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Software Patents Not So Abstract When the Lawsuits Hit Home 180

Posted by timothy
from the complaints-department dept.
no_such_user writes "It's easy to ignore the controversy surrounding software patents, especially if you don't have the passion for technology which Slashdot readers do. But as Dana Nieder discovered, it's not all about major corporations and obscure patent trolls. Her daughter uses a comparatively inexpensive assistive communication app on their iPad, which is being threatened by the makers of a multi-thousand-dollar hardware device."
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Software Patents Not So Abstract When the Lawsuits Hit Home

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  • Bit more info (Score:5, Informative)

    by maxdread (1769548) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @03:39PM (#39468209)

    A link to the actual complaint for anyone to read over (legal speak makes my head hurt so don't count on me to read it).

    http://news.priorsmart.com/semantic-compaction-systems-v-speak-for-yourself-l5vv/ [priorsmart.com]

    • Re:Bit more info (Score:5, Informative)

      by Svartalf (2997) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @04:03PM (#39468375) Homepage

      They're suing over a dynamic interface keyboard that's on-screen or otherwise.

      That's what they're suing them over.

      They have prior art that they've not contemplated here. This [assistiveware.com] program existed in it's earliest form in 1996. Which was a dynamic interface keyboard for assistive purposes.

      I tire of this bullshit. What was done to "reform" patents did nothing of the sort.

      • Re:Bit more info (Score:5, Informative)

        by kanweg (771128) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @04:14PM (#39468445)

        That is not Novelty destroying, I think. The first claim says that they keys contain polysemous symbols. Not being a native speaker, I had to look that word up. This is what Wikipedia says:

        A polyseme is a word or phrase with different, but related senses. Since the test for polysemy is the vague concept of relatedness, judgments of polysemy can be difficult to make. Because applying pre-existing words to new situations is a natural process of language change, looking at words' etymology is helpful in determining polysemy but not the only solution; as words become lost in etymology, what once was a useful distinction of meaning may no longer be so. Some apparently unrelated words share a common historical origin, however, so etymology is not an infallible test for polysemy, and dictionary writers also often defer to speakers' intuitions to judge polysemy in cases where it contradicts etymology. English has many words which are polysemous. For example the verb "to get" can mean "procure" (I'll get the drinks), "become" (she got scared), "have" (I've got three dollars), "understand" (I get it) etc.

        The program you linked to only shows letters on the keys.

        Bert

        • Re:Bit more info (Score:4, Informative)

          by Svartalf (2997) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @04:30PM (#39468533) Homepage

          Ah, but the distinction is insufficient for a utility patent on the implementation. Apple's actions anticipate the other that you mention. It IS Novelty Destroying.

          • Ah, but the distinction is insufficient for a utility patent on the implementation. Apple's actions anticipate the other that you mention. It IS Novelty Destroying.

            Not so... For a reference to be novelty destroying, it has to disclose each and every element of the claimed invention. If there's a distinction of any sort, then it's not novelty destroying. It could still be obvious, but you have to show that that distinction is obvious.

            Call it mere semantics, if you want, but I call it due process - you need evidence to invalidate a patent, not just a gut feeling.

            • Call it mere semantics, if you want, but I call it due process - you need evidence to invalidate a patent, not just a gut feeling.

              It seems to me that "gut feeling" is pretty much how obviousness works. It's not like there is a mathematical formula for it.

              The OP was using the wrong terminology (anticipation/novelty instead of non-obviousness), but I don't see how you can seriously dispute the conclusion. Polysemes are an incredibly abstract concept. Certain characters (especially in foreign languages or mathematical languages) are polysemous words. Keys can be semantically polysemous regardless of their label, e.g. vim key bindings, an

              • Call it mere semantics, if you want, but I call it due process - you need evidence to invalidate a patent, not just a gut feeling.

                It seems to me that "gut feeling" is pretty much how obviousness works. It's not like there is a mathematical formula for it.

                Actually, there is. A claimed invention is obvious if one or more pieces or prior art, alone or in combination, teach or suggest each and every element of the claim. In other words, Obvious=Sigma[for each element from i to n](prior art 1, prior art 2... prior art n).

                Or, in more clear words, if a claim includes elements a+b+c+d, it's novel if there's no single piece of prior art that includes a+b+c+d, but it's obvious if one piece of prior art teaches a+b, another teaches c, and a third teaches d.

        • Most native speakers would have to look polysemous up.
        • here's the keyboard [evernote.com] in the patent.
        • by rtb61 (674572)

          It was a corporate reform of patents driven by patent lawyers. All a smoke screen to get in, who patents first wins. If it hasn't been patented yet, patent it, bugger prior art, bugger existing use and, bugger obviousness.

          One rule and one rule only, if it hasn't been patented yet, patent it and then fight it out in court, guess who wins, go on guess (Uncle Tom Obama is one and around 50% of Federal politicians are one).

          Lawyers making more God damned work and God damned profits for lawyers. Patent refor

          • Re:Bit more info (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Raenex (947668) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @11:54PM (#39471521)

            It was a corporate reform of patents driven by patent lawyers. All a smoke screen to get in, who patents first wins. If it hasn't been patented yet, patent it, bugger prior art, bugger existing use and, bugger obviousness.

