An Honest Question For [Homer] and other freedom fighters. Really.

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flatfish+++

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Apr 28, 2011, 11:40:00 PM4/28/11
to

First off, i do not know the answer to this dilemma.
I really don't.

While I don't agree with giving everything away for free, nor do I agree
with conceptual type patents (ie:a holodeck) at the same time being in
the industry I don't feel the great, great grandson of George Gershwin
should be making money off Porgy And Bess but yet I do realize people,
performers, artists, etc have to be paid.

So my question to you, is what is the solution?

If I design a chair that helps people suffering from arthritis sit in
comfort, I can license that chair to manufacturers to build.

Yet I write and record a song that people like but yet you freedom
fighters think I should give it away.

Where is the difference?

By your rules, an artist will sell exactly a single copy of his work.
The rest will be legally pirated.

So again, I ask, what is YOUR solution?

Please cover patents, copyrights,musical works, video etc.

I'm curious.

--
flatfish+++
Please visit our hall of Linux idiots.
http://linuxidiots.blogspot.com/

Watching Linux Fail:
http://limuxwatch.blogspot.com/

Desktop Linux: The Dream Is Dead
"By the time Microsoft released the Windows 7 beta
in January 2009, Linux had clearly lost its chance at desktop glory."
http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/207999/desktop_linux_the_dream_is_dead.html

Snit

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Apr 29, 2011, 1:30:19 AM4/29/11
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flatfish+++ stated in post 1p2r14wrpjxbg.iwlmsic4awdv$.d...@40tude.net on
4/28/11 8:40 PM:

>
> First off, i do not know the answer to this dilemma.
> I really don't.
>
> While I don't agree with giving everything away for free, nor do I agree
> with conceptual type patents (ie:a holodeck) at the same time being in
> the industry I don't feel the great, great grandson of George Gershwin
> should be making money off Porgy And Bess but yet I do realize people,
> performers, artists, etc have to be paid.
>
> So my question to you, is what is the solution?
>
> If I design a chair that helps people suffering from arthritis sit in
> comfort, I can license that chair to manufacturers to build.
>
> Yet I write and record a song that people like but yet you freedom
> fighters think I should give it away.
>
> Where is the difference?

From what I understand of Homer's view: there is no difference. To him, IP
does not exist... so you while you might be able to sell your design, once
you do and it becomes public knowledge, anyone else can copy the design and
sell it. Which means, of course, nobody is going to pay much for your
design.

As far as how *I* feel: I think you own the design or the music. It is
yours and nobody has the rights to it... for X amount of time. Exactly what
that time is *and* how to decide if it really is yours is a challenge - but
I think the current situation where it is yours and your family's (or a
corporation's) for generations is pretty silly. Even then, though, I think
there are times things should be owned... is it right for others to use
Mickey Mouse or Kermit the Frog in stories they sell? Hard one to answer
for me.

> By your rules, an artist will sell exactly a single copy of his work.
> The rest will be legally pirated.

Well, some people might want to pay directly... if the price is very low.
And that applies only to digital art (a sculpture is sold only once). But
look at the price of sculptures - do you want software to be priced the same
way? Again: it is a tricky question. The answer seems to be to make piracy
illegal and encourage low prices and greater innovation.



> So again, I ask, what is YOUR solution?
>
> Please cover patents, copyrights,musical works, video etc.
>
> I'm curious.

As am I. I do not pretend to have all of the answers - not by a long shot.


--
[INSERT .SIG HERE]


amicus_curious

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Apr 29, 2011, 9:02:57 AM4/29/11
to

"flatfish+++" <flat...@marianatrench.com> wrote in message
news:1p2r14wrpjxbg.iwlmsic4awdv$.dlg@40tude.net...
>

>
> Where is the difference?
>
A copyright protects a unique expression of an idea whereas a patent
protects the very idea. People are willing to pay to hear a tune because it
is rendered more appealingly by the star artist than by the lounge show
singer. People have to pay the patent owner in order to get the economic
benefits accruing from the use of the patented idea.

That is the theory of it all, which is rather simplistic when you get down
to the real world.

You can listen to your own pirate recording of Porgy and Bess all you wish
without any real fear of someone coming after you. You can distribute a
copy of your copy to anyone who is at all interested in listening with the
same amount of safety from prosecution. It is illegal, but no one is
enforcing the law at that level anymore, even the RIAA.

If you rise above the crowd, however, and put on a commercial production
wherein some money is involved, you are likely to hear from the copyright
owners and end up in court. I think that is a reasonable and rational sort
of system. Now that the RIAA has MOL gone away from the business of
prosecuting individuals for internet downloads, copyright issues are not
much of a problem anymore.

Patents, OTOH, are becoming a real hassle for everyone. Very few patents
today are controlling any business areas. Ages ago XLO had a patent on the
cute way of folding of the top of a milk carton so that you could open it
and have a convenient spout for drinking directly or pouring into another
container. That patent controlled a big industry involved with packaging
machinery used to generate the patented package. Billions of cartons were
produced annually.

Such is not the case with today's patents which are almost entirely some
very minor improvement on something that had become commonplace prior to the
patenting of the improvement. Further, these patents are minor elements of
some much larger commerce, for example the use of the specific FAT format in
a Tom Tom GPS. (Of course Microsoft had a bunch of key patents on GPS
itself, so that is not a clean example of trivia, but it serves as an
illustration.)

Where the problem occurs is the notion that a patent should not be for an
idea that would naturally occur to everyone as a natural consequence of
understanding of some prior invention. For example, after the wheel was
patented and placed into common use, someone might have patented the great
idea of putting grease on the axle hub to reduce the friction and so make
the wheel roll more efficiently. In today's world, the first person to the
USPTO counter could claim that as an improvement, but there would likely be
many others who had not seen the patent application but had come to the same
conclusion.

Today, patents are granted for millions of applications that are just
obvious evolutions of things and do not involve the sort of creative insight
commonly associated with the idea of a patent. I have a few of these myself
as the result of my company's efforts to protect itself from other such
patents by creating a long list of its own. I got a few thousand bucks for
each one and it was easy money as far as I was concerned. But I learned a
little about the process and I think that might shed some light on a real
solution.

When you apply for a patent, a lawyer writes it up in some legally
acceptable way that brings some glee to the COLA folk like Homer who want to
sneer at it and also generates a 3 or 4 or even 5 figure billing for the
attorney. Then it goes to the USPTO for a 4 to 5 year long cycle wherein it
is "examined" and invariably finally issued as a patent. When it is
submitted, the attorney can check a block on the application to keep it a
secret during this processing period. For some reason, they always do.
Then it does not appear on any search available to us common folk.

What I think is a resolution of the problem that would keep everyone happy
is for this process to continue as it has, which will get the backing of the
legal profession, but add a rule that says that if anyone enters an
application for the same thing during the examination phase, the original
application is rejected along with any subsequent applications. Then there
is this 4 or 5 year period in which ideas can occur to those "skilled in the
art" that are in the obvious category and the fact that the idea occurred
spontaneously to more than one expert is proof that it is not patent worthy.
Also if anyone starts using the idea before a patent is issued without
making an application, because they did not think that it was worthy of a
patent disclosure filing, they cannot be sued by the eventual owner of the
patent and any patent attacked on that basis is similarly invalidated.

That way the ball continues to roll and everyone gets paid a little extra by
the process, just as now, but we avoid the duplication of efforts and the
clogging of the patent files so that really nifty ideas stand out and
everyone can believe that they are worthy of their license fee.


7

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Apr 29, 2011, 10:01:55 AM4/29/11
to
flatfish+++ wrote:

>
> First off, i do not know the answer to this dilemma.
> I really don't.
>
> While I don't agree with giving everything away for free, nor do I agree
> with conceptual type patents (ie:a holodeck)

A holodeck concept cannot be patented because it was shown in
an episode of Dr. Who long before anyone in Star Trek script writing
department thought of it, and all of that was about 30 years ago.


