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Comment Re:No, algorithms should not be patentable. (Score 1) 145

software patents are broken and there is no way to fix it.

No, my "frigging" point is that they're broken and _could_ be fixed. They probably won't be of course, but I firmly believe that they could be.

"Catch mice" patents

You truly can't see the difference between "an algorithm that sorts things" with no further detail, and "an algorithm that sorts things by selecting a pivot, dividing the items into sublists around the pivot and recursively sorting the sublists"? The first one could cover any sorting algorithm on the planet. The second one fairly explicitly only covers the specific algorithm used by quicksort.

If you flat out refuse to see the difference in scope there well.. I suppose you can enjoy your zealotry as I don't know how to be any more clear short of actually building a working patent system to show you, which is somewhat beyond my abilities as I'm not the dictator of any countries.

Comment Re:No, algorithms should not be patentable. (Score 1) 145

the ALGORITHM patent *IS* "To catch a mice"

Exactly my point. _THAT_ kind of patent (algorithm or otherwise) is horrible, because it covers way more than it should. The fact that the USPTO has been allowing those kind of patents means that the _current_ patent system is broken. It doesn't necessarily follow that the _idea_ of patents is bad.

And what algorithm is it anyway?

The quicksort algorithm. If you've been a programmer for 23 years you should recognize that that is a well-known, defined name for a specific algorithm (as opposed to say a bubble sort or a merge sort or any number of other sorting algorithms.) Its not _just_ "sort quickly," but a specific method for doing so.

Someone can come along with a spring loaded mousetrap that uses a different trap door form and be a different patent.

Depends how different it is. If its the exact same mechanism but closes from the left instead of the right or uses a 3" bolt instead of a 2.5" bolt but otherwise identical, you're probably not going to get a new patent granted even if it doesn't _exactly_ match the original patent's blueprints.

Why not? It used to.

No it didn't. The blueprints were used as a reference, not as the only possible construction covered.

any reasonable analogue of a patent of software would be "the code"

Now that actually brings up an interesting idea -- require a pseudocode "blueprint" to be included in the patent description. Not sure entirely how much that will solve (since the worst software patents are pretty easy to duplicate anyway even without original source) but it might give companies a slight bit more pause before filing a junk patent, if for no other reason than someone will have to spend the time distilling their code down to the core algorithm.

But they need to be proper patents, not "Catch a mouse" patenting of the goal of the software

Which is exactly what I've been saying. I'm not sure why you're sounding like this is contradicting my previous statements.

surely that would be "better code"

By what reasoning? Chances are someone who spent a year coming up with perfecting an algorithm to patent is probably going to have written a better implementation than some guy who goes "that's a good idea" and hacks some shit together that does basically the same thing. For a real world example.. I'm assuming you know what a mouse trap looks like and how it works. Could you go out and build one from scratch that works as well as the ones built by a manufacturer who has been building them for 50 years? Probably not.

least DIFFERENT code, therefore would get a DIFFERENT patent

Only if its different enough that you can justify it not being covered by the existing patent. Writing essentially the same algorithm in BASIC where the original implementation was in C++ isn't exactly what anyone (with a brain, which doesn't necessarily include USPTO) would consider "novel."

they don't require invention to make

Come again? You've never had to stop and spend half a day thinking about what approach you need to take to solve a particular problem? You're either the most godlike programmer that ever existed, or your claim of 23 years programming experience is going to get called into question.

And anything patentable (legitimately patentable not "does something with a computer" type crap) would likely take far far longer than half a day to invent, distill down into a core algorithm, prove its complexity category, etc. I suspect a simple algorithm meeting all that criteria would take at least 6 months to file properly, not even counting delays imposed by USPTO's red tape.

they require invention to IMPLEMENT

So if I dream up a new mouse trap, jot down some blueprints and file an application without ever building one, I'm in the clear but if I dream up a new sorting algorithm, jot down the generalized procedure without ever writing real code, I haven't actually done anything? In both cases I've spent time thinking up and developing my idea, and in both cases I have no idea if it will actually work since I never built one.. but somehow the mouse trap patent is more valid in your opinion?

