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NASA Patents Software Science

NASA To Auction Automated Code Generation Patents 134

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the that-doesn't-seem-right dept.
coondoggie writes "NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center said it is set to auction an exclusive license to five patents it holds for automated software development on November 11, 2010. NASA said the technology was originally developed to handle coding of control code for spacecraft swarms, but it is applicable to any commercial application where rule-based systems development is used."
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NASA To Auction Automated Code Generation Patents

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  • i'm sorry... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @12:33PM (#34038918) Homepage

    i was kind of thinking that since, you know, WE payed NASA to invent stuff.. the public already owned it.

    • "WE" also fund public universities, which allow professors to do research, which leads to patents, which the universities then license as they see fit as a means of revenue generation. Same basic deal here.

      Personally, I kinda like the idea of NASA putting in the legwork for research with public funding, then getting some ROI.

      • Re:i'm sorry... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by geekoid (135745) <(dadinportland) (at) (yahoo.com)> on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @01:48PM (#34039994) Homepage Journal

        I don't. It would be better to put the code, or any patent, into public domain for US citizens. That way I, or anyone, can use ti as a foundation for innovation and new business; which in turn generate more tax dollars.

        The US gets a huge ROI from NASA.

      • "WE" paid for the research, so WE should own the intellectual property. We paid for it. If the Universities want to own it outright, don't take public money!

      • by icebike (68054)

        "WE" also fund public universities, which allow professors to do research, which leads to patents, which the universities then license as they see fit as a means of revenue generation. Same basic deal here.

        Personally, I kinda like the idea of NASA putting in the legwork for research with public funding, then getting some ROI.

        Exactly.

        The reason government agencies patent anything is so that no one can come along later and make claims against the government for using something they claim to have invented.

        All of these patents are by law held in trust for the People, and (unless there is a national defense angle) free to access and use.

        The government is not a university which includes a mix of public and private funding. The government is by definition publicly funded.

        I suspect this will not withstand a court challenge.

    • Re:i'm sorry... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by The MAZZTer (911996) <megazzt@noSpAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @12:42PM (#34039068) Homepage
      By that logic we also paid the gov't to go into trillions of dollars in debt with other countries... so the public owns that too. No thanks.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Well, the public does own that.

      • by gandhi_2 (1108023)

        well, actually we DO own that debt.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by $RANDOMLUSER (804576)
        And who do you suppose is eventually going to pay that debt? Here's a hint, unless you make $100 million a year or so, you are.

        Meanwhile, back on topic, I'm the biggest NASA nerd there is, but software patents are evil, I don't care who owns them.
        • by XanC (644172)

          Um, you mean, especially if you make $100 million a year or so. http://www.ntu.org/tax-basics/who-pays-income-taxes.html [ntu.org]

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by shaitand (626655)

            If you make $100 million you pay a higher number of dollars but a smaller portion relative to your income.

            No don't quote tax rates at me. There are a million and one tax tricks and shelters the wealthy utilize to shrink their income on paper to almost nothing. If there is anyone reporting $100 million who didn't make at least a couple billion then I'm the pope.

            • by XanC (644172)

              Did you even read that page? It describes how the top 5% of income earners are shouldering 59% of the federal tax burden. That fact doesn't directly have anything to do with rates.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

                Did you even read that page? It describes how the top 5% of income earners are shouldering 59% of the federal tax burden. That fact doesn't directly have anything to do with rates.

                Since the top 5% own 95% of the wealth in this country, that hardly seems fair.

                • by XanC (644172)

                  Citation needed.

                  • Re:i'm sorry... (Score:4, Informative)

                    by Pseudonym Authority (1591027) <SammyKake@gmail.EULERcom minus math_god> on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @03:41PM (#34041462)
                    He's close enough that the difference is negligible. [ucsc.edu]

                    In the United States, wealth is highly concentrated in a relatively few hands. As of 2007, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 34.6% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 50.5%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 85%, leaving only 15% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one's home), the top 1% of households had an even greater share: 42.7%. Table 1 and Figure 1 present further details drawn from the careful work of economist Edward N. Wolff at New York University (2010).

