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PTO Requests Working Model of Warp Drive 277

aborchers writes "According to Patently-O: Patent Law Blog, the PTO has requested a working model of a Warp Drive for which a patent was recently applied. From the article, "Among other rejections, the Examiner has asserted a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 101 for lack of utility -- finding that the invention is inoperable." At least one examiner is paying attention!"
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PTO Requests Working Model of Warp Drive

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 19, 2006 @11:34AM (#14754642)
    If they actually turn something in..
    • If they actually turn something in..

      Then I wouldn't be surprised if the inventor begins with "Greetings, hoomans!"
    • If only... If only...
    • Won't there be a problem if they try to operate it inside the atmosphere, or at the bottom of a gravity well?

      Just speculating on the availability of appropriate test facilities, to prove that the device actually works. Good try on the part of the alledged inventor.

    • > If they actually turn something in...

      or if the PTO dusts off some shelf and discovers this patent was actually granted to Worsley and Twist back in 1836 as well.

    • by Keebler71 ( 520908 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @05:37PM (#14756496) Journal
      More so when you read the fine print and realize that the patent was filed by 3D Realms []!
      • The (actually rather large type at the top of) the USPTO page lists the inventors as Worsley, Andrew Peter; (Kent, GB) ; Twist, Peter John; (Tortola, GB). I'm assuming you're making a joke, but I'm wondering what connection those who modded you 70% informative saw between these people and 3D Realms. I don't see one, and googling variations on the names brings me the blog, but nothing about 3D Realms or Duke Nukem Forever.

        I probably just got trolled, and someone is probably laughing his ass off at my expen
  • Now I've got some time to finish mine.
  • by kote-men-do ( 881870 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @11:38AM (#14754661)
    I have a working model, but unfortunately it's stranded a couple of galaxies away. I can give you directions though, would that suffice?
  • by MarkByers ( 770551 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @11:40AM (#14754666) Homepage Journal
    This would be an example of a useful patent, if only it were true.
  • by argoff ( 142580 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @11:40AM (#14754667)
    .... that way we won't get harrassed with frivolous lawsuits when it becomes a reality 20 years + down the road.

    Essay: A Violent Protest Against Patents []
  • by Musteval ( 817324 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @11:46AM (#14754696)
    Thank you for this useful insight into my online rights. Keep up the good work, slashdot! :)
  • by JoeGee ( 85189 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @11:49AM (#14754711)
    Warp engine designer: it's nice to see the time cube guy [] has a day job.
  • by turtleAJ ( 910000 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @11:50AM (#14754716)

    Hello Earthlings,

    I'd like to inform you, that ony of my many clients has in posession the MWOCPT titles to all kinds of warp drives. I think that if you where to see the patent, you'd understand we've got everything covered. Obviously, you (Earth) haven't developed gravity control yet... so, because of evolutionary "process" clauses in the Federation, we can't show you the patent. Besides... it's a 18.65TB PDF.

    It's quite obvious that all your human efforts will fail, until you attaint a little bit of element 115. I'll leave you with that. Just so you know, the Orion Confederation doesn't take lightly to violations of Intellectual Property.

    Thank you very much for your attention, and I hope this doesn't repeat itself,

    Presently @ MilkyWay.Sol.3 (aka, Planet Earth)

    BTW: If you want to survive the next galactical gravity fabric quake, we suggest you hurry up your nanotechnology advances...
  • Dumb question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bombula ( 670389 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @12:02PM (#14754772)
    Here's a dumb question from a non-lawyer: how long do patents last? Forever? I ask because if a patent only lasts 15 or 50 or 100 years or whatever, what sense does it make to patent something - even if it's essentially just an idea - if your protection is likely to expire before you take anything to market?
    • I don't know about the time, but the purpose of a patent is to get investors interested in your idea. If you don't have a patent, they won't take your seriously, because if you didn't bother to patent it, it can't be a good idea, right? :)

      So, the goal would be to get some capital and within a few years, bring it to market. (Some people have said they last 20 years... I doubt it would take 20 years to bring a product to market... really) Then you make your fortune before the patent expires. By the time it ex
    • Well, you'd go down in the history books as having patented the warp drive for one thing. Which he will do, regardless of whether his patent is later overturned or not, or whether he ever commercializes or not.

