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FTC and JD Holding Hearings on IP 194

hondo77 writes "The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department are holding hearings on intellectual property laws over the next few weeks (the first one was Feb 6). They're looking at the balance between IP rights and the free market."
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FTC and JD Holding Hearings on IP

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  • by base3 ( 539820 )
    - abolish all software patents
    - abolish all business process patents
    - repeal the DMCA
    - make using copy protection a Federal felony
    - publish the DeCSS code on a scrolling marquee in Times Square
    - ban the RIAA and MPAA
    - have Jack Valenti made U.S. Ambassador to Somalia
    - have Sonny Bono, uh, never mind

    That ought to be a good start to a "balance."

    • Can't abolish patents and copyrights on an FTC say-so; it takes at minimum an act of Congress, and most likely a Constitutional amendment.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        They probably can't appoint Jack Valenti "Ambassador for Life" to Mogadishu, either, but I can dream <grin>.
      • No Amendment would be needed. Article I gives Congress the power to provide copyrights and patents, and gives a reason why it's doing that. There is no requirement that they provide such.
        • Re:Lemme see . . . (Score:2, Informative)

          by CaseStudy ( 119864 )
          No Amendment would be needed. Article I gives Congress the power to provide copyrights and patents, and gives a reason why it's doing that. There is no requirement that they provide such.

          Yeah, that's my take too, but I think the Supreme Court could decide that Article I, Section 8 powers are Congressional duties, since the states can't do these things themselves. Are there any other powers that Congress can reasonably forgo? (Possibly the militia power, depending on how that's defined.)
        • Hard to do when the Supreme Court, or more specifically, Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger said, "everything under the sun made by man" could be patented. That came from Diamond v. Chakrabarty iirc.

          It seems Congress would have to modify patent law to eliminate business process and software patents. Especially since the statute says "invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvements theeof, may obtain a patent,." Quote taken from

    • - abolish all software patents
      - abolish all business process patents
      - repeal the DMCA
      - make using copy protection a Federal felony
      - publish the DeCSS code on a scrolling marquee in Times Square
      - ban the RIAA and MPAA

      Sig Heil! No thanks, I prefer to stay here in the U.S., where its not a crime to be an idiot, just an inconvenience. (although I do agree with the DMCA part, since it appears to be obviously unconstitutional on its face)

    • - make using copy protection a Federal felony
      - ban the RIAA and MPAA

      These are the kinds of sentiments that make people think that people who oppose the DMCA are just people who don't want to pay for the movies/music that they watch/listen to. The DMCA is bad for a lot of reasons that have been much more eloquently phrased on /. than I could ever hope to do. However, the MPAA should be allowed to put whatever copy protection on their content that they want. We should be free to either a) comply with it, b) not buy it or c) try to crack it.

      Freedom works both ways.
  • Possibly Good? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ScumBiker ( 64143 ) <> on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @09:04AM (#2993441) Homepage Journal
    I suspect that the possibility of any outcome between Justice and the FTC is going to be a blatant corporate lovefest. Let's face it, Ashcroft is firmly in the pocket of big business, and the FTC, while trying to get a grip on reality, fails to do so much of the time. The big IP corps are goning to simply take the ball here and write their own rules. Is there any way to get in front of this bus and stop it? YES. Get off your dead ass and send snailmail to your congress critters. Write to the head of the FTC. I'm not even going to include links, your mostly smart people out there, you know how to use Google. Get after it!
    • Re:Possibly Good? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Second_Derivative ( 257815 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @09:25AM (#2993516)
      And the great masses of slashdotters arose and took the first step upon the great march to their congressmen, then sat down again panting from exertion.

      I've heard "Write to your congressman!" too many times on here. Firstly I'm not even a USian so what congressman over there is going to give a damn for hat I've got to say? there's some, I dunno, 50,000 users on slashdot? even if every single one wrote to their congressman... well, they might notice the issue only to have their local RIAA "Public Funding Officer" hand them a wad of fifties and tell em to piss off.

      If the great masses don't even know or care about this you don't have a hope. A better strategy would be to launch a mass campaign against every person in power who you dislike. Dig up all the records of who's funding who, and crosscheck it against what libery-violating statutes those people voted for. Boil it down to a level that can incense and anger the common voter; going after IP law is like trying to take the Reichstag when you're retreating from Normandy. Pull out the corruption and corporate puppeteering of the political process and make the people in power damn sure that this sort of thing is not going to be good for them, then worry about IP law, for now be content with the hope that some landmark ruling may overturn the DMCA.

      But then, there's hardly any hope of that happening, so why even bother telling people to write to their congressman? *sigh* and I can't exactly talk as if I'm on high ground either; I live in the UK and no doubt we're the next in line to be bent over and rammed until we look like the guy =/
      • First off, I was talking to the US crowd. Secondly, yer right, unless a letter comes stuffed with $, the congress critters are probably gonna ignore it. Realistically, a letter writing campaign is about all us US citizens can do to voice our opinion. Corporations can afford expensive TV commercials and even more expensive lobbying organizations. I was mainly venting my disgust at the level of shit we've allowed ourselves to wallow in.
        The worst part is, most of this IP stuff affects everybody, not just the US folk. Without an effective world government, what can be done? Hell, for all I know, this IP stuff is directly related to terrorist attacks. "OOH, I can't steal Black Hawk Down, I think I'll blow up a bus." That's the kinda stuff that is starting to show me that we as a race (humans, not some sub-division of us) are at the end of our evolution and will possibly disappear in the next 10,000 years of so. Whew, rants feel good!
      • Re:Possibly Good? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Danse ( 1026 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @11:41AM (#2994182)

        Dig up all the records of who's funding who, and crosscheck it against what libery-violating statutes those people voted for.

        Unfortunately, our Congress can pass such far reaching legislation as the DMCA without even going on the record with their votes. They passed the DMCA with a voice vote. If that isn't the most fucked up thing you've ever heard, then I'd love to hear what is. America, land of democracy. Funny, huh? How can you have democracy without accountability?

        • Even when votes are properly recorded the voting record itself is attached to the bill as a static text document. There are many votes and votes on similar bills. It is impossible for the average person to sift through all the bills and find out the voting record of their elected officials. The only sane way to get this information is to look at congressional watchdog groups that will tally votes and keep a proper database of voting records, but even this account may not be accurate as usually these groups have a bias or only focus on one type of legislation.

          Last year there was a bill that would have created an online database of congressional voting. This bill failed, good luck finding out what the bill number was or who voted against it.
      • You can start with Then you can check the voting records of politicians at one of the non-profit voting groups.
    • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @09:38AM (#2993558) Homepage Journal
      I suspect that the possibility of any outcome between Justice and the FTC is going to be a blatant corporate lovefest

      Total agreement here, even with the Enron fartcloud envolping Washington, after that "Axis of evil" comment by Bush, I'm convinced the cherry is off the "war on terrorism" victory and W. is back to halfwit status. Particularly with the extremely soft stance with regard to Microsoft and the DoJ and M$ wanting to get the whole thing wrapped up fast so they can get back into the bedroom and continue screwing people. The current administration is a bunch of coldwarriors, corporate whores and dingbats, Colin Powell the notable exception, but tainted by association, nonetheless. If anything comes out of this it's probably the FTC and DoJ looking for any wrangling room left over Intellectual Property that they can lock up in favor of the GOP's big campaign donors.

      While you're writing to your reps, tell them to vote for the campaign finance reform act to bring an end to the charade of people you've never heard of having $70 million before a presidential campaign even gets started.

      • > after that "Axis of evil" comment by Bush, I'm convinced the cherry is off the "war on terrorism" victory

        He wanted a Big War (TM) like Daddy had, and only got a little one, so now he's shopping around for another one.

        > and W. is back to halfwit status.

        Surely, not too witless to notice what a war does for a president's standing in the polls?

      • bring an end to the charade of people you've never heard of having $70 million before a presidential campaign even gets started.