                    • by shaitand (626655)

                      Significant relative to what? Certainly not the point being made. A group paying only 58% of the taxes while holding 85% of the wealth still isn't paying anywhere near their share. This is a serious imbalance whether we are talking about 85% or 95%.

                • Re:i'm sorry... (Score:4, Interesting)

                  by Albertosaurus (696135) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @06:06PM (#34043378)
                  So to make things fair you're suggesting that

                  a) The top 5% should pay 95% of the federal tax burden, and
                  b) said top 5% should also have 95% of the voting power in federal elections.

                  Anything else would hardly be fair. After all, if a person has to shoulder a disproportionate share of the upkeep costs of the country he should be entitled to an equally disproportionate share of the political franchise.
                  • b) said top 5% should also have 95% of the voting power in federal elections.

                    Maybe you haven't noticed, but that's pretty much the case now.

                    Anything else would hardly be fair. After all, if a person has to shoulder a disproportionate share of the upkeep costs of the country he should be entitled to an equally disproportionate share of the political franchise.

                    All kinds of wrong with that. For one thing, it ignores the basic fact that much of that income depends on public infrastructure like roads, legal system, etc. By virtue of that wealth they are already getting their money's worth.

                    • by shaitand (626655)

                      Why should someone both get to enjoy an unfair portion of our society's wealth and not have to pay a proportionately unfair portion of the bill required for our society to function?

                  • by shaitand (626655)

                    That would only be true if said person weren't enjoying a disproportionate share of the country's output already. Unfortunately, it doesn't matter who has supposed voting power in the rigged federal elections. The wealthy own all the possible candidates already.

                    I'll tell you a secret. There is no such thing as a person who produces billion dollar output. There are only people who are skimming a billion dollars worth of cream off the top of the output of others and claiming they are entitled to it. And after

        • Re:i'm sorry... (Score:4, Informative)

          by thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) <marc...paradise@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @01:20PM (#34039580) Homepage Journal

          Here's a hint, unless you make $100 million a year or so, you are.

          This is what happens when you let talking heads let you confuse tax percentage rates with actual tax dollars paid.

          Fact is that the top earners of the country pay the vast majority of all income tax dollars I thought I did a post last week where I showed the math and sourced appropriate irs.gov docs, but I can't find it.

          The gist: The numbers showed that the top 1% of earners paid something like 30% of ALL tax dollars received (as of 2008 - when things were supposed to be best for "the rich" due to Bush); the top 5% paid over 50%; and the top 10% paid something like 70%.

          In other words, those in the remaining 90% of income earners pay ~30% of all tax dollars. And those who fall under to top 50% of income earners pay something like 3% of all tax dollars.

          Those numbers aren't as much fun to report as "Bill passed to extend tax breaks for THE RICH", but that's our media for you.

          Here's a hint, unless you make $100 million a year or so, you are.

          • by JackCroww (733340)
            Might these be the numbers you are looking for? http://theblogprof.blogspot.com/2010/05/video-of-clinton-rich-are-not-paying.html [blogspot.com]
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              I sourced mine directly from the aggregate tax data on IRS.gov (as I suspect that individual did as well - it's fascinating information in a way)

              Both sides like to slant that information to their own perspective, usually by mixing percentages and hard numbers inappropriately -- making the data say whatever they want. The same information could just as easily say that the richest Americans pay tax at only 10% (or whatever) -- by ignoring the actual dollar contributions, they paint "The Rich" as getting

          • Fact is that the top earners of the country pay the vast majority of all income tax dollars I thought I did a post last week where I showed the math and sourced appropriate irs.gov docs, but I can't find it. The gist: The numbers showed that the top 1% of earners paid something like 30% of ALL tax dollars received (as of 2008 - when things were supposed to be best for "the rich" due to Bush); the top 5% paid over 50%; and the top 10% paid something like 70%.

            Ok, so I see this a lot but what never seem to be mentioned is what percentage of total income is make by the people in those upper brackets.

