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Hardware Hacker Proposes Patent and Education Reform To Obama

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  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Sunday February 17, 2013 @01:07PM (#42928685)

    Patent trolls are just a particularly visible example of exploiting low-quality patents. The main difference between patent trolls as "non-practicing entities" and practicing entities is that the mutually-assured destruction pacts don't apply to them, because they don't themselves build things which they could be counter-sued over in a retaliatory patent suit. But MAD hardly fixes the problem in the rest of the sector: all it does is turn it into a cartel-like system, where IBM and Intel don't sue each other because of MAD, but Intel is perfectly happy to sue startups that try to enter their sector and compete with them. That kind of anti-competitive, turf-defending patent usage is actually considerably worse than patent trolls imo.

    If the patents are high-quality, on the other hand, representing actual non-trivial inventions, then I don't see much of a difference between practicing and non-practicing entities. For example, university research labs sometimes invent some significant things which they then license to a third party to commercialize, which is perfectly fine (and an intended use of the patent system).

  • Dumb patents (Score:4, Interesting)

    by flyingfsck (986395) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @01:33PM (#42928935)
    The problem is dumb patents that do not advance the state of the art and provide no solution to anything. Most software patents are only problem statements and provide no solution to the problem at all, so they are totally worthless except to harass other people who actually invested the time and energy to solve the problem. If a patent describes something useful in a way that furthers the art, then no-one will have an issue with it. Every patent application should be accompanied by a working machine. Whether it costs 10 pence, 10 dollars, or 10 billion dollars to make that working machine - that will prove the value of the patent.
  • by holophrastic (221104) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @01:55PM (#42929113)

    "Most guns will never hurt a single person..." but some guns will hurt many people. And I won't let you say that patent trollls hurt people. I won't let you use the word "hurt" to cross the line of physical safetly. There's an order of magnitude between money, liberty, luxury, benefit, and fun versus actually surviving the day. It's a very simple line. You can invalidate a patent ten years later. You can refund money. You can feed the hungry. You can't raised the dead.

    I'm not against guns. I'm against systems that don't try to improve things when certain lines are crossed.

    I don't care when one druggy shoots another. I don't care when a wife kills her husband. These issues don't threaten me.

    Over the course of a year, a few random shootings of innocent people are upsetting, but to be expected from any large society. There's a number that is simply not able to be reduced.

    26 people within an elementary school, being killed by someone outside of that elementary school, is across my line. I'm not asking for gun control. I'm not asking for security. I'm asking for anyone to try anything in an attempt to take one small step in any direction. It doesn't need to work, it just needs to be an attempt.

    And so far, nothing's been done.

    Since 1972 -- when an episode of "All in the Family" had precisely the same discussions. Those are 40 years of absolutely nothing being improved at all.

    Congrats.

  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @01:58PM (#42929135) Homepage

    Yeah, he's basically just Bush plus gay rights minus gun rights. Same economic and military policies, just a few changes in "culture war wedge issues" to give the illusion of choice in the elections.

    Minus gun rights - Hell, Obama is the best guns salesman, ever.

    Try to find a new gun, anything. They're back ordered. Everywhere. I was trying to find a replacement for a 1960 era 12 gauge shotgun which has a cracked stock and a wonky barrel (too many dings on the rocks). Ended up buying a replacement 'military' stock and a new barrel. Fortunately the receiver looks OK. Even the .22 caliber AR 15 clones in pink and black pattern camo sold after a couple of weeks at the local gun store. Bizarre.

    And good thing I'm not trying to buy any ammo for it.

  • Re:Dumb patents (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shavano (2541114) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @02:02PM (#42929171)

    The problem is dumb patents that do not advance the state of the art and provide no solution to anything. Most software patents are only problem statements and provide no solution to the problem at all, so they are totally worthless except to harass other people who actually invested the time and energy to solve the problem. If a patent describes something useful in a way that furthers the art, then no-one will have an issue with it. Every patent application should be accompanied by a working machine. Whether it costs 10 pence, 10 dollars, or 10 billion dollars to make that working machine - that will prove the value of the patent.

    That would destroy drug patents as well as software patents.

    It should require a demonstration to show practicality. In the case of a drug patent, that would mean a successful clinical trial

    In the case of sotware (and yes, I think there should be software patents but not for obvious, workmanlike programs) it would be a working program that implements all the claims of the invention.) and a demonstration that it does what is claimed.

