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Patents Science

Patents Chilling Effect on Science 383

Posted by samzenpus
from the learn-to-share dept.
cheesedog writes "The American Association for the Advancement of Science recently conducted a survey on the effect of patenting on the sciences. The results are frightening: 1/5th or more of all research projects in the United States are being chilled by patent holders. The sheer amount of research being canceled because of licensing issues is astounding, but at the same time many of these researchers hold their own patents and therefore contribute to the problem."
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Patents Chilling Effect on Science

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  • by Trigun (685027) <[xc.hta.eripmelive] [ta] [live]> on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @10:52PM (#13994858)
    So what's the reason we have them again?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:15PM (#13994984)
      We have them because the average American wants to believe in a world where he/she can one day strike it rich by inventing some widely used product.

      The problem is, the patent system doesn't really work that way, no matter how much patent supporters pretend it protects powerless inventors. In practice, a small inventor gets screwed anyway, because 1) complex ideas tend to rely on other complex ideas (giving rise to widespread cross-licensing among already powerful corporations) and 2) even with a patent, a small inventor will need incredible financing to legally enforce the patent. How does a small inventor get such incredible financing? Yep, by essentially giving the patent to a powerful corporation in return for a relative pittance.

      The dream of striking it rich with a patent is a nice one, but it's more like a lottery than anything. Extremely rarely, someone wins, but most of the time even those who invest large amounts (people who actually invent/create things) lose out.

      Unfortunately, people don't like letting go of dreams, even if they've been tricked into believing them; even if actual progress in arts and sciences grinds to a halt, many will happily make that sacrifice for an imaginary reward.
      • by Steeltoe (98226) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @05:45AM (#13996305) Homepage
        Well posted! This is one part of it, but I think there are more dreams out there which people believe in, wether they are true or not, and do everything in their power to make it true. I'll just add one major dream that the currents trends in society is being ruled by:

        The Economist Dream

        The Economics Dream is very simple: It is the capitalist belief that if you just make every exchange in society a transaction, we will automatically make the right decisions due to market forces somehow making those perfect decisions for us. Whatever will be the cheapest solution, when everything is marketized, will be the Best Solution.

        Remember the stories about the supposed Information Age, when Information would be sold and bartered with, just like the stock market? This is one such idea based on The Economist Dream. Make everything a transaction, and whatever you need can be bought and whatever you have can be sold.

        It didn't quite turn out that way however. What information is being bought and sold between corporations is information about us, our private information. Remember those privacy statements where corporations claim they will only share your information with their affiliates? I guess that means information about you will be sold to Checkpoint, or some other company, that then resells this information further to the highest bidder, or lose the information to some hacker..

        The Economist Dream is all about making everything a transaction, as if money-flow will solve every conceivable issue in this world. As we have seen, money is also generating problems for us, because these corporations are beginning to have a life on its own! "We have to do it because our stockholders will sue us." "They have to do it because they have to maximize capital." Etc. Etc. The excuses begins to pour in. Corporations should not be ammoral entities to an extent where they can control the people who "runs" them!

        Decisions are being made based on money every day, and if it doesn't get out of hand, this is a good balance. Nobody should do nothing and be rewarded for it, certainly. But if we let it take control of our planet, it will go very wrong.

        Especially information is not suited to The Economist Dream. Information is intangible and can be copied almost without cost. Indeed, when information is shared it enriched everyone and leads to innovations the original author never thought about! If it is withheld it enriches only the few who hold it, if it ever does any good. The biggest potential for information is when it is freely shared, instead of going through a toll-booth.

        However, those who believe in The Economist Dream believe EVERYTHING should be made a transaction. They fail to realize that a transaction also constitute a friction, a lowest barrier that must be overcome, while the natural state of information is frictionless. Software will naturally become commodized, because over time the market forces will force the value of software down to the natural cost of information. Open Source and Free Software (GPL) is only a catalyst for this process.

        Just like many dreams, The Economist Dream is a partial solution, but it shouldn't be applied to areas where reality dictates otherwise. We shouldn't challenge reality, the natural way of living, because building a card-deck house will crumble to the slightest wind.

        The Economist Dream also has fundamental problems in the very decision-making. It makes our mind go to our thoughts and intellect, more than go to our hearts. Good decisions are made from a mix of heart and intellect, but when decisions are made only from the intellect, it can quickly turn "cold" and cynical. When we lose our innocence in making decisions, conflict arises. However, when we make decisions from the heart also, we will not try to trick others or otherwise make "cold-hearted" decisions. We will want what is best for everyone, and thus any mistakes we do, can be forgiven, because they were just that: mistakes, and not intention.

        The Ec
    • Double Edged Sword (Score:5, Interesting)

      by queenb**ch (446380) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:18PM (#13994998) Homepage Journal
      Part of the problem is that patents have been expanded far beyond their original intention. They were originally set up to expire in 17 years with the option for one renewal. That means that knowledge would be locked down for a maximum of 34 years. At that point it was supposed to pass in to the public domain.

      It was changed because large companies had the habit of offering a pittance for licensing someone's patent. If it wasn't accepted, they would simply wait until the patent expired and then use the technology for free. Many people don't realize that the relatively modern addition of variable speed windshield wipers were invented in the early part of the previous century. I forget the exact year.
      Now, however, that the patent has expired this is a standard feature on most automobiles.

      This is simply the pendulum swinging back the other direction. Invention and innovation will be stifled to the point that the companies will start going out of business, strangled on their own patents. They'll be unable to bring new products to market because everything will infringe on someone else's patent. Companies are already buying other companies in order to obtain "the intellectual propery". If its to the point that you buy the whole company just to get their patents, things are desperate indeed.

      2 cents,

      Queen B
      • Gotta love poetic justice.

        Live off patents, get killed by patents. It has become one of those "the cure is worse than the disease" situations. The RIAA/MPAA/etc. are headed down the same roads with their lovely uninteroperable hardened DRM wet dreams, analog hole butt-plug and lock-in policies fantasms.
      • by AvitarX (172628)
        Don't they only last 17 years with no renewal now?

        I am a little confused as to the rest of your statement with that a the premise that length is shortening.

        Part of the problem is that discoveries are being patented (algorythems), and patents exist for vague concepts that don't have any real implementation (I think Dr Phil has one for a computer program that does not exist), and things that are covered by other protections (software), and the recent boom in technology (17 years seems longer).

