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What is a patent? Join the debate

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Jonitron
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re: What is a patent? Join the debate
Jonitron   11/12/2009 1:51:15 PM
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While I agree that intellectual property should be protected from theft as much as physical property, a "method" of doing something is in a class of its own. Software does use electrons and as such I would argue is physical in that it places molecules in certain locations.

Bill SJ
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re: What is a patent? Join the debate
Bill SJ   11/11/2009 2:51:53 AM
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I believe most reasonable persons in the field (hardware or software) would agree that algorithm is mostly about how to computing, or do math if you will, better rather than computing itself. Anyone in the field knows there are often many ways to achieve the same purpose. Some methods are better than others (faster, more efficient, etc.). Therefore, it is not about pure math. Algorithm must be executing on man-made machine (or if you use pencil to perform an algorithm, you can rest assure on one will sue you). These natures make most algorithms patentable, just like most other inventions that improve something existing things such as bipolar transistor over tube transistor, or carry look-ahead adder over ripple adder, or barrel shifter over plain shifter. The circuit implementation is just another form of using algorithm on a different level (gates, clock) than on a programmable device (CPU). I don't buy that if someone else don't do it, someone else will do it and for free. There are a lots of researches that leads to innovation cost a lots of money. Assume you are pharmaceutical big crop or startup, and you spend tens of year in research a drug and spent a billion$ (research and clinic trial, FDA approval). Then you say OK anyone can produce the drug as long as they can reverse engineer the composition of the drug and reproduce the drug, would you ever ever ever do it? It is the same as for algorithm or some novel software features, just less in extent of investment (on the other hand, software/algorithm can always be reverse-engineered easily in advent of vitalization or simulator. Also the effort behind the innovation has nothing to do with how long the patent can be enforce or amount patent loyalty can be extracted. It should let market decides. If you don't want to use a valid patent, simply do not use it and find other way. If you cannot go a round it, just don't produce and sell your product. Yes! it is that simple.

tpfj
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re: What is a patent? Join the debate
tpfj   11/10/2009 5:08:06 PM
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I am glad to say that many above have raised the points I would have raised myself. 1) Patent accumulation by corporations is all about horse trading in negotiation over the size of royalty payments. 2) There are always a few essential patents that are grouped in a separate bucket in these negotiations which are not traded in the same way. 3) As an engineer, there is no difference between hardware and software. Whatever one implements in one, can always be implemented in the other, the question is always which is more optimal today. 4) Clearly many people above have not heard of that new branch of engineering called "Information Engineering". Is information "physical enough" in their definition? We live in the information age after all, where information is probably the most valueable commodity. Comms, AI, control, speach/vision recognition/synthesis, graphics, video/audio compression are all branches of this. None are truely "physical". 5) It is true, we are told not to search to avoid triple damages. We are also told we are not qualified to make assessments on whether we infringe or not (I love this, I am the inventor, but I lack the vital skills to make that assessment). If noone searches for it, then how is filing a patent "promoting the Progress of Science and useful Arts"? 6) I love the fact that CDMA keeps coming up. Qualcomm is by far the most successful at playing the patent game and they make billions on their CDMA portfolio. I think a few above, like betajet, should rethink their position. 7) The mobile phone industy is the biggest industy covered by this debate. One should study what goes on here today quite closely. 8) I have never understood why my patent drafts which I can pass around my peers and they understand them then get turned into legal unintelligible documents understandable by neither myself, nor my peers without serious effort. See point 5). What needs reforming are the patent lawyers, not the system. 9) My biggest gripe with the whole system is the amount of money involed. Normally a good idea is generated by one or two people in a few days/weeks/months. That is all the investment that was required. Granted, you had to find the right poeple, the right project and the right time so on agregate R&D budgets are far higher than these few people, but still the amount demanded in patent litigation is always much much higher than all these. 10) What is wrong with just simply being better than the competion?

stupid233445
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re: What is a patent? Join the debate
stupid233445   11/10/2009 3:26:48 PM
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Reduce patent protection to 10 years. That's plenty of time to get ahead of your competition and take a product to market but doesn't prevent someone from having a 50 year monopoly which hurts the marketplace. It also reduces the financial incentive for patent trolling.