            If the to 1% make 50% of all earned income and only pay 30% of income taxes then it seems that they might be under taxed. The problem I have is that I don't really know how much the top 1%, 5%, or 10% make compared to the rest of the income earning population. Maybe someone with better than my poor Google skills can find an uncontroversial source for those numbers.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by shaitand (626655)

              "Ok, so I see this a lot but what never seem to be mentioned is what percentage of total income is make by the people in those upper brackets. "

              That is because it is difficult to generate those numbers. The best you can do is find what they reported. What is called tax evasion for you and I is called tax planning for them. There isn't anyone in the top 1% who is paying taxes on even 1% of the money they make.

              Instead you look at total wealth and they hold well over 95% of the wealth in this nation.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by shaitand (626655)

            The fact is the top 1% used to pay 60% so their share of the taxes has been cut in half. The fact is that the top 10% have over 95% of the wealth so they SHOULD be paying 95% of all taxes.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              The fact is the top 1% used to pay 60% so their share of the taxes has been cut in half.

              Citation? Remember we're talking about total tax dollars received here, not income tax

              The fact is that the top 10% have over 95% of the wealth so they SHOULD be paying 95% of all taxes.

              This has little to do with tax on annual income. Further: you're saying that mere act of having a lot of "wealth" should be punishable by giving it to the government? For that matter, who gets to define "a lot" and what the threshold is?

              It's a sad state of affairs when there's a need to defend somebody wanting to keep substantially more of his own income than he gives to the government.

              • http://www.taxfoundation.org/research/show/151.html [taxfoundation.org]

                The top marginal tax rate in the early '60s was 91%.

                Under Reagan it went from 70% down to 50%.

                Following the Bush tax cuts, the maximum marginal tax rate is 35%.

                Fiscally speaking, the lunatics have been in charge of the asylum for 20 years, which is why I have a hard time taking 'high tax' talking points seriously. Budget deficits and continually increasing income inequality, anyone?

              • by drsmithy (35869)

                This has little to do with tax on annual income. Further: you're saying that mere act of having a lot of "wealth" should be punishable by giving it to the government?

                So long as you call taxation "punishment", it's impossible to have a reasonable discussion on the topic.

                For that matter, who gets to define "a lot" and what the threshold is?

                That would be everyone, seeing as the US has a democratic government.

                It's a sad state of affairs when there's a need to defend somebody wanting to keep substantiall

                • So long as you call taxation "punishment", it's impossible to have a reasonable discussion on the topic.

                  In the context under discussion, I have a hard time seeing it as anything but punishment. When the government says "If you have more than X in the bank, we're going to take Y percent of it -- but if you have less than X, we'll take none of it", it's punishment for those who have the money taken.

                  That would be everyone, seeing as the US has a democratic government.

                  I've a hard time replying to this one. On the one hand, yes -- if the elected representatives of the people decide that it is right and just to take money from those who earn more than they do, they have the right

                  • by drsmithy (35869)

                    In the context under discussion, I have a hard time seeing it as anything but punishment. When the government says "If you have more than X in the bank, we're going to take Y percent of it -- but if you have less than X, we'll take none of it", it's punishment for those who have the money taken.

                    No, it's a reflection that some can afford to pay more than others, and benefit from the results in more comprehensive - albeit complex and subtle - ways.

                    In none of these cases does "within their rights" mean "th

      • I like your logic. They did all this crap so they can pay for it themselves.

        But in the meantime, where's our country?

        Oh wait, it just hit me... we're living on it. So I guess all we have to do is tell Washington, DC that since they seceded, we don't have to!

    • Re:i'm sorry... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MSTCrow5429 (642744) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @12:49PM (#34039180)
      The government can't copyright, so I'm baffled at it being able to patent.
      • http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/multimedia/gtv_copyright.html [nasa.gov]

        This general permission does not include the NASA insignia logo (the blue "meatball" insignia), the NASA logotype (the red "worm" logo) and the NASA seal. These images may not be used by persons who are not NASA employees or on products (including Web pages) that are not NASA sponsored.

        What do you call that?

