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Amazon Asks Congress to Curb Patent Abusers 243

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the good-for-the-gander dept.
theodp writes "As Amazon urged Congress to change the law to protect the e-tailler from patent abusers, Rep. Lamar Smith had a question: 'Could not Amazon.com be accused of being a troll for patenting the one-click?' Smith asked, a wry smile on his face." While it's nice to see to see tech companies behind such legislation, it would seem there's some pots calling the kettle black, so to speak.
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Amazon Asks Congress to Curb Patent Abusers

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  • Ok... (Score:5, Funny)

    by HotBlackDessiato (842220) on Friday June 16, 2006 @03:45AM (#15547027)
    ...as long the protection is limited to abuse by small companies with little countervailing influence in the polical process. Otherwise the whole thing could just become a farce.
  • Amazon a troll ? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 16, 2006 @03:50AM (#15547035)
    Only if they use their patent to stop someone from doing something.
    If they use it to attract collaborators (Show me yours and I'll let you see mine ...), or give it to the 'patent commons' that seems to be being established, then that might be something useful.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      There are two problems with this defense of Amazon:

      1) They already have used the "one-click" patent aggressively against Barnes & Noble.

      2) Any patent, no matter how ridiculous, will be sold off as "intellectual property" at some future date (when the corporation bankrupts if not sooner). At that time, it's almost guaranteed to be used aggressively, because the only people who will buy it will be the ones who expect it to be worth money. Amazon's work to build a patent portfolio of stupid patents fores
    • by nwbvt (768631) on Friday June 16, 2006 @08:25AM (#15547752)
      My company encourages employees to patent seemingly anything useful they come up with not so that they can sue other companies who end up coming up with similar technologies, but for protection. They know that they have a much better chance at surviving a patent lawsuit if they already have a patent for the thing they are being sued for. Plus, they can be used as the business version of mutual assured destruction. If someone tries to sue us or sue a technology we support, we can return fire with our entire patent portfolio.
  • by Umbral Blot (737704) on Friday June 16, 2006 @03:52AM (#15547039) Homepage
    Ok, there have been a lot of complicated improvements on patent law suggested, so let me propose a really simple one: there can be only so many patents owned in total by a corporation (patents owned by employees count towards this total). Yes you can patent like crazy, but that would mean giving up your old patents. Or you could just patent when it is really needed, just as the system was meant to be used all along.
    • by zCyl (14362) on Friday June 16, 2006 @03:54AM (#15547044)
      A beautiful and entertaining suggestion, although unfortunately it's easily worked around by generating spinoff companies and leasing the technology from them.
    • by HugePedlar (900427) on Friday June 16, 2006 @04:01AM (#15547068) Homepage
      That would never work. Consider a company like Bell Labs vs some mom & pop garden-tool manufacturer. How can you apply the same patent limit across the board? You can't. Companies with more products need more patents, whether or not they need to be applied more appropriately.
      • Really, they need more than say 20-30 patents? I doubt it, sure products need some short protection, but after a few years the patent is effectively useless since your technology is outdated anyways. But yes big companies are slightly penalized in comparison to their smaller competitors, but then again it would be nice to reign in big companies a bit, as they have way too much wealth and power. I am liking my idea more and more now, it kills two birds with one stone.
        • Why don't we just nationalize the tech industry and turn over the means of production to the proletariat while we're at it?
      • by laughingcoyote (762272) * <barghesthowl.excite@com> on Friday June 16, 2006 @05:11AM (#15547253) Journal

        And the problem with forcing large corporations to think carefully about what they'd like patent protection for, rather than throwing one at every concept that has the remotest shot of being patentable, is...?

        Parent's idea is a great one-it won't do a thing to impact the "small inventors" we always hear about the patent system benefitting (and it generally doesn't), while taking a significant step to curb both patent trolls and those corporations who simply overpatent. It would also be a significant step against business-method and software patents, which is also sorely needed, the companies who pull those often have patents by the hundreds.

    • How about this for a start:

      A patent needs to be renewed every year. Failure to renew and it lapses into public domain. There's a fee every renewal.

