If it weren't for open source (aka Patent-free or patent-less) products like Gcc and subsequently Linux then the timeline to fielding a new system would be increased by YEARS to build a custom patent managed foundation to boot the system. I don't have to imagine I just have to remember when I had to write the tools from scratch (an iterative cycle that is worthy of a white paper that would be more useful for the author than for anyone else). With those (6-18 month development cycle) then the boot code, board initialization, ... (aka BIOS or u-boot) can begin for several months. Adding the next layer of an OS can be 3-5 years alone.
If we had patented those sources then the world would be a simpler place with fewer electronics and fewer innovations that build upon the shoulders of the FSF/Open source foundation.
Since these were not patented we got exponential increases in the rate from idea to beta. We'd still be using simple phones still. We'd have fewer life-improving products in safety and medical industries. We'd have an untold higher cost to fielding a new idea. This would have resulted in a huge increase in turn around for trials of ideas and then innovation on those foundations would be pushed off for the requisite duration for the beta to be done (see above). Results: a harddrive, cell phone, touch screen, ticket processing, data capture and presentation for all arenas (including medical and safety) would be decades back from their present position. Imagine that if you can.
An idea is often the foundation for other ideas that are both competitive and elaborative. An idea that is barred from use is an idea lost (for decades) or the waste of valuable resources reinventing the wheel (almost literally).
Imagine not being able to keep more than a trivial number of contacts on your phone, having slow or no connectivity to any device, having cans in the phone system rather than digital systems or VOIP. Consider the depth and breadth of the potential since almost every software product in the world started with some portion of the idea/innovation within Gnu/FSF/Open Source (I can barely imagine a portion and I remember a time before this freedom).
Since the unpatented ideas/resources are the foundation for most of the worlds recent software innovations we Must see the value of building upon innovation rather than reinventing it. Since many of the non-software innovations have leveraged the results of software innovations (imagine hand routing a few million gate chip or simulating a circuit at 200KHz).
So, it is not a matter of who patented it first (after all many of the patents are just documentation of ideas already in use). It is a matter of preventing progression beyond that foundation because of some antequated idea based on the perceived product life cycle that was in existence when we could not really comprehend traveling at 60 MPH and the meaning of "giga" was beyond 99.99% of the humans on the planet.
Welcome to the 21st century! We move faster, sleep less, create ideas on a whim. Move at the pace of THIS century not the pace of the founding fathers. We can and do share world-wide in near realtime (mostly because of unpatented foundations/innovation). If an entity cannot keep up and innovate better or differently and wants to sit on its laurels (old ideas) then it should consider closing the doors or replacing upper management rather than forcing others to move at a snails pace so they can avoid innovating the next best thing. Or even worse; shoving their noses in the way of those who will innovate through the archaic patent "system".
If you are in the thinking business, chances are that your job is created to fend off people that may out invent your boss. In the case of "trolls" their patents are usually written by people who out invented the rest. Otherwise, their patent would be as useless as that of yours and cannot stand up in court.
Engineers should try to come up with better ideas earlier, instead of complaining about your creativity being blocked by others. They were there first, sorry dude, shut up and move on.
I find your post enlightening. Yet, I do not consider it compelling toward what I think is your end goal... non-reformation of the broken patent system.
Any system that allows for patenting "Slide to Unlock" is inherently broken.
Any system that allows for patenting obvious/self evident methods/processes/principals is broken.
Any system that supports enforcing patents that are not planned within a product to be shipped within 3 years by its owner or a licensee is broken (this often is an indication of a patent that BARS innovation rather than propogates/supports it).
Any system that supports enforcing disallowing personal use of privately owned products in whatever method one chooses (aka installing Windows on a Macbook or installing OSX onto a standard PC) is broken.
If a patent was the result of research/development investment (not looking at an obsolete product and patenting something that was not previously patented as is often the case) and it is not being used/licensed for ship within ~3 years then it is obstuctive rather than constucive so it should be usable so others can build upon/with it.
If there was a real investment (technical not legal) into research and development then there is justification for ensuring that the patent owner has the ability to recoup or profit from the investment.