        Actually, the problem (well, A problem) is that this doesn't happen. What happens is that only someone who LOTS of people have heard of can raise "$70 million before a presidential campaign even gets started". Poor schmucks without a pile of connections or fame, whether they care about individual citizens or not, can't raise "legal small amounts of money from each of millions of people" like the famous 'big-party' bigwigs can, so their only hope is to round up one or two big donors who are willing to contribute enough to allow them to 'buy a voice' from the media.

        This is what people are referring to when they say that restrictions on campaign contributions inhibits free political speech. If you 'cap' individual contributions, then only famous incumbents will ever be able to round up the money to be heard, and "new guys" who aren't "connected" will always end up drowned out by well connected and entrenched people.

        Realize also that apparently one of the 'reform' bills being considered forbids political advertisements for 90 days before an election. This is BAD - when "big famous bigwig" makes a speech, it's NEWS, so the news media can still cover it and pass on the speech (an advertisement, really, but not 'legally') to the viewers, while poor Joe Schmuck, who the media never mentions but who actually cares what happens to individuals in this country, not only get drowned out by the media (and lets not forget how much of a problem the influence that large corporate media entities has on government is), and he can't even hope for a wealthy sympathetic sponsor to 'buy' him an advertisement so he can at least be HEARD...

        Granted that this doesn't make famous big-party people's vast amounts of funds obscene, but simply capping donation amounts will only hurt the LITTLE guys.

    • What is it with sending a dead tree to washington? Even if such a thing worked, i'm pretty sure not much mail is getting delivered to congressmen with everybody being so scared about it having assthrax on it..
      • Re:Possibly Good? (Score:2, Interesting)

        by maddman75 ( 193326 )
        Agreed - my congress critter, John Shimkus, showed some cluefulness by starting an email newsletter. He actually requested email, because any snail mail takes ages to get through security.
    • This is what Gerald Mossinghoff had to say. I started off thinking that this guy might not be too bad. By the time I got to the end though, I realized that the way this guy thinks is the source of many of the problems with the patent system. Check out his report here: ts/mossinghoffgeraldj.pdf []

      He seems to think that the current system is good enough and should not be challenged because it could cause confusion. Furthermore, he think that such a challenge would probably be unsuccessful due to the combined power of the high-tech industry, Patent Bar, and various inventors groups. He seems to think that it's a great thing that we've cemented IP laws in place through legislation and treaties. So much so that it would cause chaos if we were to try to roll any of it back or even simply subject patent applications to a higher standard than we currently do. I'm depressed now. Thanks Gerald.

      Then we have economics professor, Richard Gilbert. He has a formula that will tell us whether we should pursue anti-trust suits against holders of blocking patents (collections of patents that bar competition). I can't really tell whether it makes sense or not since I don't have any handy way of applying it to a real world case. Does anyone have any idea what this guy is saying, or who will benefit the most from it? His presentation is done in Powerpoint, so you'll need access to MS Office or something else that can read Powerpoint documents. []

      Finally, we come to someone who is making sense to me. Yale president, Richard C. Levin. He makes several good points, some that cover the same topics as Mr. Gilbert, and others that cover areas of concern to many of us who have had our eye on the IP system. Read his presentation here: ts/levinrichardc.htm []

  • My voice (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by SilentChris ( 452960 )
    "from the get-your-voice-in-there dept."

    Sure. I'm all for IP. I think being able to own ideas is a *good* thing. I think that people against it are primarily doing so because they themselves don't know how to make money. I think the capitalist society we live in today (along with IP) led to the technological growth that allows me to post my voice on this board, this very second. I think most "free" people on Slashdot are quacks, because if it really came down to it, they couldn't use their free software argument for everything else they purchase... and sell... in life. Thus, they are hypocrits.

    I doubt this is what the editor had in mind when he put up the dept. heading, but hey.

    • they couldn't use their free software argument for everything else they purchase...

      Actually, for every non-tangible thing I may purchase: Art, computer programs,...
      And well... if politicians were denied the right to own stock values, then I think we'd be in a democracy instead of a company-cracy.
    • wrong, most of the technology created for the net except for the hardware stuff was all open source.

      We went closed source and technology and innovation slowed down as microsoft got a firmer grip on the industry. There hasnt been any innovation in years.
      • Considering I'm posting this on a Microsoft OS, with a Microsoft browser, and I didn't really touch computers too much until DOS made easy computing ubiquitous, I would have to argue that closed software *did* help me post this to Slashdot.
    • Re:My voice (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      simple reason: Most things you can buy and sell are scarce items. Intellectual "property" isn't scarce, so the same rules CANNOT apply exactly. Plain and simple.
      • "Intellectual "property" isn't scarce, so the same rules CANNOT apply exactly."

        It is not scarce? So you're telling me that everyone thinks and creates on the same level of intelligence. Genius-level, creative, emotional and lax brains all work at the same speed, to the same quality, and therefore there is no scarcity between qualities of thought. That's bullshit. There's a reason why some people are artists, scientists, writers and others aren't: it's because they possess a level of intelligence others don't have, and therefore is SCARCE.

        • by MajroMax ( 112652 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @10:11AM (#2993723)
          >"Intellectual "property" isn't scarce, so the same rules CANNOT apply exactly."

          It is not scarce? So you're telling me that everyone thinks and creates on the same level of intelligence.

          You're using the wrong definition of scarce. Each "new" IP created by someone is just that, a new property. This is much like a new model of car, a new type of CPU, or green orange-juice.

          "Scarce," in economics terminology, means limited. If some X number of people have this, then the X+1'th person is going to get stiffed. This applies quite well to physical properties, because there are only so many, and that number is usually quite small compared to the number of people on the planet.

          Oxygen, however, is not scarce. Nitrogen is not scarce. (Both if these come with caevats that it's breathable, but not pure.) Intellectual property is not scarce. I can breathe as much as I want and not affect the breating of anyone else on the planet. Likewise, I can copy the Linux Kernel (insert favorite rev. here) as many times as I want, and everybody else on the planet will still be able to get theirs.

          Your argument (which seems to be that the market created/allowed by IP laws encourages the development of new IP) is possibly a valid one, but it is not based on the principle of scarcity. Don't get me wrong here -- I'm not an "abolish copyright/patents" type of guy: I think that you should be allowed to release your software on whatever terms you want, although any protections in excess of copyright law should be signed before purchase. I also happen to think that copyright is too long-term and the patent office is quickly becoming incompetent, but both of these are largely irrelevant to the fundamental discussion of Intellectual Property.

    • Re:My voice (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @09:50AM (#2993598) Homepage Journal
      Oh, I think IP is a good thing, too, but not in perpetuity. The current extention on exclusive rights to intellectual property is hardly what the founding fathers had in mind. Inventors, artists and producers should be encouraged to invent, create and produce, rather than sit on their asses and collect royalties for the rest of their lives because they happened to catch the spirit of invention at the right moment and lock it up in an iron bound chest. Ideas need to be shared, people need to collaborate. Locking down intellectual property impoverishes, as it deprives many from the benefits if the sole holder deems it unnecessary to make it available in the form the public would prefer, i.e. iconoclastic.

      Take a good look around what happens when you are a fan and make a fansite, the way IP attorneys gorge themselves encouraging the MPAA and RIAA in their folly of copy protection, or Rambus tried to destroy inexpensive fast memory with an excessive tariff on DDR SDRAM license and using it to get their own RDRAM more accepted.

    • Re:My voice (Score:2, Interesting)

      by hyphz ( 179185 )
      >Sure. I'm all for IP. I think being able to own
      >ideas is a *good* thing. I think that people
      >against it are primarily doing so because they
      >themselves don't know how to make money.

      No. It's usually because they actually can't.

      IP is supposed to protect ideas. But, you can't get any legal protection of your IP unless you realise your idea ("fixed in a tangible representation"). That's fair enough, say the IP fans: an idea that never gets realised is no use to society, and giving people IP on unrealised ideas would let them use licencing to make it unattractive for anyone to realise them.

