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Comment Re:Independence of the courts ? (Score 1) 234

But that doesn't address my point, which was: who "establishes" that something is "a problem"? If you left it up to industry, CDs would never have been manufactured.

The patent clerk would read the published articles and make a judgement call. This isn't unprecedented; a patent clerks job is to make judgement calls.

What I'm suggesting is that this kind of judgement call is easier to make than the judgement calls we currently expect patent clerks to make..

In addition, this would leave a paper trail of the "proof" that the invention is non-obvious, allowing bad patents to be reviewed after they slip through the cracks.

You would have to have some kind of "official" method of establishing what was a "real" problem, which runs into the issue I mentioned above: some people would say it was a problem, some would vehemently deny it (and maybe even back their denial with lobby money). Result: innovative ideas never see the light of day.

Never see the light of day? Hardly. There's already precedent for making patent applications public after 18 months. The result would be more things in the public domain. It might bias the system toward having too many things in the public domain, but I think that stymies inventors less than the current system where too many things become patented.

Comment Re:Independence of the courts ? (Score 1) 234

Sure, the current rules are fine as long as they're enforced properly. But maybe it's no longer possible to properly enforce them.

In order to enforce them, we need domain experts working at the patent office. Unfortunately, domain experts tend to work -- rather unsurprisingly -- in their domain, not at the patent office. In fact, I'd argue that it's rather difficult to become a domain expert if you're working at the patent office instead of in your domain.

You also focused on the prior-art portion, which seems to be the easier problem. Prior art can always invalidate a patent after the fact. We certainly need to make it cheaper to invalidate patents, but it is possible under the current system.

The bigger problem is the non-obvious requirement, because it's hard to disprove that something was non-obvious when you're saying it in retrospect.

Take US6200138. This patent was designed for the game Crazy Taxi, and describes how the game puts a "danger zone" around your car, and uses it to determine when pedestrians should jump out of the way.

I honestly can't think of an example where that was done before Crazy Taxi, but if you asked any AI programmer how to write a system where pedestrians jump out of the way of your car, most of them would have come up with this solution. What I'm proposing is that Sega would have had to come up with a published article that describes how difficult it is to make virtual pedestrians jump out of the way of virtual cars, or describes drawbacks to the existing solutions and how the patent solves them.

Comment Re:Independence of the courts ? (Score 1) 234

If you did that, you would probably eliminate most innovative patents. What "established problem" did the digital CD solve?

Most obviously, they (temporarily) solved the problem of having to swap floppies.

And yes, the fact that vinyl wore out was an established problem. Ask any archivist.

It should be fairly trivial to find published articles where authors describe these drawbacks to the then-existing alternatives.

It may not be perfect, but a patent clerk would definitely have an easier time telling if a published article is credible than if an idea outside of their domain is obvious.

Comment Re:Independence of the courts ? (Score 1) 234

I think that patent system could be vastly improved if we only accepted patents on established problems, and forced patent applicants to provide citations showing that the problem is established.

There seems to be a lot of software patents where the only reason there's no prior art is because nobody has bothered to try yet. If we only accepted solutions to established problems, then it guarantees that anybody who thinks a solution is obvious has had time to prove that it's obvious, instead of relying on patent clerks to decide what's obvious.

Comment Re:Are they confused? (Score 1) 180

The very minor orbital perturbations balance out in practical terms

Depending, of course, on your definition of "practical terms". One of our hemispheres has significantly more water than the other, which I suspect would be particularly important to anybody studying how climate changes over thousands or millions or years.

However, if "practical terms" means "with regard to global warming", then yeah, planetary wobble it's pretty far from being the prime suspect here.

Comment Re:xp still works (Score 2) 520

Eh, the Windows Vista/7 Start menu came with good changes and bad changes.

The search feature is definitely a boon, but I don't feel it's panacea. If you just want to browse the software on somebody's computer, or if you forgot the name of the program you want to run, the search feature is no help.

The really bad decision they made was to remove popout menus from the Start menu and replace them with a scrollbar. This definitely made the Start menu less usable, and I feel Microsoft's only reason for doing it was for aesthetics.

The real shame is that there was never an option to have both the search feature and the popout menus. It was always one or the other.

But the search feature is nice, because the Start menu has never been well organized, and the new Start screen is no improvement. But does it have to be this way? Linux distros have well-organized start menus. I feel like Microsoft could have made an effort to create a framework that would have fostered a well-organized menu, and we could have had the best of both worlds.

But obviously we don't live in a world where that happened, so we just type our commands into a search box. It works, but at this point we may as well be running our programs from a terminal.

Comment Re:Unusable aspect ratio (Score 4, Interesting) 94

Actually, if you like square monitors, this one is even better than a 4:3 display.

Since there's no display standard that can do 4k at 60Hz, this monitor works around that limitation by conceptually presenting itself as two 8:9 monitors side-by-side.

So not only do you get two monitors in one, but 8:9 is closer to square than 4:3.

Comment Re:why replace once you have the screwdriver? (Score 1) 260

Flathead drive doesn't have much going to it, but if your goal is to pick a screw that you can unscrew when you have limited access to tools, this is one of the few places where flatheads shine, especially if you have no screwdrivers.

Taking that to its logical conclusion, thumb screws would be even better. Who wouldn't want two thumbscrews sticking out the bottom of their phone?

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