Keep in mind, there is _nothing_ stopping the USPTO from granting a patent on a super-vague "a mouse trap that traps mice" type patent for a physical object. The only reason they don't accept patents like that in the real world while accepting them left and right in the software world is that they understand real devices better than they understand software algorithms. Again, its the _system_ that's broken. Not the _idea_.

I certainly have strong doubts whether the system will ever transform into something that isn't broken (as is common when discussing fixing political systems, the people most in position to fix things are frequently the same people who most benefit from keeping them broken,) but abandoning the system completely is even more unlikely than reforming it so suggesting plausible improvements is still more useful than shouting "burn it all!" even if you truly believe they should be completely done away with.

Comment Re:No, algorithms should not be patentable. (Score 0) 145

You're obviously not a programmer. A 50,000 line program is far far far more complex than your average gear box.

When the patent says "Catch mice"

This is precisely issue (a) I stated -- overly vague patents. You're absolutely correct that a patent for "catch mice" is crap (and absolutely correct that those kind of patents have been regularly granted in the software space!)

But "Spring-loaded mechanism to catch mice using a baited pad" is a lot more realistic for a patent claim (though even that could be considered overly broad. Obviously I'm referring to your standard snap trap.. but what about a humane trap that just happens to use a spring mechanism to drop the door?)

There will always be some interpretation involved because patenting "this exact blueprint" isn't going to serve the purpose of patents (not even the original, well-intentioned purpose.)

I'll give you that an "algorithm" is somewhat grey though. Take a quicksort for example (probably a poor example as I don't know the real development history but try to bear with me..) Whoever first came up with the idea for quicksort probably spent many many hours trying to figure out the most efficient way he could come up with to sort a list of items. Is that worth a patent? Well he certainly put a lot of time and thought into it. Its certainly a novel idea (or would have been at the time.) So probably? But then is the patent invalid when someone takes the time to prove that its a theoretically optimal algorithm (and makes it "math," which isn't patentable?)

Its certainly a bit muddy exactly what should be patentable.. but saying "no algorithms" is kind of silly. Just because you're writing lines of code rather than drilling holes in sheet metal (or whatever) doesn't mean your "invention" is any less novel or creative.

But on the other hand there are certainly classes of algorithms that are fundamental to computer operation in general and locking them up in a patent is absurd.

Of course those classes change over time -- many things that we consider "fundamental" now didn't even exist 20 years ago. Which gets back to my (c) point -- software patents really need to expire within about 2-5 years. Keeping anything that's still critical in 5 years locked up is probably holding back the entire industry as its likely attained the status of "fundamental" and anything that isn't still critical in 5 years is ancient history by internet time.

I'm sure someone can come up with examples (probably from small vertical markets) where a primary algorithm in that market is still profitable after 5 years without being considered fundamental on a wider scale, but I'm not sure that justifies stagnating the entire rest of the software industry.

Comment Re:Sad (Score 1) 145

I don't know that I'd call it "clear cut," given that it would be fairly difficult to prove you had completed your invention before I filed. As I understand it, it doesn't matter if you're one bolt away from completion when I file, I still win (and hopefully USPTO at least uses the postmark date to judge filing order rather than just crossing your fingers that your papers don't get stuck in the postal system for a week or whatever!)

Though your point is definitely still valid. Whether I win legitimately or by a technicality, the cost to challenge it are definitely prohibitive and the end result is typically the same.

Comment Re:Let's put some numbers on that... (Score 1) 337

I don't know about actual research, but our bodies are pretty damned adept at maintaining themselves through low levels of damned near anything.. from a purely intuitive point of view, it would hardly require the kool-aid to assume that we've managed to adapt to small amounts of radiation given that well, the whole world is filled with small amounts of radiation naturally and we seem to survive in it.

Of course that depends entirely on your definition of "safe." If you mean "absolutely could never kill a single person ever in history," then yeah.. probably not "safe." But neither is breathing (airborne toxins, viruses, bacteria, etc..) so I don't really consider that to be a terribly useful definition in general.

