Slashdot editorial staff are capable of getting these things right themselves... unfortunately, they don't even seem to consistently manage to spell "copyright" correctly (which this poster did, kudos to him for that).

  • by ackthpt (218170) on Friday September 01, 2000 @11:09AM (#810171) Homepage Journal
    I wish I could be more optomistic, but having a differently worded older patent or even documentation of inventing something before a current patent awardee was born does not seem to matter much these days.

    Your patent is only as good as your lawyer.®

    Vote [dragonswest.com] Naked 2000
  • Anti-patents already exist. They are called disclosures. You can disclose in a journal (some corporations have journals dedicated to the task), or you can send a disclosure to the patent office. If you want to know more about the process, get a copy of "Patent It Yourself" from Nolo Press (good reading anyway).

    An open source-related patents effort might be useful, however: creating an organization that uses its patents to trade with commercial patent holders to get them to license their patents for open source use.

  • Some information on Research Disclosure is here [researchdisclosure.com].
  • Please remember that the real reason for patents is to get the Inventor to divulge his/her invention to the public. The 20 year 'monopoly' is nothing but the 'carrot' handed to the inventor in reward for telling everybody how to do what they are doing. The patent office serves as a long term depository of ideas: here is how you do this, and here is how you do this better.

    The anti patent can serve as the same depository. What will happen with anti patents is that they will be treated the same way that public domain software is - rather than the way GPL code is. In other words anti patentened material will be seized for use by any corporation that feels like taking it for use - without so much as a 'screw you' to the inventor.

    It is doubtful that anything of great value would be anti patented excepting of course the mythical 'super carburetor' that various 'interests' don't want to see on the market. If somebody did come up with something like real anti gravity (for example) submitting an anti patent might be better for your health than submitting to the government patent office - who would mark it "Top Secret Defense Department Property" and keep anyone from ever hearing about it.

    As I see it anti-patents would fall into 2 main classes: simple obvious things of marginal commercial value and a few things of too much value to risk trying for a patent. What do you think would happen to someone who invented a real Star Trek style replicator? My guess is industry would have him fitted for concrete jogging shoes in short order.

    It would have one further effect, it would eliminate the retroactive cries of "That's obvious". If it isn't in the anti patent database either, it ain't obvious. In other words, as an unintended side effect, it could make patent defense much easier.

  • by Shotgun (30919) on Friday September 01, 2000 @11:19AM (#810189)
    To invalidate the possibility of others producing patents, IBM publishes a journal. Any good ideas that are borderline patentable get put in the journal. If someone sues IBM over patent issues, the journal is one of the first things that are searched.

    Slashdot code could be used to the same purpose. Submit a patent idea as a story, let others flesh it out. Any open-source product that gets a cease and desist letter can send back a URL of where to pick up the discussion on Slashdot.

  • Censorship is when a government won't let you read something it deems unsuitable. Overturning a patent doesn't prevent you from reading the patent documents, it just overturns the patent.

    I suggest you read the constitution, this time with a dictionary in the other hand.

  • Sure but what I'm saying is that there need not be anything different about an antipatent and a patent. If you want to protect an invention, the standard legal way to do that is to apply for a patent. You can potentially do various other things to prove prior art or whatever, but in court the most protections will be afforded to those inventions that have registered patents.

    Now, you can make the argument that you have to pay for a patent, and some inventors may not have the money for the neccessary fees to deal with the application. But if that's the case, then it's not terribly likely they'll have the money required to fight a court battle over a patent dispute (brought on by an actual patent "owner") either, so they'll probably just end up losing their rights anyway, and the whole point is moot.


    Check out the OSS linux clustering technology called

  • What if somebody patents the concept of the antipatent?
    Lucky for us, there's prior art [slashdot.org].
  • But for the patent office this isn't "public". The patent office can't even do a simple google search to see look for prior art since that could reveal details.

    This is why IBM sends the patent office a copy of their journal. Any pubilc format would still need to send the patent office a hardcopy (as well as a softcopy so they might have a hope to search). There may be some problem that a patent attorney may be required to review the publication before that patent office would accept it. They have some very funny rules.
  • Assuming you're serious (and not just posting for the pun)...

