M.S. Word is illegal because it uses XML!



  • [url]http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32389868/ns/technology_and_science-tech_and_gadgets/[/url]

    Some canadian company called i4i claims to hold a patent on the XML standard, and has successfully sued Microsoft because Word uses XML. Christ, our legal system is so screwed up.

    No doubt Microsoft will appeal, or settle, or just buy out i4i. What if i4i instead sued some small start-up who couldn't fight this? Judges who don't understand technology shouldn't be allowed to rule on cases like this. Not to mention the stupidity of granting software patents.



  •  From the patent:

    A system and method for the separate manipulation of the architecture and
    content of a document, particularly for data representation and
    transformations. The system, for use by computer software developers,
    removes dependency on document encoding technology. A map of metacodes
    found in the document is produced and provided and stored separately from
    the document. The map indicates the location and addresses of metacodes in
    the document. The system allows of multiple views of the same content, the
    ability to work solely on structure and solely on content, storage
    efficiency of multiple versions and efficiency of operation. 


    Wouldn't this cover technologies like CSS and LaTeX as well?

    Uncredible.  It's a shame after so much great software came out of Canada.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

     @Huf Lungdung said:

    What if i4i instead sued some small start-up who couldn't fight this?

    i4i wouldn't make any bloody money that way.

    The possible outcomes here are:
    1) Scare everyone who uses XML into giving them license money because Microsoft actually has to stop selling Office or license the patent
    2) Microsoft buys out the patent
    3) Microsoft buys out the "company"
    4) One of the probably half dozen idiotic software patents the company owns gets thrown out.

    You'll notice that 3 of those 4 options involves the people  running the scam making fistfulls of cash - and it'll be cheaper for Microsoft to do #2 or #3 than it will be for them to fight for #4.

     

     

    Also, that patent covers something I wrote THIS MORNING.



  • Doesn't patents have to not be based on common knowledge? You can't patent the wheel even if it isn't patented yet.



  • You could have panented the wheel

     6000 years ago! Back then it would have been a novel invention. However, I think the patent should have lapsed by now, unless someone might have submarined and extended it.....



  • Re: You could have patented the wheel

     Ahem.

     



  • FACEPALM-A-RAMA!1

     

     

    The software giant also must pay $290 million in damages to Toronto-based firm i4i

     

    @Michel Vulpe, founder of i4i and inventor of the patent said:

    We are very pleased with the terms of the final judgment. ... We feel vindicated with this result.

     

    a world leader in the design and development of XML-based collaborative content solutions and technologies.

     

    we will certainly follow it carefully and we will [...] ensure that the judgment is upheld,



  • @aihtdikh said:

    Ahem.

    Nah, can't take those kangaroophiles too seriously. They're upside-down, most of the time, gets blood rushed into your head, makes you do stupid things.



  • As I understand it, the patent in question doesn't actually "patent XML" per-se, nor does it specifically mention XML. The patent covers a system that processes a "document markup langauge" and splits it into seperate text and tag-table structures. A simple algorithm that is surely as old as SGML. Web browsers, WYSIWYG HTML editors, even RTF editors must all implement some form of this algorithm almost by definition.

    Hopefully this will lead to proper patent reform. Since one of America's largest corporations has been seriously inconvienieced and we all know that America looks after its large corporations.



  •  How is it possible to patent something as vague as this? And why stop there?

    Let's patent "a method to provide machines with set of instructions which will cause them to behave in a predictable manner", if we add some gibberish it should actually work.



  • I like how this Canadian company decided to sue an American company based in Washtington in an East Texas District Court.



  • Am I an idiot, or am I the only one who read the article? It says that they are suing over a feature that "lets users create custom XML documents", not the use of XML itself.

    Meh. Still a WTF.



  • @ajp said:

    I like how this Canadian company decided to sue an American company based in Washtington in an East Texas District Court.

    Because the Texas court is known for these kind of cases. And always in favor of the one who sues.



