Patent craziness



  • What is it with stupid patent claims in the US?!?

    If this is put through you can throw the whole industry down the drain :s

    Damn, i am glad i live in the EU where we don't have this bullsh*t

    http://www.widgetpress.com/defense



  • Aren't patent documents supposed to contain implementation details? This one only contains phrases like "a method" and "a system", which is really quite meaningless.



  • TRWTF is white text on a black background like that.



  • @keigezellig said:

    What is it with stupid patent claims in the US?!?

    If this is put through you can throw the whole industry down the drain :s

    Damn, i am glad i live in the EU where we don't have this bullsh*t

    http://www.widgetpress.com/defense

    Hell no, keep your absolutely stupid system to yourself. Ours might grant stupid patents (like the one you mentioned and the "Custom XML" patent that MS is currently fighting), but at least it's "first to invent" instead of "first to file". We are about to switch to that system in the US and it's a gigantic pile of WTF. You think it takes long to get a patent in the US now? Just wait untill the switch over when big corporations farm patent writing out to developing countries to bury the patent office with new claims just so they can own any concept. Talk about stifiling innovation ....



  • @dhromed said:

    Aren't patent documents supposed to contain implementation details? This one only contains phrases like "a method" and "a system", which is really quite meaningless.

     

    The state of software patents in the United States is pretty awful, seemingly because there is no one in the United States Patent & Trademark Office who is competent to evaluate the merits of anything related to software.



  • @Someone You Know said:

    The state of software patents in the United States is pretty awful, seemingly because there is no one in the United States Patent & Trademark Office who is competent to evaluate the merits of anything related to software patents.
    FTFY.



  • @Someone You Know said:

    @dhromed said:

    Aren't patent documents supposed to contain implementation details? This one only contains phrases like "a method" and "a system", which is really quite meaningless.

     

    The state of software patents in the United States is pretty awful, seemingly because there is no one in the United States Patent & Trademark Office who is competent to evaluate the merits of anything related to software.

    USPTO has been letting people patent abstract methods and systems for years now.  It's completely corrupt.



  • @DaveK said:

    USPTO has been letting people patent abstract methods and systems for years now.  It's completely corrupt.

    The software patent issues are nothing compared to the DNA patents. At least people patenting software, in most cases, actually at some point built software.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    @DaveK said:
    USPTO has been letting people patent abstract methods and systems for years now.  It's completely corrupt.

    The software patent issues are nothing compared to the DNA patents. At least people patenting software, in most cases, actually at some point built software.

    Yeah, well; you can make an argument that patenting of novel synthetic genes should be allowed, but it's completely abusive to let people "patent" something that they just discovered after it had been out there all along.  As to software patents, note that I wasn't referring to them specifically in their nature as software patents, but when they amount to patents on abstract methods and systems, which are really just ideas.

    Patents should be about real physical inventions.  But too many of them you can see the reasoning behind them has gone like, "Well, somebody's invented a car, and patented it, I know! I'll patent the idea of using the car to drive to the shops!  Then nobody can drive to the shops without giving me money first!"

    I sympathise deeply with the argument that intellectual property is theft.  Maybe not necessarily, but de facto, as it is practiced in the real world, it really is.



  • @DaveK said:

    Patents should be about real physical inventions.

    By and large, real physical inventions aren't relevant to the US economy. There are exceptions, but they are few and far-between... how many new (hardware) patents do you think the Boeing 787 development produced? I wager less than a dozen, if even that. And that's about the most complex and modern physical "invention" the US has produced recently. And even if those patents were infringed to hell and back, it probably wouldn't hurt Boeing one iota.

    That said, I don't necessarily agree that software patents should exist, either. I could maybe get behind software patents if the system was highly reformed, but it would have to be really gutted to the core.



  • @DaveK said:

    Patents should be about real physical inventions.
     

    Patents are supposed to be about a way of doing something. Not necessarily a physical object, though. You're supposed to be able to get a patent on a novel means of achieving a particular goal.

