Coffeehouse Thread

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Patents that should not be patents

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  • evildictait​or

    , fanbaby wrote

    evildictator, I'm a firm believer in capitalism, as I view it as the only just system, but I think that the current (ab)use of the patent law has nothing to do with it.

    +1

    It is necessary if you want to be able to allow capitalism to judge the value of an idea, to make it possible to trade ideas with each other, and patents allow you to do that.

    Patent companies are also fine - I have no problem with companies thinking up clever ideas and selling those ideas to people in a position to use them.

    What I do have a problem with is people using patents to block ideas. Submarine patents, overly generic patents and vague patents aren't part of making ideas tradeable. If your idea isn't specific, novel, innovative and marketable, then society should have no time for it.

    If you want to patent "an IDE that happens to be gray", or a "button with a picture of a turtle on it" then that shouldn't meet the bar - it's not innovative enough.

    If you want to patent "some invention that might perhaps allow users to interact fluidly with the web", that should fail - it's not specific enough.

    Submarine patents should be illegal too - you should be required to bring a patent lawsuit as soon as you become aware of an infringement or the patent should become invalid. You shouldn't be allowed to wait for them to make lots of money before you sue.

    And finally, you shouldn't be allowed to patent "let's all be kind to each other" or "the manifesto of the republican party in the USA", because they're not marketable.

    Once you fix those big problems, I think the patent system would go much further towards helping people be innovative.

    My argument is not in favour of our current system of patents. It's in favour of patents in the abstract sense of being able to protect innovations and buy and sell ideas for money.

  • Maddus Mattus

    @evildictaitor:

    For you to trade something as abstract as an idea, you first have to own an idea.

    How can one own an idea? The mere concept is rediculous.

    It means that when I am presented with a problem and I've come up with a solution to it, I first have to check if that idea is not patented by somebody before I can use it.

    Then when it does belong to somebody, I first have to consult the fellow to see what it will cost me to use his idea to solve my problem. Meanwhile I'm still stuck on the problem.

    And in case I missed the patent of somebody else's idea, I risk hefty fines in creating my solution.

    Nothing would get done in a world where you can take ownership of an idea.

  • evildictait​or

    , Maddus Mattus wrote

    @evildictaitor:

    For you to trade something as abstract as an idea, you first have to own an idea.

    How can one own an idea? The mere concept is rediculous.

    The Soviets thought the same about factories and cars. How could one man possibly own a factory!? The factory produces goods for the good of the people. The very concept that someone could own the factory is absurd! It is "owned" by the people!

    The Native Americans thought the same about land. The land was here before you - how could you possibly own it? What a silly thing to do to claim ownership of land.

    And yet we trade those things perfectly well in a world of market capitalism. Factories and land are protected (I suppose you'd say by force) by the government granting you rights at the expense of squatters "right" to live where they please.

    The government gives you the same rights to ownership of an idea that it gives you to ownership of a factory. If you make a factory all by yourself on land that you own, that's your factory. Someone else isn't allowed to come and make stuffed animals using your machinery without your say so.

    Similarly if you come up with an idea all by yourself using ideas that your own, that's your idea. Someone else isn't allowed to come and make money by using your idea without your say so.

    If you're really good at making factories, but not awfully good at running them, you can sell your factory to someone who's good at running them, but not very good at building them.

    If you're good at inventing ideas but not awfully good at implementing them, you can sell your ideas to someone who is good at implementing them, but not very good at inventing them.

  • fanbaby

    @evildictaitor: Factories and land are different from ideas, now does that make me a communist Wink

  • Bass

    @AndyC:

    "Let's say I've an idea for a system called Product X that offers some revolutionary new idea that could improve everyone's life and all I really need is the time to sit down and create it."

    One problem in your whole story. Patents don't cover ideas. Patents cover completed inventions.

    If I file a patent and anyone reasonably knowledgable in the art can't reproduce the invention in question perfectly using the contents of the patent alone, that patent is not valid.

    Thus for a software patent to be valid, the "code" already has to be there, in the patent. But it's usually in flow charts and English descriptions. Which quite frankly, makes little sense because computers don't execute flow charts.

  • AndyC

    , Bass wrote

    @AndyC:


    One problem in your whole story. Patents don't cover ideas. Patents cover completed inventions.

    Patents protect ideas. Copyright protects completed inventions.

  • Bass

    , AndyC wrote

    *snip*

    Patents protect ideas. Copyright protects completed inventions.

    What... the... f**k?

    I really hope you are joking. Because if you aren't this has to be one of the silliest things I've ever read on Channel 9.

  • AndyC

    @Bass: Not joking. The purpose of patents is not to protect actual "things", it's to protect the ideas involved in something. Go read some patents.

  • Bass

    @AndyC:

    Seriously? I won't lie, I'm pretty much in shock right now.

    I may be misunderstanding you here. You honestly think patents protect ideas? And orders of magnitude more absurd, you believe copyrights protect inventions?

    This is correct?

    What do you want me to do? Disprove you?? Expressionless

  • AndyC

    , Bass wrote

    @AndyC:

    Seriously? I'm won't lie, I'm pretty much in shock right now.

    I may be misunderstanding you here. You honestly think patents protect ideas? And orders of magnitude more absurd, you believe copyrights protect inventions?

    Dear lord.

