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Comment: Re:Prior art (Score 1) 60

Or, he filed the patent years ago, and then filed a series of updates to it. Each update delays the final "approval date" and allows him to modify the patent. Over time, he can craft a vague sounding patent and/or one that covers existing technology. Then, his "prior art date" is from a year before when he INITIALLY filed the patent. So while the final patent might have been considered innovative if filed as-is on the initial filing date, patent trolls abuse the "update" system to draw their patents out until they are hard to beat via prior art.

That's simply not true. While patent applicants can file continuation applications with revised claims, they must have support in the originally-filed application, and the applicant cannot modify the original application at all. If anything is added that wasn't in the original document, then the "prior art date" is moved to when the modification was added. See

Comment: Ummmm (Score 3, Insightful) 1051

by Sycraft-fu (#49609529) Attached to: Two Gunman Killed Outside "Draw the Prophet" Event In Texas

You really can't see any difference? Then you are just being obtuse. Yes if you tried to trespass in a religious building and be offensive, there'd be a response. In particular, they'd tell you to leave and call the police. However this was not in a Mosque, no Muslims were forced to attend. This was something people were doing on their own. However the crazies felt the need to respond.

I've heard about precisely zero cases of Jews going after pig BBQs in the US. Seems they are not very concerned about what you are doing on your own. If you don't respect their religion, oh well, so it goes.

Stephen Fry put it very well:

"It's now very common to hear people say, 'I'm rather offended by that.' As if that gives them certain rights. It's actually nothing more... than a whine. 'I find that offensive.' It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. 'I am offended by that.' Well, so fucking what."

Comment: No, probably not (Score 5, Interesting) 1051

by Sycraft-fu (#49609489) Attached to: Two Gunman Killed Outside "Draw the Prophet" Event In Texas

You might recall that during the whole "draw Mohammad" controversy South Park took it on. While the were not allowed to show Mohammad at all, they did show people literally shitting on Jesus, the American flag, and so on. They received zero threats in relation to that, there was no action taken against them.

It's not like Christians didn't know either, it is a major syndicated TV show that is produced in the US.

Comment: Well in some cases you can't have one (Score 1) 309

by Sycraft-fu (#49608723) Attached to: Tesla's Household Battery: Costs, Prices, and Tradeoffs

I won't be getting this Tesla battery, for a number of reasons, but I'd like a home battery system. I live in a condo and I haven't have a backup generator. Nowhere I'd be allowed to put it. A battery system though, that I could have.

If I had my choice, I'd get a Generac whole house system but there are tradeoffs that you have to make when you want to live certain places.

Comment: Re:Goldman Sachs and possible GPL Violations? (Score 3, Insightful) 84

Considering the guy has been convicted of "unlawful duplication", it sounds like Goldman Sachs did not distribute the software in question. They are therefore entitled to incorporate GPL'd code into their software without making the rest of their code public.

Comment: Re:I wish it had been dismissed on the merits (Score 1) 126

Too bad it was just a procedural dismissal due to wrong venue and not due to the merits of the case.

United said such ticketing schemes violate its fare rules. For one thing, the tickets capture seats that will go unused, and an airline would have no way to sell those unused seats

Well, actually, they already *have* sold those seats -- to the person that bought the ticket and decided not to use the rest of it. But it's not true that they have no way to sell those seats -- if the flight is overbooked or full, then they'll fill the unused seat with a bumped or standby passenger.

Do you really want to encourage them to overbook and bump more people?!

Comment: Also it seems to me it might be necessary (Score 1) 105

by Sycraft-fu (#49597739) Attached to: Climatologist Speaks On the Effects of Geoengineering

I guess it depends on who you believe, but there have been climate scientists that have said we are beyond the tipping point, that even if we reduce emissions warming will happen. Ok well if that's true, and if it is true that the warming will be a net harmful thing, then some kind of geo engineering would be necessary. You can't very well say "Reducing CO2 won't fix the problem, but let's do as much of that as we can and only do that and then cry about the problem!"

Comment: Re:"X, but on a phone" (Score 1) 60

There have been recent (good) rulings that saying "X, but on a computer" is not a valid patent. I hope that lower courts say that this is just "X, but on a mobile computer" so we don't have to have an explicit ruling also blocking "X, but on a phone".

On another note, I wonder if it would be worth having some crowd-funded anti-patent-troll fund. I know the EFF takes the fight when able, but that's usually after smaller companies/individuals have caved and paid the extortion fee. If there was a fund that would take the patent-holder to court and pay out any ruling against the defendant, should the patent be deemed baseless (any patent, not just electronics), that would hopefully halt the trolls far earlier in the process and dissuade others.