            Bullshit. You might have noticed that prior art and obviousness were being ignored before patent reform, so first-to-file changes nothing. Prior art and obviousness are still preclusions to getting a patent, but the patent office still needs to apply these principles wisely.

            • by rtb61 (674572)

              Before the reform, once prior art was submitted more often than not the patent claim was dropped. Since patent reform, this is no longer happening, the whole process is now being drawn out through the court because the plaintiff has a legal claim on the patent now by being the first to patent.

              Surely you should have noticed this subtle but substantial shift in patent claims and litigation.

      • Re:Bit more info (Score:5, Informative)

        by Svartalf (2997) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @04:19PM (#39468471) Homepage

        And...we won't get into the fact that Apple patented the base concept in 1992 [google.com]

        • Having a base patent does not preclude someone else from adding something "innovative" on top of that and patenting the result. It's just that they, or anyone they'd license the tech to, would have to also obtain Apple's patent to make anything useful. Who's to say Apple doesn't license theirs?

          • by yuna49 (905461)

            Given that patents have a seventeen-year term, a patent from 1992 should have expired by now.

        • And...we won't get into the fact that Apple patented the base concept in 1992 [google.com]

          Doesn't matter... If I get a base patent on a seating device with at least three legs (a stool), you can still get a patent on a seating device with at least three legs and an upright back connected to the base (a chair). My patent may block you from implementing yours, but the fact that I invented a stool doesn't give me ownership over any possible future improvement.

      • by chrismcb (983081)

        This program existed in it's earliest form in 1996.

        So your "prior" art came into being a year after the patent was filed?

      • by scdeimos (632778)

        It's not just some auto-correcting QWERTY keyboard, though, it's an icon-based dynamic keyboard. See figure 2B in the patent application - unfortunately USPTO requires Javascript and QuickTime to view images...

        http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect2=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=/netahtml/PTO/search-bool.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&d=PALL&RefSrch=yes&Query=PN/5748177

  • Money wins (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 25, 2012 @03:42PM (#39468235)

    In our (North American at least) justice system, it is money that wins the day. If you cannot afford to do legal battle, you lose. Very sad, but until we change it, it is the way things are.

    My only suggestion is if you need the app, make sure you have it and a backup on your ipad. The company may stop producing and supporting it, but if you already have it and it is working, then keep it. (ps. Don't screw around with that ipad, in case you corrupt something and lose the 'irreplacebale' app.

    • anybody that speaks "patent" know if they have a decent patent or can "we" rip these patents apart like Mouse Dresden does to Vampires??

      (just for "fun" lets see if we can come up with prior art and such)

      • Re:Patent links (Score:5, Informative)

        by timholman (71886) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @04:02PM (#39468371)

        anybody that speaks "patent" know if they have a decent patent or can "we" rip these patents apart like Mouse Dresden does to Vampires??

        (just for "fun" lets see if we can come up with prior art and such)

        You're wasting your time. Prior art can be found for the great majority of patents. (I do this part-time as a consultant.)

        But prior art is irrelevant unless you can afford a couple of good attorneys who bill at $500 / hour, and are willing to devote months if not years of your life to a legal battle. Is it worth $100,000, or even $1,000,000, to invalidate the plaintiff's patent? You can win the battle but lose the war when your small business goes bankrupt from the legal costs.

        • Re:Patent links (Score:4, Interesting)

          by RobertLTux (260313) <robert@laurenceP ... minus physicist> on Sunday March 25, 2012 @04:25PM (#39468509)

          the trick is to put the evidence out there and then when groklaw/eff get wind of this they can bring their lawyers in to the fight. (this is the whistle hard to attract a WOLF/Tibetan Mastif trick)

        • Re:Patent links (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Svartalf (2997) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @04:28PM (#39468525) Homepage

          Most of the litigators I know that're good in this space happen to bill at $350/hr. The only bunch I know of that charge $500/hr are people from places like Cravath. Most of the companies that hire those sorts of lawyers don't bother with idiot lawsuits like this one.

          As for months of a legal battle, it depends on the "big company" as to whether or not they're willing to piss $100k-1mil on the floor and lose the patent that they spent some $20-50k on getting, along with possibly losing a countersuit if one's filed.

          In this case, though, there's a dead-on, you lose piece of prior art involved- Apple patented the base concept in 1992 [google.com]. This isn't some almost item. It's the same concept/implementation- all that's differing is the verbiage in the patent copy for what they're doing and why. I'd put up a fight and counter-sue for damages due to this BS for bringing a frivolous lawsuit (Because it is...).

          • Most of the litigators I know that're good in this space happen to bill at $350/hr. The only bunch I know of that charge $500/hr are people from places like Cravath.

            ... that you know a couple of 5th year associates from Cravath may not be relevant. The partners are probably around $800/hr.

            In this case, though, there's a dead-on, you lose piece of prior art involved- Apple patented the base concept in 1992 [google.com]. This isn't some almost item. It's the same concept/implementation- all that's differing is the verbiage in the patent copy for what they're doing and why. I'd put up a fight and counter-sue for damages due to this BS for bringing a frivolous lawsuit (Because it is...).