        The last one is
        • by queenb**ch (446380)
          Not true. Through a varieity of loopholes, they are almost infinitely renewable. My implication was that the period is NOT becoming shorter, but is instead becoming almost indefinite.

          2 cents,

          Queen B
        • by burnin1965 (535071) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @03:35AM (#13995997) Homepage
          "This happened in the aeronoughtics (ugh that is spelt bad) industry in the US"

          I'm glad you brought that up. I think most people today, and until recently myself included, believe that the problems with the patent system in the United States is something of a new phenomena. This couldn't be further from the truth.

          I think there were good intents when the system was first thought up, at least I hope there were, but looking back through history the system has been detrimental to the advancement of the United States as an economic force around the world. And I have two cases as proof.

          As you had stated, the United States greatly lagged behind Europe when Aeronautics were in their infancy and in large part this was due to patents. Anyone who doubts this only has to study the history of the NACA and they will discover that this government organization was instrumental in setting up the MAA in 1917 because of "a virtual deadlock in aircraft construction because of patent infringement suits". The efforts of the United States government also included spending tax dollars to purchase patents so as to institute cross licensing that was necessary to spur the aeronautics industry.

          http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/Timeline /1915-19.html [nasa.gov]

          So this case makes it appear that the patent system actually does the opposite of what most people are taught its purpose is. But is this the only case? No. Going back even further you will find one George Selden, a New York patent attorney who filed a patent for the road engine, a.k.a. automobile, in 1879. After the patent was granted in 1895 he didn't setup a business making cars based on his new patent, he instead setup an extortion shop which charged each of the car manufacturers a licensing fee to use his patented technology. This guy never built a single car to sell, he just filed a patent and then started charging those who actually did build cars. I suspect this guy never even invented anything automotive but rather just took notice of what others were doing and realized there would be an industry. Henry Ford refused to pay the extortion fee and had to fight this guy in court for 7 years! Selden's company was forced to build a car to prove the patent was valid but they could not build a working car so the patent was thrown out.

          http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aacarsse ldona.htm [about.com]

          So it appears to me that the patent system may have never worked as advertised from the beginning. Instead of having a system which spurs on industry we have a system which enables bickering among patent holders thus holding back progress and phonies who leech off industries and could never actually produce a real product if their life depended on it.

          I don't have any replacement solutions to offer myself, I'm just ranting, but I'm not so sure that we wouldn't be better off with no patent system at all.

          burnin
      • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @12:10AM (#13995234) Homepage
        They were originally set up to expire in 17 years with the option for one renewal.

        What the fuck are you talking about? Patent terms in the US were 14 years from issue, then 17 years from issue, then 20 years from filing. No renewals; in fact, you generally have to pay up periodically just to get the full, single, term.

        I think you're confusing patents and copyrights (which originally were 14+14 years)

        That means that knowledge would be locked down for a maximum of 34 years.

        Publication requirements ensure that knowledge isn't 'locked down.' It's not directly usable, perhaps, but it's commonly available.
        • Re:locked down (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          for 'not directly usable' read 'not usable'. ie: locked down
          and the publication requirements don't mean squat anymore (if they ever did). part of the purpose of hiring a patent lawyer to write your patent is so nobody can tell how your invention (if you have one) works by reading the patent and so it covers as many possible competing inventions as possible.
      • Total UNINFORMED BS (Score:3, Informative)

        by MushMouth (5650)
        people use to be able to ammend their application forever to effectively extend their patent, but now the expire 20 years after filing PERIOD. While drug companies change their formula slightlty and re-patent, the original formula is available for generics.

      • by bitingduck (810730)
        Many people don't realize that the relatively modern addition of variable speed windshield wipers were invented in the early part of the previous century. I forget the exact year.
        Now, however, that the patent has expired this is a standard feature on most automobiles.


        It appeared on most automobiles long before the patent expired. A family friend sat on the jury when it went to trial with one of the big auto companies. According to this: http://www.inc.com/magazine/19971201/1374.html [inc.com] he's collected about $
      • by tacocat (527354) <tallison1 AT twmi DOT rr DOT com> on Thursday November 10, 2005 @07:27AM (#13996520)

        Unfortunately the use of US patents doesn't necessarily apply to other nations. Meaning that we are ripe for falling well behind the technological lead on the planet simply because we are unwilling to share.

    • > So what's the reason we have them again?

      Because when your capitalist economy begins devouring itself, you need to be able to use the legal system to trap people/companies into becoming victims to sustain the gluttonous beast you've created.
    • by fireweaver (182346) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:52PM (#13995149)
      Today, to establish monopolies on entire fields of knowledge and commerce. To make the barriers to entry by would-be competitors too high to contemplate. To parcel out, on a fee basis, knowledge and culture in driblets and drablets, with restrictions on how that knowledge or culture can be used. To ultimately licence knowledge itself, with the end result being the reinstatement of the medieval guild system.

      All of this backed by the full force and power of a government that is as corrupt as the system it is backing up. That enough reason?

      Welcome to the new serfdom.
    • by Stripe7 (571267) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @05:02AM (#13996217)
      We have patents so our lawyers and corporations can make money suing people who actually try to create new products. Not too much of a worry, soon other countries are just going to ignore our patents. This will happen when some US patent company tries to sue some Foreign Film maker for making a movie that stepped on US patented storylines.
    • by tacocat (527354) <tallison1 AT twmi DOT rr DOT com> on Thursday November 10, 2005 @07:25AM (#13996517)

      Territorial Claims for Intellectual Property

      In the virtual world of Intellectual Property, patents are the equivelant to the Great Wall, Berlin Wall, or the newly created Isreali Wall.

      When an idea is generated into a product by any company, they establish there product be being "first to market". This is an extremely important part of product development. First to Market is more important than the quality of the product. You can ship pretty marginal product just so long as you can get the name out there and get it recognized. But you can't wait to get it perfect.

      This is the first step in establishing a company in the market. In parallel with this effort you submit the core patents around your product consistent with the original intention of the USPTO to give your "better mousetrap" a fighting chance to establish itself safely in the market.

      Once established as an entity in the market, you begin to establish a protectionary zone of defense against any potential competitors by laying out a pattern of patent landmines to make it difficult for others to approach the intellectual space that your product covers. If you make an MP3 player, you want to generate any form of patent you can concering all aspects of your product to muddy the waters against the competition. So you would patent aspects of digitizing sound, file compression, file transfer methods, storage, playback, and user interface. You also copyright the hell out of everything as another form of protection (IMHO more legitimate).