    However, the USPTO frequently issues patents that just describe accomplishing the goal, not the means of accomplishing the goal.

    The other problem is that the means of accomplishing the goal is supposed to be something that the average person working in the relevant field wouldn't think of. It's supposed to be exceptional and innovative, not routine or obvious. The USPTO has consistently demonstrated a total lack of ability to make this judgment correctly, at least in the field of software.

     



  • @blakeyrat said:

    @DaveK said:
    Patents should be about real physical inventions.

    By and large, real physical inventions aren't relevant to the US economy. There are exceptions, but they are few and far-between... how many new (hardware) patents do you think the Boeing 787 development produced? I wager less than a dozen, if even that. And that's about the most complex and modern physical "invention" the US has produced recently. And even if those patents were infringed to hell and back, it probably wouldn't hurt Boeing one iota.

    Well it would seem to me that a more appropriate response would be to fix the economy, rather than to break the patent system by trying to stretch it to cover a bunch of junk it has no business dealing with at all!

    @blakeyrat said:

    That said, I don't necessarily agree that software patents should exist, either. I could maybe get behind software patents if the system was highly reformed, but it would have to be really gutted to the core.

    Amen to that.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    That said, I don't necessarily agree that software patents should exist, either.
     

    I think software patents are okay. It's just that people apparently don't have necessary abstract thought capabilities to realise that "GIF compression" can be patented but "compression" cannot.

    Which is what SYK just said above as well. 

    This patent thing in the OP is the latter form. There's nothing there. The patent is semantically empty.

    Next question: what does one do to try and make this right? Is there an idiot we should dopeslap, or a corrupt individual we should buy? At some point a dude in some office looked at this patent filing and said "I'm OK with this", and that just shouldn't have happened.




  •  @keigezellig said:

    Damn, i am glad i live in the EU where we don't yet have this bullsh*t

    FTFY, american lobbies have lots of influence over EU commission. And EU commission is neither elected nor forced to obey elected EU representants.

     



  • @dhromed said:

    @blakeyrat said:

    That said, I don't necessarily agree that software patents should exist, either.
     

    I think software patents are okay. It's just that people apparently don't have necessary abstract thought capabilities to realise that "GIF compression" can be patented but "compression" cannot.

    I disagree, I think that's an example of patenting using-your-car-to-drive-down-the-shops.  Once you've invented the various techniques of compressing redundancy out of binary data, the idea of then going and actually applying it to one form of binary data versus another is not sufficiently non-obvious to one skilled in the art, IMO.




  • @DaveK said:

    I disagree, I think that's an example of patenting using-your-car-to-drive-down-the-shops.  Once you've invented the various techniques of compressing redundancy out of binary data, the idea of then going and actually applying it to one form of binary data versus another is not sufficiently non-obvious to one skilled in the art, IMO.





    I disagree with your disagreement, because in this case, the compression is an integral part of the image format. I agree that you shouldn't be able to patent "apply GZIP to bitmaps". But in this case you'd probably actually patenting the GIF data format (which is the textbook example of "a specific means to archieve the goal of encoding an image") and not the compression itself - that GIF stores the image compressed would be just a technical detail.


    tl;dr: Try to apply GIF compression to a piece of binary data that is not an image and get back to me with the results...



    ... Not that I think any of that would be a good idea (as opposed to be "legal"). Just have a look at what mess patents have caused with HTML video (and are, apparently, still causing). So yeah, if there were some guy we could bribe to put an end to all this, you have my money.



  • @dhromed said:

    Which is what SYK just said above as well. 

    Oh, fuck. I'm an acronym now.



  • @dhromed said:

    Next question: what does one do to try and make this right? Is there an idiot we should dopeslap, or a corrupt individual we should buy? At some point a dude in some office looked at this patent filing and said "I'm OK with this", and that just shouldn't have happened.
    I'm not sure about US patents, but if that was an EU patent, that's not how the system works. If you think the patent is invalid, simply breach it. When you're sued for breach of patent, argue that the patent is invalid. Just because you've been awarded a patent doesn't mean the patent will hold up in court.