      But realising an idea is hard. You need to buy tools and possibly raw materials to do it with. And those tools and raw materials are expensive, because they sell to people who are already established in the IP industry and can afford high prices. Not only that, but you may not be able to get them, because you can't prove you aren't just going to use them to copy other people's material. To prove that you need a reputation, which you can never get because you can't get started without the tools.

      So, suppose you've paid a load of money and gotten the tools. Now you have to do the work. This takes time. And, you have to eat while you're working. And, you can forget about having a day job to pay the bills, because your employer can use your contract to grab all your IP if you do that. So you've just lost even MORE money. (Or, far more likely, you've found you can't afford it and given up or never started.)

      And if you manage to get a realised idea - you still have to get it distributed if you want to make money, and you also need distribution to get meaningful IP protection because otherwise anyone can copy you and claim parallel development. But again you are stuck: distributors and publishers are *really* only interested in reputation, which you can still never get because you can't get started. You could try internet distribution, but that's rather variable.

      And even if you get a product out there - you still need to advertise, because your competitors are going to. And guess what? There is NO WAY to afford that unless you're established, because the demand for advertising by the established companies is high enough to keep the prices in more figures than you'll probably ever see.

      Basically, you're screwed. To even get to market requires so much money that you'd be hard pressed to ever get it if you're starting from scratch. If you get to market, you then have to compete with the established firms - in a market where the one who spends most money on hype usually wins. Guess who that won't be?

      And all of this acts the same way: to freeze the common person out from making money from their IP. Corporations are very fond of saying they "just don't have talent", but there is (I believe) no scientific evidence for talent even existing (and if it did, it would make IP nothing more than genetic fascism). Is it then no surprise that people do not respect IP law? Is it not possible that at least some of the 'freeware' today is just the result of the average joe throwing his hands up in the air and surrendering any attempt at making money from his own work?

      And this is the old point. IP advocates like saying things like "If you spend the time writing a really awesome program, and I spend my time watching trash TV, don't you deserve the rights to what you've done and a reward for it?" The answer is yes, but even if you write that program you're not going to get a reward for it.

      Is there anything that can be done about this? I don't know. My pet IP revolution would be:

      - Create an inverse ultra vires on copyright: "Any act, which is explicitly permitted, or which is not explicitly prohibited, by copyright law, is raised to the status of an inaliable right."

      - The inverse DMCA: "It is an offense to use technology to block any of the rights created by the above modification, to artifically complicate any of the rights so created, or to omit to include an interface permitting their exercise in a piece of technology whose hardware is capable of doing so."

      - Block can't-progress-without-it agreements: "The rights created by the above modification, together with (other ones to be determined), may never be surrended or waived, not even voluntarily."

      Which somewhat helps. Of course, you then have to sort out the markets:

      - Criminalise advertising. (Harsh and sounds ridiculous, but it's the only way to stop those who have money already always being the ones who win the market wars.)
      - Criminalise irresponsible consumer behaviour (as a very minor crime; capitalism assumes responsible and selective consumers, so if you don't behave as one, you're breaking it).

      But I think those might be a little bit extreme for this debate. :)
      • "But realising an idea is hard. You need to buy tools and possibly raw materials to do it with. And those tools and raw materials are expensive, because they sell to people who are already established in the IP industry and can afford high prices. Not only that, but you may not be able to get them, because you can't prove you aren't just going to use them to copy other people's material. To prove that you need a reputation, which you can never get because you can't get started without the tools."

        This whole circular argument sounds exactly like the common problems entry-level people out of college (like myself) have finding jobs. People can see your skill, but don't necessarily want to hire you because you don't have experience. You can't get experience without being hired by *someone*. It's a vicious circle that needs to be defeated by a company or individual giving you a shot (which, fortunately for me, has happened).

        This has been going on for years, though, and some would argue that it's an integral catch-22 of the current corporate market. Unless mommy and daddy have relations within the company you're going to apply for, chances are you won't be hired even if you have skills.

        Same for IP. All of these things match your paragraph on IP, yet people still manage to break through. Example (and a bit of a poor one): South Park. The original idea of South Park came from two guys who decided to create something totally original. When selling wasn't feasible, they gave the first video tapes away. Gradually, the intellectual property went from free to owned. No one would have argued that Trey Parker and Matt Stone don't deserve some kind of payment for their actions.

        And yet, they didn't have the financial backing, the advertising knowledge, or even many connections in the industry. They just had their IP.

    • "I think being able to own ideas is a *good* thing. "

      Sure, if you're a corporate megagiant. Otherwise, the ownership of ideas (which is pretty revolutionary...patents don't cover ideas) is essentially a way to set up a feudal guild system.

      If you're big and can hire a lot of ideas, then you own the world. If you're an inventor in a garage, you're screwed.


      "I'm sorry Mr. Woz, Mr. Jobs, but IBM thought of the idea of a small computer hooked to a television first and you can't make that. Sorry, but the PC revolution will have to wait until IBM decides it will happen".

      Do you get why its a bad thing you're suggesting now?
      • "I'm sorry Mr. Woz, Mr. Jobs, but IBM thought of the idea of a small computer hooked to a television first and you can't make that. Sorry, but the PC revolution will have to wait until IBM decides it will happen".

        Except this never, ever happens. See my post [] in this thread on South Park to see how the little guys use IP to bend their way.

  • Oh, come on (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Wind_Walker ( 83965 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @09:18AM (#2993495) Homepage Journal
    I'll tell you what the FTC is talking about: How can we get the corporations more money so they can keep backing our policical campaigns?

    I'm constantly amazed at the idealism shown on Slashdot. Politicians are about one thing, and one thing only: How can I get re-elected? The easiest way to get re-elected is to have lots of money to campaign with. The easiest way to get lots of money to campaign with is to get it from corporations. The easiest way to get lots of money from corporations is to use the "I scratch your back, you scratch mine" mentality.

    They're going to uphold the current IP laws because it lets people make patents out of a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich [].

    • And whilst you're at it read [].

  • Free your mind. It should be all about how well you implement the different ideas, and which ones are the good ones.
  • by xtstrike ( 538546 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @09:23AM (#2993507) Homepage
    I'd tend to agree on abolishing many of the copyrights, IP, etc... on the internet, but the fact still remains that someone somewhere must be paid for something to be developed or innovated and that particular person/company will want people to know and maybe even pay for something that has taken them so much time to develop. Think about the music industry, if someone said, OK you can copy the music as much as you like then the recording industry would simply stop releasing music, then there would be nothing to copy! maybe im on completely the wrong track here, but the way id understand this particular article is that everything should be free, I just dont know if that could be, as i said, someone somewhere has to foot the bill to pay someones wages to develop whatever is being trade marked.
    • people should be paid for services not for information or ideas.
      information should not have a price. The service of producing the information, well, that should have a price.

      once something is made its free, before its made, you pay someone to make it.
    • by TheConfusedOne ( 442158 ) <> on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @09:51AM (#2993601) Journal
      Copyright and IP are radically different things.

      Copyright protects a produced product. IP protects an idea. As far as providing protection for an idea, I think we're headed in the wrong direction. The "One-Click Patent" is a prime example of this. The idea that it "protects" is "fast customer service", hardly an original idea.

      A number of years ago there was a big movement in the US to "emulate" (pronounced copy) the Japanese industrial method. We were getting our butts trounced in the manufacturing world and decided on the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" solution. Imagine if a Japanese company had been able to patent an "employee motivational regime". Imagine if one of the first web startups had patented "stock option incentive plans". These are all simply ideas, not new inventions.

      We need to get the USPTO to revisit the "non-obvious" part of the patent laws and look at the idea/motivation behind the idea being patented. If it's just a somewhat new way of doing an old idea then it doesn't deserve a patent. At best, Amazon should have gotten the normal first adopter's advantage for using "One-Click" and then have to improve it to keep up with the competition.