      If you want to discourage holding onto patents for long periods of time, have the annual fee doubled every year. No one would hang on to patents for 20 years anymore.
      • by Umbral Blot (737704) on Friday June 16, 2006 @04:19AM (#15547124) Homepage
        One problem: the worst offenders, giant companies, can pay any reasonable fee amount without blinking basically forever. On the other hand small companies wouldn't and would be placed at an unfair disadvantage. However your idea isn't all bad, it just needs a little tweaking. If we make the fee based exponentially on time or on exponentially based on the number of other patents held, or both, then it might work. Small companies with few patents pay little, bug companies with over a thousand patents get it in the shorts. We all win because (in theory) the money collected in this way reduces our taxes.
        • ulp. sorry missed the doubled part, disregard some of criticism.
        • by avasol (904335) on Friday June 16, 2006 @04:33AM (#15547157)
          How about this? Or is this way too "un-american" in this day and age... If the patent can be deemed to improve the general quality of life, or specifically health, education and even understanding - maybe the Government should be able to "buy out" the patent and use it for the good of all mankind.....
          • Because it's not the government's job to do that?

            What's to say that the current bullshit going on with corporations owning Pols won't influance what patents get bought out?
            • It's the government who gives out the patent in the first place. Of course it's their job to do that.
              They have an obligation to ensure this system of monopolies that they are running is run for the benefit of the people.
            • Because it's not the government's job to do that?

              Well, they seem to think so. Or tell them to legalize gay marriage, since it isn't up to the government to protect the religious idea of marriage. Tell them to abandon the war on drugs, since it isn't their job to protect us from ourselves. There is a huge list of things that the government does that aren't on the short list of their responsibilities. And for almost all of them, they claim that they are for the public good. At least for this one, they
          • Yeah, because naturally the government will act in the best interest of all concerned, and not in the best interest of whoever's donated the most money to the largest number of Senators and Congressmen that year. If Monsanto wanted to hurt ADM, they'd just have to convince enough politicos that one of ADM's patents would be "better off" in the public domain, and *poof* -- there goes ADM's IP, and stock price, and eventually their profitability. Which would mean that they'd never be able to fight back (not e
            • OT: Corruption (Score:4, Interesting)

              by dwandy (907337) on Friday June 16, 2006 @09:32AM (#15548163) Homepage Journal
              To work, your proposal would have to first require hauling everyone in our Government out into the street and shooting them, and then replacing them with people who weren't corruptable.
              At this point, any solution or system that assumes a government that acts in the best interest of its citizens, and not for the direct personal gain of the representatives themselves, is flawed.
              The more I look at politics, the more I'm convinced that it's political 'donations' that are at the heart of most major problems we have.

              I still think that the answer, therefore, is to make it 100% illegal for anyone to give or donate any amount of money to a politician or political party.
              Campaign money would come out of taxes* and be equal by candidate, so it's no longer 'rich and/or corrupt(able) guy wins'. Major media (minimum size?) like TV, newspaper etc would be required to provide space where the candidates could 'post' their platform.
              Is this perfect? Hell no, but I think it's a lot better than the overtly corrupt system that exists now.

              *Don't forget, as a consumer you're already paying for the campaigns out of the profits which they get from you. And as a corporation gets bigger and more profitable, they push for more and stronger legislation to make them more profitable which they use to buy even stronger laws... this method is fairly perfected by the likes of the mpaa and riaa.

        • The money collected reduces your taxes and your suddenly higher buying power is halfed by the companies' products costing twice as much as before, because they cost twice as much to make.
          • You seriously believe Congress will use this money "wisely" and enact laws to reduce our taxes, reduce price of Gasoline by abolishing state taxes and levies, and rebuild New Orleans 1,000 feet above Sea Level, and start allowing Mr.Smiths into Washington...

            You must be either incredibly optimistic or incredibly naive...although today both seems to go hand-in-hand.

            Congress couldn't figure out what to do with loan repayed by Chrysler in 1980s...and you are talking about a fictional amount payable by corpora

    • by penix1 (722987) on Friday June 16, 2006 @05:30AM (#15547307) Homepage
      There is a better, simpler cure:

      1.) Forbid "method patents". This would include software and business methods.
      2.) Forbid "naturally occurring" patents. This would include genome sequences.
      3.) Require a WORKING prototype before issuance.

      Just those 3 would go a long way to eliminating patent trolls.

