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Comment: Re:Defending software patents (Score 1) 92

by Theaetetus (#47941959) Attached to: Alice Is Killing Trolls But Patent Lawyers Will Strike Back

A detailed description of a process in a textbook is also enough for any skilled programmer. For Alice and Bilski you can find the steps to perform the process in any finance book. Pseudocode and flow charts don't teach anything when the process is well known. Chances are finance books have charts in them as well.

Sure, and completely stipulated. The "do something well known and described in finance books" and "on a computer" stuff shouldn't be patentable... Rather, it's new processes (that are nonetheless, done on a computer):

If your talking about a brand new process then your not talking about a software patent. Your patenting a new business method.

What if it was a brand new process or business method, never been done before, on a computer. Like, say, calculating the value of some strange multidimensional factorial required to teleport yourself twenty feet to the left and six hours into the future? Certainly new, but let's assume it can be done with a TI-83. Should that be patentable?

Comment: Re:Defending software patents (Score 1) 92

by Theaetetus (#47940367) Attached to: Alice Is Killing Trolls But Patent Lawyers Will Strike Back

Patents don't disclose source code. So they don't teach a programmer how to "put the bits of plastic together".

Pseudocode and detailed* flow charts should be enough for any skilled programmer. You shouldn't need C+ code - and if you do, what happens in 5 years when you say "I don't know C+, I only know Swift" or whatever the next language is? Conversely, what about art from the 60s or 70s - if it had COBOL code would you know how to use that? No, pseudocode and detailed* flow charts should be enough of a disclosure, because from them, you can implement the program in any language.

*Many patent applications do not have detailed flow charts, but rather "flow charts" that just show a single series of steps in a line, as Prof. Lemley noted in one of the interviews linked from another comment. You're right - those are total crap and don't teach anyone anything.

Comment: Re:Patent Attorney chiming in (Score 1) 92

by Theaetetus (#47939875) Attached to: Alice Is Killing Trolls But Patent Lawyers Will Strike Back

Patent examiners can do their thing. Alice gives them a tool now too.

Yes, and no... Patent Examiners are bound under the requirements of due process to present a prima facie case for why an application is not patentable, as the initial burden rests on the Office. How do you provide a prima facie case that an idea is abstract? It's a conclusion, not an argument supported by evidence, as the Courts have admitted when their evidence is "I know it when I see it".

How do you define "actually inventive"?

Here are the questions I ask when contemplating patent filings, post-Alice, for a software method (or computer implemented method):
* Can I reasonably determine the bits and pieces you put together a specific solution to a specific problem based on your claims? should avoid a 101 issue.
* Do the claims give me all of the pieces of the puzzle or does it give me a flowchart?
* And, to entirely avoid an Alice question, are you using generic bits of technology for their ordinary purpose to solve an old problem the old way?

"Good" answers to these questions should avoid a 101 issue.

Quite possibly, though it fails to answer my question about your definition of "actually inventive". It also points to part of the problem with Alice, since your first question is really about 112 written description, your second question is really about 112 enablement and unclaimed essential matter, and your third question (as you note) is really about 103 obviousness. Now, I agree, that if you meet 103 and 112, Justice Thomas would likely not "know an [abstract idea] when he sees it" and find the application invalid under 101, and maybe that's a fine answer from a pragmatic standpoint, but it's a terrible one from a jurisprudence standpoint.

Comment: Re:Patent Attorney chiming in (Score 1) 92

by Theaetetus (#47939783) Attached to: Alice Is Killing Trolls But Patent Lawyers Will Strike Back

Section 101: Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.

The supreme court has over the last century defined what the words in that statement mean. The word "abstract" is just shorthand for "not a process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter or new and usefull improvement thereof" The supreme court has a very narrow and limited definition of "process" for this statute.

Which is a shame, because Congress has already defined it in Section 100:

The term “process” means process, art or method, and includes a new use of a known process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter, or material.

So, for example, a new use of a known machine - like, say, a new business method performed on a known computer - would fall under that statutory definition.