  • @mallard said:

    The patent covers a system that processes a "document markup langauge" and splits it into seperate text and tag-table structures. A simple algorithm that is surely as old as SGML. Web browsers, WYSIWYG HTML editors, even RTF editors must all implement some form of this algorithm almost by definition.

    Don't they use a DOM instead of a tag-table?

    From what I understand is that this is an obscure feature in Word which allows you to edit documents based on your own custom XML schema or something like that but nobody seems to know exactly what it is or how it works.



  • @derula said:

    @aihtdikh said:
    Ahem.

    Nah, can't take those kangaroophiles too seriously. They're upside-down, most of the time, gets blood rushed into your head, makes you do stupid things.

     

    Thought you might have linked to something like this. I remember when it was on TV: lots of jokes that this guy reinvented the wheel!



  • @mallard said:

    As I understand it, the patent in question doesn't actually "patent XML" per-se, nor does it specifically mention XML. The patent covers a system that processes a "document markup langauge" and splits it into seperate text and tag-table structures. A simple algorithm that is surely as old as SGML. Web browsers, WYSIWYG HTML editors, even RTF editors must all implement some form of this algorithm almost by definition.

    Hopefully this will lead to proper patent reform. Since one of America's largest corporations has been seriously inconvienieced and we all know that America looks after its large corporations.

    You must have a short memory.  Microsoft has been hit by patent trolls before (remember the browser plugin bullshit?) and the law hasn't changed.  And, really, "reform" isn't as easy as one makes it sound.  The problem is the patent office is granting patents on existing technologies and obvious inventions.  The only way to fix this is to create more red tape and bureacracy in the USPTO and by the time Congress is done with it the bill will probably also include tax breaks for unions, a toy fund for underprivileged adopted children of lesbians, foreign aid to Palestinians so they can keep killing civilians, the nationalization of a few more industries, NEA grants to "artists" making a mosaic of President Obama out of used condoms from the HIV-positive and God knows what else.

     

    Anyway, companies like Microsoft and IBM would probably prefer losing the occassional lawsuit to a patent troll to the alternative of having more hoops to jump through to get patents on useful technologies without any guarantee it will actually make things better.  I mean, the USPTO has already done such a fantastic job that vastly expanding the size of the agency and giving more oversight to bureaucrats will improve things, right?



  • It's true. Our legal system is fucked.

    I don't know how it is elsewhere, but the best example I use is how, in Texas, if someone else backs into you, you are considered at fault for failing to maintain a proper distance from their vehicle.



  • @durendal.mk3 said:

    It's true. Our legal system is fucked.

    I don't know how it is elsewhere, but the best example I use is how, in Texas, if someone else backs into you, you are considered at fault for failing to maintain a proper distance from their vehicle.

    That's the best example you can think up?  For serious?



  • Personally, what I'm wondering is why the patent troll in question didn't also sue over Excel and PowerPoint, since they both have XML-based formats which separate content from presentation as well.



  • @codeman38 said:

    Personally, what I'm wondering is why the patent troll in question didn't also sue over Excel and PowerPoint, since they both have XML-based formats which separate content from presentation as well.

    Mebbe simple-minded patent troll iz simple-minded?



  • @codeman38 said:

    Personally, what I'm wondering is why the patent troll in question didn't also sue over Excel and PowerPoint, since they both have XML-based formats which separate content from presentation as well.

    i4i have a product x4o which is an XML editor add-on for MS Word. By MS releasing the ability to edit XML files within Word they made x4o redundant and unsellable. Leading to the current annoyance that MS have to deal with.



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    And, really, "reform" isn't as easy as one makes it sound.  The problem is the patent office is granting patents on existing technologies and obvious inventions.  The only way to fix this is to create more red tape and bureacracy in the USPTO ...
     

    No, the only way to fix it is to abolish software patents.



  • @Hitsuji said:

    i4i have a product x4o which is an XML editor add-on for MS Word. By MS releasing the ability to edit XML files within Word they made x4o redundant and unsellable. Leading to the current annoyance that MS have to deal with.