      Once you have an IP buffer zone established, you can back off on the product development efforts and rely on lawyers to keep you on top. I think the business logic is something like this: I have to pay for lawyers anyways on a flat fee retainer, so I'll fire the engineers and put the lawyers to work. But I'm probably being really synical here.

      The company I work at has been making an effort to generate as many Patents as possible every year. But out of almost 1,000 patents filed over 5 years, only 2 are scheduled for real consideration into future products. The rest are all part of a protectionary zone to prevent us from dealing with any real competition.

      Ironically, if we had any real competition today, we would be complete overwhelmed within a year. The technology we use is easily 5 years old and as such, grossly overpriced. If it weren't for out protection zone, we would have disappeared a long time ago for sake of our own inability to react to the market forces without the quagmire or patents to slow down the enemy.

  • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @10:54PM (#13994875) Homepage Journal
    Don't most government-endowed monopolies have chilling unintended consequences on the markets they're supposed to protect?

    Copyright gives incredible power to the top publishers (with a lock on book stores), the recording industry, and the movie distributors.

    Government's monopoly on violence prevents the average person from defending their property, and use of the monopoly outside of our borders causes anger towards our citizens.

    Government's monopoly on prescription drugs causes the costs to skyrocket (death sentence for the poor) and useful drugs to be delayed for years.

    Government's monopoly on patent licensing is no different. The playing field is far from level. Drug companies would initially have to charge more to sell their meds, or sell through doctors groups (where generics might be contractually offlimits for those doctors). Patents don't protect bootlegs anyway, which get more pervasive as the web gets larger.

    For our society to grow, we need to accept that monopolies are always bad, and only government can create them. There are no natural monopolies. The 4 or 5 times there might have been in the past I'd argue weren't meant to last, but they're gone anyway.

    • by mcrbids (148650) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:16PM (#13994990) Journal
      I recommend you read this recent interview of Bob Young, one of the founders of RedHat [newsforge.com] and now heavily involved in lulu.com book publishing [lulu.com].

      Specifically, this quote:
      ...I'm a big fan of both copyrights and patents, the problem was that our legislators didn't recognize the fundamental rule, which is: too much of a good thing no longer is. And so we're seeing things like the DMCA, like the idea that you could patent ideas, not just inventions, like the idea of taking copyright from 20 years to a hundred years with very little public debate on the topic and you sort of realize that it's a little bit like vitamin D -- you know, too little vitamin D and you get a variety of health problems. Too much vitamin D will actually kill you...
      Don't most government-endowed monopolies have chilling unintended consequences on the markets they're supposed to protect?

      No. Especially in cases where an overly large capital investment is needed to develop a technology, a temporary monopoly on the resulting deliverable is often needed to encourage or enable the investors in said technology to build it in the first place.

      Copyright gives incredible power to the top publishers (with a lock on book stores), the recording industry, and the movie distributors.

      Actually, it gives such power to me too, an independent software engineer. I can (and do) use copyrights to help me ensure that my time gets reasonably and profitably compensated. If this were not so, I would not develop nearly as much software, and that would be bad for all involved.

      Government's monopoly on violence prevents the average person from defending their property, and use of the monopoly outside of our borders causes anger towards our citizens.

      In the US, anyone can perform a citizen's arrest as a peace officer. In almost all jurisdictions, citizens have the right to lethal self-defense. (guns, etc.) I'm not sure if you're promoting the idea that US Citizens should be able to wage ware oversees without being part of the military? Your logic gets pretty weak, here.

      Government's monopoly on prescription drugs causes the costs to skyrocket (death sentence for the poor) and useful drugs to be delayed for years.

      Government monopolies on prescription drugs keep unsafe, sham products from flooding the marketplace. Take a look at your email inbox if want to see lots of examples of these: names like "Vi4gra" and "p3n15 3nl4rgemint".

      Temporary monopolies granted by patents allow drug companies to invest huge sums of money (to the tune of 315 million dollars per drug) to research, develop and test (for safety) the numerous and highly beneficial pharmaceuticals available today. By keeping the patent term reasonable, "generic" drugs are available after the drug companies have reaped their profits to then make them affordable to the impoverished.

      Government's monopoly on patent licensing is no different. The playing field is far from level. Drug companies would initially have to charge more to sell their meds, or sell through doctors groups (where generics might be contractually offlimits for those doctors). Patents don't protect bootlegs anyway, which get more pervasive as the web gets larger.

      What are you saying here? I can't make heads or tails of it...

      For our society to grow, we need to accept that monopolies are always bad, and only government can create them. There are no natural monopolies. The 4 or 5 times there might have been in the past I'd argue weren't meant to last, but they're gone anyway.

      For our society to grow, we need to understand when monopolies are appropriate and when they are simply stupid. Like most GPL software, it's best when it's used for infrastructure (eg: highways, basic telecommunications, etc) and at its worst when used for end-use products. (eg: spatulas, carpets, televisions, etc)
      • No surprise he's against patents. As of about a year ago, Lulu was getting sued by some loon who claimed to hold a patent on print on demand systems.

        Yes, you read that right. His patent is sufficiently broad that it covers all print on demand systems.

        What a wonderful America the last 30 years of relatively uninterrupted Republican rule in either the Presidency, Congress, or both has created.

        • No surprise he's against patents. As of about a year ago, Lulu was getting sued by some loon who claimed to hold a patent on print on demand systems.

          How does "I'm a big fan of both copyrights and patents" get interpreted as 'against' patents? All he says is that patents and copyrights are like Vitamin D - essential in the right quantities, deadly if you take too much.
          • by mpe (36238)
            How does "I'm a big fan of both copyrights and patents" get interpreted as 'against' patents? All he says is that patents and copyrights are like Vitamin D - essential in the right quantities, deadly if you take too much.

            One way in which the analogy holds is that having "too much" can be more destructive than "too little". Also summed up by the phrase "too much of a good thing is bad for you".

            The major issue here is that the only reason patents and copyrights are ment to exist in the US is to further sci
    • Hold that thought (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dereference (875531)
      Don't most government-endowed monopolies have chilling unintended consequences on the markets they're supposed to protect?

      Yes, I agree they do. However, I think your major premise goes a bit too far:

      For our society to grow, we need to accept that monopolies are always bad, and only government can create them.