Comment: Re:Patent Attorney chiming in (Score 3, Interesting) 92

by Theaetetus (#47938895) Attached to: Alice Is Killing Trolls But Patent Lawyers Will Strike Back

I think this procedural aspect is critically important. Patent litigation is incredibly expensive. Defendants generally expect to spend >4 million dollars to defend against allegations of infringement. Post-Alice, judges have been ruling on the issues very early in litigation and cutting of those costs and timelines. As Theaeteus mentions, the problem with this approach is that it is generally done without full development of evidence. As a policy-matter, it remains unclear which approach is better (we don't know how good judges are at making the 101 determination (knowing it when they see it)).

They've been great in the two major 101 cases, Bilski and Alice. Hardly anyone thought those claims were (or should have been) valid, as the methods were old and well known... But that's also like going back to the old obscenity cases and having your "test case" be Two Girls, One Cup. The old saying "bad facts make bad law" is true primarily because everyone agrees with the outcome based on those bad facts... but then it's used as precedent in cases where the facts aren't nearly so bad.

As an aside, patents have a historic tie to property law, hence things like permanent injunctions and willful infringement damages... but maybe that's not such a good thing, as they're primarily economic instruments. It leads naturally to equity-based judgements rather than concrete tests and rules... people would be outraged if judges were routinely invalidating contracts as a matter of law on a "I know it when I see it" justification.
If we did away with the property tie and abandoned permanent injunctions and what are effectively punitive damages, in exchange for compulsory licensing and reasonable royalties, a lot of the issues people have with trolls would go away, too.

Comment: Re:Patent Attorney chiming in (Score 1) 92

by Theaetetus (#47938631) Attached to: Alice Is Killing Trolls But Patent Lawyers Will Strike Back

of which I've to actually see an example

Let me quickly respond to that point too. One recent victim (at least at the lower courts) was this patent: The district court found the claims to upselling to an online buyer invalid under the Alice case.

Technically, one could easily argue that the District Court found the claims to be invalid under 35 USC 103 over an electronic device in view of Official Notice that "suggesting an additional good or service... based on certain information obtained about the customer and the initial purchase" is known in the art because "shrewd sales representatives have long made their living off of this basic practice" and it therefore is "purely conventional steps that are well-understood, routine, and previously known to the industry". Certainly, nothing in the decision points to it being abstract - rather, the judge repeatedly states that it is known.

In fact, one could argue that if something is routinely done, it's not abstract at all. It's just not new.

Comment: Re:Patent Attorney chiming in (Score 1) 92

by Theaetetus (#47938551) Attached to: Alice Is Killing Trolls But Patent Lawyers Will Strike Back

Those patents - of which I've to actually see an example - would already be invalid under 103:

I so hate this argument. Sure, they could be. The road to a 103 invalidity is an expensive and often arduous task that is often left to a jury. What's more, its met with a high burden and a presumption of validity.

... at trial, yes. Not at the USPTO or before the PTAB.

The Federal Circuit and patent lawyers have done a marvelous job making invalidity under 102/103 all but impossible except in the most extraordinary cases.

And in KSR, SCOTUS pushed that way back. Now it's actually quite easy, unless the claims recite an element that you just can't find a reference for, anywhere.

The point is: they shouldn't have been patent eligible in the first place. You can't take something done previously, stick it on a platform that's used for it's conventional purpose and suddenly you're in patent-eligibility land.

That'd be an easy 103 rejection: you can prove it's been "done previously," right? You can prove that the platform existed previously, right? Where's the problem?

Now the burden, under 101, is for the inventor to show that which they did was actually inventive.

Good patents shouldn't have this issue. 101 should be a very, very low hurdle.

How do you define "actually inventive"? Currently, we have the 102/103 tests of novelty and nonobviousness, but if you're saying we shouldn't use those tests and should just determine, under 101, whether something is "actually inventive", what's the test? As Judge Wu said, "I know it when I see it"?