     

    As if their product wasn't already redundant and unsellable.  I wonder if the judge even bothered asking for sales figures, because there's no way a product like that could be worth anywhere near $290 million.  Shave off the last zero and it's still a stretch.

    This company is stupid.  You don't want to sue Microsoft unless you have very deep pockets.  Even if i4i wins the case, it'll be 10 years before they see a single cent, and by then they'll have spent almost that much in legal fees, assuming they don't go out of business first.



  • @Aaron said:

    As if their product wasn't already redundant and unsellable.  I wonder if the judge even bothered asking for sales figures, because there's no way a product like that could be worth anywhere near $290 million.  Shave off the last zero and it's still a stretch.
     

    i4i's product worth and sales figures are irrelevent in a patent case. The damages are (should be) based on how much money Microsoft made selling infringing products.



  • @mallard said:

    @morbiuswilters said:

    And, really, "reform" isn't as easy as one makes it sound.  The problem is the patent office is granting patents on existing technologies and obvious inventions.  The only way to fix this is to create more red tape and bureacracy in the USPTO ...
     

    No, the only way to fix it is to abolish software patents.

    So your proposal is to just eliminate Intellectual Property protections for a vast portion of the economy?  What is it about software patents that makes them so undesirable to you?  I would say the problem here is being granted a patent on an obvious, non-innovative product, not the fact that software patents exist in the first place.



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    @mallard said:

    @morbiuswilters said:

    And, really, "reform" isn't as easy as one makes it sound.  The problem is the patent office is granting patents on existing technologies and obvious inventions.  The only way to fix this is to create more red tape and bureacracy in the USPTO ...
     

    No, the only way to fix it is to abolish software patents.

    So your proposal is to just eliminate Intellectual Property protections for a vast portion of the economy?  What is it about software patents that makes them so undesirable to you?  I would say the problem here is being granted a patent on an obvious, non-innovative product, not the fact that software patents exist in the first place.

    Agreed.  The problem isn't software patents, but they're application.  The problems, as I perceive them (as a noted patent attorney (and pathological liar)), are two-fold:
    1. The details of technical issues are too complex and require detailed technical knowledge in order to evaluation.  This is a problem throughout the legal system, and the old fallback of analogies has just resulted in a lot of bad analogies forming the basis for decisions.
    2. The general construction of the US patent system is to grant patents and let the courts determine if they're invalid.  This is stupid and  annoying in any field, but a serious problem when combined with #1.



  •  The root of the problem is still just too many people in authoritative positions that don't know a floppy disk from a flash drive.  



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    So your proposal is to just eliminate Intellectual Property protections for a vast portion of the economy?  What is it about software patents that makes them so undesirable to you?  I would say the problem here is being granted a patent on an obvious, non-innovative product, not the fact that software patents exist in the first place.
     

    Software is non-tangible and is essentially mathematical algorithms. It is also protected by copyright. If the algoritms are non-patentable, why is a general description of what an algorithm or set of algoritms does patentable?

    Additionally, the idea of "prior art" does not work well with software since you cannot usually inspect the inner workings of software.

    e.g. If I attempted to patent a type of gear, a car manufacturer could say that they used a similar gear in their 1972 model and produce the gear and the plans of the car to prove it. With software, it would be very difficult to prove that e.g Lotus 123 v2.0 implemented an identical algorithm for quickly searching a collection of unordered strings to a hypethetical patent, especially if the only evidence of it was a disassembly of the executable.

    Add to that that software is inherently complex and difficult for patent inspectors, let alone judges, to understand and you end up with a completely broken system.

    At the very least, software patents need an "interopability clause" that allows implementation of any patented algorithms or protocols in order to interoperate with another system, or to implement a published standard. A better solution would be the EU compromise, which only allows you to patent software as a compontent of a physical invention.



  • Probably a better solution would be for Microsoft to just print off the XML standard from W3.org and hand it to a judge.  The whole point of a "standard" is for everyone to use it.