      • by lul_wat (1623489)
        US Patent # 6630507 says otherwise
    • by Rashdot (845549)

      It looks like the US government owns it instead. Quote from the patents:

      The invention described herein was made by employees of the United States Government and may be manufactured and used by or for the Government of the United States of America for governmental purposes without the payment of any royalties thereon or therefor.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      In case you hadn't noticed, the government was purchased by a consortium of corporations when Reagan got elected.

      Nothing new to see here. Move along folks. Move along....

    • by ljw1004 (764174)

      You're proposing that our tax dollars, which have already paid for NASA's research, then get given away for free to benefit the directors of the companies who use the patents, who use their profits to buy large yachts (say), so a small amount of the benefit trickles down to the shipyard workers.

      I prefer what NASA has done. It ensures that the tax dollars we've paid to NASA will continue to benefit NASA (rather paying for a director's yacht).

      • by shaitand (626655)

        or the invdividuals who use the patents, or the individuals who are able to buy cheaper goods because there is no patent tax attached, or the individuals who are able to buy superior foods using yet more advanced technologies that were developed from research done on the original nasa tech

        This saves taxpayers whatever NASA gets from the sale, in proportion. Which means the poor benefit the least if at all. That isn't how the system is SUPPOSED to work. We pay our taxes in fair proportion and then everyone,

    • by adtifyj (868717)

      You do own it, in that your representatives can change the NASA policies about patents.
      NASA auctioning these patents means they put towards funding more R&D, which you will own and benefit from.

  • by russlar (1122455) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @12:37PM (#34038980)
    Blast! There goes my plan to file a patent for "Method for auctioning patents".

    Curse you, Prior Art!
  • Gosh, tax-payer funded research going to be held against taxpayers, software patents, corporate subsidies, NASA budgets - what could possibly go wrong?

  • I guess NASA has already calculated that they would profit more by selling their patent rather than licensing it. Let's just hope that licensing the patent after selling it won't cost them more than they've earned in the end.

    • by mysidia (191772)

      I guess NASA has already calculated that they would profit more by selling their patent rather than licensing it.

      The article said they are giving an exclusive license for it, not selling it

      This is interesting... since that suggests NASA still owns the patent, as a government owned patent it can be perpetual, that is the patent might never expire.

      Which could afford them the opportunity to issue "exclusive licenses" to the same invention over and over again. Once this exclusive license expires, auc

      • as a government owned patent it can be perpetual

        How so? The law specifies that patents have a term of 20 years from the filing date, plus adjustments for delays caused by the USPTO.

  • but the headline makes it sound like NASA has patented Make and is auctioning it off to the highest bidder.

    • by Gorobei (127755) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @01:08PM (#34039430)

      It looks more like they are patenting "nothing much at all." As in, "here are some use cases, here is a state machine that implements them, run our program, find questionable state transitions, ask users to decide what happens in those cases. Repeat until you have a complete formal spec."

      This looks more like a case of a small group of people trying to justify their continued employment by pointing to their patents/minor revenue generated as evidence that they are doing something useful and so should not be laid off.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @12:47PM (#34039132) Homepage
    revelation. Billions of dollars in TARP spending and two wars heavily funded without so much as an eyebrows raise...but one of the foremost scientific research and exploration communities in the united states, dare i even say the world, which recently help design the rescue and recovery vehicle for trapped mine workers, now has to hold the equivalent of a technology "bake sale" for funding. when does this stop?
    • when does this stop?

      When people stop being corrupt and when war stops being profitable.

    • by hedwards (940851)
      If they'd just accept Jesus as their lord and savior and quit trying to study global warming for any purpose other than disproving it they could have their money back.
    • by copponex (13876)

      The day after corporations don't have an incentive to privatize every aspect of government for their own profit motives, using a tried and true combination of propaganda, campaign payoffs, and market manipulation.

      Have no fear, libertarians. I'm sure there are no historical examples [wikipedia.org] of immoral financial incentives destroying human liberty and society for the enrichment of a few. As long as we keep making the government subservient to the will of corporations, we should be alright.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Almost all of TARP has been returned, with interest. Right now it looks like we will even get the remaining 50 billion dollars back.
      I really dislike president Bush for a great many reasons, and one of the last acts he did was TARP. I thought it was a horrid idea. as it turns out, I was wrong. TARP, and its extension by President Obama, was the smart thing to do.

