Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×

Comment Re:Big Software Corps (Score 1) 278

I'm not sure where you get the idea that patent practitioners live in some cave of self-interest protectionism, but I'll readily acknowledge the flaws with seeking protection for what are likely obvious improvements to everything, and the lack of a good system to fully search the prior art (which goes hand-in-hand with the issue of defining the level of ordinary skill). These problems exist, but the solution isn't to do away with the whole system, not even for an area like software which is really not as unique in the grand scheme of things as software engineers would like to think. The patent system has very real, and necessary, incentives for the small innovative start up, for example. Or even the innovative megacorps.

We're doing ourselves a disservice by not tackling the issues at a nuanced level, as technologists. Fortunately, the game changers are doing just that, and working on ways to get all the prior art on the table during examination. This complaint is heard loud and clear.

Comment Re:Big Software Corps (Score 2, Interesting) 278

The infamous One-Click patent tells you everything you need to know in the name, for example. Everything beyond that core idea are just implementation details that any PHOSITA can manage.

While I disagree that One-Click is a proper example, even if it were, your follow up only agrees with what I'm saying. You feel software patents are acting to our detriment because of examples like these where any PHOSITA ("person having ordinary skill in the art," for those of you just joining us) could come up with the details. That anyone faced with the problem of constructing a system to quickly place an order would have the solution just smack them upside the head.

If that really is the case, then the flaw is again not with software patents per se, but with the obviousness standard used to evaluate them. Maybe patent examiners in this area just don't know how to think like a PHOSITA.

I agree, however, that the purpose of a patent system is to foster innovation. If it should ever work against us, it should be eliminated. I said as much in my prior point, noting that it's not that innovators "deserve" patent protection, but simply that it's determined to be useful to grant them this protection. However, keep in mind that you're measuring the detriment of the current system, warts and all, rather than one that rewards only true innovation. For every evil villain company who files for a software patent on a completely obvious widget, there's a start up that can only secure funding for his clearly inventive software product if the investors have any confidence at all that the idea won't be stolen as soon as it goes to market. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Comment Re:Big Software Corps (Score 3, Insightful) 278

The problem with your argument is that in many cases the government has given us a multitude of opportunity to be suspicious of it. There has always been a distrust of government in the US.

So, extending this distrust to all government agencies is a natural thing to do, whether it is true or not. Try bribing a policeman - a large percentage of the time, you'll end up in jail. Try bribing a politician... oh, wait.

I appreciate a healthy distrust in government. I in no way advocate trust in government, or in anyone or anything in particular. But there's a big difference between being skeptical and inflammatory without any reasonable basis. It's an issue I take to heart in the legal profession, when I see baseless accusations of fraud (or inequitable conduct in patent law, fortunately not first-hand) made without consideration of the damage it does.

And if the assumption is that everything the government does is tainted with fraud, then there's no hope you could ever do anything to fix it. Nor will the government ever be able to prove clean hands.

If that is the case, then why do they mess some patents up by not seeing prior art? Yes, mistakes happen and I suppose there is a process to work it all out. But while that process is rolling, the patent holder is out there drying up the coffers in attorneys fees of all potentially infringing users.

Well, first, there's no obligation to search prior art by anyone other than the examiner. Some very diligent clients do ask for a search, and the patents that emerge from that practice are usually downright bulletproof. But it's expensive, and with no other obligation not many people are willing to pony up. A start-up would rarely want to spend several extra thousand dollars to do a search.

Second, as a patent practitioner, it should be obvious that not being in the trenches day-to-day in the precise technical area of the inventors I work with (and the technology space is *vast*), I personally won't know off-hand if there's something else out there. Generally, the inventors would have the best idea of what's going on with the competition. And while there's no obligation to search, there is an ongoing obligation to the duty of disclosure, which means if anyone involved with prosecution of the patent (inventors, in-house counsel, myself, etc.) is aware of something relevant, it must be cited.

Third, there is a resolution process, and it's called reexamination. You don't have to litigate a patent to invalidate it, you can pay a fair fee, file your paperwork, and tell the PTO what they screwed up. This procedure has been available forever, and is vastly underused.

The patent office is working diligently on the quality problem, with pilot programs to obtain input from the general public, experts, and so on. Measures have been proposed to require searches. It's all on the table.

We all know what is and isn't broken. And even as a patent practitioner: I hear you guys and feel your pain. But, as with everything, there's a right and wrong way to go about fixing problems, and so it's frustrating to me to see the problem dismissed as *fraud* with a +5 vote on what should be a website for technical thinkers and problem solvers.

Comment Re:Big Software Corps (Score 2, Insightful) 278

This is sickening. No, not your allegations. The fact that people think like you do is sickening. You know absolutely nothing at all about the patent system, and yet you attribute this mobster mentality to it. You are simply the lowest of the low. I won't even post this anonymously.

There are mechanisms to expedite patent prosecution which are beyond your understanding, because you will never bother to research them. These are given, for example, in cases of advanced age of one of the inventors (the only time I personally, as a patent attorney, have used this mechanism). There is no large scale conspiracy, and applications I've filed for both small outfits and large megacorporations receive equal treatment. I wouldn't even know where to begin to "grease the proper hands" without having the ethics hawks descend on me with great vengeance and furious anger within the hour.