  • @mallard said:

    Software is non-tangible and is essentially mathematical algorithms.

    Patents inherently apply to ideas.

     

    @mallard said:

    It is also protected by copyright.

    This applies to a particular implementation, not to a more general idea.

     

    @mallard said:

    If the algoritms are non-patentable, why is a general description of what an algorithm or set of algoritms does patentable?

    Algorithms probably should be patentable, at least if they are novel.  If I came up with a sorting algorithm tomorrow that out-performed everything else, why should I not be able to patent it?  Why should a company like Microsoft be able to come along and use my hard work without paying me a dime?  All this leads to is excessive secrecy which is what patents were meant to prevent in the first place.

     

    @mallard said:

    Additionally, the idea of "prior art" does not work well with software since you cannot usually inspect the inner workings of software.

     

    e.g. If I attempted to patent a type of gear, a car manufacturer
    could say that they used a similar gear in their 1972 model and produce
    the gear and the plans of the car to prove it. With software, it would
    be very difficult to prove that e.g Lotus 123 v2.0 implemented an
    identical algorithm for quickly searching a collection of unordered
    strings to a hypethetical patent, especially if the only evidence of it
    was a disassembly of the executable.

    Source code, disassembly, etc..  What's so hard about this?  How is it dramatically different than proving copyright infringement?

     

    @mallard said:

    Add to that that software is inherently complex and difficult for patent inspectors, let alone judges, to understand and you end up with a completely broken system.

    Medicine is complex but that's no argument against drug patents.  Hell, most cutting-edge science and technology (i.e. the things that patent protections should apply to) are complex.

     

    @mallard said:

    At the very least, software patents need an "interopability clause" that allows implementation of any patented algorithms or protocols in order to interoperate with another system, or to implement a published standard. A better solution would be the EU compromise, which only allows you to patent software as a compontent of a physical invention.

    Why are interoperability and implementation of a published standard reasons to ignore a software patent but not a "regular" one?

     

    Here's a thought experiment: replace any references to software in your arguments with "sophisticated cold fusion technology" and explain why your arguments are still sensible.



  • @mallard said:

     

    Software is non-tangible and is essentially mathematical algorithms. It is also protected by copyright. If the algoritms are non-patentable, why is a general description of what an algorithm or set of algoritms does patentable?

    Algorithms are patentable; LZW compression is probably the most notable example.  According to Paul Graham, the key is to not use the word "algorithm."  But even if I call a horse a pancake, it's still going to taste odd with butter and syrup.



  •  @morbiuswilters said:

    @mallard said:

    Software is non-tangible and is essentially mathematical algorithms.

    Patents inherently apply to ideas.

    No, patents apply to inventions. These stem from ideas, but are physical, tangible objects. "Ideas given form" if you will.

    @morbiuswilters said:

    Here's a thought experiment: replace any references to software in your arguments with "sophisticated cold fusion technology" and explain why your arguments are still sensible.

    Cold fusion technology is in itself non-patentable. You cannot patent the idea of a cold-fusion reactor. You may however patent a specific cold-fusion reactor design or component thereof. Just like mathematics, physics is non-patentable.

    Here's a better thought experiment: Imagine what the computing landscape would look like if software patents had been allowed since the beginning of software.

    A few things that were novel and non-obvious at the time (thus would be patentable if developed now), but have since become cornerstones of modern computing:

    • The use of a 2-dimentional pointing device to indicate the area of the screen that the user wishes to interact with
    • The use of strings of text (URLs) to reference a resource on a network and instruct an application on how to access it
    • The use of vector graphics to describe the forms of alphanumeric characters (scalable fonts)
    • The use of pictograms to represent files and folders in a file management application
    • The use of a human-readable textual grammar to describe a computer program or data format
    • ... and those are the things I can think of off the top of my head.

     



  • @mallard said:

    Here's a better thought experiment: Imagine what the computing landscape would look like if software patents had been allowed since the beginning of software.