      B.
      • by Spy Handler (822350) on Friday June 16, 2006 @06:23AM (#15547421) Homepage Journal
        3.) Require a WORKING prototype before issuance.

        This one can be bad.

        You could have someone like Tesla, who conceived of the entire system of AC power generation and motors in his head, and who obviously could provide greatly detailed drawings and blueprints, and yet be unable to provide a "working prototype" because it would cost millions or billions to build. I think just banning software patents and business patents is good enough. And also fire judges who seem too stupid to throw out patents that are just goddamn obvious.

        • Uh, no.

          First of all, what part of AC power generation and motors requires millions to demostrate? Toy motors are more than enough, and you can easily make a crappy AC motor by hand by winding wire yourself. It can be done by children in a school lab.

          Second, if you lack the money to bring your product to market, what do you want the patent for? The point of a patent is to promote progress. If it's going to sit in a dusty drawer somewhere then it goes against the whole idea. And if you do have the money to de
          • You're right about the first part, but

            Second, if you lack the money to bring your product to market, what do you want the patent for?

            To license to someone else to build, which can promote progress provided the invention isn't one of the trivial ones, which is, of course, unlikely.
      • I mainly agree with points one and two but we need to provide some incentive for companies to research genomes. It costs huge amounts of money to find useful gene sequences and a company isn't going to do that if another company could just come along and use the results. Note, however, that I am not saying patenting the sequence is the right way to protect it.

        As for number three again I mainly agree but we need some provision for inventions that can't currently have a working example built due to cost / c

      • And add to that one other fairly simple change: First patent app this year? $100. 2nd: $200. 3rd: $400. 20th: $52,428,800. Better make sure that patent's worth it.

        Yeah, you might kinda be able to get around it by creating a stub company just to hold the patent, but you'd still have to license it from them. Just have to make sure the license terms can't be discriminatory.
    • Or there could be a national quota.
  • by rolfwind (528248) on Friday June 16, 2006 @03:56AM (#15547050)
    Lamar Smith had a question: 'Could not Amazon.com be accused of being a troll for patenting the one-click?' Smith asked, a wry smile on his face."


    So Lamer Smith, the guy who pushed for DMCA2 in April this year, obviously knows there is a problem with this wry comment, but it takes a patent troll like Amazon to push the issue before Congress? The guy shouldn't have such a smug smile on his face.
  • by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew@g m a il.com> on Friday June 16, 2006 @03:58AM (#15547055) Homepage Journal
    Our courts are being tied up with silly lawsuits over patents all day long. Only large companies prosper, while end-users often get the shaft as would be competetors have their products ripped off the shelves.

    Isn't it about time for some serious reform on patents and copyrights? How do we protect intellectual property without going absurd?

    Thoughts?
    • Just look up two posts for my suggestion (here [slashdot.org])
    • Outlawing trivial and frivolous patents, and outlawing patents on ideas instead of concrete implementations would be a good start. Also, simply adding that a patent must not harm development, research and progress in the field it applies to would do miracles.

      The original idea behind patents was to encourage developers to publish their findings instead of making them secret so people don't copy instead of developing themselves. The idea was to give the patent holder the exclusive right for a limited period o
      • "Also, simply adding that a patent must not harm development, research and progress in the field it applies to would do miracles."

        Frivilous is hard to determine, and we'd just choke up our court system on said term. However, the above quote is brilliant.
    • by laughingcoyote (762272) * <barghesthowl.excite@com> on Friday June 16, 2006 @05:38AM (#15547333) Journal

      How do we protect intellectual property without going absurd?

      Here's a question for you: Is it not a bit absurd, in and of itself, to presume that ideas, a nonrival, infinitely replicatable good, can -ever- be considered or treated as property?

      • by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew@g m a il.com> on Friday June 16, 2006 @05:52AM (#15547366) Homepage Journal
        As a country, does the United States really manufacture anything besides ideas anymore? If intellectual property weren't property, we'd be even more screwed than we are. Conversely, if a global government actually enforced IP laws, the US would be beyond rich.
        • The US is already beyond rich.

          Some stats that I picked up from Googling around (you might want to verify the numbers).