    Patents protect ideas. So you could, for example, patent a new type of gearbox. It's not the specific make and model of gearbox itself that the patent protects, but the idea of how it works. Nobody else can then come along and make a gearbox that uses the same underlying principle (even if it is physically different) without licensing your patent, because the idea of your gearbox is what you have protected.

    Copyright protects implementations from being reproduced directly. So if you've written some code for a new type of control then your code is already protected by copyright. The idea behind it, however, is not protected so someone can legitimately write different code to do the same thing - unless you have a patent on the idea. It doesn't protect "inventions", because they are ideas, but it does protect the specific end result, i.e. the product of your invention (the exact make/model/design of your gearbox, for example).

    This is why you can't, as you want, say that a software patent needs to come with source code. You would have reduced the idea of your mechanism down to a single implementation of the idea, which is an entirely different thing.

  • Bass

    Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.

    If by "idea" you mean a formal specification that correctly describes an invention in such a manner that is clear and complete enough any person in skilled in the field could reproduce the working invention.

    The specification shall contain a written description of the invention, and of the manner and process of making and using it, in such full, clear, concise, and exact terms as to enable any person skilled in the art to which it pertains, or with which it is most nearly connected, to make and use the same, and shall set forth the best mode contemplated by the inventor of carrying out his invention.

    If you go ahead and read the patent law here in the USA (which shouldn't be way different from most of the rest of the world), I think you'll find some difficultly find the word "idea" in the law, let alone the sections which determine what is patentable. You'll see the word invention a lot, though.

  • cheong

    @AndyC:What do you think the design patents and utility patents for?

    Of course patents DO cover the actual implementation of the product.

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  • cheong

    @evildictaitor:Lots of words, but still none of them covers self-use.

    When licensing process is not involved, FRAND has no restriction on them, because that's not the purpose of what FRAND is made for.

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  • AndyC

    , Bass wrote

    *snip*

    If by "idea" you mean a formal specification that correctly describes an invention in such a manner that is clear and complete enough any person in skilled in the field could reproduce the working invention.

    Obviously the patent has to accurately describe the idea, yes, otherwise you could just file a patent that says "I've had a great idea, will revolutionize the world, will let you know details later". And it also has to be a patentable idea (in UK parlance their has to be an "inventive step", it has to be possible to produce and it can't fall into one of the categories deemed non-patentable).

    *snip*

    If you go ahead and read the patent law here in the USA (which shouldn't be way different from most of the rest of the world), I think you'll find some difficultly find the word "idea" in the law, let alone the sections which determine what is patentable. You'll see the word invention a lot, though.

    Because US Patent Law formally defines a meaning for the word "invention" and in much stricter terms than it's generic usage. Thereafter it is used repeatedly to avoid having to constantly clarify all the conditions that apply. It doesn't change the fact that an "invention" in Patent Law is essentially an idea, subject to a series of defined criteria that determine that it is patentable. You'll find similar examples of formalised language in pretty much any legal document.

    , cheong wrote

    @AndyC:What do you think the design patents and utility patents for?

    Of course patents DO cover the actual implementation of the product.

    "Design patents" are basically a whole different kettle of fish entirely, which is why pretty much everywhere outside of the US doesn't refer to them as such and instead prefers usually to embody the concept as a "Registered design" or similar.

    And patents do not cover implementation. If you license my patented widget, you can use the description to design, manufacture and sell your own widget that works in the same way. You can't necessarily just directly clone the widget I've been selling though, because I still have copyright on that specific implementation (assuming, of course, that it is copyrightable - not everything is) 

  • cheong

    @AndyC:

    , AndyC wrote

    "Design patents" are basically a whole different kettle of fish entirely, which is why pretty much everywhere outside of the US doesn't refer to them as such and instead prefers usually to embody the concept as a "Registered design" or similar.

    Try read the comparison for Design Patent in wiki against copyright again. Copyrights covers non-functional items and design patent covers functional items. Commercial products are usually functional ones.

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  • AndyC

    @cheong: Yes, but "design patents" aren't anything like patents in any sense other than that the US decided to overload the word in a rather unhelpful fashion. They're subject to a completely different set of rules and intended to provide an entirely different type of IP protection. For everywhere else in the world, they aren't considered patents at all but instead "registered designs" (which itself is a misleading term, because not all registered designs actually have to be registered!). When people are discussing "patents", it is safe to assume in general that they are not talking about design patents/registered designs.

  • Maddus Mattus

    @AndyC: Now that we've settled on what it is, what's your position on it?

    Should a pattern of firing neurons in your brain be protected by law, so that anybody who is firing the same pattern of neurons in his own brain has to pay you when you want to put the pattern of firing neurons to use?

  • AndyC

    , Maddus Mattus wrote

    @AndyC: Now that we've settled on what it is, what's your position on it?

    Should a pattern of firing neurons in your brain be protected by law, so that anybody who is firing the same pattern of neurons in his own brain has to pay you when you want to put the pattern of firing neurons to use?

    Once you accept the possibility that you can "own" anything, you have to accept that you can "own" an idea. It's no more ridiculous a concept than owning land or sheep and horses.

    I will grant you that current laws (especially in the US) are in desperate need of reform and modernisation because they were designed around a very different society and rate of development/production than we have today. Simply throwing them out and going back to the dark ages is not progression, however.

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