> at the same time being in
> the industry I don't feel the great, great grandson of George Gershwin
> should be making money off Porgy And Bess but yet I do realize people,
> performers, artists, etc have to be paid.
>
> So my question to you, is what is the solution?
>
> If I design a chair that helps people suffering from arthritis sit in
> comfort, I can license that chair to manufacturers to build.
>
> Yet I write and record a song that people like but yet you freedom
> fighters think I should give it away.
>
> Where is the difference?
>
> By your rules, an artist will sell exactly a single copy of his work.
> The rest will be legally pirated.
>
> So again, I ask, what is YOUR solution?
>
> Please cover patents, copyrights,musical works, video etc.
>
> I'm curious.


So after all your trolling pretending to be a Linux advocate,
you admit you are not even curious, but that you just don't get it.


Its not worth feeding trolls such as you
faking it.

But for a newbee....

What happens I write software and give it away free.
Its just like buying free beer for everyone in a pub
on a good day. I have no need of money from it.

If every user around me then says I they have need of it,
and modifications of it, and starts posting me
updates, then I can manage to do some of that
on my own. But soon, I will have to employ someone
to do the updates. And if you are making money from
all the updates because you the user is selling it,
then you the user would donate more and more money to get support.

That is one way how open source can work.
One of many different scenarios.

Server farms came into existence on such models.

Another way is to have a business plan to make
some product and then take care of all your IT
needs with open source to eliminate startup IT costs.
100% more chance of success because you are not blowing
investor money on purchases. If you find success this then feeds into
money that gets turned into buying support
from open source projects because your business is
now reliant on them.

One of many different scenarios again.


Ezekiel

unread,
Apr 30, 2011, 9:02:43 AM4/30/11
to
>
>
>"flatfish+++" wrote in message
>news:1p2r14wrpjxbg.iwlmsic4awdv$.dlg@40tude.net...
>
>

>First off, i do not know the answer to this dilemma.
>I really don't.
>
>While I don't agree with giving everything away for free, nor do I agree
>with conceptual type patents (ie:a holodeck) at the same time being in
>the industry I don't feel the great, great grandson of George Gershwin
>should be making money off Porgy And Bess but yet I do realize people,
>performers, artists, etc have to be paid.
>
>So my question to you, is what is the solution?
>
>If I design a chair that helps people suffering from arthritis sit in
>comfort, I can license that chair to manufacturers to build.
>
>Yet I write and record a song that people like but yet you freedom
>fighters think I should give it away.
>

The example I typically think of is software patents. If someone comes up
with the idea of the "Clapper" (clap-on... clap-off) then they can get their
idea patented. If someone comes up with the idea of a "Pillow Pet" then this
idea can also be patented and protected. But if someone comes up with an
idea of how to process Terabytes of data in a couple of seconds - something
actually useful, then these "freedom fighters" are against being able to
patent this idea.

A patent is supposed to protected an "idea" or "invention." There's no
reason to think that "ideas" only apply to physical objects. The ability to
process large quantities of data almost instantly is far more important of
an "invention" than the "Clapper."


>Where is the difference?
>
There isn't a difference other than the lack of software patents lets them
to "innovate" and use the idea themselves for free.


>By your rules, an artist will sell exactly a single copy of his work.
>The rest will be legally pirated.
>
>So again, I ask, what is YOUR solution?
>

Letting everyone copy anything they want willy-nilly certainly isn't the
answer. Otherwise what's the point in developing something if you're going
to do all the work. you're going to pay for all the R&D and then anyone who
comes along can just take it for nothing.

Bob Hauck

unread,
Apr 30, 2011, 8:51:06 AM4/30/11
to
On Thu, 28 Apr 2011 23:40:00 -0400, flatfish+++
<flat...@marianatrench.com> wrote:

> First off, i do not know the answer to this dilemma.
> I really don't.
>
> While I don't agree with giving everything away for free, nor do I agree
> with conceptual type patents (ie:a holodeck) at the same time being in
> the industry I don't feel the great, great grandson of George Gershwin
> should be making money off Porgy And Bess but yet I do realize people,
> performers, artists, etc have to be paid.
>
> So my question to you, is what is the solution?

I think the copyright period should be shorter, but renewable, and only
works that are specifically registered should be covered. Make the term
10 or 20 years, renewable for the life of the author or in the case of
corporate "works for hire" for some maximum number of renewals, say
five. Charge a significant fee for the renewal to discourage hoarding,
but no fee or only a small one for the initial application.

This would allow authors to profit from their works, but would prevent
them from being locked up in perpetuity. Works that had no commercial
use would quickly return to the public domain where others could use
them as the basis for their own work.

On patents, I think there needs to be a more rigorous process for
granting them. Especially in the area of software there seems to be a
large number of really bad ones being issued. I don't know what to do
about this though, other than returning to the practice of earlier
years and not granting patents for "algorithms".


--
-| Bob Hauck (Brother Nail Gun of The Short Path)
-| http://www.haucks.org/

Hadron

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Apr 30, 2011, 9:18:30 AM4/30/11
to
"Ezekiel" <M...@Not-there.com> writes:

Huh? But Phil-Da-Freetard said R&D was effectively "for free".

Someone must be wrong ...

Hadron

unread,
Apr 30, 2011, 9:19:52 AM4/30/11
to
Bob Hauck <postm...@avalanche.org> writes:


You are aware that many algorithms are works of genius that take years
to create and costs thousands or even millions in support/R&D costs?

Ezekiel

unread,
Apr 30, 2011, 9:31:25 AM4/30/11
to
>
>
>"Bob Hauck" wrote in message
>news:slrniro1dq.d...@robin.haucks.org...

>
>On Thu, 28 Apr 2011 23:40:00 -0400, flatfish+++
><flat...@marianatrench.com> wrote:
>
>> First off, i do not know the answer to this dilemma.
>> I really don't.
>>
>> While I don't agree with giving everything away for free, nor do I agree
>> with conceptual type patents (ie:a holodeck) at the same time being in
>> the industry I don't feel the great, great grandson of George Gershwin
>> should be making money off Porgy And Bess but yet I do realize people,
>> performers, artists, etc have to be paid.
>>
>> So my question to you, is what is the solution?
>
>I think the copyright period should be shorter, but renewable, and only
>works that are specifically registered should be covered. Make the term
>10 or 20 years, renewable for the life of the author or in the case of
>corporate "works for hire" for some maximum number of renewals, say
>five. Charge a significant fee for the renewal to discourage hoarding,
>but no fee or only a small one for the initial application.
>
>This would allow authors to profit from their works, but would prevent
>them from being locked up in perpetuity. Works that had no commercial
>use would quickly return to the public domain where others could use
>them as the basis for their own work.
>

That's reasonable. There is a grey-area when it comes to certain copyrighted
items the most notable being "Mickey Mouse." So I think that a distinction
needs to be made between a "retired copyright" and a copyright that is
actively being used.


>On patents, I think there needs to be a more rigorous process for
>granting them. Especially in the area of software there seems to be a
>large number of really bad ones being issued. I don't know what to do
>about this though, other than returning to the practice of earlier
>years and not granting patents for "algorithms".
>

Unfortunately the process is very rigorous - rigorous as in it the process
takes several years and costs a good deal of money. There are a lot of bad
patents (software and other) being issued. But how and where do you draw the
line?

Most everyone will agree that XOR'ing two bitmasks is hardly an invention
and shouldn't be patented.

On the other end of the spectrum is (Jeopardy) "Watson++" which is complete
natural speech recognition. Something like this would likely be protected by
multiple patents but let's consider it to be one single patent for the sake
of discussion.