Comment: Re:Patent Attorney chiming in (Score 2) 92

by Theaetetus (#47937593) Attached to: Alice Is Killing Trolls But Patent Lawyers Will Strike Back

Among other things, the worst offenders were patents that issued between 1996 and 2006 where there is a huge number of "do such and such old thing on a [computer | web | network| mobile device]" as if the "such and such old thing" was suddenly now a patentable thing by virtue of a new platform. Alice will largely undo those patents.

Those patents - of which I've to actually see an example - would already be invalid under 103: [known method]+[known computer/network/device]=obvious combination of two prior art elements that, between them, teach or suggest each and every element in the claim.

Sure, they're also invalid under Alice's interpretation of 101... but that's because Thomas' eligibility test is really just an obviousness test, hence his repeated references to "conventional techniques". Effectively, what Alice changed was to give courts an easy way to handwave something away as obvious as a matter of law, without requiring any actual prior art evidence, simply by calling it "abstract".

Comment: Re:The protruding lens was a mistake (Score 1) 424

by Theaetetus (#47923269) Attached to: Apple Edits iPhone 6's Protruding Camera Out of Official Photos

Yeah, I guess it's not so bad if you assume that you're going to have a case, and that the case thickness will result in a flat back to the whole thing. I hadn't really thought of that.

Still, I think it's a bad choice. It seems kind of dumb to design your product with the idea that the dumb design won't be quite so dumb if you also buy a case.

Agreed. I never used a case with my iPhone, and a protruding lens would've been annoying and probably gotten caught on things on my pockets.

... but I do admit that I'm the only person I know of my friends who doesn't have a case on his phone.

Comment: Hmmm. (Score 0) 72

by jd (#47921793) Attached to: Astronomers Find Star-Within-a-Star, 40 Years After First Theorized

If Kip Thorne can win a year's worth of Playboys for his bet that Cygnus X1 was a Black Hole, when current theory from Professor Hawking says Black Holes don't really exist, then can Professor Thorne please give me a year's subscription to the porno of my choice due to the non-existent bet that this wasn't such a star?

Comment: Re:The protruding lens was a mistake (Score 2) 424

by Theaetetus (#47921247) Attached to: Apple Edits iPhone 6's Protruding Camera Out of Official Photos

And for what? Assuming that they can't make the camera any thinner, make the phone slightly fatter, and make use of the extra space. It's not as though the iPhone 5 was obscenely thick and needed to be made thinner. Hell, just fill the rest of the thing out with additional battery, and give us more battery life.

Although I agree and would rather have the additional battery, most people put their phones in a case, which adds some thickness... The lens will protrude into the case cross-sectional region, allowing the overall phone+protruding-lens+case to be thinner than a thicker-phone+flat-lens+case.

Comment: Re:Who would have thought (Score 4, Insightful) 194

by Theaetetus (#47886747) Attached to: The Documents From Google's First DMV Test In Nevada

The only slight problem with that is that in order to react at all in time, you must be paying the same amount of attention as you would if there was no autonomous drive system at all. This is otherwise known as the human being in the loop. Removing the human from the loop in aircraft automation has been a source of unending problems, and only recently one could say that it's a reasonably well understood problem - if not quite solved just yet. Don't forget we're talking about trained professional pilots here.

So, when faced with a self-driving car, the relatively untrained non-professional driver will always be so far out of the loop, that there's no way for him to overtake control safely in real time.

If you read the article, in the instances where the automation didn't know what to do, it pulled over and stopped:

Construction work, however, proved trickier. When faced with a partially blocked-off road, the car switched between autonomous and manual modes and then braked to a halt, requiring Urmson, the safety driver, to take control.

The driver doesn't need to react in time - the car does that. The driver merely needs to make the next decision to start moving again and guide the car to where it needs to go.

Comment: Re:Sounds stupid. (Score 1) 296

by jd (#47877989) Attached to: WD Announces 8TB, 10TB Helium Hard Drives

I've a very good idea that RAM prices are artificially inflated, that the fab plants are poorly managed, that the overheads are unnecessarily high because of laziness and the mentality in the regions producing RAM.

I'm absolutely certain that 15nm-scale RAM on sticks the same size as sticks used today would cost not one penny more but would have a capacity greater than I've outlined.