    Oh, I should have read the linked article before - that's exactly what is happening. The problems are more to do with the cost of challenging a patent than anything else. I don't know much about the US legal system, though - presumably the patent trolls can be found to be litigating frivolously? Is barratry a crime over there?



  • @dhromed said:

    Next question: what does one do to try and make this right? Is there an idiot we should dopeslap, or a corrupt individual we should buy? At some point a dude in some office looked at this patent filing and said "I'm OK with this", and that just shouldn't have happened.
    I'm not sure about US patents, but if that was an EU patent, that's not how the system works. If you think the patent is invalid, simply breach it. When you're sued for breach of patent, argue that the patent is invalid. Just because you've been awarded a patent doesn't mean the patent will hold up in court.

    Oh, I should have read the linked article before - that's exactly what is happening. The problems are more to do with the cost of challenging a patent than anything else. I don't know much about the US legal system, though - presumably the patent trolls can be found to be litigating frivolously? Is barratry a crime over there?



  • Indeed, the problem is not being able to understand the difference between the problem domain and the solution domain. Many software and business method patents, I think, confound the system by making the solution domain appear to be the problem domain, and thus things like "use a method to compress data" appear to become valid (instead of "the method to perform compression is X", because they have abstracted the problem up to be "how do I transmit data efficiently?" and for some reason people don't realize that "compress it" is inherently obvious, but "compress it using the following unobvious algorithm: ..." is the patent-worthy element.



  • @intertravel said:

    @dhromed said:
    Next question: what does one do to try and make this right? Is there an idiot we should dopeslap, or a corrupt individual we should buy? At some point a dude in some office looked at this patent filing and said "I'm OK with this", and that just shouldn't have happened.
    I'm not sure about US patents, but if that was an EU patent, that's not how the system works. If you think the patent is invalid, simply breach it. When you're sued for breach of patent, argue that the patent is invalid. Just because you've been awarded a patent doesn't mean the patent will hold up in court.

    Oh, I should have read the linked article before - that's exactly what is happening. The problems are more to do with the cost of challenging a patent than anything else. I don't know much about the US legal system, though - presumably the patent trolls can be found to be litigating frivolously? Is barratry a crime over there?

     

    That's the way it's supposed to work in the US.  In reality, if you try that, you'd better be filthy, filthy rich.  Patent invalidation trials can grind out for years, including the layers of appeal, and total legal costs can easily run past the tens and into the hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more); they are among the most expensive categories of litigation in America.  Furthermore, if the courts find for the patent-holder -- which is entirely possible, since US patent law is badly damaged in and of itself -- then you're not only stuck with your legal fees, you're probably also stuck with their legal fees, and compensatory damages for infringing the patent.  Even if you win, you don't necessarily get re-imbursed for your legal expense.  And even if you do, a lot of these patent-holding companies are shill organizations that are positioned to eat their own fees as a loss and declare bankruptcy following an invalidation.  Bottom line: you'd better be Rich Uncle Moneybags, because your lawyers will want some up-front payment for their trouble; no one does "no legal fees unless YOU collect" in patent law.

    You'll note that the company in the OP is in settlement discussions.  They're not trying to litigate this.  They can't.  They don't have enough money.  Few people, or companies, do.

    As for stabbing the patent trolls with penalties for frivolous litigation, fat chance.  Barratry (in this sense) is not, in fact, illegal in most US jurisdictions.  To the extent that frivolous litigation penalties do exist, they largely are determined at the judge's discretion and rarely happen.  I'd go so far as to say that such a finding against the obstensive patent holder, even if that patent is farcical, would be nearly unprecedented.



