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Comment Re:Exactly (Score 2, Insightful) 951

+1 Insightful

The creationists are doing their best to do to the word "Darwin" what the right-wingers successfully did to the term "liberal" in America: turn it into nothing but an off-the-cuff epithet for their bovine followers.

Of course, by doing this the word loses pretty much any real meaning to anyone else, but that's beside the point (or maybe that IS the point).

Feed Cure For Congenital Inability To Smell An Odor (sciencedaily.com)

New discoveries about the biochemical basis of the majority of cases of the congenital inability to smell any odor, no matter how strong, have enabled their discoverer to treat such patients, enabling them to smell something for the first time in their lives.

Submission + - TPB's secret is out: Playble.com

Anonymous Coward writes: "The Pirate Bay is set to launch new 'Playble' music subscription site, where users can decide how much they want to pay for thier subscription. First hinted at perhaps in a blog posting on The Pirate Bay's site, and then mentioned in somewhat more detail in an article in the LA Times, the famed Swedish pirates are working on a new music sharing site that "will allow users to download music by artists for free and still support them financially.""

Feed Supreme Court Makes Two Good Decisions On Patent Law (techdirt.com)

This morning the Supreme Court came down with two decisions about patent law that both take small, but extremely important, steps towards reigning in some of the worst abuses of the patent system. In both cases, it's disagreed with the position taken by the Appeals Court for the Federal Circuit (CAFC). This isn't a huge surprise, as many observers figured that the Supreme Court's recent interest in all sorts of patent cases meant that the justices weren't at all happy with the way CAFC was moving. This is a good thing, as the past twenty-five years or so of CAFC is a big part of why the patent system has veered out of control. For those who don't get into the details of these things, effectively CAFC was taken over by patent attorneys who pretty much felt that since patents were "good," more patents were "better." They continually expanded what could be patented and how much power patent holders had. This, in turn, meant that many more people and companies started filing for many more patents. While the Patent Office complains that it can't handle the load of patents, rather than hiring more examiners, the solution may simply be in reigning in the overwhelming power handed to patent holders by CAFC. Today the Supreme Court took another step in that direction.

The first case was between AT&T and Microsoft, where it was already admitted that Microsoft had infringed on the patent in question. The legal question at stake was whether or not copies of Microsoft Windows outside the US should be counted when calculating the damages. While, normally, patent infringement rules only cover within a country, there is a rule against shipping the components outside the country to be assembled somewhere else just to get around patent infringement rules. So the real question was whether or not shipping a master copy of the software abroad was shipping the "components." The Supreme Court ruled 7 to 1 saying that it was not shipping components -- and that software was more closely related to a blueprint than actual components.

This ruling is likely to cause a number of things to happen. Back when this case was first being presented to the court, one of the amicus briefs tried to show that software shouldn't be patented at all. Since this wasn't the key argument in the case, it seemed like a wasted brief, but the ruling here actually may open up the possibility for a new case that argues exactly that. That is, the court has now made it clear that they consider software to be more of a blueprint than a component, and someone else can now make the argument that, based on this, software should not be patentable. This certainly could get interesting. However, the court did also suggest that Congress may want to clean up this "loophole" so watch out for someone in Congress to slip in a ruling keeping software patents in place before the court has a chance to make more of a statement on this. More immediately, this may help Microsoft lower the amount it needs to pay Alcatel-Lucent in the separate MP3 patent lawsuit -- since approximately half of the $1.5 billion award was based on overseas sales.

The second ruling may be even more important. It's the decision on the Teleflex v. KSR case concerning the obviousness test in patents. Once again, the Supreme Court has smacked down CAFC, saying that the lower court had gone too far in embracing an incredibly strict standard in determining obviousness. This is tremendously important, as the lower court's "test" for obviousness barely exists at all. Effectively, the only thing looked at is prior art, when the law is clear that patents need to be on processes that are both new and non-obvious. If this allows the courts and the patent office to start actually looking at the obviousness of patents, it could help get rid of plenty of really bad patents.

