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How Patent Trolls Destroy Innovation

Soulskill posted about 2 months ago | from the i-had-an-idea-therefore-your-effort-is-mine dept.

Patents 97

walterbyrd sends this story from Vox: Everyone agrees that there's been an explosion of patent litigation in recent years, and that lawsuits from non-practicing entities (NPEs) — known to critics as patent trolls — are a major factor. But there's a big debate about whether trolls are creating a drag on innovation — and if so, how big the problem is. A new study (PDF) by researchers at Harvard and the University of Texas provides some insight on this question. Drawing from data on litigation, R&D spending, and patent citations, the researchers find that firms that are forced to pay NPEs (either because they lost a lawsuit or settled out of court) dramatically reduce R&D spending: losing firms spent $211 million less on R&D, on average, than firms that won a lawsuit against a troll. "After losing to NPEs, firms significantly reduce R&D spending — both projects inside the firm and acquiring innovative R&D outside the firm," the authors write. "Our evidence suggests that it really is the NPE litigation event that causes this decrease in innovation."

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How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47710601)

Fixed that for you.

"Patent trolls" is a propaganda term. It implies that there's a right and wrong way to own patents. In reality it's just that: Owning patents. Patents are a monopoly on ideas. That's the problem.

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (5, Insightful)

lord_rob the only on (859100) | about 2 months ago | (#47710657)

Well yes and no, patent protects innovation because you have a monopoly on your idea. Then up to you to make other researches on new products with the money gained.
But if you use a patent, you're forced to reveal your idea and prepare your competitor to use it later. You're never forced to patent your idea tho (see Coca-Cola, never patented, receipt never given).
 

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47710677)

That is true. That is the theory of how it works (which I think you were just interested in pointing out the theory)

in practice...
How many people do you think have looked up a software patent to work out how to do something?

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47710707)

But if you use a patent, you're forced to reveal your idea and prepare your competitor to use it later.

HAHAHAHHAHHA!

Oh, you were serious? Tell me, which do you work for, Apple or Microsoft?

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (1)

thunderclap (972782) | about 2 months ago | (#47718271)

Um, I gather you are incapable of reading machine code then. Yes source codes are patented. But just like a person who doesn't understand how electricity and electronics works, if you can't read the code and deduce from reading alone function you are no threat. So yes the statement is true. Its just that there are few people who can do that as they they work in that industry.

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (2, Insightful)

Cenan (1892902) | about 2 months ago | (#47710819)

patent protects innovation

Citation needed.

Re: How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47710837)

The first person to come up with an idea always has a monoploy until someone figures out how to copy it, if it is simple it doesn't take long, if it is complex, you've got a long term bussiness ahead of you if its what people want.

Technology should not be shared with others, so patents are a no go to me. Share ideas, let people figure out how to implement them, or if they can't do it, sell them a service. But never allow them the product.

Re: How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (1)

krashnburn200 (1031132) | about 2 months ago | (#47711857)

Yes because your entire reason for existing is to suck as much life out of the universe as possible. Honestly I sound like I disagree but I don't I am just angry that the universe areally IS structured that way.

Re: How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (3, Insightful)

bzipitidoo (647217) | about 2 months ago | (#47714167)

Be happy. The universe is not structured that way. Copying happens all the time in nature. Billions and billions of bacteria create copies of themselves every day. Events that generate light or sound radiate faithful copies of energy in many directions and also can generate echoes. One person can address a crowd of thousands, and radio stations can broadcast one signal to millions, because nature does work that way.

The insanity is the direction we tried to take ideas. We've tried to treat ideas like they're gold. Try to hoard them, try to demarcate and issue certificates of ownership. Tried to apply the logic of material ownership to the immaterial. Many people have fallen for the oversimplification, and have bought the lines that "property is property" and "stealing is stealing". But those pesky ideas just won't stay safely locked up. Someone else might get the same idea without ever breaking into the vault. The people who are regularly appalled and unhappy that vaults don't protect ideas are fools. That DRM exists and has been forced into so many products agasint the wishes of people who know better, is a testament to the large numbers of people who have failed to grasp this aspect of nature. The universe is a better place because ideas can't be locked up. It's the fools who have tried mightily to make patents and copyrights work who are struggling against reality. They're fighting an unwinnable battle. They will eventually lose, but until that day comes, they continue to cause a lot of waste, grief, and damage.

Re: How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (2)

parkinglot777 (2563877) | about 2 months ago | (#47712085)

The first person to come up with an idea always has a monoploy until someone figures out how to copy it

Not anymore according to the USPTO (see http://www.uspto.gov/aia_imple... [uspto.gov] for more info).

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47710889)

Patents on inventions are not really a problem.

When inventions, can be so broadly worded and with a very abstract implementation, where the actual problem instead of the solution is patented. That's where the trouble starts.

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47710917)

That is the point.

Patents are not to protect ideas, but to protect inventions.

Only whole thing is now a complete shambles and not fit for purpose (advancement of the arts).

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (4, Informative)

organgtool (966989) | about 2 months ago | (#47712285)

Well yes and no, patent protects innovation because you have a monopoly on your idea.

While I agree with most of what you have said, I have to make a pedantic statement about a common mistake that you have made that infuriates me - you can not patent an idea! You may patent an implementation of an idea, otherwise known as an invention, but you are not supposed to be able to patent the underlying idea.

You're never forced to patent your idea tho (see Coca-Cola, never patented, receipt never given).

This is true, although you've used a bad example since recipes are not eligible to be patented. But otherwise, you are correct - unpatented ideas can be protected as trade secrets.

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (3, Funny)

martin-boundary (547041) | about 2 months ago | (#47710673)

Extra! Extra! This just in! New research proves that patent "trolls" actively reduce wasted "R&D" attempts by sad deluded companies aiming to reinvent by themselves and worsen already existing ideas! WIPO economic policies vindicated! Simplification within reach! Coming soon: the Golden Age of the One, Single And Perfect Idea Of Everything (a.k.a. "the Wheel") ! Thanks "trolls", your country owes you a debt of gratitude!

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (4, Funny)

fey000 (1374173) | about 2 months ago | (#47710773)

Extra! Extra! This just in! New research proves that patent "trolls" actively reduce wasted "R&D" attempts by sad deluded companies aiming to reinvent by themselves and worsen already existing ideas! WIPO economic policies vindicated! Simplification within reach! Coming soon: the Golden Age of the One, Single And Perfect Idea Of Everything (a.k.a. "the Wheel") ! Thanks "trolls", your country owes you a debt of gratitude!

Dear Mr. martin-boundary,
I am writing to notify you that I currently own patent #2139986924, entitled "Process through which a human being may communicate a non-specified message of arbitrary weight and importance to one or more other human beings without the distinct personal application of auditory signals and cues". It is clear through your most recent activity that you have applied this process without my express written consent. You are thus legally beholden to the patent owner, and unless you reimburse me a sum of €12,000 I will be forced to recoup the losses I have unjustly suffered from your piracy to the fullest extent permitted by US law. You have 45 minutes to comply.