    • Re:Dumb question (Score:4, Insightful)

      by slashname3 ( 739398 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @02:25PM (#14755357)
      Not so dumb. Personally I have been hoping that they finish patenting everything in the next few years. Then in about 50 to 100 years they will look back on this period of time as a second dark age, where the patent laws were used to squelch advances and prevent deployment of many useful inventions. But once they have patented everything they will run out and all those ideas will be released to people that can actually use them to deploy real products and make the advances that will improve things for every one.
    • Um...I don't know many products that take 100 years to take to market.
    • 20 years. A lot of things are not patented because of the time restriction i.e. the Coke formula. People use trade secrets instead.

    • Re:Dumb question (Score:5, Informative)

      by cpt kangarooski ( 3773 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @02:48PM (#14755457) Homepage
      For patents being filed now, they last 20 years from the date they were filed. This is plenty of time to get to market, and remember that you may be able to make improvements and get patents on them so that even when the first patent runs out, you've moved on and your competitors are still in a less advantageous position. Likewise, the reputation you build while you have the patent can provide you with an advantage in the future. For example, patents on drugs such as prozac or viagra will eventually expire, making generics available, but many people will stick with the brand-names they're used to, even if they have to pay more for exactly the same thing.
    • .. so that when it becomes possible to impement the idea, nobody else can patent it.

      e.g. a warp drive becomes possible in say 2046 - and the patent on the warp drive expired in 2023 because it was granted in 2006.


  • Proposal (Score:5, Funny)

    by m33p ( 635261 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @12:04PM (#14754777)
    Dear Friend, I am Mr Andrew Peter Worsley and I have an important business proposition for you. On December 12th, 2001, while testing my Warp Drive (patent pending) transport, the ship was stranded in Galaxy N37 due to technical difficulties. The patent office is now demanding that I show it to them before they will approve my patent. But unfortunately, I spent my last penny developing the prototype! As you can see, this patent would be very valuable, and recovering my ship would be a good business investment. I am currently lookinging for investors to gather the $35,273,000 needed to recover the ship. etc, etc, etc... Awaiting your urgent reply. Thanks and regards.
    • Re:Proposal (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 19, 2006 @12:33PM (#14754896)
      Fortunately I just got some emails from some very nice people in Africa that have a large sum of money they are willing to split with me. Maybe I should hook them up.
  • Let's get started, shall we? Warped time is a-wasting:

    1. It should be no problem building a working prototype of this thing -- once they find a supply of dilithium crystals.

    2. Cap'n, she canna work in her current condition. Impulse is the best I can give ya!

    3. ?time warp engines these mean you do What

    Take it away ...

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @12:09PM (#14754795)
    Well, it's nice to see that at least someone applied some brain before passing a patent. Unfortunately, it's not always so easy.

    My guess is that normally, the patent clercs simply shake their heads, say "don't understand it, but since they wanna patent it, it's prolly working" and pass it. In this case, though, at least "warp drives" are so well known to be science fiction and far from a working model, that it rang someone's alarm bell.

    I wonder, though, if a quantum singularty drive would have been shot down as well. It's not really common knowledge anymore that those don't work (yet) either. Worse yet, they won't be used in Federation starships.

    I really sometimes wonder what kind of approval course a patent has to go before becoming patent. Does anyone who has a clue take a look at all?
  • Solution (Score:5, Funny)

    by hool5400 ( 257022 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @12:09PM (#14754796)
    Just call it a software warp drive, or even just include the word software somewhere in the application. Just watch the bastard fly throught the application process.
  • Reading the patent.. (Score:4, Informative)

    by bigattichouse ( 527527 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @12:09PM (#14754797) Homepage
    seems a bit overdone, I think they pretty much explained freshman quantum physics in the first part... but if you skip down to the bottom, it makes a smidgeon of sense.... I wouldn't doubt that the actual solution is something similar to this, but the problem they would have is that (if the whole electron bit is true) is the immense forces on the armatures and the internal superconductor. Theres a problem is that if you try to push strong magnetic fields into a superconductor, they tend to break down (the property of superconductivity, not the actual ceramics).. so when this thing (if its even possible) starts to lift, it will likely collapse the superconductivity of the internal sphere, and it would fail to lift. You'd still see the difference on a scale, but I would doubt you'd ever get off the "launch pad" in the next 50 years.
  • by HotNeedleOfInquiry ( 598897 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @12:10PM (#14754800)
    Where you rotate a superconductive sphere 1 meter in diameter 1,500,000 rpm. That'll work.