Not really... Contrary to popular wisdom (and Subby's attempt to call a 500 person company a small shoe store), patent trolls almost never go after individuals, because individuals don't have any money. Unlike copyright infringement with the $150k per work, there are no statutory damages in patents, and damages aren't even 100% of profits - they're limited to a reasonable royalty. If even a small patent lawsuit costs $200-500k, and you can expect to get 5% royalties, you aren't going to sue someone with less than $4M in annual revenue... And in reality, try closer to $1M to run a small patent lawsuit and royalties closer to 2-3%. So, now you're talking $50M in revenue to be a real target.

So, the real question is can you crowdfund $2-5 million to defend companies with tens of millions in annual revenue? It's like you're asking David to donate to protect Goliath.

Comment: "Small time" shoe seller? (Score 2) 60

From the linked article:

Shoes for Crews, which makes skid-proof soles for workers who toil on slippery surfaces, has sold millions of pairs of shoes to workers at McDonald’s, KFC, Taco Bell, P.F. Chang’s, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and other restaurant chains. The company says its secret formula makes the stickiest soles on the market, but Shoes for Crews refuses to file for a patent, fearing the process would reveal valuable clues to rivals

Not really a small shoe store as Subby implied, but rather, a manufacturer and wholesaler which, according to LinkedIn, has between 200-500 employees. So, it's more like "patent troll sues multi-million dollar company", but that doesn't really get as much sympathy.

Comment: Re:Vice Versa (Score 1) 56

by Theaetetus (#49590597) Attached to: US Senate Targets Patent Trolls

Thank you for straightening me out on the length of patents.

My objection still stands on the grounds that John Cornyn and Chuck Schumer can only be up to no good. Both are bought and paid for by people who don't care a whit for encouraging innovation or improving the IP laws for the benefit of consumers.

Absolutely. I should've been more clear that I was only objecting to the length part. :)

Comment: Re:Vice Versa (Score 2) 56

by Theaetetus (#49589981) Attached to: US Senate Targets Patent Trolls

Does anyone else care to bet that any bill coming out of the Senate to curb "patent trolls" is going to end up extending patents even longer and basically making the patent system even worse?

Guaranteed they don't get longer. Patent term hasn't been extended since 1861*. Unlike copyright, where you've got big copyright owners with tons of money lobbying on one side vs. poor pirates on the other, and BMG and Sony have no interest in using each others' copyrighted works, in patents, everyone may want longer term for their own stuff, but shorter term for their competitors'. So, like if Microsoft started lobbying for longer patent term, Apple and Google would lobby against them. And vice versa.

*It did go from 17 years from issue to 20 years from filing, to comply with an international treaty, but it took about 3 years from filing to get issued, so there wasn't any real change. It's actually arguably shorter now, because there aren't submarine patents that can last decades.

Comment: Re:Overly-wide interpretations (Score 1) 56

by Theaetetus (#49589955) Attached to: US Senate Targets Patent Trolls

The biggest problem appears to be allowing wide interpretations of patents and ignoring what would be obviousness in the eyes of most practitioners. Here are some suggestions:

1) A jury-like panel of practitioners to judge obviousness.

2) Spell out that merely emulating common physical actions or behaviors should not be patentable, only specific algorithms of such emulation.

3) Reject the mere combining of existing ideas unless the combining is judged non-obvious (#1).

4) Limiting the percentage of revenue a medium or large company can receive from patent royalties.

5) An independent quality review board to make sure approved patents are not overly broad. They'd randomly sample patents.

These are good suggestions... Such that many of them are already implemented:
1) Before applications are allowed, they're judged by the Examiner and the Examiner's Supervisor (and, in the case of lower tier Examiners, also a Primary Examiner). It's a small jury, but still is one.
2) That's currently the rule - if something has been done before, it can't be patented. So, Apple's slide to unlock patent can't just claim "sliding to unlock" or "emulating a bathroom door-style sliding lock". Instead, it claims the algorithm that doesn't have a real-world analog.
3) This was actually the result of KSR v. Teleflex several years ago. The Supreme Court said that if you claim A+B+C and different prior art teaches A, B, and C separately, the combination is obvious by definition, unless there's some explicit reason why it's impossible to combine the art.
5) The USPTO does random quality checks before patents get issued - they randomly select some allowed applications and a panel of senior examiners in the relevant technology review the prosecution and examination history. If it's good, they get allowed. If it's bad, they get rejected and the original examiner gets sent for more training.

The real new suggestion is #4, but I don't think that would be constitutional, since you're making a rule that essentially seizes revenue from a company from a legal source, yet because of that source. That could present some 5th Amendment issues.

Humanity has the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition. - Isaac Asimov