Thank you for your cooperation
Mr Troll, Esq.

PS. Perhaps you shouldn't try to reinvent the wheel.

Prior art (2)

tepples (727027) | about 2 months ago | (#47711657)

Dear Sir:

I apologize for replying 20 minutes late, but I have discovered prior art from ancient Egypt [wikipedia.org] . You can expect Mr. Boundary's counsel to bring this up at trial.

Sincerely,
Damian Yerrick
Owner and Lead Developer, Pin Eight

Re:Prior art (1)

DahGhostfacedFiddlah (470393) | about 2 months ago | (#47713651)

Dear Sir,

I apologize for the oversight in my previous correspondence. The description of the patent should have concluded with the phrase "...on the internet".

Sincerely,
Mr Troll, Esq.

SMTP; Alice v. CLS (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 months ago | (#47714037)

Even if you ignore prior art from 1982 [wikipedia.org] , the Supreme Court of the United States recently decided Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank to strike down treatment of "with a computer" as an inventive step [eff.org] . I'm not a lawyer, but I'd recommend that nonpracticing entities reconsider their business plans in light of the opinion of the Court.

Re: How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47714019)

Why is a us patent issue requesting payment in â and not $?

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (1)

hawkinspeter (831501) | about 2 months ago | (#47711003)

I think the premise of the study is flawed. Spending on R&D is not the same as innovation although there is some correlation. e.g. Companies might be able to get away with spending less on R&D as they are able to license the relevant patents rather than having to duplicate the research.

However, most patents aren't any use as most of them ARE obvious to someone skilled in the relevant discipline.

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47710723)

Yes, but "patent trolls" implies there's a solution to a problem, something easily fixed with a law or two (and just as easily bypassed). When you say the whole patent system is broken, it means "millions" will be out of a job, and then those damned chinese will be free to copy all IP, leaving children starving and the terrorists winning!!
Oh, and whales will go extinct.

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47710801)

Shut-up if you have people fix patents 1/3 of the US economy is gone...Forever!

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (1)

gtall (79522) | about 2 months ago | (#47710823)

It depends upon the industry. The drug companies are hard to defend, but there'd be no drug companies without patents. That's because it can easily cost well over $1 Billion to develop a new drug. No one will risk that kind of money without some guaranteed payback should they succeed.

"What?" you say, "Let the universities develop the new drugs?". They do some. So now you want the federal government to fork over $1 Billion on a research that may not pan out. That's only one drug. The government doesn't have the resources to pick and choose which compounds are the most promising.

And you then have to deal with the libertards who will bitch and scream that you need to get government out of their lives...at least until Grandma needs a place to stay to while away her dotage.

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47710999)

In the case of the drug industry, the problem could be easily fixed by requiring each business which wants to sell a drug to perform and document the studies to prove that their formulation is safe and effective. No "theirs is safe, so ours is too". That would have the added benefit of verifying scientific results through replication, and it would give the original innovator time to recoup their investment.

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47711483)

your idea is the very definition of duplication of effort. not only would it be pretty damn wasteful, it'd be a pretty big barrier to entry.

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (2)

Spamalope (91802) | about 2 months ago | (#47712395)

If it costs $1.95 billion to research a health problem; try possible directions to address the issue; find promising possibilities; run animal trials that have problems; modify the approach; new trials until; repeat until you have something good enough for limited human trials where some fail and the entire effort is for naught; broad human trials for the few that work; and plan for long term monitoring to identify problems that take years to show the company doing that work needs to recoup the investment or they'll go under. The commercial successes have to pay for all every failure and then some.

The next $0.05 billion that goes to testing and verifying that the manufacturing process is safe, effective and has good dosing regularity is the least part of the expense. You're proposing to let a second company who knows the answers duplicate only the last small bit of expense. Even including human trials the second company would have at least a 90% cost advantage they'd use to undercut the inventor.

Hell, this is the US. The CEO of the first company would form his own start-up, PillagerCo and feed it the winners with insider info to make sure his personal company most successfully raids the company he's CEO of. He wouldn't need to launder that behavior through an intermediary or two as they do now.

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47711007)

The government doesn't have the resources to pick and choose which compounds are the most promising.

You seem to forget that the industrialisation of medicine usually gives money back. As such, some billions in a medical research and production program seems an investment more worth it than the $600 billion yearly military expenditures.

Patents great b/c designing drugs are expensive (2)

morgauxo (974071) | about 2 months ago | (#47712097)

This example gets trumpeted out in every discussion on patents. First of all, I think most of us here are interested in software patents and maybe to a lesser extent patents on electronic or mechanical devices.

Second... WHY does it take so much money to develop a drug. Is it really necessary? Or is this just the result of the system which people in industry and government have created? This is an industry where the customer MUST buy the product. To not do so is to be sick or maybe dead. That hardly gives the companies involved a lot of incentive to save money. Likewise having seen drugs taken off the market which had been helping me with my own issues better than any other just becasue 1 in 300k people had a bad reaction I suspect regulators are doing little to help matters.

I have a friend who is a nurse, he argues adamantly for the drug companies any time this subject comes up. He talks about multii-million dollar lab equipment he has seen during his schooling which are somehow used in drug research. I wonder why any piece of equipment is so expensive. Is it the materials? Our TVs and cellphones are full of rare earth minerals. Is it the labor? Look at all the labor that goes into all sorts of consumer products. I suspect it's the fact that it is only large drug corporations and universities ever buy such equipment. They expect it to be expensive. they only trust expensive equipment. They have deep pockets. Not many companies make such things and the manufacturers know all of this. I am not a part of the health industry and I don't claim to be an expert in these matters. I only have my suspicions and I freely admit I could be wrong. The more I read about DIY biologists and the lab equipment they make however the more I think I might be right.

Re:Patents great b/c designing drugs are expensive (1)

Gavrielkay (1819320) | about 2 months ago | (#47713251)

It is expensive to develop a new drug for lots of reasons. I used to work in chemistry and the equipment, chemicals, scientists and facilities are expensive. These days a lot of drugs get discovered based on natural compounds that have shown some bit of efficacy against whatever ailment. The active compound needs to be isolated, synthesized, tested, modified, tested, etc until they run out of ideas to make it as effective as possible. And that's just the start. Then you need to find a scalable way to produce enough of it to run clinical trials which are expensive too. And for your effort, you get zip in return if it turns out to work but is toxic or whatever.

And you can bet that any corners cut and any money saved in the process will be brought up in court as soon as someone has a bad reaction to the drug.

I don't love the idea of our health being a for profit endeavor, but unless everyone wants to abandon capitalism and cough it up as tax dollars, it's probably safe to assume that the process is about as good as it's going to get.

Re:Patents great b/c designing drugs are expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47784705)

Your point on drug companies not being the focus of /. is valid. However, I think you're going on some wrong assumptions after that. It's expensive to develop a drug for a number of reasons. First, pure chemicals can be hard and expensive to make. This is especially true for chemicals that aren't usually bought in large quantities; you can't get economies of scale in that case, which means product development (verifying that the synthesis works as expected, gives the right purity, training the operators at the plant, etc.) is split up amongst fewer customers. So right off the bat, a lot of materials are expensive.