            Apple patenting the "base concept" is also irrelevant. The wheel is a "base concept" for a Tesla Roadster. That doesn't mean that Neanderthal Ug, Genius Inventor, anticipated electric cars.

        • Re:Patent links (Score:5, Informative)

          by Grond (15515) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @06:15PM (#39469371) Homepage

          But prior art is irrelevant unless you can afford a couple of good attorneys who bill at $500 / hour, and are willing to devote months if not years of your life to a legal battle.

          Patent attorneys, even good ones, do not universally bill $500/hour. There are perfectly competent patent attorneys who bill half or even a quarter of that. But moreover, litigation is not the only route to invalidating a patent. If appropriate prior art is found (e.g. patents and printed publications), reexamination at the Patent Office costs far less than litigation, often results in invalidation or substantial narrowing of the patent, and any co-pending litigation is typically stayed during reexamination.

          Is it worth $100,000, or even $1,000,000, to invalidate the plaintiff's patent? You can win the battle but lose the war when your small business goes bankrupt from the legal costs.

          That's one reason I favor greater use of fee-shifting in patent cases (i.e. patentee pays the other side's attorney's fees if the patent is invalidated). But who's to say that the patentee would get an injunction in this case? Since they don't make an iPad app it's quite possible that the court would only award a reasonable royalty or perhaps lost profits. That means the app will have to be more expensive but it doesn't mean it would be removed from the market. Similarly, the defendant many be able to settle for a reasonable royalty without incurring significant litigation costs. The author of the article assumes that the result will be the end of the app, but this is not necessarily true.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            I don't know about you, but I can't afford even half that. If someone wants to take down one of my hobby projects, and I can't attract the attention of the likes of the EFF, then I'm rolling over. It doesn't matter how invalid the patent is, I can't fight it.

        • Re:Patent links (Score:4, Interesting)

          by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Sunday March 25, 2012 @06:57PM (#39469721) Journal

          The problem is our entire system is designed to let the rich "run out the clock" as it were, letting them drag shit out for years and years because they know that while they can afford to have their own legal team on retainer the people they are crushing simply can't. I got to see this first hand when a friend of mine that was running a little ISP got crushed thanks to a big teleco making sure nobody would sell him backbone access and told him "Yeah just try to sue us". His lawyer said "Oh there is zero doubt you'll win, its as open and shut as it can be, but I hope you have about a mil five and a decade to spare as they will bury you in bullshit motions and appeals until they break you".

          That is why I have said for years we need to take the advantage of money OUT of the system, by forcing both sides to pay into a pool from which BOTH sides lawyers are paid. in this way if a rich corp or individual tried to crush the other under "dream team" lawyers they would be forced to put an equal amount at the disposal of the opposing side, thus negating their advantage. I believe this would work for criminal as well, where prosecutors can pile on experts while the defendant runs out of cash.

        • Prior art can be found for the great majority of patents. (I do this part-time as a consultant.)

          Not to doubt your credibility, but if you are a prior art searcher, even part time as a consultant, you'd know that prior art can be found for every patent, since prior art is just any disclosure in the relevant industry (i.e. art) that was available to the public prior to the date of invention (i.e. prior). TCP is prior art for 802.11n. The wheel is prior art for the Tesla Roadster. Fire is prior art for nuclear fusion. What you meant to say was anticipatory prior art, but the fact that you don't know that

        • But prior art is irrelevant unless you can afford a couple of good attorneys who bill at $500 / hour, and are willing to devote months if not years of your life to a legal battle. Is it worth $100,000, or even $1,000,000, to invalidate the plaintiff's patent? You can win the battle but lose the war when your small business goes bankrupt from the legal costs.

          Thankfully, you were not there to discourage the guy who invalidated most of the patent claims in the Amazon one-click buy patent. That guy wasn't a lawyer and he didn't hire a lawyer. He just did it himself and he succeeded where so many $500 per hour lawyers (and so many $500 per hour consultants) had failed previously.

          Now I'm not saying that anyone can do this, after all you need to find someone who is patient enough, detail-oriented enough, and motivated enough to undertake all the research and the back

  • Patents in question (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 25, 2012 @03:44PM (#39468249)

    The patents in question, from USPTO website.

    #5748177 Dynamic keyboard and method for dynamically redefining keys on a keyboard

    A dynamic keyboard includes a plurality of keys, each with an associated symbol, which are dynamically redefinable to provide access to higher level keyboards. Based on sequenced symbols of keys sequentially activated, certain dynamic categories and subcategories can be accessed and keys corresponding thereto dynamically redefined. Dynamically redefined keys can include embellished symbols and/or newly displayed symbols. These dyanmically redefined keys can then provide the user with the ability to easily access both core and fringe vocabulary words in a speech synthesis system.