    Exactly! You anticipate what you can think of, everyone else does the same. Thus if someone else thinks of it and tries to patent it, there's proof that it's fairly obvious. If they think of it and you didn't, it's evidently not obvious to you or the other posters to the forum. (This doesn't prove it's worthy of a patent, just that nobody else already though it was.)
  • While the idea of antipatents seems extremely appealing to me, it's very hard to define it legally. While patents have to be brief and accurate, it is hardly possible to make specific antipatents so that that nobody could reclaim it with a slitghtly altered description. That's why I think the problem should really be split in two:

    1. Creating a system that will lock specific ideas (algorithms etc.) into public domain with a small fraction of the hassle it takes to register a private patent.
    2. Loosening up the requirements for dismissing a patent, and creating a public body that can control the handing out of patents and cancel them.
  • One problem of just patenting/not-enforcing is that acquring a patent is a fairly expensive process. I believe it is on the order of $5k - $15k; partly because you need patent lawyers properly obfuscate your invention description :)

    I like the idea of reducing the cost of the patent process, and implementing a very low cost anti-patent database (apdb).

    Also, I understood them as suggesting the apdb be moderated by volunteers. The danger is that these new examiners could bring their own professional agendas into the process, seeking to hinder others to benefit their own company. Proper precautions would need to be worked out.

    -----
    D. Fischer
  • All that is necessary to create bad karma for bad patents is to *publish* existing art. Write it up in sufficient detail to enable a person of ordinary skill to practice the invention, and get it published with a date -- ship it to a library, and be done with the idea. No fee needs to be collected or managed, no central repository necessary -- just a publication, and the ability to date the publication is all that is required.

    [Its a good idea, if this is your purpose, to provide this information for free to the USPTO, so examiners will have it available for that purpose. Perhaps if we can index and organize the information to make it more suitable for examination, it would be a greater tool than traditional journal publications.]

    The problem is that the abstractness required for publication in some journals does tend to make academic CS journals less effective in judicial proceedings. Concrete disclosures of the kind prepared for a patent specification tend to make all of the difference in determinations of invalidity.

    BTW, there exists a non-rights registration instrument already, called an SIR. You get the pretty ribboned and certified document from the Patent Office, useful for nothing except prior art -- but a classified ad in a newspaper would probably be cheaper and equally effective as evidence of invalidity. (The problem with SIR's is that they are fairly expensive.)
  • It's been mentioned before, and perhaps the reason it isn't popular is the cost of filing for a patent. But wouldn't it be great if instead of tons of "innovations" going into the public domain by virtue of there being no patent, if a foundation funded the patenting of many critical innovations, and would allow them to be used without royalty under the simple agreement that the licensee could not file a patent infringement lawsuit without the approval of a board of review or something. The board might permit a patent suit on a true innovation, but it would be up to a panel of real experts rather than a clueless judge and bought-and-paid-for expert testimony.

    Imagine if, to file a patent suit without infringing yourself, you had to give up the rights to... blowfish/twofish, banner ads, png graphics, client-to-client file-sharing directory services (the Napster patent, hahaha), and so on and so forth.
  • Prior art must be published, IIRC. Proving that you invented something in your basement prior to the patent holder does not affect the validity of the patent.
  • Already patent holders are reluctant to do a comprehensive prior-art search - why should the presence of the "anti-patent" database change things?

    antipatents will become a large prior-art database for patent holders to search.


    <O
    ( \
    XGNOME vs. KDE: the game! [8m.com]
  • The best way to fix the patent system would be to constantly flood it with more and more patents applied for by OSS and FSF types willing to share the IP that should be shared. "Pre-emptive" patenting, which could hopefully invalidate future patents by clueless corps. Have a new idea, or just half an idea you thought up in a dream about flux-capacitor-like fanciful ideas? Apply for a patent on the new "development." Then, hopefully, it will cover something used later in a patent application by a big corporation, so that it can invalidate the claim. Have a database of these pre-emptive patents maintained by someone like FSF or OSS. I'm sure every one of us (well, a lot of us at least) comes up with ideas for new types of pointing devices, web interfaces, protocols, etc.; well, patent them to keep a big corporation from doing it and patenting it later.

  • the two will annihilate producing energy that correspondes to the sum of the mass of the patent and the mass of the antipatent.
  • Yeah, I had trouble in getting to Solla Sollew [amazon.com] too.

    -JD
  • Think of something you do that's important to you, either for work or in some other capacity. Now think of all the little things that are necessary for you to do that one big thing -- break it down into little discrete pieces, and find all their little contingencies. Now write up a brief description of all those little things.