Second, in bio labs, a good many things have to be sterile. It also costs money to make something sterile - usually we just buy it like that, because large suppliers can do it on larger scales. But even if we didn't, that means more time put in - if I have to sterilize every pipette tip manually, I'm going to have way less time to actually work. That means you have to pay lab technicians, grad students, etc. for longer on a project.

Third, human cells (typically where people start out once they have something they think might work) are finicky. They don't like growing outside the human body, so we have to pay a lot of attention and use very particular reagents to grow them. These also have to be sterile, but that's actually a harder challenge too, because we have to maintain at least one sterile room to grow them in, and then make sure all the nutrients are also sterile (some of which don't like high heat, which is our preferred method).

Fourth, animals are expensive to maintain in the quantities you need for good statistical power in most drug studies. Mice are the cheapest (mammals), and they're a decent model for some things, but you need a ton of them. You also have to keep them around for a while to notice any long-term side effects. And if your model involves creating a new mouse strain - knocking out a gene or introducing a new one, changing a gene, etc. - that takes a while to make. It's getting faster, partly due to the new CRISPR/Cas9 system, but we're still talking months of work and verification, during which time you're still paying your people. You also need to have vets on hand if the mice get sick, or have normal mouse problems. And then there's the times where mice don't work. I used to work on Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). The mouse model for that is pretty bad - you have to knock out additional genes to make them act like a person who has DMD, but knocking those genes out has other effects. That's why most serious people in the field use dogs (after mouse work, of course - more money spent!). Dogs are also really expensive to maintain. They need space, play time/attention, more food, and more vet staff to take care of whatever problem you're trying to fix with your drug (hemophiliac dogs need basically 24/7 surveillance to make sure they don't bleed out).

Fifth, if the mouse data seems good (and there's no guarantee of that!), and you don't need to do other animals (or if that data looks good too), then you can maybe move to humans. Humans are also expensive. You have to have a lot of them in later phases, because if your drug might get to a lot of people, you want to make sure your drug will work on as much of the population as you can test - polymorphisms, differences in diet, etc. can all make a huge difference for some drugs, and you need to know that you have enough people to control for that. You have to pay people for being in a clinical trial, generally, so that's a huge expense too. Regulators here are also part of the problem, but sometimes there should be more regulations than there are currently, and sometimes fewer.

The equipment is very expensive mostly because there's such low demand for it, so in a way you're right - but it's mostly just that it's low demand, not that we only buy the expensive stuff because we can. They are really really complicated electronics, designed for a number of different things, but they will almost certainly sell less than 1,000-2,000 of them. The money from that has to be enough to have salespeople, pay the diverse group of engineers and scientists you need to make something like a mass spec or an NMR, manufacture the (small number of) units (no economies of scale here!), pay other employees - janitors, etc., and service the equipment when it breaks. DIY biology is cool, but it's not good for drug design, and it still has limited applications.

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47713171)

The problem is the billion dollars, which has more to do with stupid regulations than anything else. Cheap drugs and over the counter solutions are not investigated because there is no profit potential due to the huge costs of FDA approval.

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (3, Insightful)

AC-x (735297) | about 2 months ago | (#47710829)

Well, to me it's a combination of how patents are used and the fact too many vague, overly broad and (in the case of software) patents on general ideas rather than specific implementations are granted.

If less nonsense patents were approved, or if there was a second class of patents (for software etc) that had an extremely short term, most of the problems of patent trolling would go away.

There's nothing wrong with an inventor being able to protect an actual physical invention (without protected you'll be immediately priced out by cheap knock-offs), but no-one should be able to protect just a vague idea.

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47710847)

Check out my patent.

http://i.imgur.com/yY2bLDf.png

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (2, Insightful)

Begemot (38841) | about 2 months ago | (#47710861)

Patents are a monopoly on ideas

That's also a propaganda term. The patent system is flawed but not as much as you imply. You can only patent an idea that's not obvious and novel, which means you need to invest a significant amount of talent, time and money in order to develop this idea. Many people expect some protection of their investment in developing their ideas.

The question is in what would incentivize inventors more, the patent system or the lack of it. I don't see a clear answer to this question.

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47711135)

If only, there are documented cases of a previously rejected patent application getting accepted simply by adding "with a computer" or "over the internet" to it.

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47711165)

You can only patent an idea that's not obvious and novel,

This is demonstrably false, shithead. Also, there are NO TESTS FOR OBVIOUSNESS, despite the requirement. Checkmate, moron.

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (4, Informative)

StormReaver (59959) | about 2 months ago | (#47711251)

You can only patent an idea that's not obvious and novel....

That's how it should be, but it's not what has actually been happening for the last few decades. The patent office has been spewing out patent approval for the most obvious and commonly used ideas at a rate unparalleled in modern history.

And Congress and the Courts have been complicit in making patent defense so expensive that only the richest companies and individuals can even consider mounting a defense. They have also tilted the courtroom so far in favor of the trivially obvious patent troll that everyone else must simply cave in to the patent offensive, even when the patent wouldn't have a chance in Hell of being upheld in court.

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (1)

silentcoder (1241496) | about 2 months ago | (#47711489)

You do realize that you didn't actually contradict him.
His term is perfectly valid and your clarification did not alter that at all.

Nobody claimed patents were a monopoly on ALL ideas (though it's patently [if you'll excuse the pun] clear that the limitations you hold so dear have no practical meaning) - the very idea of a monopoly on ANY idea is inherently suspect.
Benjamin Franklin considered it a completely unacceptable proposal and while refusing to patent any of his many inventions also actively campaigned against establishing patent law in the USA. His arguments in this regard were really rather good.

As for your question on incentivizing - the answers really aren't that unclear, in fact several studies done on the subject have consistently found that the sole advantage a patent system offers countries today is to protect them from international diplomatic pressures of other countries wanting them to honour patents.
Literally the ONLY advantage is that the USA will refuse to sign a trade agreement with you if you don't honour their patents - an advantage which, you may notice, have absolutely NOTHING to do with the patents or with innovation.
Stallman points out that, legally, software companies in countries where software patents are banned have a massive competitive advantage over software companies from other countries. Living in such a country - I can sue an American company in America for violating a patent I hold there, but they cannot sue me here in my country for violating THEIR software patents because those patents are not VALID here (and since I'm not a citizen of their country, as long as I don't directly do business there - I am not subject to their laws, it's fairly well established that YOUR citizens importing my product does NOT count as ME exporting it or confer legal responsibility onto me - if I don't actually ship product there to be sold then it's not my problem).

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | about 2 months ago | (#47711505)

A system where Inventors get paid for other people developing their ideas, or people they sold the idea to get paid for other developing the idea is broken

If the Patent system encouraged people to innovate *and* develop their ideas then it would work, but the current system does not

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47711609)

I'd start with 2 things:

  • Limiting terms on patents. With the sheer speed of the information age, there is no reason to have a 15 year patent on an idea that will be obsolete in 2.
  • Invalidate patents that are not actively used by their creator. Disney has kept patents and trademarks on their stuff for years, and they are actively using them. Some shell company that's just looking for an idea to get popular then threatening legal action for a field they have no skin in is just stupid and wrong.