      Consider for a moment copyright law, which you noted (negatively) "gives incredible power" to the holder. Indeed this is true, but how exactly would you propose to ever enforce any type of open

      • Your favorite software giants would totally absorb any "free" software into their own.
        They'd go out of business first, because everyone would be free to copy their software too. Moreover, any source code that managed to leak (e.g. Windows 2000, etc.) would be fair game to include in open-source projects.
        • Collapse (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dereference (875531)
          They'd go out of business first, because everyone would be free to copy their software too. Moreover, any source code that managed to leak (e.g. Windows 2000, etc.) would be fair game to include in open-source projects.

          Great point; the whole software industry could feasibly collapse in this scenario. Currently our laws treat software like a recipe; nothing more than an expression of a set of instructions. But here, it's as if we'd have the ability to perfectly recreate any arbitrarily tasty dish (say, t

    • by LardBrattish (703549) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @12:42AM (#13995411) Homepage
      For our society to grow, we need to accept that monopolies are always bad, and only government can create them. There are no natural monopolies. The 4 or 5 times there might have been in the past I'd argue weren't meant to last, but they're gone anyway.

      I agree, but governments should control certain natural monopolies for the good of the country as a whole.

      Does a monopoly on telecoms infrastructure run and paid for by the government and leased to providers hurt competition? No. It helps by providing a level playing field to all companies. The government can also provide connections to rural areas that a private company would find it uneconomic to serve otherwise. If it makes a profit then tax cuts all round - which I have to say I'm a lot happier about than share dividends for some...

      The same can be argued for all other basic services (Water, gas, electricity). The private sector will run a "wait until it breaks" maintenance scheme without really having to face the consequences of failure (discomfort or even death of customers). Ask some New Zealanders about the consequences of unregulated privatisation. The privatised electricity company cut back on maintenance, reported record profits & dividends for shareholders then one of the two power cables to Auckland failed & New Zealand's biggest city had rolling powercuts for weeks while it was fixed.

      I'm not some crazy socialist arguing for nationalization of all property but there are just some things that are far too important to leave to the private sector that has repeatedly proved unable to provide the service.

      The madness reached its peak/nadir in England when the privatised railway infrastructure monopoly (which had just come off of several years of issuing large dividends to its shareholders) went to the government begging for money because they didn't have enough to do the essential maintenance program that they were being forced to do after the latest fatal rail crash caused by poor track maintenance. Within two days of receiving the money from the government they announced another big dividend for their shareholders.

      Monopolies are BAD if a company holds them (Hello M$)

      Monopolies can be good if a government administers them responsibly and the alternative (private ownership) is inevitably worse.

    • I get so sick of this Ludwig von Miser garbage, but it seems enough people take it seriously enough that it requires a refutation. Anarchy doesn't stay that way, no matter what you do-eliminate government now, and the biggest, strongest, and most ruthless will very shortly be running a dictatorship. Also, I've always wondered why good old Ludwig seems to so strongly support the rights of "corporations" to be free from government regulation-when their very existence is owed to a government regulation.

      Copyr

  • China and India (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xiaomonkey (872442) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @10:58PM (#13994889)
    This being one of the reasons why up and coming countries like Chine and India will probably surpass their western counterparts in both science and engineering.
    • China and India have a huge savings rate (up to 60% in some towns) versus zero in the US. Wealth comes from savings not consumer debt.

      China and India have a great deal of headstrong intelligent business people. In the US we have MBA students with no real world experience.

      China and India have a rising standard of living but not a ridiculous one. In the US our government owes $50T ($166,000 per capita), meaning we're bankrupt.
    • by carlmenezes (204187) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:35PM (#13995067) Homepage
      I'm an indian and have lived in India for 28 years. See, the thing is, countries like India and China learn from others' mistakes. The US has had to lead in terms of not just technology, but legislation controlling technology (patents, copyright, trademarks) and everything else associated with it (education, research, the internet). When you lead, there are no guidelines and the outcome is based on your best effort.
      Throw in a free economy and lobbying into the mix and you end up where the US is today. Other developing countries can see this and analyse it and if they're wise, try to learn from it. This is what India is doing (and I assume what China is too).
      The question remains however, is what will happen once these countries catch up to the US and overtake it (yes, that WILL happen, just not soon and no, I'm not trying to start a flame war). Then they will be left to their own devices and where they go from there will be based on the strengths of their governmental systems, the level of corruption at that stage, etc etc.

      In a nutshell, it's hard to lead, but easy to follow.

      So don't give your country too hard a time for where it is right now. You guys have done a pretty good job (with technology). Ofcourse, its not the fall that matters, but how you get up.
      • I think the biggest problem we have in the US is that we are so consumed with our daily lives due to overworking ourselves to death (literally, stress and bad diet are the leading cause of heart failure). As a result of our complacency and auto-trust into government and our elected officials, rarely are they kept in check in regards to what they do in office. And, this applies to both our political parties inside the beltway of Washington DC. We just hear their speeches and lap it up like gravy. Yet at the
      • When you lead, there are no guidelines and the outcome is based on your best effort.

        The problems is, there seems to be very little leadership in the US goverment. We have a congress full of bought senators and representatives making the law based on how their corporate donors want it.

        It's not a best effort. Except a best effort to stay in office.

        When something goes wrong, there's also no leadership. The buck gets passed.

        Things might be different if we had citizen politicians who served a term or two beca

      • The question remains however, is what will happen once these countries catch up to the US and overtake it (yes, that WILL happen, just not soon and no, I'm not trying to start a flame war).

        Not if the US military has anything to say about it. Why do you think the US supports Taiwan militarily with the Seventh Fleet sitting there? Before the recent earthquake, why were we selling a squadron of F-16 fighters to Pakistan, who hates our guts but hates the Indians more? The United States invaded Iraq because of W
    • Re:China and India (Score:3, Insightful)

      by The Cydonian (603441)
      This keeps coming up every now and then during a discussion on IPR, but it's a long observed fact that countries that are trying to beat the technology cycle often used to reduce IPR protection on goods (the Asian "Tiger" economies as one example, India's hitherto drug regime for another). Note that I said "reduce"; IPR laws in the 50's or so were, for the most part, uniform across the world, thanks to colonalism.