    Patents only exist on the plane of concepts, and there are only so many concepts you can fit into one idea, once you're constrained by not being able to patent physical phenomena.
  • I believe both gzip and bzip2 use original compression methods that could have been patented. Blowfish could have been patented (though I don't know whether that would count for OSS, it was promptly put with code into the public domain).

    All OSS projects are not copycats of closed projects, any more than all closed projects are copycats of other projects. Try dictd (RFC 2229) and its associated projects, for example. Or look at the many OSS projects that are implementing standards in parellel with closed source projects (Unicode, XML)
  • The notion that a stamped letter mailed to yourself (or anyone else) is protection for/against patents or copyrights is an old urban legend. This gives you absolutely no protection or prior art claim.

    Please don't propagate this myth any further.

  • Without patents, there would be no incentive to create new synthetic pharmaceuticals. Without new drugs, new diseases will run rampant, and only the cutest humans will survive.

    Someday all moments will be precious moments [preciousmoments.com].
    <O
    ( \
    XGNOME vs. KDE: the game! [8m.com]
  • According to United States law, a patent may not be granted unless the invention is new, non-obvious given prior art, and useful; however, the Patent Office tends to ignore the "non-obvious" part, so here's my definition of "bad patent":

    bad patent n. a patent on an invention that is obvious, given prior art, at the time the patent was applied for.

    antipatents is trying to collect obvious information into a prior-art database that is easy to search when a Bad Patent is being overturned.


    <O
    ( \
    XGNOME vs. KDE: the game! [8m.com]
  • I thought it was funny and I would have moderated it so.
    Molog

    So Linus, what are we doing tonight?

  • We've been waiting for a public journal of this type; search Slashdot for "patents" stories and read through the comments. Antipatents is this journal.
    <O
    ( \
    XGNOME vs. KDE: the game! [8m.com]
  • by Stephen Samuel (106962) <samuel&bcgreen,com> on Friday September 01, 2000 @12:00PM (#810241) Homepage Journal
    A real antipatent would be to patent a process and then require that anybody using the patent agree to anti-patent any patents that depend on it.

    If I had the money to burn right now, I'd register a domain just for this project. As it is, I have LinuxBeachhead.com that I'd be willing to throw at the idea, if someone is willing to provide the coding.

  • Here we are, about to enter the 21st Century and the US still can't figure out what the word "Obvious" means. The problem is a bit more deep rooted than some laws and inaccessable patent examiners. The problem is that the examiners themselves do not even understand what "Obvious" to a programmer. It is obvious to save customer information on your server so that when they revisit the site, they don't have to enter it again. Yes. My boss took us to lunch a few weeks ago and the waiter just walked up with his receipt to sign. They had his CC info locally so he would never need to show it again. Convient. It's also prior art to amazons patent. So, what can be done.

    1) Patent reviewers should come from the industry they are reviewing patents for

    2) Patent reviewers should be reviewed by an outside source

    3) A "Method of Business patents" should be null and void. You can't "invent a method" if that were the case, I would patent the use of outerspace travel as a way of rubbing elbows for making business ties. It hasn't been done and there is no prior art (except for the fact that they already do it on boats and planes)

    Just because it uses a new technology doesn't mean its nonobvious.

  • How will I ride my fat IPO offering if my artificial company can't claim it's vaporware??
  • by VAXGeek (3443) on Friday September 01, 2000 @10:51AM (#810247) Homepage
    I don't think this would work. You'd generate a patent-antipatent reaction, destroying the whole Patent Office in the process.

    SCOTTY! Get more more ANTIPATENT!
    ------------
    a funny comment: 1 karma
    an insightful comment: 1 karma
    a good old-fashioned flame: priceless
  • the courts are already full of people trying to overturn patents the way it is. This is just going to fill things up even further with people fighting anti-patents. It would be a better idea to FIX the curent patent process, maybe hire someone in the office who UNDERSTANDS the tech involved, and force requests to be in plain english. creating more administration is not the way to fix BAD administration

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Isn't this what is called a Statutory Invention Registration in the United States? A filing with the patent office to register an invention so that nobody can get a patent on it.
  • I used to advocate this kind of thing, but then a closer reading of the law made me realize something: Prior art must occur 1 year -before- the patent is -filed- for. Am I misunderstanding something, or would companies be able to rifle through the antipatent database and file for patents on all the new ideas and then say 'yes, but that's less than a year before we filed' (for software and business method patents you can surely cobble together a prototype in less than 11 months... )
    Yes, this is obviously a 'bad' thing for them to do, and against the -spirit- of the law, but isn't it within the letter?
    (IANAL... any Ls out there?)