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (1)

Merk42 (1906718) | about 2 months ago | (#47711661)

Trademarks are a whole other ballgame. While they may need reformation too, let's not lump them together with patents.

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47712531)

Any law that depends on people arguing what is and isn't "obvious" is a terrible idea.

How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47710879)

Nope. Monopoly of ideas is keeping them to yourself. Patents were meant to protect the innovation for a time, before it was made free for all.

Trolls do not produce, they just abuse the system.

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47711017)

Nope. Monopoly of ideas is keeping them to yourself. Patents were meant to protect the innovation for a time, before it was made free for all.

Trolls do not produce, they just abuse the system.

I wanted to go down the "do not produce" route to make a clear delineation as a solution here, but that is a slippery slope too. Seems it is quite possible to invent something and want to simply license it for someone else to make because you have no interest (or resources) to make it yourself. This isn't what patent trolls generally do, but if they started, would you suddenly want to label it extortion instead of licensing? What's the difference?

Like I said, slippery slope.

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (3, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about 2 months ago | (#47711107)

I think the problem with the Patent system isn't the idea of patents, but some factors that need to have them adjusted.

1. Patent Lifetime. 20 years is much too long in the technology industry. As technology is improving at an exponential rate. 20 years to hold onto a patents means by the time the patient expires, the technology is so old and out of date that it isn't useful any more. Back in the old days 20 years was enough for someone to get it in the market and make a good living off of it. When it was over then you can get others using it.

2. Too many obvious patents. Especially in software, We code new and interesting stuff every day, as our programs are meant to solve a new problem. Software patents should be reserved for some really ingenious stuff. Like advanced algorithms that the average coder will go, you know I might as well just download the library and implement vs having to figure it out myself and probably not have it work as well.

3. Lack of a good Non-Patent Protection legal mechanism. There isn't a way to register your idea officially, while not having the patent overhead, and if someone patents the same idea you can use your registration to prove yours is legit.

Defensive publication (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 months ago | (#47711749)

Agreed on point 2. However:

3. Lack of a good Non-Patent Protection legal mechanism.

Of course there is. It's called publishing a white paper [wikipedia.org] .

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47712719)

I think the problem with the Patent system isn't the idea of patents, but some factors that need to have them adjusted.

1. Patent Lifetime. 20 years is much too long in the technology industry. As technology is improving at an exponential rate. 20 years to hold onto a patents means by the time the patient expires, the technology is so old and out of date that it isn't useful any more. Back in the old days 20 years was enough for someone to get it in the market and make a good living off of it. When it was over then you can get others using it.

2. Too many obvious patents. Especially in software, We code new and interesting stuff every day, as our programs are meant to solve a new problem. Software patents should be reserved for some really ingenious stuff. Like advanced algorithms that the average coder will go, you know I might as well just download the library and implement vs having to figure it out myself and probably not have it work as well.

3. Lack of a good Non-Patent Protection legal mechanism. There isn't a way to register your idea officially, while not having the patent overhead, and if someone patents the same idea you can use your registration to prove yours is legit.

Algorithms can't be patented. Only a process can be patented.

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47714617)

No. The problem with the patent system *is* the idea of patents. Making the adjustments you advocate will just reveal a different set of problems, calling for a different set of adjustments.

The idea of patents is that companies can compete in the court room instead of the market place. This is a great benefit to legal counsel, but is of no benefit to consumers.

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (1)

orgelspieler (865795) | about 2 months ago | (#47712291)

I'm not entirely sure how this got modded insightful. The patent system is certainly not built upon owning an idea. They cover a particular implementation, a certain solution to a problem, not just an idea. If you invent a machine that makes unicorn farts, you can patent that machine. If I make a unicorn fart machine that operates in a different way, I am free to do so. Now the market has two different unicorn fart machine styles, and we are arguably better off as a society.

As an engineer with some hands on experience filing and working around patents, I can honestly say that a large part of the patent system still works as intended. I believe inventors should be protected, especially when it's a David and Goliath situation, and patents still offer some of that protection. I also believe that the patent system encourages inventors in at least two ways. It lets you know that there is at least one solution to your problem, and that somebody thought it was worthwhile enough to patent it. It also forces an inventor to be more creative and come up with different solutions to the problem than what has already been done. Sometimes when you have to think of a different solution, you end up with a better solution.

That being said, I think business method patents are stupid, and that software patents are evil. And if you're going to file a patent on something, you sure as shit better not try to sue me on "trade secret" grounds. (yes, that actually happens)

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (2)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 2 months ago | (#47712391)

Fixed that for you.

"Patent trolls" is a propaganda term. It implies that there's a right and wrong way to own patents. In reality it's just that: Owning patents. Patents are a monopoly on ideas. That's the problem.

Except there is nothing new. History repeats itself - we've been through these patent litigation storms for hundreds of years now. Probably amongst the earliest was the sewing machine where there were so many patents, and plenty of overlapping ones that it was impossible to make a sewing machine at all because there were just too many patents.

So Singer basically bought up all the patents - through force if necessary. And then they started licensing it to maufacturers to make sewing machines. If you had a patent, the consortium would basically crush you. (Effectively one of the first patent pools).

It repeats again for the automobile as well - so many innovations in such a short period of time that patent lawsuits were being filed all over the place.

And sure, it's computers this time around, but the tune's been the same for hundreds of years. And I'm certain there's been plenty of other patent wars.

And I won't say it stifles innovation - patents enhance innovations by getting people to be creative and work around them. I mean, if Apple's rounded corner patent didn't exist, Android would just be another iOS clone in the end. Instead, Google saw what they need to avoid it (it's a design patent, so ALL aspects must be copied) and realized as long as they don't have a grid of icons with a static bottom part, they're golden. Hence the app launcher and home screen (with widgets, getting rid of the grid of icons).

And stuff like patent pools also arose, because if you can't have something, people will actually try to find ways around that. Patents blocking the manufacture of sewing machines? Well, demand's there for the things, so there has to be a way around the current problem. Innovation!

If we didn't have it, we'd rapidly converge on uniformity as everyone just copies everyone else so in the end it's all identical in the end (because copying is faster cheaper easier than innovating).

Re:How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (1)

suutar (1860506) | about 2 months ago | (#47713715)

Not entirely sure I agree. There is, imho, a right way to get money out of a patent: produce the device, sell it, profit. And then there's the wrong way: find someone who's doing something vaguely similar, latch on like a leech, and destroy their business model by introducing a large unexpected expense. The first benefits someone besides yourself (or you're not going to get many sales); the second is purely parasitic.