      Hmmm, anyone want to work with me on the "One Mouse Hover and Wait 3 Seconds" shopping patent?
    • by EMIce ( 30092 )
      Think about the music industry, if someone said, OK you can copy the music as much as you like then the recording industry would simply stop releasing music, then there would be nothing to copy!

      This idea is flawed. Music would still be out there - it just wouldn't be marketed in the way it is today, which is a good thing. Such marketing has left so many brainwashed and has homogenized much of our society's thinking. Now I'm not talking about the slashdot crowd, but the rest of society, the regular Joe's and Jane's out there. There is very little room for creativity in the environment these marketers create, just look at the 90% of the pop they put out, it's meaningless, unoriginal and downright sad in the way people accept it, practically like religion.
    • see, I like Copyright law, I donot like the manipulation of the gre area to remove our rights given under copyright law.

      if I have a CD, I can make copies of it for myself. I can then loan it to my buddy so he can listen to it. I can sell the cd or give it away provided I give the copies away or destoy them as well. under this copy protection crap, companies are trying to keep you from copying and dispursing (a noble effort) however, they are impeading on my rights to copy the music for back up or media shifting and laughing as they do it.

      if my CD is destroied in a fire or my kid breaks it, I lose my ability to listen to it any more. since the company kept me from backing up the Music, they are liable for a replacment media.....guess what....they laugh at you when you ask for one. this makes them in violation of copyright law.

      there is no middle ground to this, if they do not allow me to make a personal copy (the law says I can make as many as I want) or the ability to shift to what ever media I choose, the company needs to provide me with the replacment or the new media I wish to have the music on.

      the same applies to DVD, E-books and any other Information that is sold and falls under the copyright laws.

      that is why the DMCA is illegal, and that is why any company will try its best to settle before a ruling is made sothat the law does not get struck down or becomes irrelivent due to a newly set pressident.
    • . Think about the music industry, if someone said, OK you can copy the music as much as you like then the recording industry would simply stop releasing music...

      I fully agree. Perhaps then the musicians would start releasing music.

    • Think about the music industry, if someone said, OK you can copy the music as much as you like then the recording industry would simply stop releasing music, then there would be nothing to copy!

      Do you really believe that? How many bands are there that over the times, before they got their record contracts and whatever released music *free*? Personally I know quite a few people that were making .mods and .xms and everything, giving them out for free. This was pretty decent music, and it was long before the Internet or mp3 took off, I can only assume there are even more today. The reason it doesn't appear that way is that these are on a 0$ advertising budget, 0$ visibility budget (no shops carrying them, no central server for downloads) and 0% knowledge of which songs are really free and which are just pirated. No, I wouldn't worry about the music marked.

      I'd wouldn't worry too much about the movies marked either, because they can usually recover costs and more by running it in the cinemas first. Most of us would rather spend 10 every once in a while than shelling out 10000 for a projector and big screen, sourround system, DVD player (which still wouldn't be as good as the theater) and all, and we still get to see it earlier in the cinemas than on DVD.

      There's the software marked and other things where you have some *serious* costs making and developing them, and no real way of recovering them that needs protection. Those will be hurt, and that will hurt consumers back. The music and movie business would be hurt too, but I don't see it as hurting the consumers back all that much.

  • It may be too early, but I did not see if this thing is open to the public. Anyone know? I actually would be interested in going to this thing. The hearing on the 20th looks pretty interesting.
  • I just discovered gravity. Since no patent or prior art exists, I'm going to patent it and license it to people who pay me enough. The only currency I accept is gnus. Seriously, this is a prime example to see exactly when democracy can fail. That's right, it's not perfect! If the majority believe one thing and you don't you are wrong!

    Ah, well, it has happened in history before [] and it will probably happen again. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, right? Just remember, you can't enjoy fame if you are dead.

    Before you go to a flamewar about the newest draconian laws the US has passed, fix democracy. How do you fix it, by educating people!
    • by HanzoSan ( 251665 )
      And you are talking about capitalism.

      First we are a republic.
      Second we are capitalist, absolute capitalist in fact. So capitalist that we hurt ourselves to make money, kill each other to make money, and kill innovation for a profit (microsoft for example)
  • Ok so some of the patents out there are absolutely ridiculous. Maybe the should hire some people who aren't brain dead governement employees to look through the patent applications and reject the applications that are blatantly stupid. I mean come one. Who needs to be able to patent a sandwhich that the crust was cut off of and sealed in a ziploc bag?
  • This is like the balance between boxing and not-getting-punched-in-the-face.

    If you want a free market, don't sponsor monopolies that wouldn't exist without government-approved idea ownership.

    Why do I feel like these meetings are going to go over like a Mike Tyson press conference?

    • The problem is, this isnt a free market.

      Since rich people control the information, the rich get richer by exploiting the information which they have.

      Hows it free? I'll believe in capitalism with IP when i start seeing poor people from third world countries starting companies and beating our companies.

      Afterall we are outnumbered, its kinda funny we are the ones benifiting from capitalism and no one else.

      Maybe thats because we have the unfair advantage of already being rich, already controlling most of the information in the world, having all the patents and having enough monopolies to maintain the unfair advantage.

      Thats why the global economy idea will never work, good on paper, bad in practice.

      Poor people do not have information to educate themselves to our level giving us the unfair advantage, a kid who cant afford books to the quality of ours, who cant even afford medicine to stay healthy enough is too busy trying to survive to think about innovative stuff.

      It will always be like that as long as we control information.
  • Lobbyists and lawyers are involved every day and every step of the way in shaping the opinion of the politicians involved in all patent related legislation.

    Where are the suits for those who think we need to loosen the IP chokehold? They do not exist, because frankly there is no money in it.

    I don't have a clue how to change any of this. I feel like I'm sitting in the back seat of a bus driven by a drunk driver.
  • Well, looking at the pretty graphic, I get the following numbers:

    1996: 211K applications, 121K accepted ~~ 57%

    2000: 315K applications, 175K accepted ~~ 55%

    So what does this mean? I'm not exactly sure (not a stats major) but I think it isn't unreasonable to say that the people in the patent offices aren't going nuts letting everything get through--the same percentage is holding over the period in question. Rather, the sheer number of applications (+ 50% in 5 years) and holding at the same %% means that yes, there will be more accepted.

    The question I ask then is, does anyone know of application 'quotas' or anything similar going on? Is it their policy to let a certain %% through, give or take, or is it just the fact that like it or not, and stupid and BAD ideas or not, the same percentage which meet the necessary patent requirements hasn't changed in 5 years.

    Like I said, I'm not a stats guy...maybe someone who is and understands what's going on better can explain the %%'s

    • The question I ask then is, does anyone know of application 'quotas' or anything similar going on? Is it their policy to let a certain %% through, give or take, or is it just the fact that like it or not, and stupid and BAD ideas or not, the same percentage which meet the necessary patent requirements hasn't changed in 5 years.

      Stupid and bad ideas still can be patented, the only requirement is describing a distinct device or process that did not exist before. The problem is, no one knows how "idea" in general is different from "device" or "process", and where algorithms and mathematical formulas fit between those things.

  • by HanzoSan ( 251665 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @09:45AM (#2993577) Homepage Journal

    Millions of people in third world countries dying because of patents on drugs.

    Kids and adults lacking intelligence due to patents on information which could enlighten the world.

    Innovation controlled by big corperations using patents, and all for a profit, milk the old technology for 40 years or more until profits force you to change.

    Government controlled by companies like Enron who take advantage of the flaws in the system.

    Criminals and organized crime taking advantage of capitalism, people being killed for a buck, and wars being faught over money issues.

    Whens it going to end? Capitalism is fine, but too much of anything is bad. When will people figure out, too much capitalism, too much competition, and not enough sharing is bad? Yes moderate competition fuels innovation, too much competition however makes the enviornment so competitive that no one can innovate.