    A few things that were novel and non-obvious at the time (thus would be patentable if developed now), but have since become cornerstones of modern computing:

    <snip="list of things">

     

    probably not too different since a lot of things were first created in academia.  And it's not like companies follow patents anyways.  The policy for obeying patents in most companies is for developers not to read patents so that they can't know that they are violating a patent.  Furthermore, most companies don't exercise their patents.  You know a software company is in trouble when they start suing over patent infringement.

    Anyways, patents only last 14 years.  Perhaps a better argument would be to have software patents only last 3-4 years because of the rapid pace of software evolution.



  • @mallard said:

    No, patents apply to inventions. These stem from ideas, but are physical, tangible objects. "Ideas given form" if you will.

    Fundamentally, what is being patented is the information encoded in the invention.  There doesn't ever need to be a "physical, tangible object".  What's more, software has physical form, it's just very, very tiny.  So, did you have a point that didn't rely on an inability to think abstractly?



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    So, did you have a point that didn't rely on an inability to think abstractly?
     

    I can think as abstractly as you like. I just don't believe that abstract concepts and ideas should be patentable. We seem to disagree there, so since this is no life-or-death matter, I think I'm going to stop trying to convince you. I do not mean this disrepsectfully, you are fully entitled to your opinion.



  • @mallard said:

    We seem to disagree there, so since this is no life-or-death matter, I think I'm going to stop trying to convince you. I do not mean this disrespectfully, you are fully entitled to your opinion.

    Wow. This must be the most mature version of "OIC UR A TROLL" I've ever seen.



  •  Software patents aren't protecting intellectual property, that's what copyright protection is for.

    There are no patents on pop music, and it's still possible to sue someone over "borrowing" your music.

    Software patents prevent market prices, protecting monopoly.



  • @derula said:

    @mallard said:
    We seem to disagree there, so since this is no life-or-death matter, I think I'm going to stop trying to convince you. I do not mean this disrespectfully, you are fully entitled to your opinion.

    Wow. This must be the most mature version of "OIC UR A TROLL" I've ever seen.

     

    I know, and I'm so proud of Morbs, I haven't seen him cuss once in this thread!!  He's all grown up now </tear>



  • @Kiss me I'm Polish said:

     Software patents aren't protecting intellectual property, that's what copyright protection is for.

    Patents protect conceptual advancements.  Copyright protects a specific work/implementation.

     

    @Kiss me I'm Polish said:

    There are no patents on pop music, and it's still possible to sue someone over "borrowing" your music.

    Music can't be patented because it is implementation.  Advancements can be made in the field of creating music, though, and those can be patented.

     

    @Kiss me I'm Polish said:

    Software patents prevent market prices, protecting monopoly.

    All forms of Intellectual Property are government-enforced monopolies.  They exist because exclusive ownership of an idea or work permits profiting from intellectual labor which plays to the strengths of market economies.



  • @mallard said:

    @morbiuswilters said:

    So, did you have a point that didn't rely on an inability to think abstractly?
     

    I can think as abstractly as you like. I just don't believe that abstract concepts and ideas should be patentable. We seem to disagree there, so since this is no life-or-death matter, I think I'm going to stop trying to convince you. I do not mean this disrepsectfully, you are fully entitled to your opinion.

    Eh, so be it.  I just haven't heard any good justification for not allowing ideas to be patented.  In fact, you haven't even refuted my claim that patents already are on ideas.  Presumably you support "regular" patents which fundamentally are on ideas, albeit ones that can be realized through manipulation of physical objects.  Medications are patentable and that's only a chemical formula.  How is that any less an abstract concept than the "mathematical formula" of an algorithm?



  •  @Master Chief said:

     The root of the problem is still just too many people in authoritative positions that don't know a floppy disk from a flash drive.  