    In the case of hardware, it would require a physical implementation of the invention and demonstration that it does what is claimed.

    In the case of a gene patent, no such fucking thing unless you built that gene yourself and it isn't known to exist in a living organism in the wild. For example, if you invent a new DNA sequence that will cause bacteria to break down cellulose quickly and convert it into ethanol or methane, that would be an invention. And the modified bacteria could then be an invention, though I have qualms about letting any living thing be patented because if it escapes into the biosphere it becomes impossible to commercially control.

  • by holophrastic (221104) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @02:11PM (#42929247)

    Oh, I agree with you entirely. I'm upset that it's been 40 years of the same problems, and that you guys don't seem to be any closer.

    Actually, my country doesn't have any problems that I feel need to be addressed within my life-time at the moment. The trouble is that we've got neighbours. And while I've recently decided to stop visiting, and stop contributing my tourism dollars, and I'm even working on cancelling my business dollars to find suppliers elsewhere, still many of your laws seem to be crossing our borders.

    That's the problem. That's why I'm worried about your problems. Your "solutions" cross the border, often intentionally.

  • by Dachannien (617929) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @03:54PM (#42930041)

    Actually, patent trolls are fundamentally an artifact of flaws in the law.

    Take, for example, another (short-lived) attempt to exploit the law for unjustified gain: the (now amended) statute on false marking of patents.

    The old law allowed anyone to file suit on behalf of the federal government when a product was falsely marked as being patented, and then the plaintiff would pocket half of the damages awarded. Numerous lawsuits were filed in cases such as products being sold that had been marked with a patent number during manufacture but where the patent had since expired. It was also unclear whether the damages to be awarded were per each falsely marked item or not, which led some defendants to settle rather than pay large attorneys' fees and risk an unknown judgment in court.

    The flaw was that the law allowed a virtually risk-free suit to be filed with a potential for a huge payout. That's the same problem that leads to patent trolls and copyright trolls*, and it's one that is greatly mitigated by implementing a "loser pays" system.

    (* Copyright trolling is further exacerbated by the statutory damages provision that allows for recovery of damages far out of proportion to the actual damages suffered. There is a "loser pays" provision in copyright law, but it is at the discretion of the court and is usually only applied in extraordinary circumstances.)

    Low patent quality does play a role in patent trolling, but primarily by providing more ammunition for patent trolls to troll with. Speaking from experience, the USPTO examiners' hands are tied when it comes to patent quality (sideways swings and cat laser pointers aside), because case law and office policy don't give us the tools we need to say that a set of claims are so far removed from the disclosed invention as to be ridiculous; and in many cases, the relevant prior art is "in use" but the details are not published, which prevents us from making a prima facie case to sustain a prior art rejection.

  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @04:16PM (#42930193) Homepage

    While I would agree that Clinton 'helped', I think that Obama's 'better'. That appears to be for several reasons - there seems to be a groundswell of pro gun opinion in the country. People that don't hunt, don't target shoot, were not particularly gun oriented have, for some reason (and despite every objective bit of evidence to the contrary) decided that they need firearms. There was a recent Christian Science Monitor article on that (too lazy to look it up), but it jibes with what I hear - people wandering into the local gun store looking for things explosive ( a neighbor owns the store).

    Unfortunately, THOSE people are going to be really dangerous. Literally half cocked. Buy a gun, shoot it a couple of times and then more or less put it away.

    But that, coupled with the recent end-of-the-world angst seen in the popularity of survivalist 'reality' TV, the Zombie epidemic and just general Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt has, I think, increased the desire for people to feel that they have some control over their lives. If they're looking for it by having some cold steel in their warm hands, I think the feeling of security is misplaced, but nobody asks me..

    And for the record, I've plenty of firearms, spend quality time out at the range, used to hunt but gave that up after finding out the local deer population runs about the size of a medium dog and the ducks taste like seaweed. No elk and I just can find myself shooting a bear. They're perfectly nice creatures, most of the time, and they taste horrid. But guns, along with cars, Clorox and kitchen implements are dangerous and there are a lot of people out there who should not be entrusted to anything more deadly than a straw.

There is no distinction between any AI program and some existent game.

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