    #5920303 Dynamic keyboard and method for dynamically redefining keys on a keyboard

    pe1 A dynamic keyboard includes a plurality of keys, each with an associated symbol, which are dynamically redefinable to provide access to higher level keyboards. Based on sequenced symbols of keys sequentially activated, certain dynamic categories and subcategories can be accessed and keys corresponding thereto dynamically redefined. Dynamically redefined keys can include embellished symbols and/or newly displayed symbols. These dynamically redefined keys can then provide the user with the ability to easily access both core and fringe vocabulary words in a speech synthesis system.

    ---
    Seems a bit broad IMO, allowing such dynamic functionality across key redefining, and then pasting on 'as it applies' to "a speech synthesis system".

    For what it's worth, seeing as a few hundred dollar iPad app is allowing a little girl to speak vs. a $9000 piece of hardware from the suing company, I hope this goes viral to the point that the Semantic Corporation (plaintiff) is forced to drop the lawsuit just to save PR face.

  • I really don't see how you could patent something as obvious as "push / type a word and have a voice say it". I can see patenting special hardware for it, but not the actual text to voice translation. I know 0 about patents, but shouldn't that fall under some dead obvious clause?

    • Re:Common sense? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JoeMerchant (803320) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @03:54PM (#39468327)

      The dead obvious clause "readily apparent to one skilled in the art" or somesuch, has been ignored for about 20 years now...

    • Re:Common sense? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @03:57PM (#39468345)

      If patents were actually reviewed by people who have at least a minuscle idea about just WHAT gets patented there, that's what might happen. Since patent clerks are on one hand overworked due to the flood of trivial, ludicrous patents being pushed at them, patent applications being deliberately vague and convoluted and the average clerk not being an expert in the field at hand, things like this can happen.

      Like, say, patenting the wheel [newscientist.com]. Sure, that patent was retracted nearly instantly, but it gives you an idea just what kind of idiocy goes on in the patent offices of this world. And as long as nobody challenges a patent (and what average person or small company has the means to?), a patent stands.

      • \Like, say, patenting the wheel [newscientist.com]. Sure, that patent was retracted nearly instantly, but it gives you an idea just what kind of idiocy goes on in the patent offices of this world.

        Not so much. From your link:

        He says that innovation patents are not examined in detail by the Australian patent office. ... The Australian office controlling patents, IP Australia, said that Keogh's innovation patent would not stand if tested in court. However, some still suggest that the innovation patent may be misleading. "Calling it an innovation patent merely serves to confuse the issue," says Geoff Sargent, assistant director of the UK Patent Office. "It's not a patent as would be understood in most countries."

        Unlike utility patents, such as the ones at issue in this Slashdot story, that was an "innovation patent". Innovation patents are a registration-only system (Hong Kong has a similar system). There's no examination - you pay your fee, you get your patent... but, unlike real patents that undergo examination, there's no presumption of validity. You sue someone, first you have to prove that your patent is actually novel and innovative, before they even need to respond. Basically, rat

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by blippo (158203)

      I agree, this seems to be an obvious solutions to a simple problem.

      There is something about the mix of legalese and techobabble in the patent applications, that renders the most trivial thing
      an air of importance.

      I once worked for a company, where we discovered that we couldn't let a system redirect an incoming call to another system,
      if the customer wan't in the first systems database, since that violated a patent. The digital equivalence of looking in the next
      drawer when you are looking for a matching sock

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        If patent applications were required to include a car-analogy in the summary, the patent system would less annoying.

        You underestimate the ability of the market to create a far more annoying car for patent applications to analogize from.

        The New Bored Focus: Now with a microwave and an operational space physical quantity calculation apparatus for computing a physical quantity in an operational space describing a relationship between forces and accelerations acting on a link structure including a plurality of linked rigid bodies, the apparatus comprising: a forward dynamics calculating unit configured to perform a forward d

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by Svartalf (2997)

      They're not claiming a patent for that- they're claiming a patent for a dynamic changing keyboard, for which Apple patented the base concept in 1992 [google.com]

    • I really don't see how you could patent something as obvious as "push / type a word and have a voice say it". I can see patenting special hardware for it

      "A computer, ..."

      • by wmbetts (1306001)

        Yes, a computer could be used for it and I'm not really sure how else they'd be able to do it. If they did some how come up with something that wasn't a computer to do it then I wouldn't have a problem with them patenting it. Even a specialized computer should be able to be patented provided it's not using standard commodity hardware. If they come up with some specialized components why shouldn't they be able to patent it?

  • If Speak for Yourself posts the source code under an open license, and make no money from it, then they are safe, right?
    And since when does a hardware patent apply to software?
    And doesn't prior tech void the patent?

    • Re:open source? (Score:4, Informative)

      by ODBOL (197239) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @04:01PM (#39468365) Homepage

      If Speak for Yourself posts the source code under an open license, and make no money from it, then they are safe, right? And since when does a hardware patent apply to software? And doesn't prior tech void the patent?

      Alas, they are not safe. Patent infringement applies to all use, whether profitable or no. Current patent policy applies to software, and even business process, as well as hardware. Whether there is legal infringement depends on the details of the claims, which are very hard to evaluate. If there is prior art, that may invalidate the patent. But the relevance of prior art to the specific claims is a fuzzy issue. Also, once a patent has been registered, the burden of proof is on the alleged infringer regarding prior art. OK, IANAL, and I'm writing from memory, so this should all be checked, but I'm pretty sure I've memorized these points correctly.