How the Patent System Destroys Innovation (1)

LessThanObvious (3671949) | about 2 months ago | (#47714045)

There is a right way and a wrong way to own patents. When a patent troll buys a patent not to collect legitimate licensing fees on the intellectual property or to pursue a legitimate business endeavor, but rather just to sue anyone and everyone they can for damages then that is the wrong way. Just because I can buy some obscure overly broad patent that never should have been granted and use that as leverage to suck money out of legitimate businesses doesn't make it an acceptable business practice. Laziness, resource issues and an overly accommodative relationship with big business on the part of the USPTO have created this mess. It's no surprise that lawyers are happy to help game the system. Now, having masses of bad patents in effect we are stuck because if someone has a patent that is legit on paper and they sue they isn't any way to quickly and cheaply nullify the suit. I hope we find ways to resolve this while still allowing the little guy a fair shot at obtaining patents and defending those held.

Patent Trolls arent just little companies (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47710645)

In the past 5 to 10 years since Obama took office and the Economy tanked and then never recovered many large companies have been buying up other large companies .. We saw that happen with a few cellphone makers.. however there are many more examples that go unnoticed.

While it is definitely respectable for anyone who comes up with a new innovation to protect that idea and profit if anyone else uses it .. the patent owner also has the right to sell that idea to someone else and then the new owner has the right to sue to protect their rights.

Yes there are some times when it doesn't seem fair however ideas are something that comes from within a person.. if the patent office agrees that a patent should be issued then it is.. if not then its not and many ideas are turned down.

I think we have to figure out a way where the people who come up with innovative ideas that change all of our lives are protected and at the same time allow use of some patented ideas if the original patent was improperly issued.

Patents can be Political and we all saw the Redskins case where they lost their patent/trademark because someone thought it was not their right to have after having it for so long.

I understand much of this is about Blogs that we all use.. however think about it someone came up with that idea.. or they were the first to patent it.. heck I wish I forked out $10,000 on a bunch of domain names the first day you could register them and resold them for millions but I didn't and the fact is anyone of us could have bought food.com or books.com or whatever its not a grand idea there..

Some patents are grand ideas..

So you know i think a bit of respect is in order when people come up with ideas and then someone agrees that is an idea worthy of a patent.

And if you don't understand how complex that is.. just think things as simple as engine parts or a basic battery .. or the twisting of drawn copper wire and sheilding it with plastic are all things that people thought about and that we don't think twice about.. and many people would say ... hey a copper wire with shielding thats so basic it should be public domain .. but you can find old houses right now that have wire on posts running in their attic and walls with no plastic shield to protect from shorts...

its a large idea that can't be thought of in simple terms by calling people trolls
maybe it is unfair to some.. but you could have came up with that idea.. but either you're too lazy or stupid..
anyway.. whatever.

Re:Patent Trolls arent just little companies (0)

martin-boundary (547041) | about 2 months ago | (#47710705)

While it is definitely respectable for anyone who comes up with a new innovation to protect that idea and profit if anyone else uses it ..

No. It's not respectable. Everything else you've said after that derives from a false premise.

Re:Patent Trolls arent just little companies (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 months ago | (#47710721)

Or maybe it's a matter of opinion and not a fundamental law of the universe.

Re:Patent Trolls arent just little companies (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | about 2 months ago | (#47710757)

Most things where laws are needed are a matter of opinion. Arguably, laws are merely a way of imposing an opinion on a world which naturally doesn't work that way.

Re:Patent Trolls arent just little companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47710967)

That's not arguable. You can state it, and preface the statement with "arguably", but that's as far as you can go with that train of thought. It won't stand up to debate. All you can do is give examples of some laws where it's obviously true, but extending that to all laws reaches reductio ad absurdum rather quickly.

Re:Patent Trolls arent just little companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47711053)

That is the natural working of our world. People gang up because it works. Then they invent bureaucracy to have gangs bigger than "everybody knows everybody". And "Laws" is one way of streamlining this - instead of "because the chieftain/boss says so."

Re:Patent Trolls arent just little companies (2, Insightful)

EEPROMS (889169) | about 2 months ago | (#47710727)

you need to fix your history line so it should correctly read, under Bush Jr the economy tanked then Obama got into power. I don't support Obama but I do hate it when people try to re-write history.

Re:Patent Trolls arent just little companies (1)

gtall (79522) | about 2 months ago | (#47710887)

What is more important is why the economy tanked. The initial tanking was because Greenspan and the Bush Administration saw no need to pop the housing bubble. The Democrats were surely not going to rock the boat either. The Fed and the Bush Administration went that extra mile by relaxing regulation so everyone and their uncle's dog were able to flip houses. The Fed and the Bush A. were continuing the proud tradition of Clinton and his Republican Congress to allow the investment and the commercial banks to cross each others business lines. And that allowed them to tap into the increasingly open international financial system to unload their hot potatoes.

Obama's main claim to fame is that he saved the banking system from collapsing. And he did, but he was continuing the Bush A. policies of saving the banking system since TARP was started during the waning days of the Bush A. And the banks paid most of that back, so they were only bailed out with what amounted to loans. None of the bankers went to prison because they broke no laws, the politicians had stripped the laws down so that they could do what they wanted.

What Obama then did made matters worse. He refused to cut government spending and he allowed the Bush tax cuts to become more or less permanent...well, Congress did the latter and helped with the former, but Obama never vetoed the extension. This guaranteed government would be underfunded thus increasing the deficit, and that encouraged business to keep their powder dry and not spend into a recovery. Those tax cuts had a sunset provision of 10 years and were passed in an era when there would be "surpluses as far as the eye could see"...which wasn't very far given Bush's policies and fighting two wars.

Overlaying all of that was the economy of things fundamentally shifting to higher automation. So the workforce was blindsided because then they didn't have the skills to put into a new economy that emerged after the meltdown. And business's exports had tanked because when Wall Street exported the hot potatoes, it had the knock on effect of tanking the world's economy so U.S. businesses had less of an export market.

And just to drive the butt plug home, the Republicans in Congress have been tilting at every windmill they could find instead of working with Democrats to fix the structural problems in the economy. This was the product of being enthralled with libertards who claim that if the government got out of people's lives, everything would be rosy....neglecting health care (libertards are always employed and never get sick), the environment (companies are naturally clean (see coal companies for counter examples)), financial regulation (those Wall Street hyena are still there), research and development (apparently, research grows on trees and just happens), etc.

Re:Patent Trolls arent just little companies (1)

silentcoder (1241496) | about 2 months ago | (#47711647)

Well you know all that "repackaging bad loans as if they are tripple-A rated investments instead of high-risk" that the banks did. There's nothing WRONG with high risk investments, many investors seek those out actively, but generally these are not big governments.
The repackaging meant that these investments were sold, under false pretences, to organisations (including governments like Iceland) as highly secure investments to store and grow their money.

How the hell that is not outright fraud and how EVERY bank CEO is NOT in jail is the question of the century. Sorry but when you LIE to people about what your product IS - that's the very DEFINITION of fraud ! Don't tell me "but the government forced them to make those loans" - firstly that's really not as true as you think but more critically NOBODY forced them to then use FRAUD to offset the risk - there are perfectly valid and legal ways they could have done instead.

