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Oil Companies Patent Trolling Biofuel Production 183

Whatsmynickname writes "Thought oil companies were done patent trolling to try to shut down any efforts to wean us off of crude oil (e.g. Chevron and NiMH batteries)? Think again. BP and DuPont (Butamax) have taken an advanced biofuel company to court over infringement of newly awarded patents for developing biobutanol. When an oil company advertises it is looking for alternative fuels, it's not necessarily because they want to be socially responsible..."
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Oil Companies Patent Trolling Biofuel Production

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  • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @01:10PM (#35254268)
    So, Dupont and BP have a joint venture that is developing biofuels. Said joint venture has patented a method of producing butanol using fermentation. This jont venture is suing another company for using a technique similar to the one they patented. How is this trying to "shut down efforts to wean us off of crude oil"? This looks like an attempt to profit from weaning us off of crude oil. There is certainly an argument to be made that the fact that the current patent system allows them to do this is contrary to the public interest. This is not Ford buying up the Los Angeles public transport company in order to shut it down and increase the demand for cars.
  • by catchblue22 ( 1004569 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @01:51PM (#35254486) Homepage

    This is not Ford buying up the Los Angeles public transport company in order to shut it down and increase the demand for cars.

    What the "greed is good" crowd seem to be missing here is that these energy companies are big. Really really big. And as a sector, the oil energy sector dwarfs all other economic sectors. If large players in that sector start to amass patents on technologies that could displace their core business, then will become increasingly able to stifle competition in this field. In other words, they will be increasingly able to decide to sit on those patents if it serves their immediate economic self interest. And the forces that are supposed to guarantee that the self interest of companies overlaps with the common interest of society, namely competitive forces, are made irrelevant by the huge size of these companies. They will become increasingly able to squash/buy-out smaller entrants to the market who might displace them. This is made even worse by the fact that many of these private interests seem to have captured the regulatory and governing systems, the very systems that are suppose to guarantee that the private activity of corporations overlaps with the public interest.

    So please don't cry that the poor companies are only doing what they are supposed to do, namely making money, because you are sidestepping the arguments made by many of us who are skeptical of the overlap of the activities of companies like BP and the public interest. You statements sound less like arguments and more like advertising slogans.

  • Re:This is silly. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gaygirlie ( 1657131 ) <gaygirlie@[ ] ['hot' in gap]> on Saturday February 19, 2011 @02:17PM (#35254606) Homepage

    Wha ??? Did you think anyone is going to spend millions to billions doing the research for a pat on the head and a thanks well done ?

    Even if they couldn't patent it they could still produce the biofuel and continue profiting from it. Hell, if they were doing the research they'd be the experts in the area and thus could sell services to other companies. And if they were the experts in the area that'd also mean they'd most likely still be the first one to start actually monetizing their research.

    You know, they didn't patent regular gasoline either and well, it DOES indeed look like they've been profiting from it for years even without patents so even that angle is well covered.

    So yeah.. sorry for tearing your argument to shreds.

  • Re:This is silly. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DRJlaw ( 946416 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @04:16PM (#35255344)

    No... because the patent trolls arrested development now.

    They've obtained patent rights in every country in the world? They have the omniscience necessary to detect infringement in every laboratory in every industrialized country before it even happens?

    In 5 or 10 years, they will have the patents to a next critical step.... required to actually produce/use that Butamax.

    Only them. Nobody else could possibly conduct research due to the aforementioned universal scope and power of their mighty patent.

    Alternative energy is dependant on more than just one specific technology.

    Then it's a good thing that they have a patent on one specific technology. That way, they can leap right into alternative energy when economical oil runs out. The accused infringer couldn't possibly have developed anything that they might need.

    Due to the patents, there will be very few R&D attempts by others. Translation: less competition, less innovation, lower chance the technology develops, and with fewer people working on it

    Scared that accused infringer right off, didn't it?What's better than being the first guy who invents a basic process? Being the second guy who invents the commercially relevant improvement to that process. Being the third guy who invents an alternative to that process. Why? Because the first guy's patents are going to expire the second's, because the third guy is an alternate source. Time to cross-license or compete.

    [I]t will be easy for the Oil companies to make sure they do any "development" / "invention" needed to get more patents FIRST.

    The fact that you can write it does not make it so. Prove it. I insist. There's been a patent law in this country for more than 225 years, and competitors leapfrogging each other has become so routine that modern complaints about the patent system focus on "patent thickets" rather than individual blocking patents. Nevermind that "the Oil companies" are not a monolothic entity.

    Their patent lasts 20 years from the date of issue (usually 5 or so years after the date of application), so for all intents and purposes, they have a lock on that one patented thing for 30 - 35 years.

    20 years from date of filing, or according to your example, for only 15 years. And the patent application is published after 18 months. So... 42 months where the invention is published and not protected by a patent -- yet you claim derivative research is impossible.

    Plenty of time to figure out the 'next things' companies developing the technology need, and get patents for those before the patent they have expires.

    So... you don't need to be developing the technology yourself in order to identify and solve the next technology need? And those patentable solutions just fall into your lap?

    They just make sure to get a new patent locking down a "next step" once every 10 years, then nobody will ever come up with the technology.

    It's inevitable. After all, thanks to Intel's patents on the integrated circuit, that technology stopped dead in its tracks.

    That is, unless their competitor somehow works somehow in complete secret at a very fast pace, even somehow managing to avoid Oil company spies/corporate espionage, and then still comes out with completed technology and patents that.

    Like those uber-secretive Google guys! After conducting their R&D in a secret mountain cave, defeating Yahoo's ninja infiltration squad, and finally winning the hearts of those muisgidedly stuck up sorority-loving comp sci twins, Sergey and Larry battled their way to the USPTO (a la "16 Blocks") and filed their patent application for the Google search engine exactly the way it

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