So on one end you've got something that's truly innovative and deserving of
a patent and on the other hand you have crap. Just about everything else
falls in between these two extremes so who decides where exactly the
"threshold" for patentable innovation is?

My name happens to be on 4 software patents. Three are US only and one is a
US + EU patent. In my opinion two of these are patent worthy, one is
borderline and the fourth one is bogus. The 'bogus' one is interesting
because a few months after the company filed for the patent the attorney
came back with a stack of what might be "prior art." 90% of the possible
prior-art wasn't even close, some of it was close but there were two items
that were basically identical to what I had done. (I didn't copy their
idea - my solution just happened to be what they did.)

As an engineer I'm thinking "Oh well... someone else did it first." Then
the lawyer reworded the patent claim, had me proof it for accuracy and
voila - we ended up getting the patent granted.

flatfish+++

unread,
Apr 30, 2011, 9:51:00 AM4/30/11
to
On Sat, 30 Apr 2011 09:02:43 -0400, Ezekiel wrote:


>
> The example I typically think of is software patents. If someone comes up
> with the idea of the "Clapper" (clap-on... clap-off) then they can get their
> idea patented. If someone comes up with the idea of a "Pillow Pet" then this
> idea can also be patented and protected. But if someone comes up with an
> idea of how to process Terabytes of data in a couple of seconds - something
> actually useful, then these "freedom fighters" are against being able to
> patent this idea.

That's what I am referring to.
I know the technical differences between copyright and patent.
I'm talking about the practical, how it effects the inventor, user,
abuser etc.


> A patent is supposed to protected an "idea" or "invention." There's no
> reason to think that "ideas" only apply to physical objects. The ability to
> process large quantities of data almost instantly is far more important of
> an "invention" than the "Clapper."

Except to that old lady in the commercial :)

>
>>Where is the difference?
>>
> There isn't a difference other than the lack of software patents lets them
> to "innovate" and use the idea themselves for free.

Ahh, so now we are getting somewhere.

Sounds like a case of freetardery to me.



>
>>By your rules, an artist will sell exactly a single copy of his work.
>>The rest will be legally pirated.
>>
>>So again, I ask, what is YOUR solution?
>>
>
> Letting everyone copy anything they want willy-nilly certainly isn't the
> answer. Otherwise what's the point in developing something if you're going
> to do all the work. you're going to pay for all the R&D and then anyone who
> comes along can just take it for nothing.

IBM seems to be doing a good job of it sponging off the backs of Linux
developers who give their work away for free.

The truth is when you get past the legalities, the freetards want it all
for free and feel they have a right to take what they want without
paying.

That's the bottom line.

Bob Hauck

unread,
Apr 30, 2011, 11:41:16 AM4/30/11
to
On Sat, 30 Apr 2011 09:31:25 -0400, Ezekiel <M...@Not-there.com> wrote:
>>"Bob Hauck" wrote in message
>>news:slrniro1dq.d...@robin.haucks.org...

>>On patents, I think there needs to be a more rigorous process for


>>granting them. Especially in the area of software there seems to be a
>>large number of really bad ones being issued. I don't know what to do
>>about this though, other than returning to the practice of earlier
>>years and not granting patents for "algorithms".
>>
>
> Unfortunately the process is very rigorous - rigorous as in it the
> process takes several years and costs a good deal of money. There are
> a lot of bad patents (software and other) being issued. But how and
> where do you draw the line?

That's not "rigorous", that's "exclusive". Not the same thing. The
current process is really only available to those who already have
money. How is that encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship?

A "rigorous" process would go all-out to find prior art and ensure that
the idea is truly unique. Under a rigorous process, your example below
of re-wording the application to circumvent prior art would not be
effective.


> Most everyone will agree that XOR'ing two bitmasks is hardly an
> invention and shouldn't be patented.
>
> On the other end of the spectrum is (Jeopardy) "Watson++" which is
> complete natural speech recognition. Something like this would likely
> be protected by multiple patents but let's consider it to be one
> single patent for the sake of discussion.
>
> So on one end you've got something that's truly innovative and
> deserving of a patent and on the other hand you have crap. Just about
> everything else falls in between these two extremes so who decides
> where exactly the "threshold" for patentable innovation is?

I think that's a specious argument precisely because something like
natural language recognition would not be and could not be a single
patent. It would in practice be a whole bunch XOR patents simply
because it would be created incrementally over a period of time. It
would inevitably infringe on untold numbers of existing patents as well.

I'm actually not convinced that protecting "ideas" as opposed to
expressions of an idea is really a good thing, especially since the
same idea very often occurs to several people at the same time.

People talk about someone "stealing" an idea and competing with the
original inventor. But does that really discourage people from coming
up with new ideas? I'm not seeing a lot of evidence that is the case.

Having more competitors is generally thought to be a good thing, isn't
it? Deliberately limiting competition would seem to be something that
should only be done if there is evidence that doing so provides more
benefits than not (to society, not the companies involved).

At least in software there seems to be very little evidence that patents
are encouraging innovation. Since that is their purpose, I don't seen
the need for software patents to exist.

In fact, it might make sense to only grant patents in areas that we
decide are underserved but socially useful. For example, maybe we could
decide that a cure for malaria is patentable but a new computer graphics
method is not.

The problem with this is of course that our government is captured by
corporate interests so nothing would really change.


> My name happens to be on 4 software patents. Three are US only and
> one is a US + EU patent. In my opinion two of these are patent worthy,
> one is borderline and the fourth one is bogus. The 'bogus' one is
> interesting because a few months after the company filed for the
> patent the attorney came back with a stack of what might be "prior
> art." 90% of the possible prior-art wasn't even close, some of it was
> close but there were two items that were basically identical to what I
> had done. (I didn't copy their idea - my solution just happened to be
> what they did.)
>
> As an engineer I'm thinking "Oh well... someone else did it first."
> Then the lawyer reworded the patent claim, had me proof it for
> accuracy and voila - we ended up getting the patent granted.

The question is, would you have made these inventions if they were not
patentable? I think the answer is usually going to be "yes". In which
case I ask why we need patents. After all, the purpose of patents is to
encourage "progress in the useful arts", not to provide a weapon with
which to beat your competitors. And if adequate progress is being made
without granting monopolies, then why do it?

Microsoft and Google and countless other IT companies started and grew
without significant patent portfolios. I think that is a strong
argument that they are not needed in that area. Similar arguments
probably apply to other areas as well.

But now that it is big, MS loves patents. Big companies always like
patents. Having a bunch of them makes it more difficult for competitors
to move in on their "turf" and gives them leverage in deal-making. It
is a big game that has very little to do with anything resembling
innovation. In many cases it actually stifles innovation.

Some kind of reform is clearly needed, but what form it should take I
haven't thought too much about. Politically, probably the only thing
that can be done is to make the process more rigorous as I defined it
above.

Hadron

unread,
Apr 30, 2011, 12:12:25 PM4/30/11
to
Bob Hauck <postm...@avalanche.org> writes:

> On Sat, 30 Apr 2011 09:31:25 -0400, Ezekiel <M...@Not-there.com> wrote:
>>>"Bob Hauck" wrote in message
>>>news:slrniro1dq.d...@robin.haucks.org...
>
>>>On patents, I think there needs to be a more rigorous process for
>>>granting them. Especially in the area of software there seems to be a
>>>large number of really bad ones being issued. I don't know what to do
>>>about this though, other than returning to the practice of earlier
>>>years and not granting patents for "algorithms".
>>>
>>
>> Unfortunately the process is very rigorous - rigorous as in it the
>> process takes several years and costs a good deal of money. There are
>> a lot of bad patents (software and other) being issued. But how and
>> where do you draw the line?
>
> That's not "rigorous", that's "exclusive". Not the same thing. The
> current process is really only available to those who already have
> money. How is that encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship?