Legal investment is often the result of validation or pursuit of enforcement of the technical (real patent subject). So, it is equated to Cost of Patenting - not the patent itself and this cost should be capped or excluded from the term "real investment" in the above paragraph.
Simply put: Patents should NOT be used to prevent innovations that can build upon the foundation of the patent unless it is applied in the near future. Patents should not prevent the owner of a product from using it in a manner other than the "manufacturers prescribed use case" (e.g.: installing Android on an ipad because I like the hardware but the software prevents me from being productive - or so I can innovate therefrom).
(Please note: I use 3 years as an example - I have no strong justification for it not being less or even a Small duration more). I do have strong justification for it being within the range of less than 5 years as the "life span" of a patentable innovative trait is generally 3 years. After that 3 years then costs of development and often profit can generally be derived. Then, innovation founded on the trait can begin rather than the waiting 15 or 20 years because the patent owner decides it is useful to PREVENT innovation by competitors which may require more investment/innovation on his part to remain competitive.
Just because they call it patent "reform" doesn't mean it is.
Property rights and jobs in America are now hanging from a frayed thread. Some in Congress and the White House continue to follow the lead of their multinational campaign donors like lambs...pulling America along to the slaughter.
All this patent troll and 'reform' talk is mere dissembling by China, huge multinational thieves and their paid puppets.
They have already damaged the American patent system so that property rights are teetering on lawlessness. Simply put, their intent is to legalize theft -to twist and weaken the patent system so it can only be used by them and no one else. Then they can steal at will and destroy their small competitors AND WITH THEM THE JOBS THEY WOULD HAVE CREATED. Meanwhile, the huge multinationals ship more and more American jobs to China and elsewhere overseas.
Do you know how to make a Stradivarius violin? Neither does anyone else. Why? There was no protection for creations in his day so he like everyone else protected their creations by keeping them secret. Civilization has lost countless creations and discoveries over the ages for the same reason. Think we should get rid of or weaken patent rights? Think again.
Most important for America is what the patent system does for America's economy. Our founders: Jefferson, Franklin, Madison and others felt so strongly about the rights of inventors that they included inventors rights to their creations and discoveries in the Constitution. They understood the trade off. Inventors are given a limited monopoly and in turn society gets the benefits of their inventions (telephone, computer, airplane, automobile, lighting, etc) into perpetuity AND THE JOBS the commercialization of those inventions bring. For 200 years the patent system has not only fueled the American economy, but the world's. If we weaken the patent system, we force inventors underground like Stradivarius and in turn weaken our economy and job creation. For a robust economy America depends on a strong patent system accessible to all -large and small, not the watered down weak system the large multinationals and China are foisting on America.
For the truth, please see http://www.truereform.piausa.org/ http://piausa.wordpress.com/ http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2014/04/18/for-whom-the-bell-tolls-the-us-patent-system/id=49067/ http://www.hoover.org/publications/defining-ideas/article/142741
I agree with many of the previous comments with a bit of a twist.
1) Evaluating if reform is needed by patent lawyers is a conflict of interest
2) Patents are presently applied more for blocking than for innovation and even less for protecting investment - The thought process for "Slide to Unlock" was essentially "look at a useful feature that was previously not patented and patent it" more than a deep analysis/research investment in human-computer-interface. I see preventing it being used by others is like patenting a push button and saying it cannot be used.
3) There is Often almost no innovation in much of the stuff that is patented (many patents occur because of the bonuses offered or assertion by employers more than for innovation).
4) Despite the noted end of phone wars there will be yet another arena where patent lawyers can endulge their wordsmithing and presentation of content-free text. Let's limit the tools that make the cost of a product rise because of the need for deadwood employees who have to create work via ambulance - I mean patent chasing.
It reminds me of a case of Canadian police investigating themselves re: Taser use and concluding that there is nothing wrong with killing an innocent man at the Vancouver airport...the artcile title should had read: "Patent Reform? Experts who get paid by the patent system do not think so!"
I guess in times to come or may be now when a new design is worked out, a patent engineer or staff would get involved from the very starting. Looks like soon engineerig colleges should introduce this as subject or separate discipline as such.