    Imagine the innovation and the new technologies we'd have, if third world countries had access to all the information in the world, and any kid rich or poor could be the next einstien or bill gates, any living person, any of the 6 billion people could come out with an idea, which changes the world and shares the idea for free.

    Money needs to be made people say, just because you share an idea doesnt mean you'll turn that idea into a product. The product is what people buy, the service is what people pay for, not the idea or the information.

    My opinion is, more focus should be on sharing information, less focus on competiton, more focus on ways to earn money from hard work and not from information, ideas, or earning money from having money.

    We also need to fix the problems in our government, the current administration is just a joke, they got into office in a suspicious manner, and now we here stuff about Eron, corruption within the government should be removed, it will be difficult but its possible.

    • The world of Star Trek: TNG is a fantasy. Wake up.

      Imagine a world in which there is no personal incentive. Drug companies don't exist as we know them so the major breakthroughs we have had in the last 20 years never happened. Now every county is a "3rd" world country. Everyone is getting killed by these diseases.

      Your argument really falls flat when you start talking about freeing ideas. PATENTS WERE FORMED SO THAT INFORMATION IS SHARED! In exchange for publising your works the government gives you exclusive rights for 20 years. If patents didn't exist the information would stay within a company. People in the third world HAVE acccess to this information because of patents, they just can't market products based on them.

      I agree that patents law needs to be changed. right now it is ridiculous. Patents should be reserved for truely unique ideas not the crap that gets through today.
      • wrong i never said get rid of capitalism.
        I said make it fair.

        You should still get paid for your WORK.
        You should never get paid for your THOUGHTS and IDEAS.

        Work deserves money, not ideas.

        You have an idea, you keep it to yourself, you make a product and you sell the product based on your idea.

        You want to write software? You write a few samples then you tell people to pay you and if they pay you to write more software you keep writing it, transgaming style.

        Music can work as a service as well via channels like TV.

        What i'm saying is, find new ways to profit, i'm not saying no one can profit, i'm not saying theres no incentive. I'm saying find new ways to profit.

        Profit on services, make money on actual physical products, make money on hard work, no one should make money from ideas.

        If you dont think of an idea, someone else will, ideas spread naturally, people share them for free if you dont pay them, its not like some guys going to have an idea and sit on it because he cant get paid, if he cant get paid for the idea he will tell his friends who tell their friends until someone decides to use it.
      • The problem is that current law places to much power into the hands of the corporate world.

        Locke and Rousseau both understood that the collection of power is a bad thing...they just did not realize that Business could collect as much power as governments and as so, did not mention them in their writings.

        Marx was more correct; however, he placed the power back into the government's hands.

        What we need is an elected Economics system and an elected government system, each with their own constitution and bill of rights for to protect the people from the power structures that exist inside each system they represent.

        Power needs to be dispersed amongst the people not collected in a single area like a government or corporations.
    • by Bodrius ( 191265 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @12:01PM (#2994296) Homepage
      I'll reply to this in reverse order, if you don't mind.

      Whens it going to end? Capitalism is fine, but too much of anything is bad. When will people figure out, too much capitalism, too much competition, and not enough sharing is bad? Yes moderate competition fuels innovation, too much competition however makes the enviornment so competitive that no one can innovate.

      Care to explain how does an extremely competitive environment make innovation impossible?

      After all, an extremely competitive environment implies cut-throat competition where any company can take over the market at any time with a new product. That tends to favor innovation.

      I can think of restriction of innovation when some players in the market have an enormous power-base to strangle innovative competitors. But that, by definition, is not a competitive environment.

      Criminals and organized crime taking advantage of capitalism, people being killed for a buck, and wars being faught over money issues.

      Wars are fought over power issues. They have always been, they will always be, as long as each nation represents an interest opposed to the other one and sufficient power is at stake.

      In capitalism money is power. In other systems, the exchange unit is something else. The principle of war is not worsened by capitalism. Rather, capitalism has discouraged war since its conception because trade favors peaceful countries, and capitalism promotes more efficient ways to obtain resources than robbing it from someone else.

      War has been fought for territory, plantations, gold, slaves, or to eliminate a potential threat.

      Have you read your history lately?

      Government controlled by companies like Enron who take advantage of the flaws in the system.

      The government was not controlled by Enron just because it had money (although it helped). It was controlled by Enron because it was closely tied to the presidential clique by personal connections.

      We could say the same about socialism being taken too far, communism being taken too far, monarchy being taken too far, etc if you just replace Enron with "the Party", "the military", "X family", etc.

      Such oligarchical concentrations of power are older than capitalism, and orthogonal to it. Corruption is more of a social disease than a monetary issue, power is just translated into money these days to facilitate exchange.

      The consequences in a capitalistic society tend to be anti-capitalistic (if you take capitalism as "free market") in nature.

      The influential corporation(s) dictates regulation and starts to play government, restricting competition, disguising its own lack of competitivity, and trying to manipulate the market. Just what monopolies and/or cartels do. But since it's OK for the government to regulate, it can be done.

      Innovation controlled by big corperations using patents, and all for a profit, milk the old technology for 40 years or more until profits force you to change.

      What are they supposed to do? Not milk the old technology? They will milk the old technology, and will research new technology quickly because they want to milk it more.

      Do they only change when forced by potential profit? Sure. But potential profit has proven to be the best way to force quick development of applied technology. What other motivation would you have for technological development? Development by need is much, much, much slower, cannot predict emergent consequences, and will not waste resources on risky non-essential technologies.

      That's why almost all successful technological development is made in/for consumer societies: Europe, Japan, US.

      If you want to see a weakness in pure capitalism there, is that you need remarkable foresight as a corporation to sponsor pure theoretical research, which is needed to foster future applied tech research. But technology is certainly not capitalism's failure.

      Kids and adults lacking intelligence due to patents on information which could enlighten the world.


      I have problems understanding your point here. I don't think you got the concepts of "intelligence", "information", "enlighten" and quite possibly "patent" clear in here.

      How could a patent on a method restrict information, how could said information enlighten the world, and enlighten on what respect, and how could said enlightenment increase human intelligence beyond its natural limit?

      Are there some patents related to genetic engineering and/or neurochemistry I'm not aware of?

      Millions of people in third world countries dying because of patents on drugs.

      I'll give you this one. I don't think it's a matter of capitalism here, but of a clueless management of the IP system, and the rather stupid attitude of the parties involved.

      The IP system is broken. No doubt about that. But the IP system is a case of compromising capitalism for the sake of innovation: don't forget that. It was created precisely because someone said "maybe too much capitalism is bad", and "maybe we should give an artificial monopoly to someone for the sake of information sharing".

      My opinion is, more focus should be on sharing information, less focus on competiton, more focus on ways to earn money from hard work and not from information, ideas, or earning money from having money.

      Earn money from hard work and not from information... sure.

      Also, if we just put the means of production in the hands of the workers, progress will automatically follow.

      Do you realize that by removing ways of achieving profit (be it in money, influence, government positions, or whatever is the currency in your system) by the use of the intellect and favoring "hard work", you make mechanical, unintellectual endeavors the only viable course for survival?

      In other words, you condemn your innovators (scientists, artists, geeks) to earn their living doing things they're untalented for, and only using their talents at the whim of their benefactors. Innovators become beggars, pets; at best, starved romantic fools.

      People of ideas need to be able to earn a comfortable living from their ideas, not be punished for their talents.

      The argument that "the best innovators don't do it for the money, but for the love of their art" falls flat on itself when you study the situation in those admired golden ages before someone could earn their living with IP. Back when the most talented writers, painters, inventors, had to pander to pompous rich people to live off their crumbs (we don't even know the best artists of the Renaissance, we only know about the ones that painted the most portraits for powerful people).

      Do you realize that by removing the ability of earning money from having money in capitalism (by loaning it with interest directly or through banks), you remove all incentive for investment of resources? Welcome back to merchantilism. Not only have you not actually removed the ability to stay rich if you're rich, you have indirectly destroyed most ways of becoming rich if you're poor.