      And if you think no one so much as raised an eyebrow, then you have been living under a rock.

      Your pint is correct however, more funding for NASA. It

    • Don't be sad. I'm all for increasing NASA's funding, but I wouldn't look at this as some desperate "bake sale". This is technology transfer. NASA does it, universities do it, and small research outfits do it.

      The people inventing these technologies aren't the same people that are going to make some economic use of them. NASA gets a "spinoff" story (which they value more than the money) and the technology actually makes it into useful application.

    • NASA ... now has to hold the equivalent of a technology "bake sale" for funding. when does this stop?

      It's all about what's "important" (he said sarcastically) - perspective:

      • The 2011 budget for NASA: $19 billion
        [ NASA Budget [wikipedia.org]]
      • U.S. consumer spending on cosmetic surgery (2009): $10.5 billion (down 20% from 2007)
        [Spending Less on Plastic Surgery [nytimes.com]]
      • U.S. consumer spending on cosmetics: $8 billion
        [ various ]
  • by jbeaupre (752124) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @12:47PM (#34039136)
    I'm sure we were not the first, nor as sophisticated, but in 1994 we wrote a program to write programs.

    The port for sending commands to a robot was physically missing. The RS232 port was reserved for the terminal. So we connected a serial cable up to the robot controller and a pc. Then we wrote a program that would send the keystrokes to open a file for editing, edit it, save the program, and execute it. So when the pc would get a signal, it would calculate a trajectory for the robot, open the file on the controller, write the program, close it, then run it. Around 10 times a second.
    • Doesn't that describe the Heathkit Hero robot?

    • by geekoid (135745)

      So you created a .bat file. Well done. It's not even in the same league.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm sure we were not the first, nor as sophisticated, but in 1994 we wrote a program to write programs.

      Yo dawg!

  • but does it convert back and forth from english to metric

  • by paulsnx2 (453081) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @12:49PM (#34039166)

    .... One company for $250,000 can prohibit the application of this idea to systems that do not pay up.

    This is what is wrong with this deal, off the top of my head:

    1) NASA would have developed this technology anyway, one must assume, as they haven't auctioned patents in the past (at least, not that I know of). In any case, how could the patent have been a motivator to do the work? Wouldn't it have been the problem they needed to solve? And who believes 250K is enough of a motivator for NASA anyway?
    2) Now that we have the innovation done, all the patent is going to do is prevent its application for 20 years
    3) Many companies have been generating test cases from Rules for years. Isn't there a prior art issue here?
    4) Why should we fund government research only to tie it up with IP on a restrictive basis for only 250K? How is this a good deal for the Tax Payer? (It would be different if the income to government was big enough to offset the Taxes we pay, but this doesn't do that)
    5) Software Patents! Evil! They are most certainly a mechanism to patent ideas rather than implementations, as there are far too many ways to implement an algorithm in software to restrict the patent to an actual invention.

  • Sickening (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Concern (819622) * on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @12:59PM (#34039306) Journal

    NASA hurts it's own reputation horribly by auctioning software patents rather than holding them for the public trust and acknowledging the obvious: software patents are incompatible with a software industry.

    They then compound the insult by taking advantage of some suckers paying cash for something that is legally questionable in light of Bilksi and that may soon have explicitly no value at all.

    It's an obvious fact. [endsoftpatents.org] The sooner we stop denying it and explicitly repudiate software patents as a matter of policy (as most every advanced nation already does), the sooner the damage to our economy stops.

    • Re:Sickening (Score:5, Interesting)

      by No. 24601 (657888) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @01:08PM (#34039422)

      NASA hurts it's own reputation horribly by auctioning software patents rather than holding them for the public trust and acknowledging the obvious: software patents are incompatible with a software industry.