Figuring out exactly where to draw the line for a useful definition is obviously challenging (and probably impossible to be strictly accurate.. everyone will have slightly tolerances as with most things) but I would hazard to guess that its higher than 0% over background (though likely somewhat less than 1%. 1% is a lot when you add it up over a lifetime!)

Comment Re:For Now, Fusion Is A Sexy Pipedream (Score 1) 337

Define "all your money?" From everything I've seen, fusion is getting less and less funding by the year, while solar and wind are getting more and more.

And even ignoring that fact.. what's wrong with trying all possible approaches? Solar and wind "work" but its still rather questionable how well they'll scale without a more traditional power plant around to take over when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing.

As with almost everything thing in life, taking the middle road is far more likely to be sustainable over the long term as you don't end up with all of your eggs in one basket. If we go all solar for example and then end up with a supervolcano eruption that reduces solar energy input by say 0.1% global average with no backup power source to pick up the slack, it would be disastrous.

The only thing we really can say with near-certainty (and it isn't even 100% certainty) is that continuing to burn fossil fuels at the rate we're doing isn't sustainable. We really need to investigate all potential alternatives and start moving towards them as soon as possible.

Comment Re:Which will come first? (Score 1) 337

Depending on how widely you'd like to interpret the definition, "Linux on the desktop" is essentially already here: Android. A right shitload of people are using Linux on a daily basis via their phones and tablets.

Its not on "the desktop" strictly speaking, but given the way things are trending its far more likely that "the desktop" will be displaced in general before Windows is displaced.

And once that happens then Linux on the desktop is almost assured because it will be the only OS that's still maintained for those people who absolutely can't replace their desktop with a phone or a tablet. MS and Apple may still have a token offering but without the install base, third party developers won't really be making much for the desktop anymore and Linux' biggest barrier to entry will be removed.

Of course we're still many many years from that. The desktop might be getting replaced with phones and tablets in the home somewhat rapidly but there's a boatload of corporate infrastructure that isn't going anywhere any time soon.

In the meantime, just bask in the fact that Android has mostly taken over the mobile market and call it a win for Linux since mobile is certainly looking to be "the future" for at least a decade or so (unless wearables really take off fast but so far those are mostly addons to or miniaturized versions of mobile devices anyway so not much difference from an OS perspective.)

Comment Re:Work = Achieves Goals (Score 4, Insightful) 337

All fusion reactors absolutely generate energy. What they don't do is generate more energy than they consume (ie: they're net-negative.)

It would certainly be nice if they can make it commercially viable, but there's plenty of science you can do in an net-negative reactor and advancing the tech is still an overall benefit to mankind -- just not necessarily a financial benefit.

Comment Re:Serious question for any lawyer developers... (Score 2) 145

You could argue everything in the world boils down to math and physics, and that ALL patents should therefore be invalid.

That's a pretty obvious red herring. Of course everything is physics (math is an abstraction we use to describe physics.. nothing in the real world is "made of" math.) Not that physics isn't patentable. You can't patent a physical law, but you can certainly patent a device you invent that makes use of said law.

As for algorithms.. yes algorithms probably should be patentable. The concept really isn't all that bad. Where things get ugly in the real world is that currently:
a) They're allowed to be extremely vague and thus often cover many many similar algorithms that aren't actually the same.
b) They have an extremely narrow interpretation of "obvious."
c) They have absurdly long lifespans. 20 years may be reasonable for real world engineering advances but software changes so fast that 20 months might be closer to a useful exclusion period. 20 years ago, "the internet" was barely a known word outside academia and nerds. We're still working around patents from an era where you could choose to solder in your own math co-processor. 20 years for a software patent is just insane, regardless of how well the system is implemented.

Of these, I would say (c) is by far the worst. (a) and (b) are definitely issues as well, but both of them would be significantly mitigated if (c) was dealt with in a reasonable manner.

Comment Re:Sad (Score 2) 145

That's always been the case. There's no shortage of stories and anecdotes about two people who invented similar contraptions at similar times and one happened to win the race to the patent office.

The difference is that software patents are so ubiquitous and so generalized that you pretty much can't write "Hello, World!" without stepping on the toes of some software giant or other.