  • Seriously? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ledow (319597) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @03:56PM (#39468341) Homepage

    Hunt down an online programmer in another country.

    Pay them a few hundred.

    They will knock up an app that's better, works on everything, and can be extended and customised later and you'll have the source too.

    The problem here is not the app or some "big bad company", but that the legalities mean that your app will always be at risk and specialist support apps are INCREDIBLY expensive and crap (ask Stephen Hawking).

    Whether the patent is valid or not, you'll never know. They could really have a legitimate legal claim and the app-maker could have deliberately infringed their patents in order to make a quick buck. You don't know and can't guarantee anything.

    I've worked in schools that have paid thousands for a simple flashcard app for hearing-impaired children. It was literally a VB4 app that I could replicate in an afternoon if I sat down with a licensed clipart library. But if I made one, I wouldn't be able to sell it because schools would only ever buy from established, recognised institutions, etc.

    Get yourself a programmer. In fact, turn the blog post into a plea for someone to create the programme for you. If they create it in a country that doesn't recognise software patents, there is NOTHING they can do about it and the author can put it on their website and charge what they like and you can tell all your friends to buy it from him. Plus, you'll get EXACTLY what you want.

    Don't fight the patents - you don't have the money or inclination, just a single sob-story that has zero real weight. Sidestep the patents instead, and also hit that company where it hurts at the same time. And as your child grows, make the app grow with her and fix the problems she experiences.

    If something is crap, expensive, liable to infringement / removal, etc. then you get around this by using SOMETHING ELSE.

    • Hunt down an online programmer in another country.

      Pay them a few hundred.

      They will knock up an app that's better, works on everything, and can be extended and customised later and you'll have the source too.

      I won't comment on the feasibility of this. I've been part of enough failed software projects to know better.

      But if you're going to do this, at least get it done in Android.

      In Android, even if it's removed from the Market by a court order, it will still be able to reach a wide audience without the Market. On the iPad, without the Apple App Store -- you'd be lucky if your app reached a couple hundred people.

  • I hope someone can do it for android, publish on independent website as .APK, in Europe, so your daughter can continue using this technology
    At least for now Europe are holding the pressure.
    Any android developers?
    P.S.Crowdfunding should help too.
  • by sco08y (615665) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @04:06PM (#39468393)

    We already know that patent laws are fucked up.

    We don't need more emotional testimony dumped into our political and legal processes. It's already fucked up enough from this nonsense. "My cute wonderful 3 year old sweetie who is disabled and just found a way to speak and now a company wants to take that away for profit!"

    The moment someone says that such and such a law has "hit home" is the moment we need to tune them out.

    Because they're now useless as an even remotely objective source of information. Our worst laws are, by and large, the most popular, usually mandates that accomplish the opposite of what they're intended to do or simply fail miserably with terrible side effects. Which then stirs up another emotional mob that tries to fix the new problem!

    We think there are cigar smoking villains in back rooms writing our laws when in fact the real authors are nitwit staffers transcribing the rantings of mobs of emotional idiots. We think that rich villains buy politicians, when, by the numbers, it's almost entirely a case of politicians purchasing voters.

    We seriously need to take a deep fucking breath, rip out about 90% of our laws, and start over.

    • by jpapon (1877296) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @04:55PM (#39468721) Journal

      We think there are cigar smoking villains in back rooms writing our laws when in fact the real authors are nitwit staffers transcribing the rantings of mobs of emotional idiots. We think that rich villains buy politicians, when, by the numbers, it's almost entirely a case of politicians purchasing voters.

      An interesting thought, but one that seems to go against most of modern history, in which the rich have almost all of the power.

    • Love it or hate it, most people are driven by emotion, not reason. And they all vote. You can try to change that by improving education etc (though I still remain skeptical that you can change this on a scale large enough to make a difference), but even in the best case you're looking at decades of work. In the meantime, we have to play by the rules that are here to get anything useful done - and this means appeal to emotion, especially "think of the children". You can denounce that as unethical, shy away,

    • by sjames (1099)

      WE know they're fucked up, but that's not enough. If it's ever going to become a political hot button (preferably one where further siding with patent holders becomes a career limiting move) we need the general population to equate the people suing for patents as mustache twirling villains who steal candy (or voices) from babies just because they can.

    • by greg_barton (5551)

      We think there are cigar smoking villains in back rooms writing our laws when in fact the real authors are nitwit staffers transcribing the rantings of mobs of emotional idiots.

      Methinks you're letting hatred of emotion cloud your judgement.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      The moment someone says that such and such a law has "hit home" is the moment we need to tune them out.

      Because they're now useless as an even remotely objective source of information.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advocacy_journalism [wikipedia.org] (related to muckraking)
      You don't have to be unbiased in order to hold true to journalistic ethics while advocating strongly for a position.
      There is significant room between the Fairness Doctrine (strict neutrality) and Fox News (partisan hackery).

      Our worst laws are, by and large, the most popular, usually mandates that accomplish the opposite of what they're intended to do or simply fail miserably with terrible side effects. Which then stirs up another emotional mob that tries to fix the new problem!