      • I have no problem with what you said, the only issue that youdid not cover is what to do when corprate power begins to step on rights of the people....i.e. hurting the consumer.

        if we are a consumer society, should we not have certain inalienable rights? oh wait we do, it is the bill of rights, however, the billof rights seems tobe getting steped on a little with the large corperations restricting our rights to free speech with their "new copyright laws" and they are steping on our rights in the court because they have the resources to drive the common man into the ground. the system is not set up to be fair to the consumer, but we are expected to keepthe system going.
        • I should just say that IANAE (I am not an Economist).

          But I think there are two big problems with the free market system (which I think so far is the best system):

          - It's an approximation that assumes the absence of certain limits, the most important ones being the size of the market and the potential of expansion. Like any self-regulatory system, it works ideally in infinitely large complex systems where effective human management is impractical (or impossible), and not very well in small or non-complex systems which can be competently managed.

          Globalization requires capitalism (or some other "invisible hand" system), and capitalism requires globalization (5 billion is as close to infinite as we can get for now).

          - All the players in the market have to do their best to defend their interests. This includes the consumers, because technically there is no dichotomy between consumers and providers: most providers are also consumers.

          You claim that the rights of the people are being hurt, but I will claim the following (and I ask you not to take it lightly): Corporations Are "People".
          Corporations are entities formed to defend the interests of individuals. People. Most of these people are what you would call "consumers" or "common man on the ground", and they only get more power by aggregation. Most corporations defend monetary interests (profit), but a political party is also a corporation. So is Greenpeace. So is any particular Church. So are consumer advocate groups.
          You cannot take away the inalienable rights of a corporation just because the interests it defends(their profit) are not your own. You have to give them the same inalienable rights you give to any corporation; these may or may not be identical to the rights of individuals, but they must be identical to those of any organized group of "people".
          The basic inalienable right of a corporation is to defend the interests of its members/shareholders. The only way for the corporation (and its members) to get anything else, including more rights, is to apply that one.

          Notice that most corporations defend their interests as consumers very aggresively. "Pure consumers" do not. This is, I think, because corporations are naturally aware of their role as actors in the market (they are by definition created to defend shareholders' interests) and react to the market appropiately. "Consumers" do not, they expect another corporation, the government, to defend their interests. This is not how markets work.

          It might be argued that the government is supposed to act on the "pure consumers" behalf, because there is no real free market. But the fact is that the government has proven never to do that job unless it is pushed by the population, that is, until the population does the "defend their own interest" part.

          Notice that normally there is no real reason why the consumers cannot defend their interests as players in the market. Class-action lawsuits are examples of this. Political pressure is another more subtle example. This usually happens by forming temporary corporations to act on the issue.
          But the reason why this is so rare, and why for-profit corporations are acquiring so much power, is because most consumers just don't care. And most who care are too lazy to act up, on the assumption that the government is somehow going to do the job for them. It is not; it never did, it never will.

          So, maybe I could shorten all that to "we need a globalized market and a lot of Ralph Naders to get a healthy capitalist free market system".
          • Monarchs are people to, so are dictators and even expand that to governments. But it is commonly agreed upon with in groups of freedom loving people that these types of people and these types of organizations should not hold to much power.

            Yes a free market is good, I agree with a free market system, but the corporations that exist should be restricted in certain ways so as to keep them from treading on the rights of the people.

            Do you deny that to much power given to any person or group of persons is bad?
            If not, you are naive, if so, you must agree that since a corporation is a group of people, they should not have to much power.
  • IMHO IP belongs to a distinct intellect and not generally to a corporation. Also, unlike the soul, intellect cannot be sold.

    You elaborate!

    Just my $0.10 on the subject.
  • by Alex Belits ( 437 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @09:52AM (#2993615) Homepage
    ...that IP rights are supposed to be balanced with "free market" (what I consider to be a political doctrine on the border of being a religious belief) and not consumer protection, freedom of expression, advance of technology, science and human thought, or other real things that are threatened by overbroad patents and other kinds IP abuse.
    • by HanzoSan ( 251665 )
      Information control leads to thought control.

      When we have the ability to communicate via thoughts, will there be a law saying "That thought is patented"

      I'm sure we will see patented thoughts, and some thoughts will be illegal, you'll have police arresting you for thinking bad thoughts, you'll get sued for thinking of thoughts which have owners, and you'll pay a fine for thinking of thoughts which are deemed as dangerous.
    • by Trekologer ( 86619 ) <> on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @11:21AM (#2994057) Homepage
      If the market really was free, then IP laws wouldn't exist. If you want to make money off of something, be it a tangible object or intellectual work, you have to assume the risks of any business, including having that object or work not used in the way you desire.

      Case in point: the Netpliance I-Opener. The company sold the computer at a loss, expecting that everyone that bought one would be subscribing to their service and they eventually would make up the loss. When people started buying them and not subscribing to the service, their business began to fall apart.

      Risks such as the one that Netpliance took is all part of a free market. If you take the risks and sell a worthwhile product, you are rewarded with profits. The "intellectual property market" in not a free market. It is very much regulated.

      With the IP law fiasco, the government takes many if those risks away. At one time, there was a benefit to the government stepping in and protecting intellectual property. But now, as IP laws give publishers* more and more protection, they're chipping away at your rights as a consumer and the ideal of a free market that everyone points to.

      * I say publishers because beneficiaries to the latest IP laws are not those who actually create the work but the publishers that releases those works.
    • "free market" (what I consider to be a political doctrine on the border of being a religious belief)

      Also competing with the world's major religions is the doctrine of "godvernment." This is the belief that ordinary fallible human beings suddenly get transformed into infallible agents of the divine the moment they get elected to public office, and who are then able to run your life much better than you can run it yourself. The amazing thing is that the economy actually works despite all the tinkerers in power.
  • by CaptainAlbert ( 162776 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @10:07AM (#2993703) Homepage
    James Rogan, director of the U.S. patent office:

    > "The entry of patent law into these areas was
    > greeted with predictions of disaster,"
    > said "Yet the United States is the
    > international leader in [software] and other
    > technological areas."

    The U.S. is the richest nation in the world. It was the international leader in software and other technological areas long before software patents reared their ugly head. But Mr. Rogan sounds surprised...

    "How can this be? The U.S. has passed laws that allow us to arrest foreign programmers whose code we dislike and throw them in jail! We put export restrictions on encryption software! We grant patents on algorithms that are then included in ISO standards! We allow corporations to rip off huge quantities of code and call it "the Windows (R) network stack", and give them laws to allow the prosecution of anyone who makes unauthorised copies of it! How come we're the world leader?"

    > "A return by competition regulators to viewing
    > IP rights with a 1970s-era suspicion would risk
    > interfering with these market-based incentives
    > to innovate."

    Market-based incentives to innovate are only incentives to the people involved in the marketing. You can't persuade an inventor to "invent more" by offering cash. You can only persuade firms to invest more in R&D, which isn't quite the same. Just as musical people would write and perform music whether or not they ever had a chance of becoming millionaires, so creative people would continue to create and invent. This is particularly true of software, where the cost of distribution is virtually nil. The deal is - money is (or should be) the means of exchange, not an end in itself.

    The crunch comes with patents on drugs, where the initial investment is so large. There will never be (if you like to think in these terms) a medical-research Linus Torvalds to play the role of nemesis to the evil Glaxo-Smithkline, because you need more than a couple of PCs and some skill to cure cancer. I think this is a much more interesting and important area, and one that's a lot less easy to solve in the long run.

    I dunno.

  • Software should not be able to patent. Its far to easy to solve a problem and take patent on the problem rather than the way to solve it. One-click from Amazon is an excellent example of patenting the problem (buying with a click). I wouldnt have opposed if it had been a patent on HOW to make one-klick working. Software is to fluid to be mesured up by a patent office because of the extremaly many ways to solve a specific task. Many of those ways fall under patent that hasnt anything with the patent at all, they just solve a problem in one of many ways possible.