          Average Yearly Salary worldwide: ~$5,000 US
          85th percentile Yearly Salary in the world: $2,182 US
          Average Yearly Salary in US: $29,000 US
          Average Yearly Welfare Benefits for those on Welfare in the US: ~ $11,200

          So the average salary in the US is nearly 6 times the average salary in the world. And more than 10 times the 85th percentile salary (the reason the average is so high is just because u
  • by Freaky Spook (811861) on Friday June 16, 2006 @04:00AM (#15547063)
    They can exist to benefit the inventors & business's using them to protect their ideas or be abused, i don't think we will ever see a balance, much the same way the internet has allowed many people to make an honest buck and a lot of people to also make a dishonest profit.

    Unfortunatly its the speed of which patents go through approval, and legal proceedings related to patent infringment which seem to cause most of this problem, not the patenting themselves.

    Spending years in court for a patent dispute seems so stupid, especially as when the cases end technology has progressed to such a point where the dispute becomes redundant.

    Lawyers seem to be the people benefiting most from the patenting system, perhaps finding a way to move patents from the judicial system and having its own tribunal/mediation system devoid of corporate law??

    This idea will probably get struck down, but idea's do needed to be made about it, we will only see innovation be stifled and small business unable to cope from the preassures of big business eventually.
  • who cares (Score:4, Interesting)

    by illuminatedwax (537131) <[ude.ogacihcu.inmula] [ta] [egnardts]> on Friday June 16, 2006 @04:05AM (#15547083) Journal
    There's no way they can truly shut down patent trolls without dismantling the entire software patent system or making it completely impervious to small developers (the people that patents are really supposed to "protect"). If you have a "loser pays" technique, then the larger companies are just going to drown the small man into debt. Trolls already pay in lawyers' fees when they do lose, and the problem with trolls is that they are usually right. If you say that products must be actively developed, the troll will do it themselves... v e r y s l o w l y. And what if the patent holder is going to college, or another situation.

    Patent trolls either exist or you get rid of the whole system.
    • Re:who cares (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jazman (9111) on Friday June 16, 2006 @04:31AM (#15547151)
      > If you have a "loser pays" technique, then the larger companies are just going to drown the small man into debt.

      Only if you implement it in the most retarded way possible: big company determines what loser pays. Why do Americans always assume that's the only way to implement it?

      In the UK we have loser pays and the courts recognise drowning someone in debt is not the solution, so the judge determines what the loser pays based on the loser's means. This can mean the winner scores a legal victory but still loses out financially, which is an incentive for the big company to settle out of court, which is no bad thing.
      • You're right about the debt thing.

        But that leaves the legal bills you have to pay in the first place. A troll company that is rich enough to acquire patents can afford a lawsuit, but for the "small inventor" it's difficult but there is still a possiblity of losing nothing but time and court costs (self-representation). Add "loser pays" and there's even less incentive for the "small inventor" to go against a big company. Secondly, ideologically, "loser pays" assumes that the person suing has done something w
        • Re:who cares (Score:3, Informative)

          by Lonewolf666 (259450)
          Secondly, ideologically, "loser pays" assumes that the person suing has done something wrong.
          Not necessarily. It also means "winner can collect lawyers fees" which is important if you are the "small inventor" and have just spent a lot of money convincing the court that you were, indeed, ripped off by $MEGACORP.
          Personally, I like the concept of "loser pays" even if it has its own potential for abuse (think suits about excessive sums to drive up the lawyers fees).
    • Re:who cares (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kg4czo (516374)
      Honestly, I think dismantling the entire software patent system, and rebuilding it from the ground up if it's really needed, is probably what is needed. Take out the ability to submarine patents. Software patent litigation should not automatically mean a injunction. Require precise wording to get rid of overly broad patents. Don't allow revisions after subition. Allow one year probation for public opinion and prior art to surface before the patent is granted. Require a working prototype and a reasonable sch
      • Even better, go back to the old system, where only actual physical inventions were patentable. After all, software already has protection in the form of copyright.

        • Copyright only protects this exact implementation. You have no protection against someone who reverses your implementation (ok, he must not, but try to prove that he did instead of researching it on his own) and use your algo to create his own thing.

          I'm very much against software patents in their current form, where trivial patents run rampart. It should still be possible to patent unique algorithms, but not general ideas. So a new algorithm that displays progress bars in a way that uses less CPU or that sh
    • Patent trolls either exist or you get rid of the whole system.