      Our worst laws are, by far, the result of vaguely worded legislation that should have been written narrowly.
      It has nothing to do with popularity or emotions. It's simply the result of politicians (sometimes purposel

  • Smith Corona model (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dr. Tom (23206) <tomh@nih.gov> on Sunday March 25, 2012 @04:11PM (#39468417) Homepage

    When the IBM PC killed the typewriter dead, did Smith Corona sue? No, they adapted, and now sell printer supplies and specialty paper. Before they made typewriters, they made guns. That is one adaptable company. All companies could learn a lesson here. Be flexible. Adapt. The market changes, that's just a fact of life. Litigation to save a dead product is ultimately just pissing money away. Make something new, better, different. Especially in this climate where a claim like this will get you fried in the hot, boiling oil of public opinion.

  • A little digging has shown that the plaintiff has a claim on re-definable keyboards, as they relate to assistive technology. However, the idea of remapping keyboards definitely pre-dates their 1995 patent claim (which said nothing about speech synthesis, BTW). Two possibilities that spring to mind are HP calculators, which would have differing keyboard layouts depending on the mode that was set. Thus, multiple symbols could be applied to the same key. This covers the "providing access to higher-level keyboa

    • It isn't the first case of a patent covering an already commonplace idea used in a new setting. A lot of software patents are simply for doing something old 'on a computer.' The general rule for patent-driven companies is to just grab every possible patent they can, without a thought to how valid the patent may be - there's no penalty for having a patent denied, and the US patent office is basically a rubber-stamp engine anyway. Once the patents are granted by the thousand, then they start looking through t
  • by OliWarner (1529079) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @04:13PM (#39468433) Homepage

    How is different from people who need and can't afford (or just can't get) certain drugs? TFA's daughter can't talk but millions die because they can't get a $1 vaccine or super-expensive healthcare and cancer treatments.

    Any for-profit company delivering healthcare, drugs and and assistive devices is pitting what they think the market will support against their bottom line. The parent in TFA is losing out because they can't find a device that follows the required IP structure that works for them in the market but why is their need [for parent reform] greater than somebody dying because certain drugs aren't available because they'd never be commercially viable? In both cases people lose out and it's morally atrocious that something as transitory and meaningless as money is hindering quality of life.

    I'll be honest, I don't know the solution. Nuking all patents from space sounds great if you're allergic to showers and buy into the Occupy Everything movements people in the real world realise that RND costs are real. Destroying patents would have a significant and fairly unpredictable effect on the world.

    And you can be sure, whatever the real solution is, whenever it comes along, the companies that own all this IP aren't going to let their patents go without a fight.

    • by jpapon (1877296)
      This is exactly what I was thinking... just because it is software it is somehow different? Aren't all medical patents just as bad?
    • by GPierce (123599) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:17PM (#39468905)

      This isn't a solution, but it is something to think about. (It's not totally accurate, but it's a reasonably close description - and there were actually several enclosure acts, not just one.) It could be argued that the enclosure acts were the beginning of our modern concept of "property".

      In the 18th century, our then Lords and Masters took over by passing the Enclosure Acts which ran the peasants off of the commons - producing three generations of property-less rabble. They also passed rules regarding privately held land. If you wanted to establish title to the ground that your family had "owned" for several hundred years, you had to enclose your property with a fence or a hedge. The catch was that the cost of the enclosure was ten times the value of the land.

      The smart peasants sold their land for a few bucks, got on a boat and came to the "new world". Their goal was to get a chunk of land, draw a circle around it and not have any one screw with them again. The Native Americans never had a chance.

      Just as the European nobility "invented" property, our current nobility has invented "intellectual property" and is in the process of producing new generations of property-less rabble.

       

    • If only I still had moderator points I would mod this up.
      Speaking from the point of view of having a spouse with a chronic degenerative medical condition, I feel the situations are analogous. We would love to be able to afford the medication that may help her but they have to be able to make their "reasonable" returns on their investments.
      I could really start a huge rant here but I will keep my powder dry as it is a bit off topic.

      I find it odd that Doctors, Nurses and Mental Health workers are suppose
  • Horrible Article (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I am against obvious patents, and therefore think that the current system needs reform. I think peer review and shorter time periods are the best solution. But this is a stupid emotional article:

    I’m not going to get into debates about the legal merits of the case, because that’s a conversation in which I would quickly drown...
    Here’s what matters: It’s a very logical assumption (confirmed by the AAC professionals that I’ve spoken with) that if SCS/PRC win this lawsuit, they w

  • Load up your special software on at least 2 iPads and then make sure you don't allow updates if the software company loses the suit or caves in.

    Find a hacker to jailbreak your iPad to make sure you can transfer the software if and when your iPad goes poof.

    Sooner or later dedicated hardware is going to disappear, just like so many devices already have done and just like newspapers are quickly disappearing. The world has moved on. If the hardware maker is smart they will may a low cost App before they lose

    • by jamstar7 (694492)

      Sooner or later dedicated hardware is going to disappear, just like so many devices already have done and just like newspapers are quickly disappearing. The world has moved on. If the hardware maker is smart they will may a low cost App before they lose a patent suit.