     

    Interestingly enough, according to his biography, he used to be a programmer/systems analyst:

    http://www.txed.uscourts.gov/Judges/Davis/Davis-Bio.htm



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    Eh, so be it.  I just haven't heard any good justification for not allowing ideas to be patented.  In fact, you haven't even refuted my claim that patents already are on ideas.  Presumably you support "regular" patents which fundamentally are on ideas, albeit ones that can be realized through manipulation of physical objects.  Medications are patentable and that's only a chemical formula.  How is that any less an abstract concept than the "mathematical formula" of an algorithm?

     

    Not sure it's "good" justification or not, but my philosophy is that all patents are bad because a patent is basically saying: "I'm going to teach you how to do this thing, but then tell you that you can't actually use that information without paying me the fruit of that 'implementation' on penalty of guys with big sticks coming after you."  Put slightly differently: the value of an idea is only realized if it is put into action, so "protecting" an idea by restricting its use actually reduces its value.

    If someone comes up with an idea and wants to benefit from it, they need to implement that idea. If someone else can implement the idea better than they can, well, society is better off having the best implementers do the implementing. "But," you say, "shouldn't the guy with the idea be compensated for developing the idea?" Even without patents, the implementers will compensate the idea generators because without new ideas, implementers all end up being commodities and don't have a competitive advantage.  People will always innovate, because hardships and just plain old desire to innovate will always exist. In fact, freedom from patents will probably encourage more innovation, because people won't be afraid to try new things - as it is now, people are afraid to develop things, or have to take more time developing things, to avoid or work around patents because the license fees for patents are greater than the cost of working around those patents. So the patented ideas never get used (or get used less) and society has to wait longer for the workarounds or the benefit of the patented idea when the patent expires.

    (An interesting side thought would be to look at the revenue generated by, say, a pharma for a drug in its patent period versus the revenue generated from the same drug over the first period of time equal to the patent period after the patent expires.  The patent years have high price low volume, the first years after have low price high volume - what's the difference? And would the pharmas be better off making the high volumes at the low price from the beginning and making it unattractive for the "generic" manufacturers? I don't know that without looking at the data, but society would definitely be better served by the higher volume lower priced medicinal goods. But you won't see any of that in the health care reform discussions.)




  • @too_many_usernames said:

    In fact, freedom from patents will probably encourage more innovation, because people won't be afraid to try new things - as it is now, people are afraid to develop things...
     

    Maybe it's your wording, but this makes no sense to me.  Are you are saying that people don't develop NEW things currently (which aren't patented) because they are afraid of current patents? If the idea is new then there should be no rational fear of it already being patented.



  • @too_many_usernames said:

    Not sure it's "good" justification or not, but my philosophy is that all patents are bad because a patent is basically saying: "I'm going to teach you how to do this thing, but then tell you that you can't actually use that information without paying me the fruit of that 'implementation' on penalty of guys with big sticks coming after you."  Put slightly differently: the value of an idea is only realized if it is put into action, so "protecting" an idea by restricting its use actually reduces its value.
    Patents are protected for only a short lifespan.  Granted, 20 years is forever in computing, but in most fields it's not.

    @too_many_usernames said:

    Even without patents, the implementers will compensate the idea generators because without new ideas, implementers all end up being commodities and don't have a competitive advantage. 
    I don't know where you get this silly notion.  Why would a company go out of its way to compensate an inventor if it doesn't have to?  Hell, even with patents this is a problem.  Does the name Robert Kearns mean anything to you?

    @too_many_usernames said:

    In fact, freedom from patents will probably encourage more innovation, because people won't be afraid to try new things - as it is now, people are afraid to develop things, or have to take more time developing things, to avoid or work around patents because the license fees for patents are greater than the cost of working around those patents.