These two rulings, combined with last year's ruling that automatic injunctions don't always make sense for patent infringement are steps in the right direction. The Supreme Court is clearly recognizing that patent law has spiraled out of control and reached an unconstitutional level, where they're being used to hinder, rather than promote, innovation. It's great to see the court now reeling in these abuses, but there's still plenty more to be done before we've cleared out the problems of the patent system. The good news is that the Supreme Court is clearly looking at the issue and clearly recognizing that the constitutional purpose of patents is to promote innovation. As Justice Kennedy noted in that Teleflex ruling: "Granting patent protection to advances that would occur in the ordinary course without real innovation retards progress and may... deprive prior inventions of their value."

A New Wireless Power Transmission Sheet 126

Roland Piquepaille writes "Several companies have started to sell power 'pads' that can charge your cellphone when you put it on the pad's surface. But these silicon-based pads are expensive — and relatively 'specialized.' Now, Japanese researchers have built a plastic sheet which could power all the devices placed close to it. So far, this 4-layer sheet, which uses printed organic transistors and plastic MEMS switches, can deliver up to 40 watts of power — enough for some laptops. The technology is apparently efficient and inexpensive to produce. But as the devices to recharge will need to incorporate a special receiver, don't expect to see these plastic power sheets on sale before several years."
It's funny.  Laugh.

Submission + - UPS' Unlabeled Liability Forms: 'Just sign it!'

Rich writes: "A popular blogger on LiveJournal recently posted a hilarious but scary story about UPS' very real practices of sending uninformed drivers to people's doors with unmarked damage liability forms after packages are damaged or lost in transit. You sign this form, and you've just accepted responsibility for the loss. I work at a Geek Squad, and they've tried to do this to me at least twice. Another friend of mine was almost put out of business after he absentmindedly signed one of these and ended up having to pay for two of the same $10K item. This is ridiculous, considering that UPS' insurance deductible is tiny, and they're worth more than $45B. Anyway, here it is: UPS' Form of Mystery"

Submission + - Phone Taps in Italy Spur Use of Encryption

manekineko2 writes: This article on the New York Times discusses how a recent rash of high profile mobile phone taps in Italy is spurring a rush towards software encrypted phone conversations. Private conversations have been tapped and subsequently leaked to the media and have resulted in disclosures of sensitive takeover discussions, revelations regarding game-fixing in soccer, and the arrest of a prince on charges of providing prostitutes and illegal slot machines. An Italian investigative reporter stated that no on would ever discuss sensitive information on the phone now. As a result, encryption software for mobile phones has moved from the government and military world into the mainstream. Are GSM phones in the United States just waiting for a similar explosion in the use of commercially-availble wiretapping technology, and could this be the impetus to finally see widespread use of software encryption in communications?
The Courts

Submission + - Many Guantanamo practices illegal

Cleveguru writes: "The U.N. Commission on Human Rights basically states in it's report that the United States isn't fulfilling it's legal obligations under treaties it has signed, and also violates practices of other treaties it has signed. In other words, the United States government is breaking it's own laws. View the Report It's interesting to note that the response from the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. at the end mentions checks and balances! This is just a prime example of when our checks and balances fail to work. In the end, it is the duty of the people to check the government itself as stated in our declaration of independence."

Feed Famous Galápagos Tortoise, Lonesome George, May Not Be Alone (sciencedaily.com)

"Lonesome George," a giant Galapagos tortoise and conservation icon long thought to be the sole survivor of his species, may not be alone for much longer, according to a multinational team of researchers headed by investigators at Yale University. New research identified a tortoise that is clearly a first generation hybrid between the native tortoises from the islands of Isabela and Pinta and has half his genes in common with Lonesome George.
Media (Apple)

Submission + - Ballmer: iPhone isn't going to get marketshare

coondoggie writes: "This is one of those statements that just may come back to haunt — if he indeed can haunted — Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. In a wide-ranging interview with USA Today, the big man, when asked about Apple's passions and its iPhone said: "There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It's a $500 subsidized item. They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I'd prefer to have our software in 60% or 70% or 80% of them, than I would to have 2% or 3%, which is what Apple might get. http://www.networkworld.com/community/?q=node/1467 0"

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Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty. -- Plato