It could be done tomorrow. The tools all exist since the scale is already used. The silicon wafers are good enough, if they can manage chips 4x and 9x the size of a current memory chip with next to zero discards, then creating the far smaller dies (so you can discard more chips and still get the same absolute yield) is not an issue. It would reduce idle time for fabs, as fabs are currently run semi-idled to avoid the feast/famine cycle of prior years but 15nm would let them produce other chips in high demand, soaking up all the extra capacity.

What you end up with is less waste, therefore lower overheads, therefore higher profit. The chip companies like profit. They're not going to pass on discounts, you getting a thousand times the RAM for the same price is discount enough!

Comment: Re:10TB of RAM? (Score 1) 296

by jd (#47877957) Attached to: WD Announces 8TB, 10TB Helium Hard Drives

Not really. RAM is only expensive because of the transistor size used. Fab plants are expensive. Packaging is expensive. Shipping is expensive. Silicon is expensive. If you add all that up, you end up with expensive products.

Because fab plants are running very large transistor sizes, you get low yields and high overheads.

Let's see what happens when you cut the transistor size by three orders of magnitude...

For the same size of packaging, you get three orders of magnitude more RAM. So, per megabyte, packaging drops in cost also by three orders of magnitude.

Now, that means your average block of RAM is now around 8 Tb, which is not a perfect fit but it's good enough. The same amount of silicon is used, so there's no extra cost there. The shipping cost doesn't change. As mentioned, the packaging doesn't change. So all your major costs don't change at all.

Yield? The yield for microprocessors is just fine and they're on about the scale discussed here. In fact, you get better. A processor has to work completely. A memory chip also has to work completely, but it's much smaller. If the three round it fail testing, it doesn't affect that one. So you end up with around a quarter of the rejection rate per unit area of silicon to a full microprocessor.

So you've got great yield, same overheads, but... yes... you can use the fab plant to produce ASICs and microprocessors when demand for memory is low, so you've not got idle plant. Ever.

The cost of this memory is therefore exactly the same as the cost of a stick of conventional RAM of 1/1000th the capacity.

Size - Exactly the same as the stick of RAM.

Power budget - of no consequence. When the machine is running, you're drawing from mains power. When the machine is not running, you are refreshing the dirty bits of memory only, nothing else. And 99.9% of the time, there won't be any because sensible OS' like Linux sync before a shutdown. The 0.1% of the time, the time when your server has been hit by a power cut, the hard drive is spun down to save UPS and the main box is in the lowest possible energy mode, that's when this sort of system matters. Even on low energy mode, buffers will need flushing, housekeeping will need to be done, transactions will need to be completed. This system would give you all that.

And the time when the machine is fully powered, fully up? Your hard drive spends most of its time still spun down. Not for power, although it'll chew through a fair bit - mechanical devices always do and the high-speed drives being proposed will chew through far, far more. They'll be spun down because a running hard drive suffers rapid deterioration. Can you believe hard drives only last 5 years??! Keep the damn thing switched off until last minute, then do continuous write. Minimizes read head movement (there's practically none), minimizes bearing wear-and-tear, eliminates read head misalignment (a lot of times, you can write the entire disk in one go, so what the hell do you care if the tracks are not perfectly in line with the ones they're replacing?) and (by minimizing read head time over the drive) minimizes the risk of a head crash.

I reckon this strategy should double the expected lifetime of drives, so take the cost of one 10 Tb drive and calculate how much power you'd need to consume extra for the memory in order for the memory's power budget to exceed the value of what you're doing.

Oh, and another thing. Because I'm talking memory sticks, you only need to buy one, subsequent drives of the same or lower capacity would not need to have memory there. You could simply migrate it. RAM seems to hold up ok on old computers, so you can probably say that the stick is good for the original drive and the replacement. That halves the cost of the memory per drive.

So, no, I don't see anything unduly optimistic. I think your view of what the companies could be doing is unduly pessimistic and more in line with what the chip companies tell you that you should think than what the chip companies can actually do.

An Ada exception is when a routine gets in trouble and says 'Beam me up, Scotty'.