      Agreed. Moreover (but completely the opposite of you), I fully expect NASA to receive substantially less than what these assets are worth. Government auctions have the habit of turning into fire sales on public investment.

      • by slick7 (1703596)

        Government auctions have the habit of turning into fire sales on public investment.

        And the two leading contenders in the ever increasing bidding war...Skynet and China.

    • Most every advanced nation? Citation?

      From wikipedia, it looks to me like most European nations, at any rate, accept software patents. With some more strict qualifications, it looks like, but they don't repudiate all software patents. Unless you're referring to India, China, etc., with most every advanced nation" ... :)

      • by Concern (819622) *

        I'm referring to the rejection of the Proposed Directive on the Patentability of Computer-implemented Inventions of 2002. [wikipedia.org]

        There will always be gray areas, as there are in the EU (where patenting software is, if not impossible, very difficult), but the attempt to bring a US-style, "liberal" software patent regime to Europe categorically failed, and the ensuing controversy shed light on the underlying issue: that large companies, especially American ones, had the idea of using patent law as an tool to prevent

        • by Concern (819622) *

          ...and I should choose a better term than "advanced" next time. The UK is following the EU. India and China do indeed reject them. I'm unaware of Russia or Brazil's policy. But their policies, collectively, matter at least as much as the US and EU.

          Japan, South Korea, and some others do allow software patents as of now. Hence this gem from wikipedia:

          In South Korea, software is considered patentable and many patents directed towards "computer programs" have been issued.[23] In 2006, Microsoft was ordered to h

          • It seems like, to be politically incorrect, it's most "Eastern" countries that are doing it. US and EU and UK make up quite a few countries.

            (I am not attempting to defend or attack the software patent policy, btw, I'm somewhat undecided :) )

            • by Concern (819622) *

              Think about it. There are hundreds of thousands of such patents in the US. Say you write some software. How do you propose to follow the rules?

              Even if the software patent fairy came down tomorrow and magically let you know every one of the thousands of patents you infringe on, and you could even afford an open-ended negotiation with each patent holder, you would still be screwed, because tomorrow, 1,000 new patent applications will be filed.

              Every piece of software is thus a ticking patent timebomb. This is

              • So, I understand the problem with the way it currently works. The question is, how should we replace it. That's the indecision part.

                For example, let's say I write some useful software (HA! hehe...). How can we prevent Big Company from simply stealing it and marketing it as theirs? It's already a "Big Company" run show because of the lawyer thing, but if Big Company can simply steal it without even worrying about the law, that doesn't seem to be any better.

                • by Concern (819622) *

                  Sure, stopping someone from "stealing" "your" ideas is a problem. But I have an even bigger one. How do you prevent it from ever raining? Rain also sucks.

                  Living in this desert may be hard, but unless you can prevent rain, I don't see how we can move.

                  In other words, the entire question is moot. We have never lived in a world where someone can be prevented from "stealing" "your" ideas, and fortunately we never can live in such a world. It would be a nightmare. Meanwhile, all progress in the arts and sciences

                  • Mmmm I didn't say idea necessarily. I meant software. Here's an example: Microsoft directly and unabashedly and openly copies a Linux distro (say, Ubuntu), rebrands, and sells. Is that ok?

                    I think we're arguing about different things. I'm arguing about very specific "ripping off" of someone by a huge company with lots of cash and power. Learning and communicating is a lot different than copying a significant amount of work and monetizing.

                    It may be that you have a solution for this. Perhaps not allowing

                    • by takev (214836)
                      Copyright is enough to cover software from being stolen by another company.

                      Right now we are in de ridicules situations that a single piece of software is covered by three different property rights:
                      - Copyright, which covers the original source code and binary as a work of art/craft.
                      - Trade secret, because most software is only released in binary form.
                      - Patent, which oddly for software does not break the trade secret because they mostly cover ideas instead of implementation or are written in such a way that o
                    • Hmmm. Interesting. Thanks for the discussion, I will have to do some thinking...
    • by fredrated (639554)

      "The sooner we stop denying it and explicitly repudiate software patents as a matter of policy (as most every advanced nation already does), the sooner the damage to our economy stops."