    --Parity
  • In order to create a good general-knowledge database such as Everything2 [everything2.com] or Mindpixel [mindpixel.com], a ton of common-sense knowledge has to be entered in. Think of antipatents as being a "common sense for engineers" database.
    <O
    ( \
    XGNOME vs. KDE: the game! [8m.com]
  • Point is, people shoudl be able to file antipatents for *ver little money*. The reason? simple.

    - If other companies try to patent something, that matches a previous anti-patent, then they cannot, as obviously, it's not 'new'.
    - If the antipatent actually covers something previously patented, (because an expensive patent search wasn't done) that's okay too. The original patent owner takes precedence. in other words, make it so the presence of an antipatent does *not* necessarily mean there is no patent, just that if there is, it was filed previous.
  • If you really want to share your invention, and ensure that nobody can patent it, release it in such a way that it can be shown to be prior art.

    That's what antipatents is. It's a prior art database.


    <O
    ( \
    XGNOME vs. KDE: the game! [8m.com]
  • What you refer to is copyright, not patent, and it's entirely valid.
    The sealed envelope with a dated postal mark on it would be rather good proof that the enclosed items existed on the date of stamping.

  • You are exactly right. The reason why nobody had patented the process behind One Click Ordering isn't because nobody had thought of it before, but because it's obvious to someone practiced in the art of computer programming.

    Sort of like the features in Outlook that allow it to be such a great platform for worms. It's not that nobody previously thought of executable e-mail, but that the people who previously thought about it were smart enough to realize that it was a Bad Idea.

    Burris

  • ...just going to fill things up even further with people fighting anti-patents...
    What's to fight with an antipatent? It sounds to me like it's just a dated, formal declaration that "I thought of this idea (method and apparatus in patent-speak) on September 1, 2000, and hereby publically announce it to the world. It might be useful for (this), (that) and (other thing) or similar purposes.".

    The only point of doing it is that it would be impossible for anyone to patent it afterwards - it just proves prior art. There would hardly be any administration neccessary - just a big on-line database, with on-line submission, digital signatures, etc. Then patent examiners can search it, and everyone else can submit to it.


    Torrey Hoffman (Azog)
  • So can you be more specific? Which exact piece of the 1st amendment do you think overturning a patent violates? Freedom of religion?
  • What happened to the old practice of copying your work, sealing it, and mailing it to yourself? It's been used in court countless times to prove pre-existing art (more accurately, in the art cases, that artist X had it before artist Y "composed" it).
  • Patent implosion? like the one that killed the Dinosaurs?

  • what about preventing morons like Intel to copyright that "II" in Pentium II? That'd be as useful...
  • Patent the concept of obtaining a patent and refuse to share your IP with anyone.
  • Document your idea and mail a few coppies to yourself. When you get them back, stick them away somewhere while you work to develop the idea. What you have is sealed dated and stamped by the federal government.

    My advice is not a subtitute for a laywer.

  • Prior art and first use are excellent items for disputing patent claims.

    The "antipatent" system seems a bit cumbersome, since registering something obvious is counterintuitive to most of us, but patenting something obvious seems to be what the patent office thrives on.

    It just seems unworkable on a basic level. That being that the patent office does not seem to do much checking on prior art anyway and neither do these courts that keep handing out insane rulings.

    I wish I could be more optomistic, but having a differently worded older patent or even documentation of inventing something before a current patent awardee was born does not seem to matter much these days.

    Visit DC2600 [dc2600.com]
  • The changes are as follows- they're arranging to be able to keep materials given to them forever, for certain purposes ('secure accounts'). I assume this is so they can promise to supply X,Y and Z bands for my.mp3.com customers and not have to face ever removing stuff from their playlists if one of their artists quits. This is NOT the same as mp3.com keeping 'your songs' forever: they don't get copyright and don't get exclusive rights either, that's still unchanged at the moment. It is strictly a change giving them rights to CONTINUE using what you give them (access to your stuff, legally) perpetually, for certain types of use.