    This is, at best, wholly anectdotal.  I don't buy it.@too_many_usernames said:
    So the patented ideas never get used (or get used less) and society has to wait longer for the workarounds or the benefit of the patented idea when the patent expires.
    This might be a good argument in favor of patent reform -- perhaps awarding patents only with an actual implementation? -- but is not a justification for doing away with the system altogether.  And I still disagree with it.  Part of the purpose of patents is to grant the inventor the ability to seek out a way to implement it, even if this means attempting to sell it to another company, without fear of someone stealing it.  As the Kearns matter shows, the system is far from perfect, but you want to throw the bathwater out with the baby (I know I have that cliche backwards; I hate babies.).

    @too_many_usernames said:

    (An interesting side thought would be to look at the revenue generated by, say, a pharma for a drug in its patent period versus the revenue generated from the same drug over the first period of time equal to the patent period after the patent expires.  The patent years have high price low volume, the first years after have low price high volume - what's the difference? And would the pharmas be better off making the high volumes at the low price from the beginning and making it unattractive for the "generic" manufacturers? I don't know that without looking at the data, but society would definitely be better served by the higher volume lower priced medicinal goods. But you won't see any of that in the health care reform discussions.)
    Let's ignore this whole section.  It's mostly speculation, it misidentifies the purpose of patents, and it includes a pointless aside about current events having nothing to do with the topic at hand.



  • @amischiefr said:

    If the idea is new then there should be no rational fear of it already being patented.

    It's because everything "new" nowadays is really based on combining other parts.

    [url]http://www.gridlockeconomy.com/excerpts.html[/url]

    There has been an unnoticed revolution in how we create wealth. In the old economy—ten or twenty years ago—you invented a product and got a patent; you wrote a song and got a copyright; you subdivided land and built houses. Today, the leading edge of wealth creation requires assembly. From drugs to telecom, software to semiconductors, anything high tech demands the assembly of innumerable patents. And it’s not just high tech that’s changed. Cutting-edge art and music are about mashing up and remixing many separately owned bits of culture. Even with land, the most socially important projects, like new runways, require assembling multiple parcels. Innovation has moved on, but we are stuck with old-style ownership that’s easy to fragment and hard to put together.


  •  @too_many_usernames said:

    An interesting side thought would be to look at the revenue generated by, say, a pharma for a drug in its patent period versus the revenue generated from the same drug over the first period of time equal to the patent period after the patent expires.  The patent years have high price low volume, the first years after have low price high volume - what's the difference? And would the pharmas be better off making the high volumes at the low price from the beginning and making it unattractive for the "generic" manufacturers? I don't know that without looking at the data, but society would definitely be better served by the higher volume lower priced medicinal goods. But you won't see any of that in the health care reform discussions.)

    This example disproves your point. The total revenue from high volume generic pharma may equal the total revenue of high price patented pharma. But the generic revenue is split over many copycat coimpanies.

    If it takes a billion dollar to develop a new pharma and it grosses twenty billion over its lifetime split over a hundred companies, nobody will earn anything near paying for the billion dollar investment, so no company has an incentive to develop it. This way, society will never see a cure for cancer.



  • @JvdL said:

    This way, society will never see a cure for cancer.

     

    I heard a comedian once say that the way to get a cure for cancer was to have all women say "no sex until a cure for cancer" and then some 20-year-old guy will have a solution in about two weeks.

    More seriously, though, there is a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing going on with things like Big Medicine. Development costs are probably high because they can get high payback due to patent monopoly.  If there were no such things as patents, people would probably still spend money on these things, but they would spend less money. Is that good or bad? I don't know. It's just different. (Big Medicine may be a bad example in general because that field just has a huge barrier to entry in the first place - and much of it isn't technical.  High costs due to technical barriers I can accept, but social or legislative barriers just leave a bad taste in my mouth.)

    Yes, my supposition that if you phased patents out (you couldn't kill them off overnight) you would still have innovation and be better off for it is just a hypothesis. Unfortunately there's not a good way to test this hypothesis, aside from trying to start a society without patents and see what happens, but I can't think of a good way to go about this (SeaLand doesn't really fit the bill).

    But I do know that I, and others like me, like to invent and create just because, and as long as we have enough "income" to meet our needs and wants for luxuries, we'll keep inventing, even if we don't become "rich".  That's incentive enough - we don't need "compensation" for those activities.