Imagine if it were free.

Have you heard of venture capital?

Its the way of the world. If something is worth making people will
invest. All industry is rick management.

Ezekiel

unread,
Apr 30, 2011, 1:04:08 PM4/30/11
to
>
>
>"Bob Hauck" wrote in message
>news:slrnirobcr.d...@robin.haucks.org...

>
>On Sat, 30 Apr 2011 09:31:25 -0400, Ezekiel <M...@Not-there.com> wrote:
>>>"Bob Hauck" wrote in message
>>>news:slrniro1dq.d...@robin.haucks.org...
>
>>>On patents, I think there needs to be a more rigorous process for
>>>granting them. Especially in the area of software there seems to be a
>>>large number of really bad ones being issued. I don't know what to do
>>>about this though, other than returning to the practice of earlier
>>>years and not granting patents for "algorithms".
>>>
>>
>> Unfortunately the process is very rigorous - rigorous as in the

>> process takes several years and costs a good deal of money. There are
>> a lot of bad patents (software and other) being issued. But how and
>> where do you draw the line?
>
>That's not "rigorous", that's "exclusive". Not the same thing. The
>current process is really only available to those who already have
>
(snip)

I see that my <sarcasm> didn't get across.


>> Most everyone will agree that XOR'ing two bitmasks is hardly an
>> invention and shouldn't be patented.
>>
>> On the other end of the spectrum is (Jeopardy) "Watson++" which is
>> complete natural speech recognition. Something like this would likely
>> be protected by multiple patents but let's consider it to be one
>> single patent for the sake of discussion.
>>
>> So on one end you've got something that's truly innovative and
>> deserving of a patent and on the other hand you have crap. Just about
>> everything else falls in between these two extremes so who decides
>> where exactly the "threshold" for patentable innovation is?
>
>I think that's a specious argument precisely because something like
>natural language recognition would not be and could not be a single
>patent. It would in practice be a whole bunch XOR patents simply
>because it would be created incrementally over a period of time. It
>would inevitably infringe on untold numbers of existing patents as well.
>

If you're willing to break it down far enough - all software is essentially
an (extremely) complex series of AND, OR and NOT expressions. The
fundamental building blocks of all digital logic.


>I'm actually not convinced that protecting "ideas" as opposed to
>expressions of an idea is really a good thing, especially since the
>same idea very often occurs to several people at the same time.
>

I can't think of too many cases where it's the 'idea' and not the
'expression' (ie - specific implementation) that's been patented. There
probably are such cases but in general it's a specific implementation of
'how to do something' that gets patented.

>People talk about someone "stealing" an idea and competing with the
>original inventor. But does that really discourage people from coming
>up with new ideas? I'm not seeing a lot of evidence that is the case.
>

Even without patent protections people would still come up with new ideas.
But as a general rule - I don't see how a system like that would be
sustainable for long. Small company spends $10's of millions developing new
drug. The day new drug is released big company "steals" formula and is able
to sell it for a fraction of the cost putting small company out of business.

Replace "new drug" with almost any product and there would be very little
incentive for companies to spend money on R&D because it would be cheaper
just to "steal" other ideas for free. Any field or industry that relies on
R&D would see the big companies get bigger and the small companies get wiped
out of existence.


>Having more competitors is generally thought to be a good thing, isn't
>it? Deliberately limiting competition would seem to be something that
>should only be done if there is evidence that doing so provides more
>benefits than not (to society, not the companies involved).
>

Having "fair competition" is a good thing. Companies looting and stealing
the work of other companies without consequence isn't fair competition IMO.


>At least in software there seems to be very little evidence that patents
>are encouraging innovation. Since that is their purpose, I don't seen
>the need for software patents to exist.
>

I'm for "quality patents" even though I'm not sure how you even begin to go
about measuring the "quality" of a patent. In some cases it's like the
definition of pornography - you just know it when you see it. If I or my
company spends years developing some super-duper algorithm that does
something that effectively has never been done before then Microsoft, Google
or IBM shouldn't be able to just take *my* work and start commercializing it
for money.


>In fact, it might make sense to only grant patents in areas that we
>decide are underserved but socially useful. For example, maybe we could
>decide that a cure for malaria is patentable but a new computer graphics
>method is not.
>
>The problem with this is of course that our government is captured by
>corporate interests so nothing would really change.
>

Corporate interests and lawyers who are gainfully employed maintaining the
status-quo.


>
>> My name happens to be on 4 software patents. Three are US only and
>> one is a US + EU patent. In my opinion two of these are patent worthy,
>> one is borderline and the fourth one is bogus. The 'bogus' one is
>> interesting because a few months after the company filed for the
>> patent the attorney came back with a stack of what might be "prior
>> art." 90% of the possible prior-art wasn't even close, some of it was
>> close but there were two items that were basically identical to what I
>> had done. (I didn't copy their idea - my solution just happened to be
>> what they did.)
>>
>> As an engineer I'm thinking "Oh well... someone else did it first."
>> Then the lawyer reworded the patent claim, had me proof it for
>> accuracy and voila - we ended up getting the patent granted.
>
>The question is, would you have made these inventions
> if they were not patentable?

The answer is a definite 100% unreserved YES. I wasn't trying to create a
patent - I was doing my job and trying to solve a problem required for our
product to work. It's only afterwards that someone else thought it would be
a good idea to patent this.


> I think the answer is usually going to be "yes". In which
>case I ask why we need patents. After all, the purpose of patents is to
>encourage "progress in the useful arts", not to provide a weapon with
>which to beat your competitors. And if adequate progress is being made
>without granting monopolies, then why do it?
>

Even though as much as I'd like to believe that these are great wonderful
patents because my name is on them (along with $EMPLOYER) the truth is that
they're rather trivial in the grand scheme of things. It's not the sort of
idea/invention that's going to make anyone rich or sell a product. It might
make a product a little better - but that's about the extent of it.

So in this case I would argue that this patent falls below the threshold and
shouldn't exist. But there are inventions (real and imaginary) that are
important enough where they should be patented. If someone comes up with a
way to encode/compress full HD video where it only takes 1% of the current
bandwidth to stream to your house then YES, this should be patented so
Comcast can't just take it and start using it. If someone finds a way to
increase gasoline mileage by 300% while reducing emissions then that person
has a right to protect his idea from being taken by every car manufacturer
in the world.

>Microsoft and Google and countless other IT companies started and grew
>without significant patent portfolios. I think that is a strong
>argument that they are not needed in that area. Similar arguments
>probably apply to other areas as well.
>
>But now that it is big, MS loves patents. Big companies always like
>patents. Having a bunch of them makes it more difficult for competitors
>to move in on their "turf" and gives them leverage in deal-making. It
>is a big game that has very little to do with anything resembling
>innovation. In many cases it actually stifles innovation.
>

I think that "common sense" patents (ie - setting the bar high enough) would
also work here. Although I don't ever see it happening or anyone being able
to define what "common sense" actually is or isn't.


>Some kind of reform is clearly needed, but what form it should take I
>haven't thought too much about. Politically, probably the only thing
>that can be done is to make the process more rigorous as I defined it
>above.
>

I won't be holding my breath for anything to change. For better or (mostly)
for worse, we've become a very litigious society and patents are just one
aspect of this.


Bob Hauck

unread,
Apr 30, 2011, 2:58:58 PM4/30/11
to
On Sat, 30 Apr 2011 13:04:08 -0400, Ezekiel <M...@Not-there.com> wrote:
>>
>>
>>"Bob Hauck" wrote in message
>>news:slrnirobcr.d...@robin.haucks.org...
>>
>>On Sat, 30 Apr 2011 09:31:25 -0400, Ezekiel <M...@Not-there.com> wrote:
>>>>"Bob Hauck" wrote in message
>>>>news:slrniro1dq.d...@robin.haucks.org...
>>
>>>>On patents, I think there needs to be a more rigorous process for
>>>>granting them.