    More disturbing is the change dealing with ways of altering the terms of the agreement. The original agreement specifies that the artist must sign off on any changes before they take effect: a simple email is considered enough evidence of consent but the artist must consent to any changes or they don't happen. This can be considered an equitable contract, as it protects both parties. (no, I'm not AL, I just can read the language...) The new agreement specifically gives mp3.com the ability to make changes which take effect within five days- if you don't keep aware of any changes they can go into effect behind your back. Such changes could be anything, for instance mp3.com could seize copyright to all the songs it hosts or change the nonexclusive rights to exclusive rights. The warning they provide is five days warning, during which time you're supposed to terminate the contract if they do anything you find unacceptable. Unfortunately the agreement says that a posting on the mp3.com bulletin board can constitute notice- and those familiar with it have often gone days without being able to post to the insanely overloaded and unreliable mp3.com bulletin board. So, mp3.com is allowed to post notice of changes in a place that can be entirely inaccessible, and you must take it upon yourself to check every day that they haven't made changes to your agreement, or however often you feel necessary as long as that's oftener than five days. If you don't check for five days it can be assumed that you don't care about your agreement and mp3.com gets to do whatever they want to it.

    Is that what you wanted to know about the changes in their terms for new artists? Unfortunately, many of the more particular artists left mp3.com over unrelated issues, such as outrage that mp3.com posted their earnings on their pages for people to gawk at (some of the artier types found this really offensive, and some people who'd earned $0.00 found it insulting). At the moment there are very few indie artists on mp3.com interested in their contracts, and very little interest in the change, partly because there have been many trolls raising havoc and accusing mp3.com of all sorts of nonsensical things: thus when they do take an action that affects matters, nobody is paying attention anymore. I'm not sure how many artists will leave over this: I'm staying, in a limbo of 'has not agreed to the new agreement', until they pay me what they've decided they owe me. I wouldn't recommend signing up with them, but I know for a fact that even so there are other sites that have far worse terms: Seagram/Universal's 'Farmclub.com', for instance, is much worse than mp3.com even now. If I find anything else out there that cuts an equitable deal with artists I'll say so :)

  • Filing an antipatent is like posting as anonymous coward, while filing a patent is like posting under a registered username. It's for ideas you feel like sharing but which aren't worthy of posting under your own username. Occasionally, one will get modded up, just as an antipatented idea might hit paydirt and make someone a whole lot of money, in which case you can kick yourself for not having actually taken credit for it. Bad ideas that get patented are a waste of the filing fee, just as bad ideas attributed to usernames get modded down. And the most insightful part of the analogy is that both the USPTO's system and Slashdot's moderation system are severely fucked up and reward the most innane ideas at times, while occasionally producing correct results that justify their being continued.
  • This sounds like a good way to publicize that you are in violation of someone's patent. :)


    --

  • That would defeat the purpose of patents. The purpose of patents is to encourage you to share your invention. The carrot society provides is limited-time protection. If you keep your invention to yourself, you are not entitled to patent protection.
  • There's nothing wrong with patents. What we're talking about is stupid patents and overbroad patents that prevent people from doing what we're already doing. Imagine, if you would, a patent against using ginger to cure an upset stomach or against the use of lumpectomys to take out cancer.

    I say a patent against, because what a patent does is prevent people from using a method unless you pay the patent holder. When a patent is for something new and novel it is a good thing because it allows the patent holder to use their government-granted monopoly to the process to cover the cost of inventing it. This is an incentive to inbention. When a patent is for something that's "old hat", it's bad, because then we have to pay a licensing fee just to breathe (if they allow it at all).

    Antipatents would allow us to publicly document the 'obvious' uses of eating, breathing and walking. They would not, however, prevent the patenting of a cyber-motion unit that read signals direct from the brain stem, and allowed someone like Stephen Hawking to walk and talk with mechanical support.

  • by John Jorsett (171560) on Friday September 01, 2000 @10:58AM (#810304)
    This presupposes our ability to deform our minds sufficiently that we can even conceive of what might require an antipatent. That's a problem for me; in my wildest dreams, I'd never have figured out that XORing repeatedly to produce a blinking disply cursor would be a patentable concept. How about one-click ordering - would any of you ever have thought that something so obvious needed protecting? I've spent a lot of years getting my brain aligned - I'm worried that thinking in this way could get it seriously out of balance.

Building translators is good clean fun. -- T. Cheatham

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