      The 'dedicated hardware' that you predict disappearing gets replaced by other dedicated hardware that does the same job as well as 3 or 5 other jobs. For instance, the Palm Pilot is just as good as extinct, replaced by iPhones/Androids/Blackbe

      • by tepples (727027)

        The 'dedicated hardware' that you predict disappearing gets replaced by other dedicated hardware that does the same job as well as 3 or 5 other jobs.

        Health insurance, for some reason, has an easier time paying for a dedicated device. Copyright owners also have an easier time licensing their works for a dedicated device. For example, publishers of nondramatic literary works are required by law to license their works for use in "talking books" that fit in special players (17 USC 121 [cornell.edu]), but these players apparently have to be dedicated devices so that Big Copyright can verify that the players are given only to blind people.

  • by aeschenkarnos (517917) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @04:42PM (#39468629)
    Patent and copyright are both broken in that they reward mere firstness infinitely more than quality of implementation. They get the whole concept ass-backwards. Ideas are a dime a dozen. It's implementation and marketing where the real work lies. Any fool can have a brilliant idea, indeed we all have them every time we discover something that doesn't work as well as we would like, and in fact I had three yesterday. Probably all three have already been solved in one way or another by other people, but the fact that I don't have, or even know about, a solution implies that the solution isn't good enough or hasn't been marketed well enough. There may be plenty of possible better solutions than mine already thiught of, that the patent system is making non viable because some asshole got there *first* with their half-assed device.

    The patent system is even worse than that. At least in the story in the article, the plaintiff has actually implemented *some* kind of solution, however ridiculously expensive. The current US patent system rewards trolling: *not* implementing *anything*, just sitting on the patent until some poor bastard actually bothers to think up a viable solution and produces it, then springing out to snatch a share of *their* work.

    And this is the system the US is frantically, despertely attempting to foist onto the rest of the world.

    • Patent and copyright are both broken in that they reward mere firstness infinitely more than quality of implementation. They get the whole concept ass-backwards. Ideas are a dime a dozen. It's implementation and marketing where the real work lies.

      And if that's true, then no company should hire US programmers, because they can hire overseas for pennies on the dollar. The US programmers have innovative ideas? Pfff, you just said those weren't worth anything.

      Frankly, I disagree. People saying, after the fact, "oh, I totally had that idea, but I didn't tell anyone," or "I could've come up with that," doesn't mean that ideas are a dime a dozen. It means that hindsight is worth less than a dime. Ideas are very valuable, and I think it's an insult to the

  • Just as with the IBM patent story on /. a couple of days ago [slashdot.org], the FSF and its friends have taught us about the dangers of software patents years ago.

    The heart of that IBM story IBM told us about in a story in their promotional magazine called "Think" magazine from 1990 [progfree.org] and Richard Stallman taught us about the consequences of this problem in his talk "The Danger of Software Patents" (which you can find in the FSF audio [gnu.org] and video [gnu.org] archives).

    The heart of the danger for computer users (regardless of what you use a computer to do) was addressed by Stallman in a portion of his talk concerning Paul Heckel's patents [gnu.org]:

    Even the patent holders often can't recognize just what their patents mean. For instance, there's somebody named Paul Heckel who released a program for displaying a lot of data on a small screen, and based on a couple of the ideas in that program he got a couple of patents.

    I once tried to find a simple way to describe what claim 1 of one of those patents covered. I found that I couldn't find any simpler way of saying it than what was in the patent itself; and that sentence, I couldn't manage to keep it all in my mind at once, no matter how hard I tried.

    And Heckel couldn't follow it either, because when he saw HyperCard, all he noticed was it was nothing like his program. It didn't occur to him that the way his patent was written it might prohibit HyperCard; but his lawyer had that idea, so he threatened Apple. And then he threatened Apple's customers, and eventually Apple made a settlement with him which is secret, so we don't know who really won. And this is just an illustration of how hard it is for anybody to understand what a patent does or doesn't prohibit.

    In fact, I once gave this speech and Heckel was in the audience. And at this point he jumped up and said, "That's not true, I just didn't know the scope of my protection." And I said, "Yeah, that's what I said," at which point he sat down and that was the end of my experience being heckled by Heckel. If I had said no, he probably would have found a way to argue with me.

    • by chrismcb (983081)
      What? Patents are broken because the average person doesn't understand the patent? Perhaps we shouldn't have lawyers writing patents, as apparently only lawyers can understand them. But that doesn't mean patent's are broken.
      Patents are broken because they given out for obvious concepts. One problem with software patents, is the implementation is patentable, not the final result.
  • Let's be honest with ourselves, Copyrights are there to protect reputation, brand and the public good. They prevent people from benefitting from the hard work of others. Patents on the other hand only serve to attempt to enrich someone, not for coming up with a new great idea, no, but for registering a patent for what the patent office, a place full of people who obviously barely understand the concepts to begin with, deems is novel. What does this actually achieve? Well recently it's been shown to enrich s
    • Let's be honest with ourselves, Copyrights are there to protect reputation, brand and the public good.