  • @too_many_usernames said:

    Development costs are probably high because they can get high payback due to patent monopoly.

    How does this even make sense to you?

    @too_many_usernames said:

    If there were no such things as patents, people would probably still spend money on these things, but they would spend less money.

    A lot less money.

     

    @too_many_usernames said:

    Is that good or bad? I don't know. It's just different.

    Let's just stop spending money on developing technology!  After all, it's not good or bad, it's just different!  Let's all live in caves and eat bugs and die at 30 because some dumbass on the Internet can't decide if technological advancement is good or bad!  Seriously, if this is all you have to say why the fuck are you opening your mouth?

     

    @too_many_usernames said:

    (Big Medicine may be a bad example in general because that field just has a huge barrier to entry in the first place - and much of it isn't technical.  High costs due to technical barriers I can accept, but social or legislative barriers just leave a bad taste in my mouth.)

    What social/legislative barriers are you talking about?  For developing new drugs, there aren't many.  Now, to sell new drugs, yeah.  That's because we don't want to end up poisoned by some shit an amateur cooked-up in his basement (or that a multi-billion dollar company cooked up in a lab -- either way, we're dead).  Now, maybe FDA regulations and processes are a bit too strict, but that's not even what we are arguing about here (patents, IIRC).  In fact, the regulations do result in higher drug development costs because for every successful big-seller there are many failures that need to be paid for as well.  It costs a lot of money and time to get a drug certified by the FDA and many don't make it all the way through and never earn back the cost of development.  So I guess the question there is whether the FDA adds any value.  However, eliminating drug patents is going to make this entire debate pointless as nobody is going to bother developing drugs in the first place because nobody will buy drugs since the consumer becomes a lab rat and inventors have no incentive not to kill their patients.

     

     @too_many_usernames said:

    Unfortunately there's not a good way to test this hypothesis, aside from trying to start a society without patents and see what happens, but I can't think of a good way to go about this (SeaLand doesn't really fit the bill).

     We already tried a society without property.  It was called "Communism" and it resulted in hundreds of millions of people dying of starvation or illness or being murdered for suggesting the whole "no property" thing might not have been such a hot-shit idea.

     

    @too_many_usernames said:

    But I do know that I, and others like me, like to invent and create just because, and as long as we have enough "income" to meet our needs and wants for luxuries, we'll keep inventing, even if we don't become "rich".  That's incentive enough - we don't need "compensation" for those activities.

    And you have income because you are paid by someone to create property (whether tangible or intellectual) for the benefit of other people.  If you get rid of patents (and copyright and tangible property...) you kill the goose that is laying the golden egg that gives you the spare time to create "free" inventions.  Without these things you'd be in a field right now trying to eke out a meager living for yourself and your family by farming.  Perhaps you should actually read up on market economies and he history of life with and without them.  (Short version: with == wealth and progress, without == miserable existence thankfully with a much shorter life expectancy than today.)



  • @too_many_usernames said:

    <words>

     

     Honestly, you have no fucking idea what you are talking about when it comes to developing new drugs.  If drug companies could not patent drugs there would be 0 new drugs.  Do you think academics are inventing the next miracle drug?  Honestly, your argument is way off on the software, but you are just making it look worst by trying to argue your point in the pharmaceutical industry, which is probably the industry where patents are the most important for the advancement of the science. 

    Do you really think that the drug companies could make more money by lowering their prices?  Do you think they are so stupid as to not do the research to figure out the price which will give them the optimal profit?



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    @too_many_usernames said:
    If there were no such things as patents, people would probably still spend money on these things, but they would spend less money.
    A lot less money.
    Indeed.  I would begin selling iphomes and vi@gra at a significantly reduced cost over their legit counterparts.  You may laugh, but companies in non-America (and probably some in America) are dedicated to this very thing.  Who hasn't seen bought a fake gucci or chanel handbag?


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