When your patent is for "storage, transmission and playback of a sequence of digitally encoded images," you potentially cover everything from a 1980s ASCII art up to the latest quarter-billion-dollar blockbuster, depending on how widely you interpret the phrase "digitally encoded images."

If non-software patents were allowed to be that vague, you'd see things like a patent for "Ice cream machine" cover everything from the cone you scoop it in all the way back to milking the damned cow.

Comment Re:There is just one little problem. (Score 2) 145

Really, Google is the only company that matters. And maybe Netflix.

Those two companies probably handle as much video in a day as Philips and Samsung and all of the other traditional video companies do in a year.

Google in particular is uniquely positioned to sway the entire industry since they provide both the most popular video service (Youtube) and one of the most popular video clients (Chrome browser.)

Whatever codec Google decides to adopt, its simply going to take over the world. Youtube is too big an entity in the video space to be ignored by other browsers (playback support,) by video editing software (production support,) etc.

Of course that's not to say Samsung and Philips and whoever can't do their own thing and run with whatever codecs they feel like in the traditional video domain (disc players, etc) but that's all "behind the scenes" anyway for most people. You plug in a disc and unless you're trying to rip it or something, it generally just works. Its only when you get online that codecs and whatever crap start cropping up and getting in your way.

(There's a third pseudo-entity that can promote a chosen codec.. the video rippers. Nobody with half a brain thinks video piracy is going away any time soon and whatever those guys do is by far the most in-your-face when it comes to codec selection since there's absolutely no intervening entity between the video file and the decoder except the user.. Youtube only has to convince Microsoft, Apple and Firefox to support their codec. The rippers have to convince everybody. But they have the advantage of not having to pander to their audience -- the audience panders to them for the most part. So they do whatever the they feel like and if you want to download the latest movie its your own problem to know what the fuck a codec is and find the appropriate one.)

Comment Re:Which means it's free... (Score 1) 145

If it becomes popular, they'll also be in a unique position of holding whatever "defensive" patents that may come about from this effort.

If they run into a quarter that isn't performing as well, and they're sitting on this super popular technology that can't be (easily) converted to alternatives.. it might start smelling like a gold mine.

But whatever.. making an effort is better than not making an effort, and as long as the license (or patents) isn't too restrictive there's nothing stopping someone from forking the project should they decide to close it in future.

Comment Re:not likely. (Score 4, Informative) 145

Clean room gets around copyright. Patent is a whole other ball of wax. In particular, even if you created a design entirely on your own, if someone else beats you to the punch with a similar enough design to fall under the patent, you're still screwed.

That's why software patents are so reviled, combined with the relatively loose standards the USPTO puts towards software patents (or at least did in the past.. wasn't there some supposed reforms recently?) If I patent "icon with rounded corners," then you basically can't build any software that includes an icon with a rounded corner without running afoul of my software, even if you had no idea that I existed never mind seeing my code or copying my algorithm.

And to make things even worse, since you probably think "rounded corners" is a pretty mundane design idea (its been around for many thousands of years in the not-computer part of the world after all,) you probably aren't even going to bother with a patent search until my lawyers come knocking on your door making outrageous "damages" claims.

Comment Re:I don't want cheaper!!! (Score 1) 97

I don't want cheaper, nobody does. We want better instead.

Sadly, only for a very tightly constrained definition of "we." Far too many people are either too poor or too stupid to buy quality products when they can save 20% and buy a similar product, even if it will only last 50% as long.

Even those that fall more to the "poor" side of the argument are stuck banking on the fact that the 30% difference is a future cost and buy the cheap shit anyway, because its that or nothing.

Its a well-known and well-documented phenomena. Unfortunately its also well-ignored. All "simple" economic arguments (ie: the only ones the people in power care about) start along the lines of "assume two equivalent competing products" and proceed to draw out pretty graphs showing marginal profits at various price points. You very rarely see quality difference being used as a pricing measure in these arguments (just like you rarely see irrational consumers in them.)

I mean I'm sure all of this stuff is covered as you get more in-depth into economic theory but very few politicians, never mind lay people, have degrees in economics. Most people know the major talking points from ECON101, if that, and precious little else.

All science is either physics or stamp collecting. -- Ernest Rutherford