      It matters not how much damage is done to our economy: as long as 1 company can make a profit from it and afford to pay the appropriate politicians, it will remain just as it is.

  • Why are we in a rush to sell everything we own? These should be leased out for the good of the nasa with the proceeds going to their yearly budget not one company/purchaser.
  • Is it just me or does this sound like the dangerous part - "spacecraft swarms"
  • by jaweekes (938376) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @01:08PM (#34039426)

    And they are only expecting $250,000 for it??? I wonder how much the purchasing company will make from it? I'm betting a hell of a lot more. Why don't they just license it out, and have a continuous income from it?

  • A little homework... (Score:3, Informative)

    by goodmanj (234846) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @01:32PM (#34039744)

    It seemed weird that the US government should be in the patent game, so I did a little homework.

    This document [uspto.gov] shows the number of patents held by US government agencies. The total is over 30,000 -- as usual, Slashdot is posting old news! The majority are held by the armed forces; DOE and NASA hold several thousand each.

    At first, this seems appalling: why should the US gubmint, which we're paying taxes to support, make patents to keep us from using the products of its research? But think about it from a different perspective: if US agencies' inventions went into the public domain, than anyone who wanted could pick them up for free and potentially make billions off them, without doing a bit of R&D on their own. Isn't it more fair to ask the people who want to use government inventions for profit to pony up some cash? It's not like that money's going to pay for the NASA chief's next yacht: it's going right back into more research at NASA Goddard. Net result: more inventions!

    It's really the same idea as patents held by universities. Patentable inventions are not their primary focus, but they do naturally arise from the universities' activities. If they *don't* patent them, the ideas get snapped for free by some undeserving entrepreneur who's spawn camping [wikipedia.org] the university. If they do patent them, the license profits go to improving teaching and research at the university.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745)

      Yes, that means you, or I, could use the software as the foundation for a new company. we could compete in the market, and yes, maybe make billions. But then that would generate more taxes.

      Right now, someone is going to buy those patents and make money. All funded by you and me.

      More people will start more business and generate more tax revenue. NASA selling patents is only going to give the people that want NASA cut an incentive to disproportional cut it's budget.

    • by int69h (60728)

      "if US agencies' inventions went into the public domain, than anyone who wanted could pick them up for free and potentially make billions off them, without doing a bit of R&D on their own. "

      You talk like that's a bad thing.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TCP/IP_stack I'm pretty sure billions have been made off of that government project.

  • Hey NASA,

    As a recent graduate of an aerospace engineering program, I would like to ask you to reconsider auctioning this software, or the patent for it, out to a private company. Engineering students are already forced to choose between shelling out a ton of money for commercial software (Matlab) or working with something less applicable in industry (Scilab). As a result, students who have extra cash get the opportunity to tack "Matlab experience" on their resume, while students without extra cash have t
  • Other have already stated this, but should these patents be placed in the public domain? This is truly sad when NASA is selling patents to private trolls. Bollocks!
  • Don't like it? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <(dadinportland) (at) (yahoo.com)> on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @01:57PM (#34040134) Homepage Journal

    Email your rep. I did. Be clear and stay on this specific issues. Do not drift into a patents are evil rant. save that for a different email. Explain why you feel the patents should be made public and not auctioned.

    It just so happens that my rep is on the Committee for science and technology. But let them know.

  • If they want to damage us, wont be more efficient to just change the curse of an asteroid so it hits earth?
    Oh, the need the money, but dont carre about damege then? auction nukes then, or spy satellites. There are less evil people looking for buying nukes than patent trolls by now, but still they could manage to get a sell.
  • I wonder who will buy the patent for the tool that generates code that confuses feet with meters?

  • Any software like this must be limited to writing specific classes of programs. Godel's Theorem says there is no such thing as a general algorithm to write *any* algorithm. See "The Emperor's New Mind". Unrelated aside: why can't we have [I] and [/I] type shorthand for formatting on /.?

Little known fact about Middle Earth: The Hobbits had a very sophisticated computer network! It was a Tolkien Ring...

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