Now let's imagine for a second that this part never happened. The bubble eventually burst, lots of loans defaulted. The banks end up with a bunch of houses (the security on any mortgage) which they sell and recover a large chunk of their losses - a lot of people who were formerly unable to buy a house gets one on the cheap, the banks perhaps sue the government for making them give loans to easy and maybe win a few bucks back.
What does NOT happen now is that suddenly half of Europe's welfare states who had all be highly profitable welfare states for DECADES are broke because the accounts where they stored all their surplus and emergency funds just fucking disappeared overnight ! They don't suddenly sit with pensions and unemployment and other benefits that their society has PAID for with taxes which they are UNABLE to pay out to the people who have the right to them under their laws.
They don't suddenly find themselves having to make cost-cutting laws that lead to protests in the streets and the rightwing idiots don't get to point to that as proof that "socialist countries always end up broke" - while conveniently forgetting that these countries were, ALL of them, so far in the green on their social spending that they could have covered their benefits for several decades even if they got no tax money in at all - and only had this problem because the place they put all that surplus money turned out to be a fraud committed by American banks.

You don't end up with a Eurozone crisis. You don't have China turning into a mennace 50 times bigger than they were ten years ago.

You probably have a recession but it's a fairly mild one, some job losses followed by rather MORE jobs being regained.
The teabaggers never becomes a significant political force. Michelle Bachman's is allowed to remain an OBSCURE moron. No government shutdown in 2013. No Ted Cruz in Washington. Rick Perry finally manages to get the job he was ACTUALLY destined to do but had twice failed to get due to being overqualified as the village idiot of some small town in South-east Texas. And Obamacare may just have been the single-payer system it SHOULD have been all along.

So why is it, that the thing which made your average run of the mill EVERY congress has one silly economic policy turn into a global motherfucking disaster and which is a very obvious crime under even the bloody mosaic code ... has seen not a single jail sentence, in fact the sole fall-out anybody got was JP Morgan's fine - which we know for a fact was less than HALF what they BUDGETED for fines when they bought Bear Sterns.

Re:Patent Trolls arent just little companies (1)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 2 months ago | (#47711775)

you need to fix your history line so it should correctly read, under Bush Jr the economy tanked then Obama got into power. I don't support Obama but I do hate it when people try to re-write history.

The conspiracies kind of lose their oomph when they have to stick to the truth.

Binders full of kooks.

Re:Patent Trolls arent just little companies (2)

Jesus_666 (702802) | about 2 months ago | (#47710849)

Patents are not inherently evil. If I get the idea for a new valve design that uses some obscure property of gasoline to make direct injection engines five percent more efficient then I deserve to be rewarded for that. But do I deserve a reward for taking something we already do and adding "via electronic transmission" without even detailing how exactly that transmission would work? Do I deserve a reward for taking the concepts of HTTP redirects and credit card processing and coming up with a redirect to a credit card processing software?

We have a few problems right now that need fundamental changes to how patents work in order to be resolved:

Firstly, there is a flood of patents far too great to allow patent examiners to examine each patent in detail. We can't solve this by adding more examiners; there's no money for that. We can't solve this by allowing an arbitrary backlog; sooner or later we'd get to a point where you'd spend longer for your application to be processed than the patent would last once approved, which would hurt legitimately useful applications. The current solution, just doing less work per patent, just means that more junk patents come through.

Additionally, we don't have enough experts. A patent on "storing a word processor document in a single XML file" (real patent) might not sound obvious to a patent examiner who doesn't have a deep understanding of IT but to an IT professional it's blindingly obvious; after all XML is a universal format and we store all sorts of other documents in XML form already. Still, a patent has been granted for this "innovation", most likely because the patent office can't afford enough IT experts to properly evaluate every IT patent. (Admittedly, the patent is specific enough that one can, with effort, create a non-infringing XML text document format. But it's still obvious.)

Of course it doesn't help that some granted patents are overly generic. Many patents just declare dominion over an idea, sometimes even without providing technical information on how to make the idea actually work. This can be hard to see for the examiner because of the relative dearth of domain experts.

Compounding that is the fact that willful infringement nets harsher punishment. However, if I actually do the research to make sure I don't violate certain patents it becomes reasonable to assume that I know about all relevant patents in the field. If I overlooked some and end up infringing them it becomes difficult to prove that I didn't know about them, costing me more money. Thus, the safest course of action is to never read any patents at all so I can at least claim ignorance. This keeps me open to surprise litigation, of course, and it also perverts the entire point of the patent system: Patents are not there so that someone can control an idea, they are there so that someone provides his idea and technical work to everyone else in exchange for some royalties.


Fixing this mess won't be easy. We need far more experts, more time per patent and fewer patent applications. The former two aren't going to happen because nobody's willing to pay that much money and the latter isn't going to happen as long as obtaining patents is as lucrative as it is today. While I don't think that killing off the entire patent system is the way to go it's easy to see how people come up with the idea.

Re:Patent Trolls arent just little companies (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47711009)

If I get the idea for a new valve design that uses some obscure property of gasoline to make direct injection engines five percent more efficient then I deserve to be rewarded for that

No you don't, and that's not what the patent system is for.

If you get the idea for a new valve design, and then go on to develop the valve in a way suitable for mass production, and then start a business selling those valves, then you deserve not to be undercut by rivals who just copy your design and go straight to market without having first paid the R&D costs. That's all you deserve. You don't automatically deserve for your business to succeed regardless of other commercial factors, and you certainly don't deserve money just for having an idea. Ideas are cheap, it's R&D that costs money.

And that is how the patent system is broken, because it directly rewards ideas and not development effort. The positive outcome of the system is just a side-effect of how the system works. The whole system needs refactoring so that it directly achieves the goals above within an ethical framework that acknowledges the value of straightforward hard work over simple ideas. This would mean that a patent troll with nothing more than an idea can't walk all over a company that had the same idea and then spend $10m developing it into a commercial product.

Re:Patent Trolls arent just little companies (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | about 2 months ago | (#47714613)

You don't automatically deserve for your business to succeed regardless of other commercial factors, and you certainly don't deserve money just for having an idea. Ideas are cheap, it's R&D that costs money.

I never said that I deserve automatic business success. "Reward" and "getting paid" are two different things. I do agree, however, that I expressed myself poorly. Of course the mere idea is not enough to get a patent: At the very least I should supply enough information to make my valve. Still, I shouldn't need to actually produce valves in order to deserve patent protection; after all there are dedicated research entities like CSIRO who do expend significant effort to develop technologies even though they don't develop physical products based on those technologies.

And that is how the patent system is broken, because it directly rewards ideas and not development effort. The positive outcome of the system is just a side-effect of how the system works. The whole system needs refactoring so that it directly achieves the goals above within an ethical framework that acknowledges the value of straightforward hard work over simple ideas. This would mean that a patent troll with nothing more than an idea can't walk all over a company that had the same idea and then spend $10m developing it into a commercial product.