Try, please please try, to understand the machinations of government before you accuse every nook and cranny of it of corruption. The patent system is made up of scientists and engineers, and the attorneys all have these backgrounds as well.

With regard to software specifically, this movement to strip an entire category of inventions of protection lacks nuance. What I find most interesting is that its biggest proponents are people within the software industry itself, but usually not the real innovators. Are you saying software simply can't be inventive? That you can't possibly think of something in software that anyone else couldn't have thought of, even given the exact same problem set? Because boy oh boy, if that's true, we're really overpaying software "engineers" then, aren't we?

The reality is that we do grant too many software patents, but it's not a flaw with granting patents on software per se. The flaw is with a lack of a rigorous model for determining what is and isn't obvious; the difficulty of truly understanding, without hindsight bias, what the level of ordinary skill in the art is. To me, the level of ordinary skill in the art of software engineering is a lot higher than many people give it credit for, and this alone should be sufficient to render a number of claims obvious.

Stop trying to completely break what you don't understand, because despite the problems, there are a number of true innovators in software. And I won't say that they deserve patent protection, because that's not the point. But they should be given patent protection because we need to encourage that level of innovation, and you can tell where this innovation is most needed from those areas where huge gaps exist in FOSS offerings.

If you really want to change things, to truly help fix the system, UNDERSTAND IT. Really understand it. Slashdot won't help with that.

Comment Re:Brainless (Score 1) 144

It would be amusing to make Slashdot an honorary patent examiner for a day. I think a lot of posters would be shocked not by how little they know of patent law (that much is obvious), but how little they understand technology in general.

This patent may be obvious. It does look pretty broad. But it's definitely NOT for the reasons provided in the summary, as you noted.

Comment Re:What can be done? Nothing. (Score 1) 511

As I said, "Sure, you're paying for it because the merchant builds the card fees into the price of whatever you're buying, but by and large paying cash won't get you a better rate these days."

So, whether you pay cash or credit/debit (both have merchant fees), you won't save a penny. Us credit users are driving up the costs for everyone, sure, but barring some concerted effort, it's better for me to just enjoy the perks rather than "do my part" to keep prices down.

To wit, you say "those fees get passed along to you," I say they get passed along to everyone. Most merchants don't (or can't because of their merchant agreement with the card companies) price discriminate based on cash/credit.

Comment Re:What can be done? Nothing. (Score 1) 511

When I was a student, I had a card with a grace period and no annual fee. As another poster said, it was through a credit union. It had a $500 credit limit that drove me insane because they wouldn't clear pre-auths in a timely manner (meaning I could, under certain circumstances, only have a limit of $250!). But for a student, it was fine.

So yes, I suppose the one reason to use a debit card is if you can't get a *real* credit card, but that wasn't really my point :P

Comment Re:What can be done? Nothing. (Score 3, Informative) 511

In fact, not only is it a good answer, it's the only correct answer. Credit is better than cash is better than debit. Why? If you have a dispute with a merchant you paid in cash, you need to sort it out with them directly before you can get your money back. If you have a dispute with a merchant and you paid with credit, and you're in good standing with your credit card provider, then you can just have them fight it out for you and reimburse you immediately. No hassle, no worries.

I pay credit for everything I can. Absolutely everything. I have no shame whipping out a credit card for a $3 purchase if the merchant will accept it. Why should I care?

Oh, and of course, all of this requires the very simple discipline of paying off your bills every month, and thereby incurring no fees. As a bonus, you get points/miles/whatever. Sure, you're paying for it because the merchant builds the card fees into the price of whatever you're buying, but by and large paying cash won't get you a better rate these days.

Debit? Never use it. Unfortunately my ATM card HAS to also be a debit card, and there's no way to deactivate its debit usage. It's a shame. There is literally no point, whatsoever, to using a debit card. Unless, I suppose, you lack discipline, and well in that case you've got bigger problems.

Comment Re:Planning commission biased as always (Score 4, Funny) 142

How does that even work, when the universe's population is zero?

None. Although you might see people from time to time, they are most likely products of your imagination. Simple mathematics tells us that the population of the Universe must be zero. Why? Well given that the volume of the universe is infinite there must be an infinite number of worlds. But not all of them are populated; therefore only a finite number are. Any finite number divided by infinity is zero, therefore the average population of the Universe is zero, and so the total population must be zero.

Comment Re:Autopsy killed the Post office (Score 1) 297

You do know that you missed the "manually" part right in the very sentence you quoted, right? It's no different than writing out a check as far as the ability to check for errors.

I have bill pay set up through Schwab, and I get all of my reminders for services that are set up that way through their system. However, just like GGP, I am concerned about errors and forgetting. I absolutely still get paper copies of every single bill, verify the amounts, and then manually enter the payment amount through the bill pay system. The system saves the biller's information, so all I have to enter is the amount and the payment post date.

Comment Re:Go the whole hog... (Score 2, Interesting) 405

The compelling reason to use OpenSolaris is a mature ZFS implementation. That's why I use it as a home fileserver. I was running a SXCE build from early 2008 to get ZFS, but then I just blasted away my boot drive and dumped OpenSolaris on it. Imported my pool and away it went. And now the install runs on its on pool (root pool, or rpool), so things are even easier.

Different OSes do different things really well. This is one area where OpenSolaris shines.

Slashdot Top Deals

"I think trash is the most important manifestation of culture we have in my lifetime." - Johnny Legend