>>> Unfortunately the process is very rigorous - rigorous as in the

>>> process takes several years and costs a good deal of money. There
>>> are a lot of bad patents (software and other) being issued. But how
>>> and where do you draw the line?

>>That's not "rigorous", that's "exclusive". Not the same thing. The
>>current process is really only available to those who already have
>>
> (snip)
>
> I see that my <sarcasm> didn't get across.

I guess not. Sorry for the misunderstanding.


>>I'm actually not convinced that protecting "ideas" as opposed to
>>expressions of an idea is really a good thing, especially since the
>>same idea very often occurs to several people at the same time.

> I can't think of too many cases where it's the 'idea' and not the
> 'expression' (ie - specific implementation) that's been patented.

Um, I think patenting the idea is the point of a patent. If I come up
with the same algorithm that you have patented, you can sue me even if I
invented it indepedently or implemented it in a different language.

In the case of your own patents, YOU could be sued for using your own
algorithm if you have assigned the patent to your employer.

So, yes, it is the idea that is being patented. This is made especially
clear in the case of "business method" patents, where some way of doing
business is granted a patent (e.g. one-click shopping).

Copyright, OTOH, does protect only the "implementation" so to speak, not
the idea itself.


>>People talk about someone "stealing" an idea and competing with the
>>original inventor. But does that really discourage people from coming
>>up with new ideas? I'm not seeing a lot of evidence that is the case.

> Even without patent protections people would still come up with new
> ideas. But as a general rule - I don't see how a system like that
> would be sustainable for long. Small company spends $10's of millions
> developing new drug. The day new drug is released big company "steals"
> formula and is able to sell it for a fraction of the cost putting
> small company out of business.
>
> Replace "new drug" with almost any product and there would be very
> little incentive for companies to spend money on R&D because it would
> be cheaper just to "steal" other ideas for free. Any field or
> industry that relies on R&D would see the big companies get bigger and
> the small companies get wiped out of existence.

The thing is, though, that a drug and software are very different. Your
"replace new drug with almost any product" is doing an awful lot of work
in that paragraph.

A drug is a specific chemical compound. There is no ambiguity about
whether some other drug is the same or different. It is at least
conceptually easy to tell if this particular pill violates a patent.

Software is different. It is composed of hundreds or thousands of
interacting pieces. The implentation of an algorithm might be spread
over multiple files or written in an obscure language. It is not easy
or straightforward to determine if a program violates patents in the way
it is for a drug.

Which is why I think copyright makes a lot more sense for software than
patents do. Allowing both is kind of nutty, in my view.


>>Having more competitors is generally thought to be a good thing, isn't
>>it? Deliberately limiting competition would seem to be something that
>>should only be done if there is evidence that doing so provides more
>>benefits than not (to society, not the companies involved).
>>
>
> Having "fair competition" is a good thing. Companies looting and
> stealing the work of other companies without consequence isn't fair
> competition IMO.

How is inventing the same idea independently "looting and stealing"? By
any reasonable definition it is not. Which is precisely why patent
protection ought to be given only to ideas which are truly unique and
non-obvious to someone working in the field.


>>At least in software there seems to be very little evidence that
>>patents are encouraging innovation. Since that is their purpose, I
>>don't seen the need for software patents to exist.

> If I or my company spends years developing some super-duper algorithm

> that does something that effectively has never been done before then
> Microsoft, Google or IBM shouldn't be able to just take *my* work and
> start commercializing it for money.

But with software you have copyright protection. You can not provide
source code. You can put in restrictive license terms that prohibit
reverse-engineering. You can make it hard for them to "steal" your
idea.

So it is not as if you have no other protection. You can still sue them
if they violate your license or copy your code, just the same as you can
sue them if they violate your patent.

The software industry needs to pick one protection model and stick with
it rather than trying to grab onto every possible mechanism.


>> The question is, would you have made these inventions if they were
>> not patentable?
>
> The answer is a definite 100% unreserved YES. I wasn't trying to
> create a patent - I was doing my job and trying to solve a problem
> required for our product to work. It's only afterwards that someone
> else thought it would be a good idea to patent this.

Exactly. That is almost always the case in software that the patent is
a side effect of a larger effort.

It is not the same for drug companies. They are trying to create new
chemicals because that chemical is their product. The product is the
patented thing, not a tiny part of it.

Yes, there are counterexamples. But not all that many compared to the
number of software patents that have been issued.


> If someone comes up with a way to encode/compress full HD video where
> it only takes 1% of the current bandwidth to stream to your house then
> YES, this should be patented so Comcast can't just take it and start
> using it. If someone finds a way to increase gasoline mileage by 300%
> while reducing emissions then that person has a right to protect his
> idea from being taken by every car manufacturer in the world.

Even in these examples, there is a case to be made that not having the
patent, or having a weaker protection, might be better for society.

Having cars get 300% better mileage would be a huge win for the world
that could easily outweigh some corporation's right to tack as much as
possible onto the price of every car, or some oil company's right to
buy the patent and not license it.

I don't think ideas are inherently "property". The purpose of patent
protection is to encourage new ideas to be developed. It should be no
stronger than is necessary to achieve that. To that end, I think that
the pharmaceutical industry and the software industry probably require
differing levels of protection of different types. The system should
reflect that reality.


> I won't be holding my breath for anything to change. For better or
> (mostly) for worse, we've become a very litigious society and patents
> are just one aspect of this.

I can't disagree with that.

Ezekiel

unread,
Apr 30, 2011, 4:15:44 PM4/30/11
to
>
>
>"Bob Hauck" wrote in message
>news:slrniromvi.e...@robin.haucks.org...

>
>On Sat, 30 Apr 2011 13:04:08 -0400, Ezekiel <M...@Not-there.com> wrote:
>>>


>>>I'm actually not convinced that protecting "ideas" as opposed to
>>>expressions of an idea is really a good thing, especially since the
>>>same idea very often occurs to several people at the same time.
>
>> I can't think of too many cases where it's the 'idea' and not the
>> 'expression' (ie - specific implementation) that's been patented.
>
>Um, I think patenting the idea is the point of a patent. If I come up
>with the same algorithm that you have patented, you can sue me even if I
>invented it indepedently or implemented it in a different language.
>

What I'm trying to say is that a company couldn't patent the idea of
"flying" for example. But a specific implementation of flight (fixed wing,
helicopter, hot air balloon, dirigible, etc) could be patented. I'm using
'idea' as being a generic/general concept and 'expression' being a specific
implementation of that concept. The 'idea' is to generate power from
sunlight - the 'implementation' are the different specific ways that do
this.

>>>People talk about someone "stealing" an idea and competing with the
>>>original inventor. But does that really discourage people from coming
>>>up with new ideas? I'm not seeing a lot of evidence that is the case.
>
>> Even without patent protections people would still come up with new
>> ideas. But as a general rule - I don't see how a system like that
>> would be sustainable for long. Small company spends $10's of millions
>> developing new drug. The day new drug is released big company "steals"
>> formula and is able to sell it for a fraction of the cost putting
>> small company out of business.
>>
>> Replace "new drug" with almost any product and there would be very
>> little incentive for companies to spend money on R&D because it would
>> be cheaper just to "steal" other ideas for free. Any field or
>> industry that relies on R&D would see the big companies get bigger and
>> the small companies get wiped out of existence.
>
>The thing is, though, that a drug and software are very different. Your
>"replace new drug with almost any product" is doing an awful lot of work
>in that paragraph.
>

I was talking about worthwhile inventions in general and not specifically
about software patents. Whether it's a new drug, a better jet engine or a
new way to gather solar power. If it's a worthwhile invention then odds are
that someone put in the money and sweat to develop it and they should be
able to product their work from predators.