If the non-company actually came up with a working prototype and wrote a patent that explains in detail how to copy it and demonstrably came up with the whole thing first then yes, the non-company deserves the patent. Of course this scenario is utterly unlikely. Still, patents shouldn't be about how much it cost to come up with something; they should be about whether this something advances the state of the art and is described in a precise manner that allows an average worker in the field to reproduce it. If your company spends $10m and mine spends $100k and we independently arrive at the same method of solving a particular problem then your company's claim isn't automatically more valid than mine.

If we could ensure that all granted patents are for things that advance the state of the art in a reproducible manner we'd be much closer to a reasonable system (although there'd still be work left to be done).

Re:Patent Trolls arent just little companies (0)

martin-boundary (547041) | about 2 months ago | (#47711015)

If I get the idea for a new valve design that uses some obscure property of gasoline to make direct injection engines five percent more efficient then I deserve to be rewarded for that.

If I get the idea for a new valve design that uses some obscure property of gasoline to make direct injection engines five percent more efficient then I should pay you for the privilege? No. No, I should not.

Just say no.

Patents are evil. There's no reason that inventors who pay for a little piece of paper 5 minutes before everyone else should receive money from other inventors for the same idea. That's what patent licensing is.

Re:Patent Trolls arent just little companies (2)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about 2 months ago | (#47711253)

> Fixing this mess won't be easy.

Fixing the mess is at least straightforward. Discard software patents. Their legality has always been questionable, for sound technical and legal reasons, and they're one of the greatest drains on the patent office. They also have profound, demonstrable adverse effects on industry and on innovation in practice.

Implementing that legal and policy change will not be easy, I agree.

Re:Patent Trolls arent just little companies (1)

mean pun (717227) | about 2 months ago | (#47713207)

Fixing the mess is at least straightforward. Discard software patents. Their legality has always been questionable, for sound technical and legal reasons, and they're one of the greatest drains on the patent office. They also have profound, demonstrable adverse effects on industry and on innovation in practice.

Is it really? Now suppose that instead of that clever new valve the OP was talking about I invent a whole new concept of fuel injection that also saves 5% of fuel. And I have an implementation, but as software in a standard electronic fuel controller. Do I deserve a patent? If not, why is it fair that the OP gets rewarded for his mechanical invention, and I am not for my software invention?

Somehow... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47710741)

...I don't think this is limited to just patent trolls.

Yes, Hollywood, I'm referring to you.

Cry More (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47710743)

Just because the FOSS community can't have an original idea, and has to copy others work, doesn't mean patents are bad. If you want to blatantly copy other people's ideas, find a business model that lets you compensate the owners for their investment. It's not hard.

Re:Cry More (5, Insightful)

AC-x (735297) | about 2 months ago | (#47710813)

Patents are supposed to protect specific implementations, not vague ideas. If I patent a widget making machine, someone else can build a different machine that makes widgets in a different way and that's fine. Software patents are the equivalent of patenting the idea of a machine that makes widgets.

Re:Cry More (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47710867)

A good litmus test for patents would then be: If someone is infringing a patent, but has not read the patent, then the patent is probably much too broad or the invention is too simple and obvious. "First to file" vs "first to invent" becomes irrelevant if patents are required to be highly specific.

Re:Cry More (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47711741)

Unfortunately that wouldn't hold up, everyone would claim they never read it even if they had. We'll need something more solid than that.

Re:Cry More (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47711891)

I find the idea of someone trying to implement a product based on a vague legalese filled document laughable.

Re:Cry More (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47711047)

Some overly-broad software patents are like that, but software patents per se are not equivalent to that at all. There are plenty of examples of patented software methods to perform a specific computational task in a specific way, the AV literature is full of them, and you can do things a different way and evade all the patents (e.g. Theora vs MPEG-2).

Re:Cry More (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47712453)

Some overly-broad software patents are like that, but software patents per se are not equivalent to that at all. There are plenty of examples of patented software methods to perform a specific computational task in a specific way...

There are plenty of examples of overly broad patents protecting their invention of "transmitting data using a series of 1's and 0's..." as well.

Trolls aren't using specific patents protecting ideas. That's what separates legitimate patent complaints from trolls in the first place. Most of them are using vastly broad bullshit encompassing entire concepts that never should have been protected in the first place.

Patents are a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47710783)

Patents are choking innovation because everyone is afraid to create something that might end up costing them millions in legal fees because some company somewhere already has a monopoly on it.

It's plain CRAZY!

Patents should be removed completely and people should be allowed to create anything and everything they want even if it already exists. I would only punish those that blatantly duplicate/clone someone elses invention without their permission. However, if the invention is too simplistic in nature, which means it's something that cannot be done any other way I would even excuse it.

In all other respects this is what I think of patents [ascii-middle-finger.com]

Re:Patents are a problem (4, Insightful)

ThePromenader (878501) | about 2 months ago | (#47711027)

Hm, I don't quite agree. I think a 'use it or lose it' condition on patent claims would be both protective and productive. Oh, and I'd like to see that ideal applied to cybersquatters and their ilk, too.

Re:Patents are a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47712765)

Use it or Lose it is part of Trademarks, so your idea is spot on and should be extended to patents as well.

Re:Patents are a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47711691)

If you got rid of patents, you wouldn't have a legal leg to stand on to "punish those that blatantly duplicate".

Suuuure they do (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47710963)

Let's see: companies who copy rather than innovate spend less on R&D. Therefore patent (troll)s are bad.

R&D, we don't have no stinking R&D (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47710985)

R&D is cheaper to steal than create due to high labor costs in America. Why do we still think we have any significant R&D funding? The older companies that have done R&D in the past switched to doing support tasks only, more money, simpler, more dependable cash-flow, as part of a push for globalization which helps to keep the labor costs lower (the added benefit is you need less skilled workers to go that route). Patent trolls are just another nail in the coffin.

Have they proved the root cause? (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about 2 months ago | (#47710993)

Yup, that old /. chestnut; correlation != causation.
Maybe they just "proved" that some firms invest less when they realise they don't know how to do innovation / R&D.

In any serious organisation these days, spending serious money on R&D, there's a multi-layered approach to all this, ranging from building portfolio of defense/attack/trade patents (Google buying Motorola phone division), (or joining a group who does), through researching prior art to finally building a attacking others (think Apple vs. Samsung).

You could say that that's the real "tax on innovation", since it's far more costly than the impact of a few "trolls" (defined as someone who holds a patent for the sole purpose of using it to attack others)

Re:Have they proved the root cause? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47711115)

What about companies that are forced to pay practicing entities? Do their R&D spendings go down, go up, or stay the same?
Has this study isolated the NPE factor, or is their outcome a result of losing litigation in general?
A study that shows NPEs reduce innovation doesn't do a whole lot of good unless the effect of the NPE is isolated.

Re:Have they proved the root cause? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47711187)

Hey, dipshit. Where is the proof that patents do not harm innovation and that they actually promote science and the useful arts? There is no proof. We have NONE. ZERO. There is absolutely no evidence that the systems are working as intended because no one ever tested the assumption. Now, tell me all about "correlation and causation" and how patents might not be a tax on innovation. Fucking idiot. PROVE IT. It's irresponsible to run the world's economy of ideas and information based on untested hypothesis. Time to abolish patents and find out. What if the are harmful? What if they ARE needless tax on innovation? You want to throw around science terms? NO. You don't get to throw around rationality if you can't fucking apply it to the situation at hand.