      Thank you for putting it so clearly! We'll gladly take the second option, thanks!

      • Re:who cares (Score:2, Informative)

        by Opportunist (166417)
        Then we're back to the days when people hide their research to protect it, and development progress grinds to a halt again where every company reinvents the wheel. Lots of unnecessarily wasted resources.

        Patents as they are now are broken. But not by design, they're broken by implementation.
        • Re:who cares (Score:3, Interesting)

          by penix1 (722987)
          "Then we're back to the days when people hide their research to protect it, and development progress grinds to a halt again where every company reinvents the wheel. Lots of unnecessarily wasted resources."

          I call BS on this especially with method patents...

          You are telling me that companies use the patent system for looking for new ideas?!?!? If they do that they are liable for willful infringement on anything they use. Most patent specialists advise their clients to NOT look at the patent office stuff for th
        • by Steeltoe (98226) on Friday June 16, 2006 @06:57AM (#15547477) Homepage
          You are talking like there are people reading patents for gaining knowledge, instead of fearing lawsuits.

          Try it sometime, I dare you..

          Then we're back to the days when people hide their research to protect it

          Research is rarely patented in the universities. Everybody gains from the shared knowledge, without patents. Patents stifles this process.

          , and development progress grinds to a halt again where every company reinvents the wheel. Lots of unnecessarily wasted resources.

          Everybody is reinventing the wheel already with closed source, and to avoid patent royalities. Now that is waste.

          The cure is open standards, open science, open mathematics, open source, free software, etc.. etc.. Everybody benefits and gains value from open systems. Patents are not open systems, since it is based on fear, extortion and greed, rather than sharing a common good.
          • You may find it difficult to read the claims, because that's where the legalese is, but one of skill in the relevant arts should be able to decipher the specification. The specification is generally no different than any other technical paper on the subject. If you're trying to learn how to practice a patented invention, the claims are merely redundant to what is in the specification.

            If you still truly can't figure out what is going on in the specification, you either aren't a person of skill in the relev
        • How are people going to hide their research if they sell the product? People could easily reverse engineer mechanical and electrical devices, as well as most software. Medicines have to go through the FDA, and would therefor not be impossible to duplicate (with the added bonus that any competing company would have to get their drug tested by the FDA, thus the first company would have a head start). That leaves what, business methods that will be kept "secret"? How secret can they be, companies have to do bu
  • by hackwrench (573697) <hackwrench@hotmail.com> on Friday June 16, 2006 @04:05AM (#15547085) Homepage Journal
    Perhaps what Amazon is really saying is that if companies weren't allowed to take out stupid patents, it wouldn't have to take out stupid patents to defend itself.
  • While it's nice to see to see tech companies behind such legislation, it would seem there's some pots calling the kettle black, so to speak.
    Dear Slashdot,

    Your recent article ("Amazon Asks Congress to Curb Patent Abusers") is in clear violation of Patent #1805-J-9, "A Method For Comparing Hypocritical Actions Performed By Humans To Hypothetical Actions Performed By Articulate, Similarly Colored Kitchenware," which was recently awarded to Jacobw Incorporated. Please cease and desist your use of our patented metaphors, similes, and other rhetorical tropes.

    Sincerely,
    Jacobw Incorporated
  • So what? They're all black, these pots and kettles. Just because the black pot calls the kettle black, that doesn't change the kettle's color.

    There's lots of English language folk wisdom that covers this: live by the sword, die by the sword. Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas. Creating a monster. No honor among thieves.

    Why would committing abuse mean that you aren't an expert in it?
    • Your comment makes a lot of sense. Any system that is open for abuse will have to be abused, and if you don't do it, someone else does. The big bad ones out there have just the same amount of problems as the smaller ones.

      Think Eolas and IE, RIM and Blackberry (these were no nice guys at well), probably many more examples out there.

      Apparently this bothers some enough to just make an end to this neverending story (even though the big ones have bigger legal departments and cash reserves to win from the lit

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday June 16, 2006 @04:13AM (#15547110)
    The patent system is broken. Not just its practice.

    When you can get patents on trivial implementation, legal pitfalls open up to EVERY business. When you create a webpage (even for non-profit), even if you just write a simple program, you could already be facing terrible problems. Especially in the non-profit area, patents pose a serious threat.