      All that has changed with new WTO/TRIPS/etc agreements; we're now more or less back to being u

  • Times are a changin' (Score:5, Interesting)

    by max born (739948) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @10:59PM (#13994893)
    If Newton or Leibniz had invented calculus today they would have incorporated it into a computer program and filed a patent under a method for finding rates of change.
  • Money $$$ (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Neo-Rio-101 (700494) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @10:59PM (#13994894)
    Perhaps slashdot geeks are a little different from the rest of the population because we're more motivated by advancing tech first, making money second. Unfortunately the rest of the world doesn't think like that. Science and research is only a means to a wealthy end for some people no doubt.
  • by Simon Garlick (104721) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @10:59PM (#13994899)
    I mean, we don't need to know how stuff works. It just does, because that's how God made it.
  • by Guppy06 (410832) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:01PM (#13994909)
    I wish to patent my technique for adding an apostrophe to a noun to make it posessive. For example:

    Patents' Chilling Effect on Science
  • by meta-monkey (321000) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:01PM (#13994911) Journal
    Slashdotters, I warn you that I have a patent covering the discussion of the chilling effects of patents on science. This discussion must end immediately or you will be hearing from my lawyers!
  • Recent idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MarkEst1973 (769601) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:02PM (#13994914)
    This suddenly hits home for me. I've been thinking for a while about a new software-based product/service and I'm in the steps of developing a business plan in order to raise money.

    As I step through possible scenarios in my head, patents come up. I believe I would be offering a genuinely new product, and that makes me think I can patent it and gain the entire market. Suddenly, patents don't seem so bad.

    On the other hand, I understand that a patent would mean there's no competition in any given space, that innovation to reduce the price of said product/service (a net win for consumers everywhere) would never happen.

    But wouldn't a company earning large profits from the patents expand, grow, create jobs, pay more taxes, and get the wheels of the economy going? Now that I'm in a position to possibly use a patent, they become easy to rationalize.

    When they were only a theoretical exercise for me, patents seemed like they would have adverse affects on innovation.

    I suppose the real danger is my unknowing infringement of another's patent and the hilarity that would ensue.

    • Re:Recent idea (Score:4, Insightful)

      by wbren (682133) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:11PM (#13994970) Homepage
      But wouldn't a company earning large profits from the patents expand, grow, create jobs, pay more taxes, and get the wheels of the economy going?
      You were going for a +5 Funny with that tax thing, right? Because where I come from, America, the larger our corporations get, the better they get at avoiding taxation.
      • Because where I come from, America, the larger our corporations get, the better they get at avoiding taxation.

        True enough, but that's clearly a problem with the tax law (or perhaps tax law enforcement) rather than intellectual property law. GP is correct that, in theory, the limited monopoly of a patent is intended to enhance economic growth, not hinder it.

      • Why would you want to tax corporations, anyway? Corporations never pay taxes...their customers do. I own a small business, which is set up as a sub-chapter S corporation. Taxes are simply factored into our cost of doing business, the same way insurance or office supplies or anything else is, and then passed on to our customers. Corporate taxes are just another way politicians hide your true tax burden from you. If it weren't for corporate taxes, the cost of goods and services would be lower (driven dow
        • Why would you want to tax corporations, anyway? Corporations never pay taxes...their customers do. I own a small business, which is set up as a sub-chapter S corporation. Taxes are simply factored into our cost of doing business, the same way insurance or office supplies or anything else is, and then passed on to our customers. Corporate taxes are just another way politicians hide your true tax burden from you. If it weren't for corporate taxes, the cost of goods and services would be lower (driven down by
        • Re:Recent idea (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Bad D.N.A. (753582)
          Yes, but if your taxes were removed today would your prices go down???

          Now dont lie...
          • Yes, but if your taxes were removed today would your prices go down??? - technically speaking the prices will go down, because if the cost of doing business is lower and there is competition in the specific market, one of the firms will lower the prices to get more customers, the others will have to follow, and a new equilibrium will be set.
    • This is precisely why I support patents and copyright, but for a shorter term than exists now. Inventors should be given the right to profit from their inventions, and without patents, process farms would hyper-specialize production facilities and outcompete inventors. On the other hand, 20 years (for patents -- copyright is currently a joke) is just too long in the current environment of technological innovation, and ends up hurting the public good.
    • Let's say that Microsoft likes your idea and wants to .... uhm, use it. They would have at least 5 choices (in order of your probable preferences).
      1. They could notice that you have a patent, and decide not to.... (right!).
      2. They could license the rights from you. This is sometimes known as 'a deal with the devil'. Many a company has been burned by some wierd technicality that Microsoft places in such licensing agreements, and if they violate the agreement, you end up at option #5.
      3. They could find a way around your patent (they have enough lawyers and programmers that this is a real possibility).
      4. They could sue your for breaking any of their Thousands of (sometimes trivial) patents and simply litigate you into oblivion.
      5. They could violate your patent (possibly also a non-disclosure agreement signed under the guise of #2) and let you decide if you want to sue them, risking a counter-suit (see #3) and scaring off investors.
      Current patent law really only serves the really big companies. Unfortunately, it's the smaller companies that tend to be the source of most innovation. -- Most of Microsoft's big 'innovations' came from small companies [[ the biggest exception would be windows, which was lifted from Apple ]]
      • All too true. MS is so large, they could easily rip off your idea with very little you could do to get back at them. I'm curious how many people have been ripped off (patent wise) by MS...and how many people have tried and failed getting damages from them. I do not know too many people who have enough constitution or money to stand up against the kind of legal power MS can procure.

        I ask because I am in the tenuous position of trying to decide whether MS is infringing on one of my patent applications. If the
        • If you want to get some money out of MS, your best course of action is probably negotiations. Even most litigation is ultimately decided by negotiation rather than the judge.

          That having been said, a legitimate plan and ability to survive long enough to win a full-out court battle (normally measured in years) would probably be a necessity in order to get MS to pay out. One company reduced itself to little more than a litigation shell that did nothing more than run the lawsuit for years in order to win ag

    • Re:Recent idea (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nmos (25822) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @01:32AM (#13995603)
      But wouldn't a company earning large profits from the patents expand, grow, create jobs, pay more taxes, and get the wheels of the economy going?

      Sure but most likely having multiple companies competing would produce the same results more effeciently, at least that's the idea behind the free market.