"Herp! Everyones being irrational! They have no evidence for their beliefs! Correlation isn't Causation!" For fuck's sake, you sound like you just graduated corporate indoctrination camp. THINK.

Re:Have they proved the root cause? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47711811)

Go ahead, prove your negative assertion. By the way, you're wrong. There have been several studies of varying rigor over the last 3 centuries that have consistently demonstrated some value of a patent system.

Re:Have they proved the root cause? (1)

retchdog (1319261) | about 2 months ago | (#47712727)

it doesn't really matter whether it helps or not. Congress has the Constitutional power to grant patents; end of story.

what you'd have to do is get a Constitutional Amendment, rather than rant on slashdot (unless that's the best you can do toward that end, in which case, go ahead). in this case, the burden is on you to either fix it or move elsewhere.

who cares? (5, Insightful)

AndyKron (937105) | about 2 months ago | (#47711055)

Why should I start a business when at any time a troll could come by with some vague patent, and sue me? Fuck this country, and fuck the government.

Re:who cares? (4, Interesting)

organgtool (966989) | about 2 months ago | (#47712385)

It's even worse than that. Some companies don't even want to sell their products [techcrunch.com] in the U.S. out of fear of patent litigation. I had a feeling this would eventually happen, but I didn't think it would happen this soon. The U.S. is losing ground in the tech sector and the worst part is that it's our own fault.

Re:who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47712639)

Sounds like we need to take some designs from terrorist organisations. Rather than build one monolithic company, built an interlocking group of small companies (think cells) keeping the financial assets separate from the parts of the organisation which might suffer troll damage. Something like this:

Widget Financial Corp. -- holds all the money, leases buildings and sells management expertise to other members of Widget group
Widget Sales Limited -- handles all the sales and marketing operations) pays fat fees to Widget Financial Corp
Widget Designs LLC -- performs contract R&D and design work for Widget Financial
Widget Manufacturing 001 -- performs manufacturing for Widget Sales Ltd, using equipment contracted from Widget Financial to make Mk1 Widget
Widget Manufacturing 002 -- performs manufacturing for Widget Sales Ltd to make Widgetomatic

So who can the troll sue? Probably only Widget Sales Limited, and they have no assets. They could also try one of the Widget Manufacturing companies, they don't own anything either. It's not looking so profitable for the troll any more.

Re:who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47712919)

Your model also helps when it comes time to book sales and pay taxes.

Apple (opps, i mean Widget Financial Corp) is based in Ireland and owns all the IP rights.
All the other Widget feeders pay the Ireland company royalties and therefor made no money.

All the protections the US gvt offers, none of the tax burden.

Trolls or Not Trolls (1)

Paul King (2953311) | about 2 months ago | (#47711155)

I would assume the parallel research showing that those who end up paying our against non-trolls also reduce spend later having lost a lot of money.

The link is the losing of a patent suit (or having to settle) etc. rather than patent trolls.

The real problem is that the patent system is open to abuse by everyone not merely trolls. It's expensive to be on the receiving end of a patent lawsuit regardless of if you are in the right or wrong. The well known issues with Patents been issued on broad ideas rather than actual inventions etc. Al this leads to the potential to be sued increasing, the costs huge and ends up as a deterrent to innovation.

The original purpose of Patents to create a period of exclusivity to regain the expense of research, tooling (and other capital risks), are good. These don't tend to work well in many areas, software being obvious where the costs are primarily research and in many cases it's pretty debatable as to the genuine cost of that, the capital risks are generally pretty small, not to mention the rapid pace of development making patent terms generally too long. NPE's similarly the primary cost is that of research, they don't take capital risks to bring it to market, why should they then be afforded the protection?

In short NPEs the problem per se, it's the whole patent system which needs a significant overhaul to refocus on it's actual purpose, to reward those willing to take risks on innovation.

Re:Trolls or Not Trolls (3, Interesting)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about 2 months ago | (#47711235)

> The original purpose of Patents to create a period of exclusivity to regain the expense of research, tooling (and other capital risks), are good.

That benefit can often, not always, be retained by simply keeping a trade secret. The corresponding social benefit of limited patents is that they expire, and the invention is then available to the public.

Unfortunately, the patent office, and the patent system itself, is overwhelmed by software patents. These are by their nature nebulous, aggressive, and often overlapping in complex ways. They also open the doors for, yes, patent trolls, who do no innovation and produce no actual goods or services to the general public. They exist purely as legal entities to file lawsuits based on patents they've purchased, and have no history or intention of using themselves.

The ideal solution is to discard software patents altogether. They are a horrific drain on software design and productivity, not merely due to patent troll losses, but because they force companies to invest thousands or millions of dollars in patent suites to protect from potential patent litigation. And they directly interfere with software authors publishing their work as open source or freeware. The corporate lawyers, and the expense of patent review, cause many companies to refuse to publish even patches to open source, or freeware. There are good reasons the GPLv3 has tried to deal with software patents harshly. They've been a real problem with open source and freeware.

Sadly, I lived next to a patent troll for a bit (1)

spiritplumber (1944222) | about 2 months ago | (#47712359)

Sadly, I lived next to a patent troll for a bit (Intellectual Ventures in Palo Alto) and did not pillage and raze their building. I don't have many regrets in my life, but this is one.

You guys are putting all the blame (1)

Stan92057 (737634) | about 2 months ago | (#47713773)

You guys are putting all the blame on people who are just taking advantage of laws created by elected officials. IMO the original patent winner is the problem or forced to sell because they" Patent Trolls" were the only ones willing to buy there patented whatever. IMO once that patent is sold to a non creator its value should be less how much less I would leave to the so called experts but the value should be at least half. IMO

Copyists (1)

SillyValley (1721474) | about 2 months ago | (#47715503)

There are also the large copyists who rip off innovative startups. See http://qz.com/250346/a-google-... [qz.com] Innovative startups, particularly in the life sciences but also in other industries that require large and long-term investments, need patents. Google doesn't need them, and it's working hard to crush the system. So what happens if Google succeeds? We'd still have government and non-profit (e.g. open source) innovation. Private innovation would still happen in fast-moving fields with first-mover advantages, in fields where trade secrets are effective, and in large enterprises that recoup innovation costs in other areas (Google now, or Bell Labs in the past). That leaves large swathes of technology where innovation by startups goes away because no investor would have any hope of making money. See China's hyper-competitive ripoff culture for a hint of what that would look like.

Experience dealing with trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47715695)

It seems that we need to stop hating patent trolls, but love them. Eagerly wait, then catch them and love as much as we can, at every corner. There's some inspiring experience, e.g.
http://eugene.kaspersky.com/2013/10/02/the-patent-trolls-can-be-defeated-just-never-give-up/
http://eugene.kaspersky.com/2013/12/12/top-10-tips-for-fighting-patent-trolls/

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