>
>Which is why I think copyright makes a lot more sense for software than
>patents do. Allowing both is kind of nutty, in my view.
>

In many/most cases copyright is more applicable because often nothing new
was "invented." But when a radically new idea does get 'invented' then I
feel the person/company that did the work deserves the right to protect
their invention.


>>>Having more competitors is generally thought to be a good thing, isn't
>>>it? Deliberately limiting competition would seem to be something that
>>>should only be done if there is evidence that doing so provides more
>>>benefits than not (to society, not the companies involved).
>>>
>>
>> Having "fair competition" is a good thing. Companies looting and
>> stealing the work of other companies without consequence isn't fair
>> competition IMO.
>
>How is inventing the same idea independently "looting and stealing"? By
>any reasonable definition it is not. Which is precisely why patent
>protection ought to be given only to ideas which are truly unique and
>non-obvious to someone working in the field.
>

I didn't say "inventing the same idea independently" was looting and
stealing. What I'm saying is that if there were *no* patents at all then
there would be outright looting and stealing. Why bother to develop
something independently when there are no patent laws to prevent you from
just "stealing" the idea. (general statement - not just software)

The 'invent the same idea independently' makes me skeptical as well. Yes,
there are cases when this has happened. But there are also cases when
<product/idea> never existed before until one day some company releases
<product/idea>. Suddenly within a few months time there are dozens of other
copy-cat companies who 'invent the same idea independently' which leads me
to believe that 99% of the copy-cats would have never came up with the
invention if they hadn't seen someone else do it first.


>> If I or my company spends years developing some super-duper algorithm
>> that does something that effectively has never been done before then
>> Microsoft, Google or IBM shouldn't be able to just take *my* work and
>> start commercializing it for money.
>
>But with software you have copyright protection. You can not provide
>source code. You can put in restrictive license terms that prohibit
>reverse-engineering. You can make it hard for them to "steal" your
>idea.
>
>So it is not as if you have no other protection. You can still sue them
>if they violate your license or copy your code, just the same as you can
>sue them if they violate your patent.
>
>The software industry needs to pick one protection model and stick with
>it rather than trying to grab onto every possible mechanism.
>

I agree that something needs to be done but I don't expect to see any
significant changes. Big companies with the big patent portfolios have the
big legal teams to keep things as they are. I don't ever expect to see the
biggest software companies in the world release control of their patent
portfolios.


>>> The question is, would you have made these inventions if they were
>>> not patentable?
>>
>> The answer is a definite 100% unreserved YES. I wasn't trying to
>> create a patent - I was doing my job and trying to solve a problem
>> required for our product to work. It's only afterwards that someone
>> else thought it would be a good idea to patent this.
>
>Exactly. That is almost always the case in software that the patent is
>a side effect of a larger effort.
>
>It is not the same for drug companies. They are trying to create new
>chemicals because that chemical is their product. The product is the
>patented thing, not a tiny part of it.
>
>Yes, there are counterexamples. But not all that many compared to the
>number of software patents that have been issued.
>
>
>> If someone comes up with a way to encode/compress full HD video where
>> it only takes 1% of the current bandwidth to stream to your house then
>> YES, this should be patented so Comcast can't just take it and start
>> using it. If someone finds a way to increase gasoline mileage by 300%
>> while reducing emissions then that person has a right to protect his
>> idea from being taken by every car manufacturer in the world.
>
>Even in these examples, there is a case to be made that not having the
>patent, or having a weaker protection, might be better for society.
>

But if you want to talk about what's better for society - then
drugs/medicine shouldn't be patented so that they could be produced for
cheap on a large scale for all of society to benefit. The ability to
transmit HD video in only 1% of the bandwidth doesn't really help society
much - but it'll do wonders for Comcast and Time Warner Cable by saving them
a fortune in infrastructure.

>Having cars get 300% better mileage would be a huge win for the world
>that could easily outweigh some corporation's right to tack as much as
>possible onto the price of every car, or some oil company's right to
>buy the patent and not license it.
>

Years ago when growing up there were these 'urban legends' and one of which
was the "400 MPG carburetor" that was bought-out by the oil companies and
'buried' to keep the price of oil high. The two basic problems with this
are: 1) Physics tells us that amount of energy present in 1 gallon of fuel
isn't nearly enough to drive a vehicle this far and 2) The oil companies
could make more money selling 400 MPG carburetor than they could by hiding
the invention.

amicus_curious

unread,
May 1, 2011, 9:44:43 AM5/1/11
to

"Bob Hauck" <postm...@avalanche.org> wrote in message
news:slrniromvi.e...@robin.haucks.org...

>


> How is inventing the same idea independently "looting and stealing"? By
> any reasonable definition it is not. Which is precisely why patent
> protection ought to be given only to ideas which are truly unique and
> non-obvious to someone working in the field.
>

That is what the law says, too. The problem comes when someone has to
decide what is "obvious" or "non-obvious". As soon as any decision is made,
it is subject to appeal in court. Immediately that means that the original
decision is now subject to the whimsy of a judge, who is unlikely to be much
of an expert on the patent's field of application, and a jury, which is even
more unlikely to know anything. I don't think that they are even allowed to
know anything, they only are allowed to weigh evidence, which is just as
ridiculous.

The original patent examiner is unlikely to be an expert either, considering
what sort of things have managed to be patented, for example making a
child's swing out of a rope and board and hanging it from a tree.

The entire patent system has become an insane asylum with millions of
patents on things that are so obscure that they have no real effect on
commerce. Nothing that is very basic still has any patent protection, IMO,
and the patents merely serve to put a variation on some theme. Microsoft
has a lot of patents that read on a lot of non-Microsoft products and
vice-versa for IBM, Apple, Oracle, Symantec, CA, and other big companies in
the software businesses. They don't sue one another because they all have
cross-licensing. The aggregation of those portfolios can be used to block
little guys from starting and even extract some revenue from users like Tom
Tom or Barnes and Nobel or Motorola or even Google as it turns out. Some of
that is justified and some of it is not, but it could probably all be done
away with and big companies would not be harmed in any way.

Patent trolls and lawyers would suffer from the loss of a business area, of
course, but I don't think anyone here would shed a tear for that. In
established fields such as PC OS platform software, the big companies can
live off of their brand recognition. That alone is enough to prevent entry
by others. Witness how people can steal Windows without much effort and a
product like Ubuntu that may very well be just as capable as Windows cannot
muster even 1% of the business because of its obscurity.

amicus_curious

unread,
May 1, 2011, 10:13:34 AM5/1/11
to

"Ezekiel" <M...@Not-there.com> wrote in message
news:iphqlh$rq0$1...@dont-email.me...

>
> What I'm trying to say is that a company couldn't patent the idea of
> "flying" for example. But a specific implementation of flight (fixed
> wing, helicopter, hot air balloon, dirigible, etc) could be patented. I'm
> using 'idea' as being a generic/general concept and 'expression' being a
> specific implementation of that concept. The 'idea' is to generate power
> from sunlight - the 'implementation' are the different specific ways that
> do this.
>

Strictly speaking, the "idea" is not patented, but rather a "method and
apparatus" that implements the idea may be patented. The notion of
apparatus gets a little murky when the idea is implemented using a computer
and software, but there still has to be some evidence that the idea was
reduced to practice in some non-obvious way. The term "non-obvious" has
become the sticking point, I think.

That is also what confuses a judge and jury. Way back in the early days,
disk storage was a lot more expensive and Stac Electronics marketed a
program that compressed data on a hard drive in a way that made the disk
look larger than it was ordinarily. I think they actually bought the patent
for their algorithms from someone else, but they did obtain a patent.
Microsoft eventually noticed that this was a good idea and ended up creating
a copycat that was assimilated into DOS by buying another, but later, patent
on a different algorithm.