      Ultimately an economy only grows by becoming more effecient and patents hurt effeciency in the long run. IMHO a patent system is like a credit card. Initially they both encourage growth but later as the number of existing patents (the ballance) goes up the cost of dealing with the system (interest) starts to outweigh the advantages. Remember that you not only have to pay the cost of filing your legitimate patent but also for defensive patents, patent searches, licenses for tech. you know you infringe, and litigation for tech. you end up infringing accidentally. Every dollar you have to spend on lawyers dealing with this mess is a dollar that you arn't spending making your product better and cheaper. Now consider that you are not only spending that money directly but also indirectly in the cost of every single product you buy.

      The logical end game is that we all end up spending all available capital simply dealing with the patent system and none at all actually creating anything new. That just can't be a good thing.
  • Lawyers are destroying this country, heck they practically own it. 90% of congress are lawyers, 9/10 medical suits are frivolous and the 'industry' of medical law is about playing the averages. In my home state of Georgia(USA) medical practioners have their own insurance union, they lose 1 Billion dollars a year defending against frivolous lawsuits. Only 1 in 10 of those suits actually stick...it's practically extortion.

    Likewise, recent changes to IP are one of the worst things to happen to science and i
    • by Teckla (630646) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:25PM (#13995022)

      Lawyers are destroying this country, heck they practically own it. 90% of congress are lawyers, 9/10 medical suits are frivolous and the 'industry' of medical law is about playing the averages. In my home state of Georgia(USA) medical practioners have their own insurance union, they lose 1 Billion dollars a year defending against frivolous lawsuits. Only 1 in 10 of those suits actually stick...it's practically extortion.

      I'd like to see some references to your statistics. They seem too...convenient. 90% this, 9 out of 10 that, $1 billion here, 1 out of 10 there.

      Likewise, recent changes to IP are one of the worst things to happen to science and industry. Used correctly IP has its place in prompting innovation, but lawyers are turning IP into something strictly to leverage lawsuits with. That doesn't benefit customers, scientific organizations or industry leaders...but it does syphon mountains of cash to the IP lawyers.

      I know it's popular to hate lawyers, so what I'm about to say will probably burn my karma to cinders. But, the simple truth is, it's not the fault of lawyers. They're working within the system, getting paid by clients to do what they do. You want less patent lawsuits? Reform the patent system. Don't burn lawyers at the stake.

      Your hate is misplaced.

      • I know it's popular to hate lawyers, so what I'm about to say will probably burn my karma to cinders. But, the simple truth is, it's not the fault of lawyers. They're working within the system, getting paid by clients to do what they do. You want less patent lawsuits? Reform the patent system. Don't burn lawyers at the stake.

        This is absolutely true. Every time something gets posted here about patents, somebody inevitably brings up failings of the system, and blames either the lawyers or the examiners. T

      • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Thursday November 10, 2005 @01:02AM (#13995505) Homepage Journal
        But, the simple truth is, it's not the fault of lawyers. They're working within the system, getting paid by clients to do what they do.

        So your stance is that legal implies acceptable? Interesting. Do you feel the same way about spammers who send from countries or states where it's legal? Loud cars in places without noise ordinances? Spitting on the street where not explicitly disallowed?

        You know, we used to have something called "shame". It was the force that kept people from doing things that made the world a worse place, even if it those things weren't strictly illegal. I wish we had more of it now.

      • I'd like to see some references to your statistics. They seem too...convenient. 90% this, 9 out of 10 that, $1 billion here, 1 out of 10 there.

        Actually a bit lower, but more than enough:

        http://www.yourcongress.com/ViewArticle.asp?articl e_id=1671 [yourcongress.com]

        I know it's popular to hate lawyers, so what I'm about to say will probably burn my karma to cinders. But, the simple truth is, it's not the fault of lawyers. They're working within the system, getting paid by clients to do what they do. You want less patent lawsuit

    • by maggard (5579)

      90% of congress are lawyers...

      Oh no!

      You're saying 90% of our highest elected law-makers are folks who received a reasonably difficult to obtain law degree and then got themselves admitted to a legal bar association or equivalent?

      Say it ain't so!

      No, we want folks writing laws who don't know jack-shit about the legal system, how it is constructed, how to be constructive within it, who couldn't be bothered to get themselves educated on it and then become certified. Apparently instead earning one's self

      • by bit01 (644603)

        Apparently instead earning one's self a JD is automatically evil in your world?

        Evil, no. Self serving, yes.

        I want people in congress representing my interests, not just those of lawyers.

        The drafting of laws is a technical function that should be relegated to the public service, just like programming and bridge building.

        Having competing democratic/republican/whatever lawyers design the laws leads to a real life version of nomic [earlham.edu].

        ---

        It's wrong that an intellectual property creator should not be

    • by vanka (875029)

      Lawyers are destroying this country,

      I couldn't agree more. I was listening to a Russian comedian and he was lambasting the American government. One of the points that he brought up was that America was a nation ruled by lawyers where people sue each other for the heck of it. My first reaction was one of anger, but then I stopped anf thought about it. In what other country do we see people suing fast food placed because of their won obesity? Or a child suing his parents for discipling him/her? We have got

  • by rsborg (111459) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:03PM (#13994921) Homepage
    The wealthy/landed elites constantly dream up ways to make money of the backs of the innovative and hard working. In this sense, Microsoft and the RIAA Cartels pretty much symbolize the "American spirit"... from a corporation standpoint.

    None of this will change unless and until we either get corporations to recognize that the US is losing it's ground due to stifling IP/Patent laws... or we vote in people who care.

    Republican or Democratic, make sure your representative at least knows (and preferrably cares) about the current state of the patent system.

    Oh, and donate to the EFF [eff.org]. I have.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    One must be careful about quoting the figures posted in the above article due to the fact that the survey reported only the proportion of researchers affected by patent and licensing issues that were forced to delay change or abandon their research projects.

    However there were no figures given on the proportion of research projects that were adversely affected by licensing issues.

    The survey is biased by the fact that those most adversely affected are the most likely to reply to the survey.

    When you are talkin
  • Yep... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vectorian798 (792613) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:04PM (#13994927)
    I am in a robotics research team here at UC Berkeley and we too found that often companies patent random stuff that they haven't even fully developed yet. Because patents can be overly broad (like the one on the hardware 'double-click') this can cause problems especially in cases where there is perhaps only one solution (or one cost-effective and viable one anyways) to a given problem. The solution may be blatantly obvious to the scientifically-inclined, but if someone holds a patent on it, what can you do...

    I wouldn't complain as much if the patent system hired people halfway-knowledgeable or if they allowed patents only on something very specific (aka ethical to 'patent') and genuinely ingenious. But these concepts of ethics etc. are so hand-wavy that we might as well not even try to 'reform' the system, and instead just get rid of it because otherwise it will be hard to meet the standards we expect.

