USPTO: We suck. Be like us.

Posted 11 Jul 2000 at 20:29 UTC by dmarti Share This

The US Patent and Trademark Office has announced a meeting to discuss fixing its business methods patent process, and another meeting to spread its views on software and business methods patents to other countries in the Western Hemisphere.

First, the good news. Q. Todd Dickinson is inviting members of the public (that means you, webmasters) to the first meeting, to ask your advice on ways to "improve the USPTO's current examination approach to computer-implemented business method patent applications." Beers to Todd for understanding that USPTO could use some help with, among other things, learning how to do web searches for prior art.

But USPTO is also holding an "Intellectual Property Symposium of the Americas" to discuss, among other things, "Optical Media Piracy", "Business Software and Business Methods Patent enforcement issues," and "Copyright and the WIPO Treaties: Protecting Content on the Internet."

Just a minute, Todd. Who died and put you in charge of copyrights too? And just because US courts made you load down the US economy with software and business methods patents, does that mean you have to subject our friendly neighboring countries to the same thing?

Both meetings could use some well-informed Free Software business people to present a balanced point of view. Each link goes to a page with registration instructions.

Reverse the rewards, posted 11 Jul 2000 at 23:13 UTC by hanwen » (Journeyer)

Ok, I'll have a try for a better system:

* Applicants pay a administrative fees plus a large deposit (eg. $ 10000).

* The Patent Office gets to keep the deposit if they can prove that the patent is not original. If they can't find prior art, the deposit is given back to the applicant, and the patent is granted.

This would encourage both the PTO and the applicants to only come up with original ideas.

A better plan, posted 11 Jul 2000 at 23:50 UTC by djm » (Master)

harwen: Such a system would only make things worse. To a large company (such as the ones abusing the patent system) such a sum would be small change, but to an individual or small company (the people who the patent system was proportedly set up to encourage) any amount may be too much.

A process of public review would be preferable. Post all pending patent applications to a website and accept submissions from the interested public. Obvious abuses can then be struck down early.

Review process?, posted 12 Jul 2000 at 03:48 UTC by lilo » (Master)

The idea of a review process is an interesting one, but it begs the question of why should people with the resources to innundate the system with bogus patents, be allowed to waste the time of people who only want to be able to spread the use of innovation?

There's something a little twisted about the old argument that no one would innovate if they didn't have control of their technology. Nowdays it seems major corporations innovate only when they have to, precisely because the law allows them to prevent others from doing so. It may be time to look seriously at alternatives to intellectual property law.

fees, posted 12 Jul 2000 at 07:22 UTC by Fyndo » (Journeyer)

I have to say I agree with harwen. The $10000 (or whatever, that does strike me as moderately high) bond probably wouldn't be too much of a barrier to small companies, they could probably get a bank to match a bunch of it.

But as it is, the patent office is totally supported by fees. Undortunately that this means that people there lose their jobs if the volume of patents applied for drops. So they have an incentive to reward people for patenting anything remotely patentable. Give them an incentive to reject patents. Really the fee just needs to be high enough that the rejected patents cover the costs of all the applicants....

Publishers for patents, posted 12 Jul 2000 at 11:11 UTC by hanwen » (Journeyer)

but to an individual or small company (the people who the patent system was proportedly set up to encourage) any amount may be too much.

I would imagine that would be some kind of bank-like instution, that could do the research to find out if an invention is original and if so will cough up the $10000. They would get a cut of the profits from licensing.

Now that I've continue thinking about it, it has a direct analogy with copyright. In this system, small individuals usually license their work to publishers that take (part of) the financial risk and administrative work of marketing a copyrighted work. I am not sure that such a system would be good for free software, but I do think that it would decrease the number of patents issued.

Criminal patent fraud, posted 12 Jul 2000 at 18:29 UTC by dmarti » (Master)

Here's a case from outside the area of software, but still relevant to the subject of bogus patents. Hoffmann-LaRoche was found guilty of fraud in obtaining a key biotech patent, and has not apparently suffered much from it. So they're still better off perpetrating more fraud on USPTO in the future. Perhaps actually punishing people for bogus patents would be better than some kind of deposit system.

Nice succient critque covered in mainstream european (.ie) newspaper, posted 14 Jul 2000 at 08:04 UTC by caolan » (Master)

The irish times this morning is carrying a financial times article on patents in europe and gives a brillant critique of the european patent office headlong rush to make a complete mess out of everything. Very amusingly one his major reasons to resist software patents is "its effect on open and free software"

I particularly like the response to the argument that patents create incentives to innovate "R&D in software actually fell after patents became common....innovation was greatest when monopoly protections were least., hah!

A good article, something you can give to anyone to explain the issue.

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