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Comment Re:The problem is obvious patents (Score 1) 58

Unfortunately there's no good way to define practicing versus non-practicing.

Not at all. A patent owner that really is trying to "promote the useful arts and sciences" is either trying to bring an implementation of the claimed invention to market, or is offering the patent for licensing. Virtually all patent trolls could be taken care of by requiring the plaintiff to show that they have made a good faith effort to do one of these two before they can bring a suit for infringement.

Comment Re:Clear Path to the Public Domain (Score 2) 65

This system already exists, and already functions better than it would if the USPTO were involved. If you want a patent to go into the public domain, do the following:

  1. Start a nonprofit organization, like a 501(c)(3) in the USA. Legal costs for doing so are minimal compared to the purchase price of the patent.
  2. Raise the money.
  3. Buy the rights to the patent.
  4. Either allow the patent to expire by not paying the maintenance fee, or by explicitly disclaiming the remaining term of the patent and granting the rights to the public domain.

Not only does this procedure not need the involvement of the USPTO, but it has the added benefit of you not needing to pay any more for the patent than the selling price the owner is willing to accept.

On the other hand, determining the "selling price" is not quite as simple as "150% of the development costs". The value of a patent is not that it is a way of recouping your development and patent prosecution costs; there are plenty of accidental discoveries that turned out to bring in a lot of revenue from very little development costs. The value of a patent is that it gives you an exclusive right to an invention. So the true value of a patent is the revenue it will allow you to bring in over its lifetime, from sale or licensing, or from litigation awards. Most companies also treat patent acquisition as an arms race: as long as you and your closest competitor both have big patent portfolios and are each infringing on the other's patents, and as long as patent litigation is as costly as it currently is, then you can have occasional skirmishes with out-of-court settlements being traded back and forth while avoiding an all-out infringement litigation war.

So, in neither case is a patent owner going to be enthusiastic about selling if a nonprofit shows up and says "we'd like to destroy your patent at the price of its development costs". To buy the patent, you'd have to cover the cost of anticipated revenue from that patent and the cost for having lost a deterrent against litigation.

Comment Screwed by scientific accuracy again (Score 1) 99

Oh great. It's tough enough for my introductory chem students to learn how to calculate the atomic mass of a molecule from its empirical formula when all the masses on the periodic table are single scalars. Using ranges for masses requires that they now have to add truncation, rounding, averaging, or some sort of consistent choosing to that process. They're screwed. And so is anyone who has to grade their papers (i.e., me).

Comment Re:That should go over real well (Score 3, Insightful) 202

Not necessarily. If you have prior art documents that would invalidate one or more of the claims, then you are more than welcome to file an ex parte reexamination request. That costs well less than millions of dollars.

And yes, the MPEP has been revised in light of KSR. On the other hand, Bilski is still up in the air because the Supreme Court is going to hear it next year. Believe me, there are a lot of us who want the Bilski dust to settle.

I've always found it sadly hypocritical that /. geeks who have so little patience with people making mistakes on technical issues, when said mistakes can easily be corrected by a little bit of reading, are comfortable making similarly blatantly wrong statements about the US Patent system, when said mistakes can easily be corrected my reading the freely available Manual of Patent Examination Procedure. I mean, seriously, nobody should spout opinions about patentability unless they've read MPEP 2100 through at least once. It's like trying to argue vi vs. emacs when the only text editor you've ever used is Notepad.
Linux Business

Submission + - Open Source and the Race-to-Zero (

soren.harward writes: Gene Quinn at IP Watchdog has an interesting Op-Ed about how increased Open Source adoption in a tight economy is accelerating a process that "may destroy [the] software industry". I certainly don't think things will end up as bad as he thinks they will, but I agree that we're heading into new territory that will certainly transform the industry.

Submission + - SDF Public Access UNIX System Celebrates 20 Years (

Stephen Jones writes: "The SDF Public Access UNIX System Celebrates 20 Years!

It was on June 16th, 1987 that the SDF-1 received its first caller at
300bps. This little Apple ][e BBS of the late 80s turned into a Public
Access UNIX System with the demise of "" during the
"Operation Sundevil" raids. Since then it has grown to become the oldest
and largest continually operating PUBNIX on the planet."