    Perhaps another way to go at it is to have a board of scientifically-inclined folks to preside over the patent system and work at it with newer laws on what can and cannot be patented. Over time as new technologies and ways of thinking come about, such a board can continue to refine the laws. My bid for the people to serve on these boards: college professors from a mix of technical majors from various universities.

    In any case, the other question is why would researchers who face this barrier file patents themselves? To do it before someone else does - it's not like prior art holds weight in today's patent system, so it is a quick solution to making sure you don't face problems in the future.

    I'll leave you with that.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:04PM (#13994933)
    I'm a graduate student working on a high profile computer engineering project. My advisor (let's call him Prof X) runs the group, and also has a small side company based on his research.

    I recently experienced just this effect. I needed some realistic multi-threading code to use to test a visualizer I have been working on (actually, it's not a visualizer per se, but the intermediate analysis steps you need to go through before you use the visualizer). I found out that the code I wanted to use is actually owned (patented) by Prof X's company, and that I would not be allowed to see or use it unless I signed an NDA.

    (Posted anonymously for reasons that should hopefully be obvious)
    • Choke your pride and sign the NDA. I fail to see what the problem is.

      (I use code from work in pursuit of my thesis, they were more than happy to extend a NDA to me, I scratch their back they scratch mine...)

      -everphilski-
  • I predict that in the future, everybody in the USA will earn a living by suing everybody else.

    Leave that science stuff to other nations, we have better things to do.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:15PM (#13994983)
    The chilling effect could be quite useful in the areas of superconductor research.
  • on that same note... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by drewxhawaii (922388) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:21PM (#13995010) Homepage
    ... a patent was recently issued for "an anti-gravity device"

    http://news.com.com/2061-11204_3-5942862.html [com.com]

    apparently you can get a patent on something you haven't developed
    • Yes, you can get a patent on anything (that's nonobvious...), even if it won't work, as long as it isn't a perpetual motion machine. Apparently the government got tired of people patenting that certain variety of impossible device, so they started to crack down on it. Besides that you have free rein.
  • by MCTFB (863774) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:30PM (#13995046)
    It is the administration of the patent system that is bad.

    The U.S. Patent Office is underfunded, understaffed, and underqualified. Much of this is intentional on the part of big business and "patent companies" who profit off of a dysfunctional U.S. Patent Office not being able to do its job. The reasons things are so bad are purely intentional. Also, if a patent examiner rejects a patent, then a few phone calls are made and the patent examiner (who is more than likely some kid straight out of college) is in hot shit by his superior. So, since the patent examiners just want to get paid like everyone else, they rarely blow the whistle on companies which have a lot of lobbying influence in Washington.

    Without the patent system, you would basically have a wild west business climate where the only way to protect your inventions is to hire your own thugs to deal with people who infringe on your monopoly. Of course, someone else could hire their own thugs and just steal your invention (provided they had the expertise to manage it) as well. Neither situation is good for business or a climate friendly to inventors, so that is why we have patents.

    I could go on and on about why patents are necessary as well as talk about my real world experience with the system, but I think any sane person would agree patents are a necessary evil to scientific progress in business and industry. Nevertheless, the current patent system is so poorly run and so politicized that it might as well be more of a roadblock to inventors than a safeguard right now.

    If you want a functioning patent system for the future, maybe you might want to write to your congressmen about how you think it would be wise to reduce social entitlement payouts to retiring old farts in the forms of medicare and social security, and put the money to better use in the U.S. Patent Office where right it is perfectly OK for a patent examiner to work a couple years for the government and then work for a "patent company" or law firm specializing in patents right after that.

    Until then you get what you pay for.
  • Yawn! Not new... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AB3A (192265) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:36PM (#13995070) Homepage Journal
    It seems to me that this has happened before. Around the turn of the last century, Lee DeForrest patented a whole bunch of undeveloped ideas and nonsense concerning electron tubes on the theory that something might stick. He really didn't know what he had when he developed the very first triode. But that didn't stop him from trying to patent every conceivable circuit he could imagine.

    Unfortunately, Armstrong did know what the tube was good for and actually developed some very innovative circuits that lead to the Regenerative receiver. However, DeForrest's lawyers sued him because they thought they had a patent on the circuit before Armstrong did. The court couldn't sort out the details because they didn't understand the technology all that well either. They awarded damages to DeForrest, whose lawyers were well fed...

    Today, you can look at DeForrest's patents and decide for yourself whether he really had a clue as to what a regenerative receiver was. Most technically literate people agree that his patent was merely a fishing expedition.

    So here we are today: The AAAS has just realized that there might be a problem with patents. Golly! They're about 100 years too late IMNSHO. This festering heap of a stupid idea called patents began to be a problem when it became apparent that no one person could know all there was to know about science as people could claim in Ben Franklin's day. Today, it's harder and harder to find people who know all there is worth knowing about even a small branch of physics.

    This concept of patent reform is so overdue that the best thing we can do about it is to junk the whole edifice and start over. It's that bad. We've known it since the last century. Why is it still here?
  • Intellectual property laws are long-overdue for a revision. A while ago I stumbled upon a site collecting information about the most ridiculous patents ever issued. It's hard to believe the kind of nonsense the US Patent Office is creating. Clearly, the problem is not just with the laws, but also with their implementation. Looking at some of the patents one can't help but wonder about the technical skills of people issuing these patents, or, indeed, about their sanity. It's all very funny until you realiz
  • by tiks (791388)
    The whole idea behind patents is to make sure that the innovator gets 'credit' for the Idea/Innovation but In my view there are 2 very crucial elements in this process of protection/ownership of innovation, first is the definition of innovation itself & second is the duration of protection. The definition of innovation should come as a measure of new-ness of the idea/innovation i mean what the hell is one click shopping patent for!!.

    Second is duration of protection, this has become very important in cur
  • by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:43PM (#13995109) Journal
    The Constitution sez:

    Congress shall have power . . . To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.

    So the question is, if patents are now starting to impede the progress of science and technology (and I'm willing to bet plenty of people on slashdot could think of instances in which this is the case), there is a good case to be made that as it stands now, the law governing patents is no longer constitutional.

    Just a thought. Feel free to flame.