    Imagine Boyer-Moore being patented. Or any other "best" algorithm. If you're in the non-profit "market", you're out of biz. You cannot pay patent royalties. Same goes for small businesses. You simply cannot afford to pay for the patents you'd have to use to actually create sensible software.

    Patents serve a purpose, allright. But the purpose has reversed. The idea behind patents was to give the developer an incentive to publish it, so others can build on it and learn from it, while still giving you the exclusive right to gain from it financially, so people have an incentive to invent AND publish.

    It turned into the opposite. Patents currently harm development and progress. And this has to be remedied. Just patching certain implementations isn't going to solve the problem. The whole patent licensing system has to be redone to fix it.
  • by N3wsByt3 (758224) <`Newsbyte' `at' `freenethelp.org'> on Friday June 16, 2006 @04:43AM (#15547180) Homepage Journal
    First of all, we have to ask ourselves, what, exactly, a patent is. A lot of pro-swpat advocates use terms as Intellectual Property (IP) rights, while those encompass a lot of different concepts, such as copyright (which is already used for software). We can find the following definition:

    A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted by a government to an inventor or applicant for a limited amount of time (normally 20 years from the filing date)... Per the word's original definition, the theory of patent legislation is to induce the inventor to disclose knowledge for the advancement of society in exchange for a limited period of exclusivity. Since a patent grants the right to exclude others from practising the invention, it gives the owner a monopoly in the economic sense. There is an ongoing debate about whether the benefits of patents outweigh the costs, particularly with respect to software patents.

    A patent, thus, is not meant as an inherent right for financial compensation for the inventor. A patent is a state-ordained monopoly, that excludes others of exploiting or using similar ideas, even when they have come up with those ideas independently by themselves, for a certain time-period. Now, this seems rather unfair (in copyright this is not the case), but apart from that, why does the state give a monopoly to someone, while we all know monopolies are generally not good for the economy, nor for the consumers? This is why: a patent is a monopoly, given by the state, because it (is supposed to) promote innovation. It follows that, if it doesn't achieve its goal of promoting innovation, it should not be granted, period.

    Now, while to some extend this may apply to patents in general (as a study done in the 80ies by the Australian government has shown), seen the particular incremental nature of software, and the more intensive studies done on them, it has become ever more clear that softwarepatents DO NOT promote innovation, on the contrary. It logically follows there is no compelling reason in respect to 'stimulating innovation' to grant patents on software.

    Some swpat-proponents point to the USA, and claim there the evidence is shown: "the USA has swpat, and look at all those big, mighty IT-corporations!" This, however, is a complete fallacy: they 'forget' to mention that all those big foreign IT-companies were founded and grew to the behemoths they are today, in the ABSENCE of softwarepatents (which, in the USA, only started in earnest after 1991). So, it is not "thanks to" softwarepatents, but rather the reverse. Actually, it could be argued that the IT-business in the USA bloomed, exactly because they weren't patents around, back then. And in fact, this is well known by anyone working in the business of IT, and exactly what a well-known USA CEO has said in the early 90ies, someone who can know it.

    Bill Gates said it best, in one of his internal memos:

    "If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today."

    Mind you, this has been said by one of the most prominent IT-CEO on the planet, acknowledging exactly what softwarepatents actually lead too. Not surprisingly, since swpat are allowed in the USA, his solution to the problem was "patenting as much as we can" so he could go for "patent exchanges with [other] large companies". Of course, Bill had the means to gather together a multi-million dollar software patent portfolio to defend his company (and thus did.) Most of the SME's (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises), let alone the individual developer, don't have such means and allowing swpat can only spell hardship for small businesses and open source software.

    Even Bruce Chizen, chief executive of Adobe Systems Inc. and chairman of the Business Software Alliance, which is leading the charge for the technology industry in the USA, acknowledges that allowing software patents in the 1990s was a bad idea.

    Contrary to the pro-swpat camp, it
    • +10, most insightful thing I have ever read on /.
    • "A patent, thus, is not meant as an inherent right for financial compensation for the inventor. A patent is a state-ordained monopoly, that excludes others of exploiting or using similar ideas, even when they have come up with those ideas independently by themselves, for a certain time-period."