  • I bet that (Score:5, Funny)

    by g0bshiTe ( 596213 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @12:10PM (#14754804)
    that clerk is a /. reader.
    • James Maxwell Clerk?
    • "I bet that the clerk is a /. reader."

      You posted that in jest, and got moderated as funny, but that isn't such a stretch. If you go to Groklaw and read the reports by people who were at the patent reform conference, you'll see that at least one patent examiner present at the meeting mentioned Slashdot as a good source of prior art information.

      Slashdot ran a previous story on the warp drive patent application, so it's not unthinkable that the application was reviewed by a Slashdot reading patent examiner.
  • Hmm....either the PTO is waking up and doing something it should do for a majority of it's patents (NTP vs RIM anyone??) or NASA has looked at this and said....WOW....we could USE THIS!

    On the otherhand, I don't believe for s second that this guy really has invented a WORKING FTL drive.
  • Based on my experience with the Patent Office, even if they were presented with a working model it would still take them four years to process it.

    -- Scott
  • by the_wesman ( 106427 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @12:28PM (#14754875) Homepage
    hi - at my company, we hold a lot of patents. In fact, there's a program in which people at the company can submit patent ideas and our legal department checks them out and sees if they exist/are viable/etc. I submitted one last year (that already existed - damn) and while speaking with one of the lawyers he mentioned, quite empatically, that whatever is being patented does not actually have to exist. According to him, you can patent a process or software or hardware that has no working proof of concept. I think the idea of submitting a patent on something that can never exist is pretty lame, but on the other hand, I don't think that people should be allowed to call dibs on patents just so they can wait for somebody else to do the work and then sue them. It's tough to find a same medium. how close is too close (or too far) from the realization of an idea for it to be patented?
  • Patents on "ideas" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cyberlotnet ( 182742 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @12:40PM (#14754916) Homepage Journal
    I have no problem with people getting a patent on an "idea" or software concept as long as the person can

    1. Show no prior art
    2. Has intent to use said patent.

    Patents are meant to protect a inventory from LOSS due to stealing of a persons idea. They where never meant as a profit center.

    I should not be able to think up and idea and then just sit on it until someone else decideds to try and use it.. Wait even longer then sue them for using it once they are worth money.
    • 'stealing of a persons idea'

      It's not "stealing" because when you copy someone else's idea, you do not take that idea away from them. They still have the idea after you have copied it.
      • I might be missing something here, but I was reading a business model essay from ~1995 a couple of weeks ago. One company specifically mentioned was Sony. They've come up with some really incredible ideas and made them into products - like the Walkman. Patents were never within the scope of this paper, but the author talked about how Sony wanted to stay on top and to do so they continued to innovate and create new products. Other companies cloned their products and sold them as knock offs. I really don
      • If a company copies someone elses idea and puts out a matching product they directly affect the original persons ability to make money, so in sense they "steal" the original persons oppurtunity to profit from there idea.

        But then I would guess your someone who copies music from the internet and other people because its not "stealing" and therefore with your logic your not hurting anyone.

        A persons choice to download instead of purchase and support the artist, and there family is not "stealing", your just maki
  • Whatever happened to the guy who submitted football diagrams for inventing the first CPU before everyone else? He's one of those "I got a patent after the fact and you're gonna give me money to avoid a lawsuit" type.
  • Whoaaaa (Score:2, Funny)

    by Joffy ( 905928 )
    The Phantom of the Opera wants a warp drive?
  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @02:03PM (#14755257)
    Just grant him the patent. Then, if there's anything real there, the patent will have expired by the time anyone has to worry about it.
  • At least one examiner is paying attention!