    I say, if they still want software patents then narrow them down so specific that they only patent real code and no just air like BTs patent on hyperlinks (or what you can call it).
  • Look, it's not the Intelluctual Property I have a problem with. Come up with a new idea? Great! If it's something worthy of it, than that person by all means deserves a Patent for the concept.

    What I have a problem with, is people being awarded common-sense patents. OOoo! I had this great idea, that if instead of making a user click "Check-Out", then go through all the horrible tedious screens to do so, I'll make a one-click idea!!

    Even better are the people who claim years after the fact that something becomes popular that they had the idea in the first place. Nothing explemifies this better than British Telecoms claims over the Hyperlink. If you had such a great idea in the first place, maybe you should have implemented it somehow. Or at the very least, at least keep posted on what's happening in the Real World with it. You mean to tell me that you had this patent since 198x/199x (not positive of the right date and too lazy to look it up) and you are just noticing now that it is being used massively on the Internet? Cut me an f-ing break.

    Again, you come up with a great idea/new invention, than hey--I think you should be rewarded; but an onus falls upon those people as well to protect themselves if it's really that innovative.

    Seriously, the patent office needs massive reforms. They need to start taking a serious look at what they are awarding patents for and really how innovative of an idea this is. How about going out on a limb and hiring some knowledgeable tech people that can check technology patents over before we award them?

    As far as the MPAA and RIAA go, I hate them with a passion. Yeah, that's flamebait right there. I think they have far too much lobbying power (how else could we have gotten the DMCA out there). I do however think it is important for Artists to have some of protection (ie. a Union, which they have). The RIAA and MPAA are just the representation of more Big Business Interests who really care nothing about what happens to their artits. Intelluctual Property? Bah, as long as they can milk more money out of us, they're happy.

    Honestly as optimistic as I'd like to be, I just can't see anyting really positive happening from this. Bush's Cabinet is just too far in the pocket of big business to really care about Fair-Use or any of those worrysome consumer ideas.

    But Bush has an 85%+ approval rating. Boy do I hate the knowledge and ideals of the majority of voters in the US. (I talked to someone yesterday who was angry that he missed the last election. 2001? Huh? No, that one with Gore and Bush--that about sums it up for me.)
  • by cperciva ( 102828 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @10:26AM (#2993798) Homepage
    Stupid patent examiners are a problem.

    There are certainly some ideas which are sufficiently new and non-obvious that they deserve patent protection. I think the Fast Fourier Transform would have been one of them. But right now there's a huge number of patents being issued for stuff which is neither new nor non-obvious... and that is where the problem lies.

    Let's take an example... searching for patents which include the phrase "hash table" in their title reveals ten patents [].

    The first patent (Dec 2001) is on a hash table which uses key mod N as an index and stores key div N inside the hash bucket (instead of storing the complete key). Hello set-associative content addressable memory. Every major cpu manufacturer has prior art on this one.

    I can't make any sense out of the second patent.

    The third patent is on using a hash table inside a switch to speed up finding a MAC address/port combination. Obvious to anyone with a background in algorithms: If you want to find something quickly, stick it in a hash table.

    The fourth patent is on using two hash tables, and placing records into the second if they encounter a collision in the first. Prior art: Any 1st year data structures & algorithms textbook.

    I can't make any sense out of the fifth patent.

    The sixth patent is on inserting data into a hash table by writing the data first and the key last, in order to maintain thread safeness. Obvious to anyone who has written multi-threaded code.

    The seventh patent is on growing and shrinking a hash table when it gets too full (or empty). Prior art: Any 1st year data structures & algorithms textbook.

    The eighth patent actually looks like something intelligent; the ninth patent seems to be a duplicate.

    I can't make any sense out of the tenth patent.

    Ok, so out of nine distinct patents, we have five which should clearly have never been granted based on prior art or obviousness; three which I can't understand; and one which looks to be worthy of patent protection.

    Here's an idea: If the USPTO grants a patent, and someone later demonstrates prior art or obviousness, the person who invalidates the patent should get to claim all the fees paid by the patent filer. I have a feeling that if this happened, we'd see a very rapid deflation in the number of dumb patents on the books.
    • Imagine a world, where you can take the source code from any program ever written and add it to your own.

      This would improve innovation because less time would be spent reinventing the wheel. You'd have better higher quality programs, you'd have more programs.

      It will be proven via the success of linux, that patents on software is bad for progress.

      Ever wonder why Linux in a few years caught up to Windows in every area except maybe 1 or 2? Its because in linux everyone shared software. Because its open source, people didnt have to reinvent the wheel even though they still do, people dont have to.

      Now imagine a world where billions of people are programmers all writing solutions to problems, programming would turn into "Insert solution here for search algorithm" "Insert solution here for distributed networking" "Insert and combine solution here to create new solution"

      It would make programming more like science or chemistry, it would be mixing and matching, combining and building, and less design issues and problem solving. Programs would be less buggy, would run faster, the quality level would increase and because people dont have to reinvest the wheel the innovation would increase. There would be more programmers because programming would be easier, and last but not lease a program would run in all Os's because all Os's are open source and compatible with each other.

      This is the world we'd have without IP.
    • Better idea: Anyone who files a bogus patent application gets to pay off the challenger. You can challenge a patent by:

      1) Send a certified letter to the patenter, listing the prior art or other reasons you believe all or part of the patent is invalid. They have six months to respond by either sending you a check for $10,000 and informing the patent office to withdraw the patent, or to decide to go to court and defend their patent.

      2) If you win in court, the patent-filer pays court costs, expenses, legal fees, and a bonus to the legal fees comparable to what contingency-fee lawyers get.

      3) If the patenter sues someone else for infringement and loses, they have to pay as in #2.

      4) Add other reasons for losing a patent: Failure to inform others that the process, device, or whatever is patented before it becomes industry standard practice. Writing claims so broad as to take in much prior art even if there are unique elements to the patent. Patenting something that you did not and could not make work at the time of filing the application.

      For example, the BT "hidden page" patent. They are suing now claiming hyperlinks infringe this -- 26 years after their first patent application, 22 years since they received their British patent (it expired in 2000), and 13 years after receiving their American patent. This patent is so old it refers to selecting the link with a "keypad", not a mouse. But 1976 (the date of their first patent application) is still 20 years after the first public discussion of something similar to hyperlinks. Why do they pursue a case so weak -- there's nothing to lose except lawyer's time, and probably the lawyers are on salary anyhow. If they might have to pay you a bonus plus all your expenses for demolishing their case, they might reconsider. And under #4, there would be no prima facie case -- the judge would look at the dates, toss it out, and fine them for wasting everyone else's time.
  • IP Rights (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hackus ( 159037 )
    Right now patents in the software industry represent a security threat to the US economic interests long term. Countries who do not recognize software patents (or for that matter EULA's) will arguably have a faster rate of innovation than the US.

    I can name a few that already are on thier way to killing our home grown software industries:


    Linux wasn't invented in the US, and it is fast becomming a economic boost to those countries that can't afford to pay patents to Microsoft or the licensing fees. Linux does not recognize patents as a viable way to obtain money for software. No one in thier right mind would invest the kind of money required to obtain a better OS than Microsoft's in the US market with the current monopoly.

    Which is my point, innovation has basically stopped in the OS market for the past 8 years in the United States.

    Is this healthy for the market with 1 or two competitors?

    Is this healthy long term for the US goverment that relies on economic activity to fund its Armed forces?

    No I don't think it is.

    Linux is based on an entirely new economic concept of "writing software is more important than the software itself." Therefore, people are at the center of this new economic model, not the software end product.

    My concern, is that we defeated the USSR through economic means, as they represented a view of the world we didn't like. The US and such nations as up and comming China and India, who do not recognize patents or licensing, and who do not enforce it, could easily defeat the US eventually with a free market in those countries that do not have our limitations of doing business.