Submission + - The SDF Public Access UNIX System turns "20 (

arpawolf writes: ""This is a great story of people helping people an doing it in high fashion in the UNIX world." Below is the story written by its users: The SDF Public Access UNIX System turns "20"! It was on June 16th, 1987 that the SDF-1 received its first caller at 300bps. This little Apple ][e BBS of the late 80s turned into a Public Access UNIX System with the demise of "" during the "Operation Sundevil" raids. Since then it has grown to become the oldest and largest continually operating PUBNIX on the planet. Over the years SDF has been a home to 2+ million people from all over the world and has been supported by donations and membership dues. SDFers pride themselves on the fact that theirs is one of the last bastions of "the real INTERNET", out of the reach and scope of the commercialism and advertising of the DOT COM entities. It is a proponent of SMTP greylisting as opposed to content filtering and offers that as an option to its members. While access to basic services are free to everyone, lifetime membership can be obtained for a mere onetime donation of $36. And it is the members who decide which programs and features are available. The members communicate via a web free, google inaccessible, text bulletin board ('bboard') as well as an interactive chat ('com') where users battle each other in the integrated netris matches. The interface of these programs harks back to the days when TOPS-20 CMD J-SYS ruled the ARPANET. SDF has also become home to well known hackers such as Bill Gosper, Tom Ellard (Severed Heads), Geoff Goodfellow, Carolyn Meinel and Ezra Buchla, son of the father of the Synthesizer. From this pool of talent you might expect more than just computing, and you'd be correct. An annual music compilation is published featuring original music ranging from electronic noise to improvised piano sonatinas. Gosper's puzzles which he has cut at his favorite laser shop are frequently given away as membership perks or through fundraising raffles. There are always classes being taught on SDF as well, where instructors and students enjoy free access to the latest teaching and programming tools. Instructors manage their own classes in such a way as not to be encumbered by their own school's outdated utilities or computer security restrictions, which can hamper the learning process. And where else would you expect to be able to locally dialup at 1200bps from just about anywhere in the USA and Canada with a Commodore 64 and get a login prompt? SDF! As well as direct login, SDF offers PPP and PPPoE via analogue dialup (1200bps — 56kbps), ISDN and DSL. Members also have access to the SDF VPN (Virtual Private Network) and Dynamic Domain Name Service. One of the many interesting and esoteric aspects of life on the SDF-1 is GOPHER. All users have access to their own GOPHER space and a number of them continue to find it a useful way to share text and data. And if you don't want to relive that past, SDF's '' project offers a collaboration amongst members to share source and security tweaks for the latest wikis, web forums, photo galleries and blogs. SDF runs NetBSD on a cluster of 12 DEC alphas with 3 BGP'ed T1s linking it to the INTERNET. It is an annual supporter of the NetBSD foundation and the Computer History Museum (CA). One of its original incarnations, an AT&T 3B2/500, is displayed annually at the Vintage Computer Festival."

Submission + - Using the semantic web in medicine and biology (

soren.harward writes: "A couple of weeks ago, the Semantic Web Health Care and Life Sciences Interest Group of the W3C published a paper entitled "Advancing translational research with the Semantic Web". "Translational medicine" is the process of turning basic scientific research, like biochemistry and cell biology, into usable medical practices, like drugs or surgical procedures; Susan Hockfield, the president of MIT, gave a very good explanation of translational research at a drug discovery conference last year. One of the challenges to translational research is moving data between research groups in different fields, such as giving a biomedical engineer information about what kinds of plastics are best for use in an artificial joint. This paper is a significant explanation of how principles of the Semantic Web can be used to organize the mountains of data constantly generated by medical and biological researchers, and more importantly, how scientists in one discipline can find and use data created by other research groups. It's also a good demonstration that underneath buzzwords like "semantic web" and "translational medicine" are some powerful ideas that are changing biomedical research."

Comment An explanation in computer terms (Score 5, Informative) 39

Okay, let me explain for you non-biochemist computer guys what this means. Take a computer, break it down into the smallest possible parts you can. I'm not talking about the hard drive/motherboard/case level. I'm talking about the level of transistors, resistors, ICs, connectors, motors, and the little blue LED that blinks whenever your hard drive spins. Now catalog everything. Keep a record of what you found where, and how many you found (eg, you found a laser in the DVD drive but not in the motherboard). So now you have a parts list, and a good idea of what parts to expect where. If you start finding unexpected things in unexpected places (like a SCSI connector on your video card, or an audio out port on one of your DIMMs), that tells you something is wrong.

Take a look at the database entry for something common like glucose. It's got

  1. a brief, high-level description of the chemical
  2. details about the chemistry
  3. where it's found in the body
  4. details about how much of it was found in what parts of the body based on various studies that have already been done
  5. disorders it's linked to (eg, diabetes)
  6. where to go for more information

Now what's missing is a lot of information about the connections, so technically this isn't really a map (because it's missing relational data), but a catalog. We need to know how each chemical turns into another, and what does the conversion. It's kinda like having a complete parts list for the computer, but not knowing how most of the parts fit together, nor how many volts and amps to run through the wires. Some of these connections we already know. I have a very large poster on my wall illustrating the more common chemical pathways in various organisms. It's not nearly as complete as this catalog in terms of chemicals, but it's got a lot of connections.

The connections are what's really useful. To continue the computer analogy, if you know that the blue LED connects to the hard drive, then if you don't see the blue light blink, then there's probably something wrong with the hard drive. A significant number of drugs aren't active in the form that you take them. They become active when the body (usually in the liver) converts them from the delivery form to the active form. But some people, because of their genetic makeup, convert the drugs differently. They turn them into different metabolites. These metabolites might be totally inactive, or even toxic in some cases. So if you know the connecting system, you can put a drug in, look for what metabolites result, and determine whether or not that person should continue taking the drug.

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