  • In addition to that idiocy, there's different penalties for knowingly violating a patent and doing it by accident. Meaning, if you're developing an application to do X, the last thing you want to do is research patents on X... if you end up violating one, you'll get a lesser penalty.

    (That may have changed in the last few years though. I'm not a lawyer, this isn't legal advice, etc.)



  • @From the article said:

    I was extremely perplexed at to why the US Patent office would grant a patent on the electronic form in the year 2010.

    ...

    After reading through the entire patent a number of times, it is simply hard to believe this patent even exists.

     

    The article contains a quote from the patent in place of the elipses. This appears to be the work of a patent troll, who found something that is widely used but unpatented, and decided to patent it anyway and then use it to extort money from companies that cannot afford to defend a patent infringment lawsuit. N.b. the patent troll doesn't actually want to see their patent tested, they know it is weak, and if tested it will get invalidated and their extortion buisness will dry up. the also know that their victoms can't afford to invalidate the patent. And this is all completly legal!

    The US patent system is in a sorry state, as mentioned above, but here are some more important points.

    1) The fact a patent has been granted does have any bearing on the validity of a patent.

    2) Weak and or invalid patents are routinely granted by the patent office.

    3) An untested but invallid patents still hold threatinig value, due to the high cost of invalidatinig a patent.

     

    In a semi-unrelated note: I though i had read about a court decsision that effectively destroyed 'buisness method' patents though i don't rember the details exactly.

     



  • @esoterik said:

    The US patent system is in a sorry state, as mentioned above, but here are some more important points.

    1) The fact a patent has been granted does have any bearing on the validity of a patent.

    2) Weak and or invalid patents are routinely granted by the patent office.

    3) An untested but invallid patents still hold threatinig value, due to the high cost of invalidatinig a patent.

    Part of the reason for #2 is, I believe, because some years ago USPTO was made self-financing - and so not granting crap patents (and hence reducing revenue) would be irrational and self-destructive.

    Perhaps part of a solution, then, would be for courts to start holding USPTO jointly liable for costs when a patent is invalidated.

    It ooccurs to me that this could be pursued as some kind of civil action independently of the patent challenge itself.  But it also occurs to me that if this was feasible someone would have already tried it. 

    Or is this a novel business process that I've just invented?  (And... erm... disclosed.  Bugger.)



  • @Hatshepsut said:

    But it also occurs to me that if this was feasible someone would have already tried it. 
     

    Perhaps someone already did, but it wasn't someone of sufficient means, influence, power and priorities.



  • @Serpentes said:

    @intertravel said:

    @dhromed said:
    Next question: what does one do to try and make this right? Is there an idiot we should dopeslap, or a corrupt individual we should buy? At some point a dude in some office looked at this patent filing and said "I'm OK with this", and that just shouldn't have happened.
    I'm not sure about US patents, but if that was an EU patent, that's not how the system works. If you think the patent is invalid, simply breach it. When you're sued for breach of patent, argue that the patent is invalid. Just because you've been awarded a patent doesn't mean the patent will hold up in court.

    Oh, I should have read the linked article before - that's exactly what is happening. The problems are more to do with the cost of challenging a patent than anything else. I don't know much about the US legal system, though - presumably the patent trolls can be found to be litigating frivolously? Is barratry a crime over there?

     

    That's the way it's supposed to work in the US.  In reality, if you try that, you'd better be filthy, filthy rich.  Patent invalidation trials can grind out for years, including the layers of appeal, and total legal costs can easily run past the tens and into the hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more); they are among the most expensive categories of litigation in America.  Furthermore, if the courts find for the patent-holder -- which is entirely possible, since US patent law is badly damaged in and of itself -- then you're not only stuck with your legal fees, you're probably also stuck with their legal fees, and compensatory damages for infringing the patent.  Even if you win, you don't necessarily get re-imbursed for your legal expense.  And even if you do, a lot of these patent-holding companies are shill organizations that are positioned to eat their own fees as a loss and declare bankruptcy following an invalidation.  Bottom line: you'd better be Rich Uncle Moneybags, because your lawyers will want some up-front payment for their trouble; no one does "no legal fees unless YOU collect" in patent law.