    Long term monopolies represent stagnation both in invester stock evaluations and a very dangerous threat if something is introduced from the outside into a monopoly market that we have no control over and changes the rules to that market.

    I suppose we could resort to bombing 1/3rd of the worlds population (India and China) if they don't accept our ways of doing business, but I do not think that would be wise if the US wants to stay an economic power.

    In the end, patents and licensing are not in themselves bad, as long as they don't put up walls in the market place, and as long as the laws of the country in which they reside recognize this fact and enforce them to the ends of creating a competitive market.

    This is where AntiTrust laws come into play over monopolies and this is no longer the case in the United States. These laws have failed in the past decade with respect to the US software industry. As a result we have a very unhealthy market, where value is low, and prices are very very high.

    Why have these laws failed?

    In the US, increasing business buyouts of government elected officials and thier cohesion with the wheels of business, are proving to be a real long term business threat to the US economy. Patent laws are not being used to the ends in which they were designed and AntiTrust laws are being blatently ignored.

    The Enron scandal in the US is the tip of the Iceberg, in my opinion. Our government's unwilling recognition of the "Microsoft problem" and what to do about is are far more telling about how money and the US government are intertwined now days with business.

    Patents are now a tool that:

    1) Is designed to stamp out any startup capital that creates or designs new innovative solutions that would invalidate an existing patent.

    Legally, most startups fold immediately. The tax revenue and the job's lost are incalcuable to the United States long term tax base.

    I read about it all the time. X number of employees leave Y company and Z company is gone in 14 months because Y company killed Z in court.

    2) It is very difficult to invest in such a patent world because you don't know if your money is going to be safe in a company attempting to break into an existing market. (Beyond what you think is a good idea of a product or not. You essentially have to have a lawyer to be an investor. Investing shouldn't be that hard.)

    Patents do not encourage investment in a monopoly market. Worse, it would be better not to invest in the US, I think I will put my money over in China or India. (etc...)

    3) Prices are cheaper in a monopoly market? Of course not. Long term, the interests of consumers are affected.

    It is increasingly becomming clear that the US is heading for a collapse of Titanic proportions in my mind. Increasinging stagnation in a variety of industries from software to hardware business is increasingly becomming entangled in politics.

    Influencing government to keep markets static, keeping conditions poor for long term growth.

    (i.e. Compaq and HP merger is just another example of real BAD ideas...being endorsed on a wide scale from Washington.)

    Long term the Giant will awaken and squash the US high tech software industry like a bug if we don't start waking up ourselves and realize that our long term safety as a country is at stake.

    The US government always has exceptions to rules of its "Hands Off" policies with regards to business. But in the end, when monopolies drive up prices, and squash long term new technologies in the name of keep the market "business as usual", one must realize exceptions to these rules need to be enforced for the betterment and health of the market place.

    The government exists to level the playing field in business, to make it fair, to insure everyone plays by the rules and opportunity abounds.

    Not too close markets too a few individuals in business.

    In the end IP rights I believe are an archaic view of the world of technology. They will be increasingly hard to enforce as nations shuch as China and India grow up and learn that they can change the rules very quickly, without our help.

    IP rights focus the importance of doing business and what is of value on the end product instead of the company or people creating the IP. I don't believe this way of doing business will survive long term, given the fast maturity rates of China and India in the free trade block, high tech sector.

    Once you had a taste of Linux as they say, you never go back.



  • "Why do we find ourselves issuing as many patents as we do?"

    Because both the patent office and the courts have forgotten why patents exist.

    In every case of IP assertion (whether it's a patent or a copyright or whatever), you have to ask, "How does this fit with the purpose of IP?" Do that, and everything is just fine and dandy. Copyrights for stuff written in the 1960s or earlier, predatory patents that "surround" other patents to make them impossible to use, patents on "obvious" things, etc. all go flying right out the window. And IP will exist and inventors and creators will still have incentive.

  • by Sabalon ( 1684 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @11:56AM (#2994269)
    A few years ago, McDonalds (I believe they were the first - if not, it still works) introduced the "Extra Value Meal". The idea is instead ordering a sandwich, maybe fries, maybe a drink, they tie all three together so it is a better deal than if you bought each seperatly. This way you WILL get fries and a drink. So they sell you three items for a quarter or two more than the two items you would have bought before. Because profit margins on fries and drinks are so high, it's not like they lose money.

    So, next thing you know every fast food place from Dairy Queen to Burger King to Wendys has various meal deals by various names.

    Did they all pay McDonalds a royalty for bundeling items together? I seriously doubt it. They looked at a business model and implemented it themselves.

    Now...Amazon comes along and someone has the bright idea of "lets store the customer info so when they want something they don't need to fill that info out again". A wonderful new idea? Probably not...I'm sure tons of places have regular customers who the owners know and can have everything taken care of just by the customer calling up and saying "Hey Bob, I need another x number of y's". Bob knows his customer and ships them to the usual place with the usual billing. Probably been going on for years on end.

    All Amazon did was to expand this system to all of their customers and cut down on the human part - which is what computers do well anyway.

    So why shouldn't b&n, and every other company out there be able to do the same thing? Hey...look at that business idea...does it work - well hell, lets do it as well...just the same way as we take the old crap and mark it way down as clearance to move it so we don't take a loss---just like every other store.

    I could see if B&N stole amazon's code, did a s/amazon/b&n/g on it and put it into place, but why should amazon be able to patent an idea they had. A segway, I can see where there would be a patent on that - they guy came up with an idea and actually implemented it, and patented that. I don't believe the patent is for "platform on wheels that moves".
    • You can hardly attribute the "complete meal at a single price" idea to McDonald's. Go back a hundred years or so, and this was the practice at most food servers, only more so -- you paid a fixed amount, and they tossed some of whatever they were cooking that day onto a plate.
  • Spooky prediction (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @12:29PM (#2994478) Homepage

    The Great Rogerborgio will use his mysterious powers of prediction to determine what will happen in this debate:

    • Much confusion between strictly limited copyright on specific content (good), unlimited time copyright (bad), the protection of ideas (very bad) or even the protection of markets (pronounced "corruption").
    • Kindergarten comments about how you need to pay for content, or you won't get good content. Flick through your 100 cable channels. Find the one channel with quality original (first showing) content. Explain why you are paying for 100 channels at that moment, or why the good content should only get 1% of your money. You're not paying for content, you're paying for access to 100 channels running commercials intersperced with "content breaks" to keep your eyes on the screen. The model is already broken. Advertisers or marketing execs decide how much money we're going to give them, then the content producers churn out exactly enough content to convince us that we've got our money's worth.
    • Much ranting about fair use by people who have never so much as read a brief overview [] of it, and who probably don't even know how copyright [] actually works.
    • "Write your elected representatives" / "Don't write your elected representatives, they're all corporate whores, do XYZ instead" / "Stop writing this on here and go do something useful" / "No, you go do something useful" / "No, you go do something useful" (...)
    • Much sound and fury about IP in general, none of which will translate into WIPOUT [] essays.

    Flame away, but far better if you get over to WIPOUT [] and actually write it down where someone other than the /. regulars might read it.

  • Congressman: Is that a letter about the IP and copyright hearings?

    Staffer: Yes it is,. We've received quite a few today.

    Congressman: Wait a minute, is that some white stuff on the envelope.

    Staffer: No, I don't see anything. Are you sure?

    Congressman: Yes I think it is, quick throw it out.

    Staffer: Uh, are you sure? We've gotten quite a few letters about the hearings

    Congressman: Yes, quick throw out all the mail. We can't take any chances.

    A few days later...

    AP Wire: pparently is reporting that it's readers have sent over one million letters to their congressman, but none ever received a reply.

  • FTC and JD Holding Hearings on IP

    Maybe the FTC finally realized that they were *drinking* JD when they came up with some of the current IP restrictions that are in place...

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments. -- Earl Wilson