  • Shift (Score:2, Insightful)

    by axonal (732578)
    Perhaps this is why there is a shift away from science in the US? People say we need to "reignite" science here, but with such strong patent laws I could see why scientists would be more persuaded to research elsewhere.
  • The patent bar is the only bar in the U.S. that allows practicioners to be non-lawyers [uspto.gov]. Sure, you're an agent, rather than an attorney, but you still practice before the USPTO. (And the practice is quite lucrative, if anybody is thinking of finding a new job.) The USPTO has tons of discretion to choose who practices before it, according to the Supreme Court in Sperry v. Florida [findlaw.com].

    Just another example of how the USPTO has too much power for it to use effectively, and how Congress has failed to properly regulat
    • Actually, I understand that it's not really that lucrative unless you're also a lawyer. Then it's very good work indeed.

      However, I don't see how this is a valid criticism of the PTO.
      • The criticism is that Congress and the Supreme Court have passed the buck on patent regulation to the USPTO. The passed buck spans from approving the patent all the way back to approving who gets to prosecute the patent. Our elected officials in charge, constitutionally, of regulating patents have abdicated their responsibilty to a bureaucracy that largely writes its own rules.

        As far as compensation goes, it's about $75,000 per year [salary.com], and the job market is strong.
  • for it's current purpose: stablizing the market. If you're an invester, the last thing you want is innovation making it tough to invest. All those people who lost boat loads in .com boom are pissed right now, and they're looking for a way to consolidate the market into a few big players that yeild consistent returns. No more Microsoft's stealing IBM's thnder, and no more Google's stealing Microsoft's thunder. Just smooth, steady earnings.
  • 1. Have new idea.
    2. Patent it.
    3. Profit!!

    :(
  • Peer review? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nickyandthefuture (714155) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @12:40AM (#13995403)
    As someone who works in physics research, and is concerned more with publishing papers than getting patents (although my advisor has quite a few), I'd be curious to see if something like a peer review system could work for patents. As with scientific journals, the editors (in this case, patent office personnel) can't be expected to thoroughly know every subject matter that comes their way, but it's not that difficult to find experts in the field who can point out flaws or know right away if work is fraudulent or unoriginal.

    Are there any downsides to this that I'm not seeing, besides the obvious one that it will require researchers and inventors to volunteer time? I know that Physical Review Letters has a policy that the editors will automatically reject a significant percentage of submitted papers deemed obviously inappropriate for publication before sending them on for review, something similar to which would probably have to be implemented here, maybe just in the form of the current system.
  • by dcam (615646)
    The shear amount of research being canceled because of licensing issues is astounding

    We don't want people cutting research just because of patents.

    Research should continue to separate fact from fiction despite patents.

    We should slash the number of patents that people are able to hold.

    I'm all out, anyone got any more?
  • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Thursday November 10, 2005 @01:18AM (#13995565)
    Patents exist to make more research possible. Therefore, in order to determine whether they do that, one must compare the number of research projects inhibited by patents to the number of research projects made possible by them. Just saying "1/5" are prevented by them is not enough information, especially if the other 4/5 wouldn't have been possible with-ought patents. Then there's the issue of which research is important. . .
  • Harry Selden who? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mortong (914447) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @01:20AM (#13995573)
    Asimov had a point when he said that a decline in scientific advancement was a symptom of the decline of a society.
  • shear != sheer (Score:3, Informative)

    by danharan (714822) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @04:19AM (#13996118) Journal
    define:shear [google.com],
    define:sheer [google.com].

    Although when talking about about researched being cancelled, shear does make for pretty vivid imagery. baaah!
  • The article claims patents affect research. Is there legal evidence that this can happen in the UK/US at all? I only know according to German law, you can use methods disclosed in patents for research purposes, it's only a monopoly on the _commercial_ exploitation.

    I'd suspect UK/US law to be similar regarding research use.

  • What do I do? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by trydk (930014) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @07:44AM (#13996560)

    I find patents quite scary!

    I invent something, let's just call it the Dribblecatcher.

    I go through lots of research to make sure it is unique, not infringing on other patents and that it has all the qualities demanded of a patent.

    I patent it, start production and sell a good number, almost ready to make a profit on my substantial investments ... when Big Bad Company Ltd. introduces their product, the Droolstopper, which clearly infringes on my patent.

    I get my lawyer (I cannot afford more than one, so it isn't "lawyers") to write Big Bad to stop them from selling the infringing product. Their lawyers reply that they have no intention of stopping a lucrative business and that they'll rather see me in court.

    Now, I could go to court, but I would only be able to sustain the expenses for a very short time and thus have no real choice but letting Big Bad go on with their business.

    Then suddenly this letter drops in, "Your product, the Dribblecatcher, infringes on our patent for droplet recovery, US 1234..... Please refrain from further sales and marketing of said product and furthermore please pay us $xxxxxxx for the improper use. We reserve the right to seek damages, etc ..."

    Even the best effort on my part to find the above patent has failed and my business is in shambles because of an unscrupulous, big competitor and a "hidden" patent.

    What do I do? (Apart from crying myself to sleep every night.)

  • by synthespian (563437) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @09:40AM (#13996935)
    Industries should also be somewhat limited in their actions. In Brazil, a topic that worries people is biopiracy. We had some bad experiences in this area. A Japanese company, for instance, tried to secure a patent for the cupuaçu fruit, a chocolate-substitute from the Amazon. Pure theft. The government put up a fight and won. Anthropologists have also denounced excursions by biologists collecting Amazonian and Xingu indians' native medicine know-how. There have been a few arrests in that area. There's been some concern about evangelical missionaires amongst the indians, as no one knows for sure who they are.
    In another example, Mr. Craig Venter wanted to collect microorganisms from the shores of Brazil, but the government did not allow his boat to come in a 200-mile distance from the coast. Today, he's on newspaper saying the Brazilian government hinders research, but all the government wants is that any commercial benefits be shared. All Craig Venters wants is to steal.
    Biopiracy is another aspect of the patent system gone wrong. Except, it's one that doesn't affect developed countries. Brazil is a Latin-American powerhouse that can and will muster a reaction everytime this happens, but there are smaller countries that cannot.
    In fact, the whole thing of biopiracy and patents is absurd. The notion that organisms found in the Amazonian rain-forest "belong" to Brazilians is absurd, but so is the notion that a foreign company can come into this country, collect plants and organisms, go back to its original country and file a patent for a molecule or a gene.

Computers will not be perfected until they can compute how much more than the estimate the job will cost.

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