      Bingo, and this is why we need to stop talking like the free market can solve problems that arise in dealings with things protected by patents or copyrights.

      So, if you are dealing in patent and copyright protected "it
  • by Xtifr (1323) on Friday June 16, 2006 @04:54AM (#15547205) Homepage
    To be fair to Amazon, while I think the one-click patent is nonsense, and I have nothing but contempt for their attempts to enforce it, at least it's something they're using! I generally think of a patent troll as a company that exists for no other purpose but to squeeze money out of patents. Amazon seems to be more interested in preventing others from using their precious technique than it persuading others to use it, and to pay for the privilege. Plus they actually have a business plan of sorts. We can argue later over whether it's a good plan or not, but it is a plan and it doesn't just involve suing other companies.

    I hate to argue in Amazon's defense, but does being a hypocrite actually make them wrong? Doesn't it more depend on whether they're...well...wrong or not? If Charles Manson called for stronger penalties for mass murderers, would he be wrong just because he's Charles Manson? If Ken Lay asked for stronger legal protections for stockholders, would he be wrong just because he's Ken Lay? If Darl McBride called for mandatory jail time for anyone who files a fraudulent lawsuit, would he be wrong just because he's Darl McBride? If Natalie Portman asked me to rub hot grits all over her sweaty, naked body, would....

    Er, sorry, guess that last one didn't make much sense, but I needed something to get the image of Ken Lay and Darl McBride out of my mind! :)

    (Natalie--call me!) :)
    • I have to say, it's not about whether being hypocritical makes you wrong or not. They aren't hypocrite in the first place.

      They aren't asking everyone else to be nice, while they are being mean. They are asking for a rule, that would force everyone, that is including themselves, to play nice. There's no hypocricy in that, because right now they are bound by different rules and they have to behave according to these rules.
  • Wavelets, anyone? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Poromenos1 (830658) on Friday June 16, 2006 @05:01AM (#15547227) Homepage
    One field where I think patents REALLY hinder innovation is wavelet compression. Have you seen the difference in size/quality between JPEG and JPEG2000? It's amazing. Last I heard, Xiph was going to make an audio format using wavelets as well, and nobody is willing to touch the damn thing because of all the patents on it. :(
  • What they want is further protection just for them, not to give up their patents.
  • patents (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sciencecneisc (980820)
    i read all these articles about various seemingly simple things being patented, and Amazon.com's got a few of those for sure. the true abuse is the time length. i hear patent stuff is increasing so these are better thought out before approval but if you can't avoid patenting generic things at least give patent holders less time to exploit the public. patent and copyright last too long.
  • Sensible rules (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Flying pig (925874) on Friday June 16, 2006 @05:15AM (#15547260)
    Priority is from the date of first application. NOT the claimed date of invention (submarine patents anyone)

    Once a patent is applied for, the applicant has a cooling off period in which to decide whether to go through the whole process or to talk to other people about licensing (this helps small inventors)

    The holder of a patent MUST either manufacture themselves or license manufacturing rights to any second parties on the same terms. The penalties for patent infringement shall be limited to legal costs plus the average current licensing rate for the goods sold to date. (If there are NO goods currently employing the patent, the licensing rate will be zero.)

    Mathematical algorithms, natural laws and anything which has been created by a natural process (e.g. DNA sequences) cannot be patentable.

    It shall not be possible to patent any business process simply because it is carried on in a different medium (e.g. one click is basically walking into shop, handing over money, receiving goods in exchange, and should not be patentable simply because it is computer implemented.)

    Basically, the European patent system before the US and Microsoft started lobbying and threatening in order to try and break it.

  • Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IHateAllofYou (962039) on Friday June 16, 2006 @05:57AM (#15547381)
    ~Rep. Lamar Smith had a question: 'Could not Amazon.com be accused of being a ~troll for patenting the one-click?'

    I'm kind of confused as to how this negates the fact it should be fixed.

    Also the extraneous comment about him smiling concerns me. He is overly pleased with himself for having the observational powers of a 10 year old child.
    • I'm kind of confused as to how this negates the fact it should be fixed.

      Nobody said it does. The only point was that almost everybody involved has some egg on their face.