    You'll note that the company in the OP is in settlement discussions.  They're not trying to litigate this.  They can't.  They don't have enough money.  Few people, or companies, do.

    As for stabbing the patent trolls with penalties for frivolous litigation, fat chance.  Barratry (in this sense) is not, in fact, illegal in most US jurisdictions.  To the extent that frivolous litigation penalties do exist, they largely are determined at the judge's discretion and rarely happen.  I'd go so far as to say that such a finding against the obstensive patent holder, even if that patent is farcical, would be nearly unprecedented.

    I was aware that it's ridiculously expensive to litigate patent cases - sometimes, very reasonably, when two big companies are arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin and all that. But it's not the patent system which is broken, it's the legal system.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    In addition to that idiocy, there's different penalties for knowingly violating a patent and doing it by accident. Meaning, if you're developing an application to do X, the last thing you want to do is research patents on X... if you end up violating one, you'll get a lesser penalty.

    (That may have changed in the last few years though. I'm not a lawyer, this isn't legal advice, etc.)

    As I recall, there is was recently a court decision that established that Willful Ignorance was the same as Willful Violation. As such, failure do due diligence is potentially not a defense. It was a relatively new ruling, so there is still a large grey area; I'm not a lawyer, etc.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p> As I recall, the case involved some kind of cool-to-the-touch frying equipment. The equipment had US and UK Patents, and was sold in both areas. A company bought a <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /><st1:country-region w:st="on">UK</st1:country-region> version, copied it, and sold it in the <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">US</st1:place></st1:country-region>, saying "We didn't see any US Patents on it, we didn't know!"<o:p></o:p> Doesn't really create on onus on you for extensive patent research, but you also can't refuse to do the research if you're doing something that a reasonable person would suspect might be covered by a patent. I personally can't see how that would apply to software unless you were deliberately copying someone else’s product- And that legal opinion is worth about what you expect from a random non lawyer posting a half remembered story on the internet during his first cup of coffee.<o:p></o:p>

     



  • @PSWorx said:

    tl;dr: Try to apply GIF compression to a piece of binary data that is not an image and get back to me with the results...

    [url]http://pubs.opengroup.org/onlinepubs/9699919799/utilities/compress.html[/url] ?



  • Patents may have been somewhat useful in the past, but now is the time to abolish patent laws and have no more patents.



  • @PSWorx said:

    tl;dr: Try to apply GIF compression to a piece of binary data that is not an image and get back to me with the results...
    I've got a QuickBasic program somewhere that comes with a GIF file. Top of the GIF are sprites it uses, bottom is a sound (or maybe several sounds - I don't remember). Does this count?
    @cdosrun said:
    A company bought a UK version, copied it, and sold it in the US, saying "We didn't see any US Patents on it, we didn't know!"
    IIRC, the company actually did do patent research, but didn't find anything.



  • @zzo38 said:

    Patents may have been somewhat useful in the past, but now is the time to abolish patent laws and have no more patents.

    It was a good discussion until someone let the little kids in...



  • @blakeyrat said:

    By and large, real physical inventions aren't relevant to the US economy. There are exceptions, but they are few and far-between... how many new (hardware) patents do you think the Boeing 787 development produced? I wager less than a dozen, if even that. And that's about the most complex and modern physical "invention" the US has produced recently. And even if those patents were infringed to hell and back, it probably wouldn't hurt Boeing one iota.

    I'm not so sure about the irrelevancy of Boeing's patents. Boeing was #40 on the list of most patents, with 662 (obviously, those probably weren't about the 787, but still). Looking at the list, it seems like software related stuff is likely to be accounting for most of these, but I'd be pretty surprised if, say, Intel (#8 with 1683) wasn't patenting some sort of manufacturing type of patent for competing with AMD, ARM, etc.