    They'll probably submit it a few more times, with different titles and slightly different wording, until they hit a patent examiner who's not paying attention. Then they'll withdraw the others.

    Or maybe they won't withdraw them. If I have N slightly differently-worded patents on the same thing, can I sue someone N times for violating all of them, and collect N x damages?

    IANAPL, but it'd be nice to know such things, to get an idea of just how absurd the patent law t
  • Stark contrast.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by mavenguy ( 126559 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @02:32PM (#14755376) how this space drive patent application [] was treated. When this earlier patent was discussed on Slashdot [] I made a comment [] discussing how the patent just sailed through without a single question being raised about operability.

    The difference? I can't really determine the exact reasons, not being privy to the cirumstances surrounding the prosecution of each application, but one fact is that each was examined by a different examiner. I can speculate on the disparity of treatment, however. It is another fallout from PTO management's 30+ years of emphasis on meeting production and timeliness goals over substantive quality aspects of examination, quality meaning finding and applying relevant prior art and passing judgement on issues such as operability (I don't include aspects such as including software and business methods as patentable subject matter or creating a high standard of proof to support obviousness rejections, since these have been imposed externally by the courts).

    The PTO's response to issues of quality has been to establish an entire subbeaurocrocy dedicated to "Quality Review", which has all the pitfalls of centralizing such essential values outside of the main operation. The main failure is how one expects a small core of people, no matter how expert they are in the examination process, to possess the same depth of knowledge as even a mediocre examiner in a give art. PTO management then compounds this with a punitive aspect; if QR "kicks back" an application the examiner will get charged with an error, yet the QR reviewer doesn't have the same kind of production pressure as the working examiner to grind out cases; telling someone "you should have spent more time searching this case" isn't particularly helpful if it doesn't explain how one chooses the other applications from which this time should have been taken.

    The negative publicity concerning examination quality has, finally, reached the attention of PTO's upper level management, but, it is an open question if they will recognize that just heaping more "review" on the process will not actually result in an improvment, but that a fundamental return to the ethic of a genuine quality examination is the way to go.
  • ...that is, warp drive ? Hell, let them work on it if they want. We should patent the software and its interfaces that would control a warp drive, from every possible angle and aspect. That way it won't matter if they can patent a warp drive, they won't be able to use it unless they pay you bucks/engine :) learn from MS, and you shall be rich :P

  • When they finally bring in the Working model and those comedy Dollar signs replace their pupils ..
    just at that moment some Vulcans will come to earth and we will enter a new era of utopian communism .
    Thus any point the patent had will be worthless , they simply can not win.
  • You can't patent the same thing twice. If they passed the patent today, by the time the warp drive is invented it would be expired and nobody would be able to patent the drive then.
  • Come on, IBM and Microsoft must have already patented that, they already are up to Borg technology and Transporters.
  • PatentDot ??? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by martyb ( 196687 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @05:29PM (#14756447)

    How about a Slashdot for Patents???? Given the knowledge and interest I've seen displayed here, and the fact that the SlashCode is available, I really think this could work!

    Features: Here's a rough, back of the envelope, sketch of how it could work:

    1. Getting patents A demon could periodically check the USPTO site, and create an article for each new patent application it finds.

    2. Categorizating Patents would be categorized into different "departments". Hmmm, could a Bayesian filter come up with a short list of recommendations? These could be attached to the article as options for "High-Karma" users to select (or offer something better). As soon as some threshhold (say 10 votes) is reached, the article is moved from the NEW department to the selected department.

    3. Moderating This could procede as it does here on slashdot, but the comments' focus could be to examine the patents:

      • Provide references to PRIOR ART.
      • Discuss the [IM]POSSIBILITY of the application.
      • And, of course, HUMOR would be encouraged!

    Benefits Offhand, I see this would:

    • provide a venue for those who are proficient in the area to comment
    • help the beleagured patent office, and
    • inform readers as to the workings of the PTO.

    What have I missed? I know there has to be SOMEthing! Thoughts? Ideas?

"The following is not for the weak of heart or Fundamentalists." -- Dave Barry