      Also the extraneous comment about him smiling concerns me. He is overly pleased with himself for having the observational powers of a 10 year old child.

      Don't read too much into the smile. Try watching some of the committees on C-SPAN some time. After a couple hours, you'll find yourself smiling at even the slightest hint of irony or

  • by ichigo 2.0 (900288) on Friday June 16, 2006 @06:40AM (#15547445)
    http://www.pirate-party.us/ [pirate-party.us]
  • by MCRocker (461060) * on Friday June 16, 2006 @06:59AM (#15547485) Homepage
    Here's a crazy idea: Instead of allowing patent holders to set their own licensing terms, congress could impose a 'cost of research sharing' model that, with some safeguards, requires anyone wishing to implement a patented idea to pay 51% of the research costs that have not already been paid by someone else to those who have already paid into the patent. This turns the monopoly into a cabal that shares costs. Naturally, there would have to be some fairly difficult to structure laws about the nature of what can be included in research costs, but I think this has the potential to really open things up.

    One way of looking at patents is as a means of protecting the original inventor's investment in the idea so that first movers are not unduly penalized for having made the effort and taken the risk only to have it stolen by someone else who doesn't have to bear the costs of coming up with the invention.

    If the original inventor wants to get rich off an idea, they should still have to have be competitive producers of the implementation of that idea and bear the risk that someone out there can do it more profitably than they can, but not have the handicap of competing with those who didn't have to bear the invention process costs.

    First mover advantage and invention cost sharing aught to be enough for an inventor to succeed. there's no reason to give them a monopoly that provides no incentive to be efficient or innovate any further. History is rife with examples of patented innovations that stagnated for 17 years. Then, only after the patent expired, an explosion of new innovations moved the field forward.

    To explain the idea further... imaging it costs $100 to invent some patentable idea. Then, if some other company wanted to produce a product or service that used the idea. They could do that, by paying $51 to the inventor for a license. If a third producer joined in they would pay, $25.50 to both the original inventor AND the second company. So each gets just a little more than half of what they had to invest in the first place. A fourth producer would pay $12.25 to each of the first three and so-on.

    This system would not lock anybody out and would share the cost of the innovation with a tiny advantage to those who jump aboard first to encourage investment in research.
    • Sounds a little too much like socialism with the whole "cost sharing" thing.

      I'm for compulsory licensing of patents where the patent holder is not actively producing the patented product in commercial quantities. The fees should be small (pennies).
      • Sounds a little too much like socialism with the whole "cost sharing" thing.

        That's the least of the problems with this idea. Besides, Cabals, consortiums and other arangements have been around and functioning well for centuries, so the idea is older than and far more stable than socialism. They're actually so successful, that many countries have laws to limit the practice.

        Besides, I don't think the idea is socialist at all. The licensees are still quality, service and price competitors and simply have to

  • Seems like Amazon now want to assert the power they have over others, I guess we can only hope that one-click ordering is ruled as being something they can't have patented as it is like trying to patent online shopping itself. It's also quite a shame that nothing has come of the review of the patent (posted on Slashdot May 19th). Seems like Amazon want to get rid of free enterprise by taking out pieces of their rivals. I hope they get slapped down.
  • nice rep (Score:4, Funny)

    by merlin_jim (302773) <James.McCracken@strata p u l t . c om> on Friday June 16, 2006 @07:39AM (#15547569)
    'Could not Amazon.com be accused of being a troll for patenting the one-click?'

    He showed both familiarity with Amazon's sordid patent past and managed to use the word troll during a session of congress!

    I'm impressed. Wish I was his constituent...
  • "Patent Troll" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Adelle (851961)
    is a term devised to deflect attention from the real problem: the scope of what can be patented.
  • by Numtek (839866) on Friday June 16, 2006 @08:42AM (#15547844) Homepage
    is what I first read, eyes half open over my first coffee.
  • by plr (982107)
    The term "Patent Troll" when originally coined was aimed at companies that bought patents (primarily software and typically purchased through a bankruptcy liquidation) with the sole intent of forcing licensing deals. However, the use of the term has now spead to everyone that has a patent they seek to enforce against BigCo. BigCo wants protection from small companies with patents -- what protection are they willing to grant smallco from BigCo. BigCo has all the advantages -- more patents, money to pay lo

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