      Yes, particularly when they're used as some sort of mark on a service or good in trade... Like a "Mark of Service" or "Mark of Trade". Or maybe there's a better name for those.

  • ... the iPad app creator should be able to apply the same defense that every crappy software patent uses. The 'do something' (where something is already patented or in the public domain) and append 'on the Internet'. And end up with a brand new patent. Except here, its 'on an iPad'. So its not on some proprietary hardware platform.

    Yeah, I know that's wrong. But that's what the USPTO has been doing for years with software. As long as someone can come up with a trivial or obvious modification, they reset th

    • Re:But, but ... (Score:4, Informative)

      by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @08:14PM (#39470229)

      That's not how patents work.

      Suppose I (A) have a way of accomplishing a technological miracle. And then I get a patent on it.

      Somebody else (B) comes along and patents the improvement of doing that miracle on the internet.

      We guess what - neither A nor B can actually practice the miracle itself on the internet. B can't because A has the patent on the miracle. B has the improvement patent which describes doing the miracle on the internet so A can't do it on the internet.

      Patents DON'T give you the right to practice your invention, only the right to prevent someone else from doing it.

      • by PPH (736903)

        Patents DON'T give you the right to practice your invention, only the right to prevent someone else from doing it.

        Which goes against the meaning of the preamble: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts" in the Constitution. The next part, "by securing for limited Times" means (to me) that the minute the author/inventor is lo longer 'promoting the progress', the game is up and the patent is invalid (Yeah, I know the courts don't read it this way). So either you port your app to the iPad (in which case you can have that exclusive right) or step aside while someone else 'promotes the progress'.

  • by 3seas (184403) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:12PM (#39468875) Journal

    Abstract are many things including law, government, religion, language and most certainly money... and of course software.

    Software patents are pure acts of fraud.... its provable but neither Proprietary or Free Open Source Software developers want to admit it. be it reasons of money or ego...

    • by chrismcb (983081)

      Software patents are pure acts of fraud.... its provable

      Ok, so just how are software patents pure acts of fraud?

  • If this is an open and closed case of the app being yanked, the app authors should open source it as a big F. U. Turn it into Mutually Assured Destruction.

  • by Osgeld (1900440)

    The more these things aggravate the average consumer, the better the chances of something being done about it.

  • The assistive devices market doesn't need patents to screw it up - the government agencies that subsidize their purchase have been doing that by themselves for decades.

    Other people on this post have been saying that "special purpose devices are dead anyway". I wish that were true - many agencies that buy assistive devices for people who can't afford them are required to buy special purpose, even if a general purpose device costs 1/10th as much, because their clients might use a state-provided laptop/tablet

  • by WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @09:21PM (#39470661)

    Just leave the US market and the markets of AU and Japan and other software-patent countries. That's it, just leave. The market is big enough elsewhere to make yourselves rich by selling your product.

    Once innovative, U.S. owned software start-ups are seen as leaving the US, the media will have its story.

    Once the media has it's story, it will be written once and for all in the minds of the public as it really is- software patents kill innovation.

    Once the public understands the issues as they really are, the lawmakers will be forced to do the right thing and ban software patents.

    Yes, I am conspiring with my fellow developers right here on /.

    And yes, you can develop software here in the US and sell it elsewhere with impunity, owing directly to this Supreme Court decision: http://www.siliconvalleywatcher.com/mt/archives/2007/04/supreme_court_n.php/ [siliconvalleywatcher.com] .

    And no, I am am not a lawyer. I am human.

  • by mykos (1627575) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @10:29PM (#39471045)
    I would love to be able to crowdsource donations for legal defenses. Many times copyright and patent trolls "lose" but still "win" because they've starved out the defendants with injunctions against sales and put them out of business in a mountain of legal fees.
  • by meburke (736645) on Monday March 26, 2012 @12:26AM (#39471647)

    I've heard a number of possible solutions here. The obvious one would be for the litigator to license the patents to the app-maker for a small, reasonable fee. It looks like this isn't happening. I see nothing in the docs I accessed to indicate this was even put forward.

    People mentioned prior art. What would happen if Apple, for instance, took a stand for the app-maker? That changes the dynamics considerably.

    The more this gets around to the user community and the people who prescribe the devices for their patients and customers, the more victimized the consumers feel. They will also pressure the maker to make a deal.

    Blackball the companies from the research community. The researchers, some of whom appear to be stockholders in the company, might get a sense of reality if they were exposed as victimizing the poor 3-year-old girl who wants to talk.

    FOSS alternative. Find someone to program the dang thing and make it better. The suggestion about the Android app and Europe is fairly good. Charitable funding for development would also be good.

    There seems to be some agreement that the PTO needs overhauling and the patent laws need revision. I agree. So how about someone doing a logical analysis and finding some alternative paths that are so obvious that even the lobbyists can't overcome them? Somewhere there is a complicated, convoluted repository of all the relevant arguments for our current patent system. It is probably too much for Congress to understand, but someone could make it clear. I would know where to start, but like most of us, I have limited time and I would want to apply my own time to other projects. But who knows? The FOSS community is made up of people with ideas and intersts different from mine, and this may appeal to someone.

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