    It's hard to say how much they'd be affected, but if you've followed the WTFiness of the USAF trying to replace their ancient tankers, you'd see that the competition is pretty fierce. The commercial market isn't really any different. I'd be pretty surprised if they weren't using some of the things they patent for competitive advantage. And don't forget, they're the largest US exporter (by value).



  • @boomzilla said:

    @blakeyrat said:
    By and large, real physical inventions aren't relevant to the US economy. There are exceptions, but they are few and far-between... how many new (hardware) patents do you think the Boeing 787 development produced? I wager less than a dozen, if even that. And that's about the most complex and modern physical "invention" the US has produced recently. And even if those patents were infringed to hell and back, it probably wouldn't hurt Boeing one iota.

    I'm not so sure about the irrelevancy of Boeing's patents. Boeing was #40 on the list of most patents, with 662 (obviously, those probably weren't about the 787, but still). Looking at the list, it seems like software related stuff is likely to be accounting for most of these, but I'd be pretty surprised if, say, Intel (#8 with 1683) wasn't patenting some sort of manufacturing type of patent for competing with AMD, ARM, etc.

    It's hard to say how much they'd be affected, but if you've followed the WTFiness of the USAF trying to replace their ancient tankers, you'd see that the competition is pretty fierce. The commercial market isn't really any different. I'd be pretty surprised if they weren't using some of the things they patent for competitive advantage. And don't forget, they're the largest US exporter (by value).

    Well, the second part of my point is that even if every single one of those 662 patents were completely ignored, there's still only about 5 companies on Earth with the technological competence and facilities to build a 787, and only 2 with the competence, facilities, and commercial ties to successfully sell them. (Referring to Boeing itself, and Airbus.) To use your example again, with the tanker contract, nobody other than Boeing and Airbus even seriously tried for the contract. Tupolev probably could have pulled it off, and I think they submitted a half-assed proposal, but they must have known it was a lost cause from the beginning.

    Anyway, the point is... the patents aren't really all that useful for Boeing. A company that ignored the patents still wouldn't be able to compete on their level.



  • @blakeyrat said:


    Well, the second part of my point is that even if every single one of those 662 patents were completely ignored, there's still only about 5 companies on Earth with the technological competence and facilities to build a 787, and only 2 with the competence, facilities, and commercial ties to successfully sell them. (Referring to Boeing itself, and Airbus.) To use your example again, with the tanker contract, nobody other than Boeing and Airbus even seriously tried for the contract. Tupolev probably could have pulled it off, and I think they submitted a half-assed proposal, but they must have known it was a lost cause from the beginning.

    Anyway, the point is... the patents aren't really all that useful for Boeing. A company that ignored the patents still wouldn't be able to compete on their level.

    So, you think that patents are only useful to prevent entry into a market? Why wouldn't it be useful against Airbus (or vice versa)? Even if there's only one competitor (and they have others, in other markets), why do you think that competitive advantages aren't important? Given the high stakes that each airplane deal is (military or commercial), your stance here sounds insane.

    Also, some of the patents might be used by their subcontractors, to whom they may give a no cost license to use, so long as they're working for Boeing, but not for Airbus, Lockheed, Grumman, etc. And there are a lot of subcontractors involved with Boeing. Those guys are trying to out innovate their competitors, but if Boeing has a patent based monopoly on some particular thing, it's very different than some subcontractor having its own patent to use against its competitors. So while the 787 in toto might be very limited, there are a zillion machine shops, etc, who could be doing things for them that are affected by these patents.

    You're a long ways from offering anything more than a silly sounding assertion about the usefulness of Boeing's patents.



  • @boomzilla said:

    You're a long ways from offering anything more than a silly sounding assertion about the usefulness of Boeing's patents.
    I don't know - I thought you both made good points, and they weren't mutually exclusive. Certainly, the importance of patents isn't actually in the directly obvious way that is popularly imagined.


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