When that got to court, the method and apparatus issue was clouded by the
very idea of data compression which had been around since Hamming was a grad
student. Stac won a big (for the time) judgment and never managed to hit
any other home runs. As disk memory sizes doubled each year and prices
fell, the whole idea has become somewhat passé but it illustrates the issue.


>
> I was talking about worthwhile inventions in general and not specifically
> about software patents. Whether it's a new drug, a better jet engine or a
> new way to gather solar power. If it's a worthwhile invention then odds
> are that someone put in the money and sweat to develop it and they should
> be able to product their work from predators.
>

Trade secrets are useful in that regard, of course. If some company has a
great idea and can keep how to do it a secret, then they can succeed fairly
well. Even if it is not a secret and the idea is pretty good, the first
company to successfully market it will be able to grab the lead and stay
there with follow on efforts. That is what basically happened with
Microsoft. There the good idea was to supply the OS for IBM's PC and be the
market leader as the business developed. There wasn't any patent protection
or even copyright protection involved, just a strong focus and commitment.
Maybe too strong, some say, but certainly not an artificial advantage.


>
>>
>>Which is why I think copyright makes a lot more sense for software than
>>patents do. Allowing both is kind of nutty, in my view.
>>
> In many/most cases copyright is more applicable because often nothing new
> was "invented." But when a radically new idea does get 'invented' then I
> feel the person/company that did the work deserves the right to protect
> their invention.
>

Can you think of anything that has patent protection today that fits that
definition? I can't.


Bob Hauck

unread,
May 1, 2011, 2:19:21 PM5/1/11
to
On Sat, 30 Apr 2011 16:15:44 -0400, Ezekiel <M...@Not-there.com> wrote:
>>
>>
>>"Bob Hauck" wrote in message
>>news:slrniromvi.e...@robin.haucks.org...
>>
>>On Sat, 30 Apr 2011 13:04:08 -0400, Ezekiel <M...@Not-there.com> wrote:
>>>>
>
>
>>>>I'm actually not convinced that protecting "ideas" as opposed to
>>>>expressions of an idea is really a good thing, especially since the
>>>>same idea very often occurs to several people at the same time.
>>
>>> I can't think of too many cases where it's the 'idea' and not the
>>> 'expression' (ie - specific implementation) that's been patented.
>>
>>Um, I think patenting the idea is the point of a patent. If I come up
>>with the same algorithm that you have patented, you can sue me even if I
>>invented it indepedently or implemented it in a different language.
>>
>
> What I'm trying to say is that a company couldn't patent the idea of
> "flying" for example. But a specific implementation of flight (fixed wing,
> helicopter, hot air balloon, dirigible, etc) could be patented.

That's basically the requirement that the idea must be "reduced to
practice". But it is different from copyright in that if you patent
some compression algorithm, nobody else can use that algorithm without
licensing your patent, even if they implement it in a different language
or in an FPGA instead of softare.


>>> Even without patent protections people would still come up with new
>>> ideas. But as a general rule - I don't see how a system like that
>>> would be sustainable for long. Small company spends $10's of millions
>>> developing new drug. The day new drug is released big company "steals"
>>> formula and is able to sell it for a fraction of the cost putting
>>> small company out of business.
>>>
>>> Replace "new drug" with almost any product and there would be very
>>> little incentive for companies to spend money on R&D because it would
>>> be cheaper just to "steal" other ideas for free. Any field or
>>> industry that relies on R&D would see the big companies get bigger and
>>> the small companies get wiped out of existence.
>>
>>The thing is, though, that a drug and software are very different. Your
>>"replace new drug with almost any product" is doing an awful lot of work
>>in that paragraph.
>>
> I was talking about worthwhile inventions in general and not specifically
> about software patents. Whether it's a new drug, a better jet engine or a
> new way to gather solar power. If it's a worthwhile invention then odds are
> that someone put in the money and sweat to develop it and they should be
> able to product their work from predators.

My point was that the patent scheme works much better with some types of
inventions than with others. One big problem with software patents is
the difficulty of determining whether you infringe. That difficulty
does not exist or is much less with other types of patents.


>>Which is why I think copyright makes a lot more sense for software than
>>patents do. Allowing both is kind of nutty, in my view.
>>
> In many/most cases copyright is more applicable because often nothing
> new was "invented." But when a radically new idea does get 'invented'
> then I feel the person/company that did the work deserves the right to
> protect their invention.

No, I'm sorry, that is not the purpose of patents or copyright. The
purpose as defined by the US Constitution is to "promote the progress of
science and the useful arts".

So patent protection should be offered only to the extent that the gains
from offering it oughtweigh the costs of monopoly to society. It is not
something inventors are automatically entitled to.


>>How is inventing the same idea independently "looting and stealing"? By
>>any reasonable definition it is not. Which is precisely why patent
>>protection ought to be given only to ideas which are truly unique and
>>non-obvious to someone working in the field.

> I didn't say "inventing the same idea independently" was looting and
> stealing. What I'm saying is that if there were *no* patents at all then
> there would be outright looting and stealing.

And would that actually prevent the original inventor from making a
buck? Maybe he would make fewer bucks than otherwise, but unless it is
always a losing proposition to the point where the pace of invention
slows, then there is no net loss to society.


> The 'invent the same idea independently' makes me skeptical as well.

You seem to be very attached to the concept of owning an idea, something
that is really not a natural right at all. And enforcing such a right
is not really the purpose of a patent or copyright in any case.

You are correct that once someone has done something, it becomes more
likely that others will come up with a way to do it too. That doesn't
mean they are "looting and stealing" the original idea. It just means
that people now know there is a solution to be found.


> But if you want to talk about what's better for society - then
> drugs/medicine shouldn't be patented so that they could be produced
> for cheap on a large scale for all of society to benefit.

It might well be the case that drug patents are a net negative. I have
seen that argument made. I don't know whether it is true or not. I do
suspect that most important new classes of drugs (as opposed to minor
variations on existing themes) come out of government research anyway,
but I am open to the possibility that drug patents are a net positive
for society.

I'm less open to that idea for software. The industry went through a
huge burst of innovation with virtually no patent protection. And if
you look at what does get patented there is a very high proportion of
junk and prior art. For every MP3 patent there are ten XOR's and a
one-click.

In addition, developing a new software algorithm does not cost hundreds
of millions of dollars like developing a drug does. Developing a whole
software system might, but the patentable bits tend to be a small part
of that.

amicus_curious

unread,
May 2, 2011, 9:01:25 AM5/2/11
to

"Bob Hauck" <postm...@avalanche.org> wrote in message

news:slrnirr919.8...@robin.haucks.org...

I think that is a long leap, Bob. A patent protects the work product of the
inventor which is the mechanism presumed by the Constitution that results in
promoting progress by eliminating disincentives. The conditions for
obtaining a patent are defined by acts of Congress. Entitlement to a patent
comes from meeting the legal requirements, however vague they may be.
Owning a patent comes only from following the procedures and enduring
whatever due process may occur along the way.

>
>>>How is inventing the same idea independently "looting and stealing"? By
>>>any reasonable definition it is not. Which is precisely why patent
>>>protection ought to be given only to ideas which are truly unique and
>>>non-obvious to someone working in the field.
>
>> I didn't say "inventing the same idea independently" was looting and
>> stealing. What I'm saying is that if there were *no* patents at all then
>> there would be outright looting and stealing.
>
> And would that actually prevent the original inventor from making a
> buck? Maybe he would make fewer bucks than otherwise, but unless it is
> always a losing proposition to the point where the pace of invention
> slows, then there is no net loss to society.
>
>
>> The 'invent the same idea independently' makes me skeptical as well.
>
> You seem to be very attached to the concept of owning an idea, something
> that is really not a natural right at all. And enforcing such a right
> is not really the purpose of a patent or copyright in any case.
>
> You are correct that once someone has done something, it becomes more
> likely that others will come up with a way to do it too. That doesn't
> mean they are "looting and stealing" the original idea. It just means
> that people now know there is a solution to be found.
>

It often means that an idea's time has arrived as well. Dick Tracy's wrist
radio was primitive compared to the $29 pre-paid cell phone today.