rick merritt
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re: What is a patent? Join the debate
rick merritt   11/9/2009 5:43:28 PM
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A transcript of today's oral arguments at the Supreme Court in this case should appear soon at http://www.supremecourtus.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts.html I will try to file a story as soon as something pops.

rick merritt
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re: What is a patent? Join the debate
rick merritt   11/9/2009 5:09:19 PM
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There are many, many issues around patents today. The main one the Bilski cases raises is whether there needs to be some physical implementation of a concept to make it patentable. Thoughts?

moelar
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re: What is a patent? Join the debate
moelar   11/9/2009 4:24:37 PM
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When in doubt, read the manual...the US Constitution. "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts" The question is does the invention satisfy said requirements.

MindBlower
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re: What is a patent? Join the debate
MindBlower   11/9/2009 2:25:12 PM
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Back to basics: The real reason why patents exist is to "promote progress" by "securing the author/inventor" (and it isn't a means to generate huge amounts of money!!) So what does "securing the author/inventor" mean? For me it's close to what mjeff said, it's protecting the investment someone puts into research, not the brilliant idea itself nor the implementation of the research results. It's the time between having an idea and the moment when one knows what/how to implement it. It also comes close to what Betajet wrote: "the effort to discover" Refering to the compression example from Bill and Betajet: the only thing that can be protected according this rule is the research time that was needed to investigate what kind of compression best fits the application. In the CDMA-example, there's no research involved between the idea of using CDMA for communication and a straightforward implementation of the Walsh functions into a novel device (in HW or SW) and therefore it can't be protected by patents. All the time needed for optimizing the (SW or HW) algorithm is patentable. This means that we should measure the research investment for a certain patent, the extra cost of a novel device one asks to refund the investment and then calculate the time that is needed to protect the patent. T_protect = ($_investment - $_royalties) / (nr_devices_sold_per_year * $_extra_per_device). This extra cost is set by the patent owner and is an indication for a "fair royalty" others will have to pay to use this patent. If the cost is high, high royalties have to be paid but the investment is paid back quickly and the patent has a very short protection time. If the cost is low, then there's a long protection time, but royalties are low as well. It looks like the biggest problem is the measurement of the research investment because we don't live in an ideal world, but most financial departments and bookkeepers have a clear view on investments, so starting from that point makes things much easier. I believe that the investment in implementation can be protected by trade secret or copyright. The implementation time is something a competitor also faces and thus must not be protected by patents.

Bernie56
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re: What is a patent? Join the debate
Bernie56   11/8/2009 4:47:56 AM
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I'm a patent author who has worked at large and small software companies. Issued patents are of wildly uneven quality. Every piece of software one could imagine creating is in violation of many previously issued patents. Large companies like Intel and Microsoft tell their employees to never look in a patent database, because if anyone thought to attempt to track down all the applicable patent holders for any real product and enter the legal negotiations to license them all, it would be prohibitively expensive and effectively impossible. So it's best to close your eyes and at least avoid treble damages. And proactive licensing in this way is absolutely impossible for small entrepreneurs. Rather, large companies rely on "mutually assured destruction" to bring other large companies to the table. Then they pay out hundreds of millions of dollars to small, zombie companies whose products failed and now have nothing to lose by playing the patent "hold up" game. While small companies that ship product are forced to play Russian roulette, fearing patent action at any time (although the lawyers won't actually knock until they are successful). And small companies don't have the financial resources to prosecute their own patents. So they simply don't work as protection against the big guy. If they sell anything at all, their greater concern would be triggering the large company to use their larger portfolio against them. As an entrepreneur who has seen all sides of how patents play out for companies - it?s clear the patent system isn't working as intended in the software space. The system can become completely cynical and dysfunctional. It's different in other areas (like Pharma). But generally, the patent system is in desperate need of reform to reduce litigation and make for a more rational, predictable system.

anoo
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re: What is a patent? Join the debate
anoo   11/8/2009 12:14:33 AM
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Patents should not only protect investment but innovation in general. The innovator must be protected against copycats or else originality is insufficiently rewarding. Many patents are not really innovative but just claim an obvious next step as IP. Such patents do not serve the interest of science and technology and may actually hamper progress. The challenge is to legally distinguish 'true' from 'obvious' innovation.

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