>
>> But if you want to talk about what's better for society - then
>> drugs/medicine shouldn't be patented so that they could be produced
>> for cheap on a large scale for all of society to benefit.
>
> It might well be the case that drug patents are a net negative. I have
> seen that argument made. I don't know whether it is true or not. I do
> suspect that most important new classes of drugs (as opposed to minor
> variations on existing themes) come out of government research anyway,
> but I am open to the possibility that drug patents are a net positive
> for society.
>
> I'm less open to that idea for software. The industry went through a
> huge burst of innovation with virtually no patent protection. And if
> you look at what does get patented there is a very high proportion of
> junk and prior art. For every MP3 patent there are ten XOR's and a
> one-click.
>
> In addition, developing a new software algorithm does not cost hundreds
> of millions of dollars like developing a drug does. Developing a whole
> software system might, but the patentable bits tend to be a small part
> of that.
>

I don't think that any one drug costs anywhere near that much, but it serves
to illustrate a point. You are willing to accommodate drug patents in your
philosophy but not software. However the linkages between molecules and the
physiological effects of chemical combinations are just as "obvious" to drug
designers as classes, methods, and properties are to software designers.
And to patent examiners and the general public, they are both as obscure as
Chinese arithmetic. Only a lawyer can sort it out, they say.

Bob Hauck

unread,
May 2, 2011, 9:10:59 PM5/2/11
to
On Mon, 2 May 2011 09:01:25 -0400, amicus_curious <ac...@sti.net> wrote:
> "Bob Hauck" <postm...@avalanche.org> wrote in message
> news:slrnirr919.8...@robin.haucks.org...

>> On Sat, 30 Apr 2011 16:15:44 -0400, Ezekiel <M...@Not-there.com> wrote:

>> My point was that the patent scheme works much better with some types of
>> inventions than with others. One big problem with software patents is
>> the difficulty of determining whether you infringe. That difficulty
>> does not exist or is much less with other types of patents.
>>
>>>>Which is why I think copyright makes a lot more sense for software than
>>>>patents do. Allowing both is kind of nutty, in my view.
>>>>
>>> In many/most cases copyright is more applicable because often nothing
>>> new was "invented." But when a radically new idea does get 'invented'
>>> then I feel the person/company that did the work deserves the right to
>>> protect their invention.
>>
>> No, I'm sorry, that is not the purpose of patents or copyright. The
>> purpose as defined by the US Constitution is to "promote the progress of
>> science and the useful arts".
>>
>> So patent protection should be offered only to the extent that the gains
>> from offering it oughtweigh the costs of monopoly to society. It is not
>>> In many/most cases copyright is more applicable because often
>>> nothing new was "invented." But when a radically new idea does get
>>> 'invented' then I feel the person/company that did the work deserves
>>> the right to protect their invention.

> I think that is a long leap, Bob. A patent protects the work product

> of the inventor which is the mechanism presumed by the Constitution
> that results in promoting progress by eliminating disincentives. The
> conditions for obtaining a patent are defined by acts of Congress.
> Entitlement to a patent comes from meeting the legal requirements,
> however vague they may be. Owning a patent comes only from following
> the procedures and enduring whatever due process may occur along the
> way.

I am not sure what you are disagreeing with here. Of course anyone who
meets the requirements can get a patent. All I am saying is the
Congress is empowerd to set those requirements, in particular regarding
the types of inventions that can be patented. That could include your
position of no patents at all.

I think our only disagreement here is that I might possibly be willing
to allow some patents while you aren't. Congress has the power do do
either.


>>> The 'invent the same idea independently' makes me skeptical as well.
>>
>> You seem to be very attached to the concept of owning an idea, something
>> that is really not a natural right at all. And enforcing such a right
>> is not really the purpose of a patent or copyright in any case.
>>
>> You are correct that once someone has done something, it becomes more
>> likely that others will come up with a way to do it too. That doesn't
>> mean they are "looting and stealing" the original idea. It just means
>> that people now know there is a solution to be found.
>>
> It often means that an idea's time has arrived as well. Dick Tracy's wrist
> radio was primitive compared to the $29 pre-paid cell phone today.

Yes, the preliminary work that was needed to realize the "new thing" has
now been done, making it much easier for someone to "invent" it.


>>> But if you want to talk about what's better for society - then
>>> drugs/medicine shouldn't be patented so that they could be produced
>>> for cheap on a large scale for all of society to benefit.
>>
>> It might well be the case that drug patents are a net negative. I
>> have seen that argument made. I don't know whether it is true or
>> not. I do suspect that most important new classes of drugs (as
>> opposed to minor variations on existing themes) come out of
>> government research anyway, but I am open to the possibility that
>> drug patents are a net positive for society.
>>
>> I'm less open to that idea for software. The industry went through a
>> huge burst of innovation with virtually no patent protection. And if
>> you look at what does get patented there is a very high proportion of
>> junk and prior art. For every MP3 patent there are ten XOR's and a
>> one-click.
>>
>> In addition, developing a new software algorithm does not cost hundreds
>> of millions of dollars like developing a drug does. Developing a whole
>> software system might, but the patentable bits tend to be a small part
>> of that.
>>
> I don't think that any one drug costs anywhere near that much, but it
> serves to illustrate a point.

The drug companies claim it does. That includes all the various tests
and trials them must do to get the required approvals.


> You are willing to accommodate drug patents in your philosophy but not
> software. However the linkages between molecules and the
> physiological effects of chemical combinations are just as "obvious"
> to drug designers as classes, methods, and properties are to software
> designers. And to patent examiners and the general public, they are
> both as obscure as Chinese arithmetic. Only a lawyer can sort it out,
> they say.

I don't think the linkages between chemical structure and biological
function are all that clear-cut. But I could be wrong as I am not a
biologist. But that wasn't really what I was arguing.

My point was two-fold. One, it does seem that determining infringement
is much easier for drugs than for software. Second, in the case of the
drug the thing that is patented is the final product, while in the case
of software it is generally the case that the patented thing is only a
small part of a much larger system. Hence it seems plausible that the
patent protection is more important to drug makers when it comes time to
decide what to invest in than it is for software makers.

If that is the case, it is an argument for giving patents to one thing
but not the other. But I haven't really made up my mind on this.

amicus_curious

unread,
May 4, 2011, 8:59:43 AM5/4/11
to

"Bob Hauck" <postm...@avalanche.org> wrote in message

news:slrnirulh3.k...@bigbird.haucks.org...

>
>> I think that is a long leap, Bob. A patent protects the work product
>> of the inventor which is the mechanism presumed by the Constitution
>> that results in promoting progress by eliminating disincentives. The
>> conditions for obtaining a patent are defined by acts of Congress.
>> Entitlement to a patent comes from meeting the legal requirements,
>> however vague they may be. Owning a patent comes only from following
>> the procedures and enduring whatever due process may occur along the
>> way.
>
> I am not sure what you are disagreeing with here. Of course anyone who
> meets the requirements can get a patent. All I am saying is the
> Congress is empowerd to set those requirements, in particular regarding
> the types of inventions that can be patented. That could include your
> position of no patents at all.
>

I am questioning the notion that a patent could be denied based on some
argument that it would cause society harm rather than protect the income for
the inventor. The laws only define what may be patented and how that is to
be done.

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