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Medicine Patents The Courts Science

Supreme Court Orders Do-Over On Key Software Patents 167

Fluffeh writes "It seems that the U.S. Supreme Court has an itch it just can't scratch. A patent granted to the Ultramercial company covers the concept of allowing users to watch a pre-roll advertisement as an alternative to paying for premium content and the company is demanding fees from the likes of Hulu and YouTube. Another company called WildTangent, however, is challenging Ultramercial's 'invention' as merely an abstract idea not eligible for patent protection. Add to this a recent ruling by the Supreme Court restricting patents — albeit on medical diagnostic techniques — and you get into a bit of a pickle. The Supreme Court is now sending the Ultramercial case back to the lower courts for another round, which doesn't mean that the court disagrees with the original ruling, but rather that it thinks it is a patent case that is relevant to the situation and they want to re-examine it under this new light."
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Supreme Court Orders Do-Over On Key Software Patents

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  • by LordNicholas ( 2174126 ) on Thursday May 24, 2012 @11:00AM (#40099801)

    This nonsense is crushing innovation. It's one more in a long line of examples of how we need to reevaluate how we govern ourselves.

  • by perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Thursday May 24, 2012 @11:03AM (#40099843)
    Saying "let's think about this a little more" is a step in the right direction.
  • by KermodeBear ( 738243 ) on Thursday May 24, 2012 @11:04AM (#40099859) Homepage

    Someone already has won [thenextweb.com] a patent [uspto.gov] on the concept of online auctions. All you have to do is take anything people do anyway, add "but do it online!" and you have your new patent. It's pretty awful.

  • by avgjoe62 ( 558860 ) on Thursday May 24, 2012 @11:12AM (#40099945)

    Isn't the concept of an advertisement running before you see content as old as radio and TV? Didn't I have to watch Timex commercials to see the TV shows they sponsored?

    I think this is just another example of "Same old stuff, but now on the Interwebs!"

    Unless there is an actual physical product. patents are inappropriate. Copyright a presentation of an idea, but patenting a thought is a path to policing thought... and wasting time having the courts arbitrate such.

  • Except that the process clause is meant to cover industrial processes that are not strictly machines, but which are physical inventions nevertheless (at least in the sense that they transform physical material from one form to another).

    Agreed... But that doesn't mean that the "process" is a "physical invention," but rather that it must operate on a machine or perform a transformation of some physical material, no (hence the old CAFC test). At which point, software that operates a controller counts.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 24, 2012 @11:21AM (#40100019)

    Patents have never been an innovation incentive, hell look at what Alexander Graham Bell did with telecom, his company sat on patents and expanded glacially making sure to profit from a few key technologies in what would become backbone areas, it was only when patents started expiring that telephones started spreading, and even then his legacy is still apparent in monopolies across North America

    Imagine if Nikola Tesla had defended the design of the electric motor as viciously as Bell had telecom, the mind boggles...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 24, 2012 @11:37AM (#40100197)

    I know that will come out of the public purse

    Make the employees responsible along with every manager above them. They should have to pay the costs. Bankrupt them, I don't care.

    We need some new rules stating that a person can't hide behind "I was told to". If it's found to be immoral/unethical, then the person doing it should be held responsible. If said person can point a finger at a superior, then the superior takes more of the fault, but not all of it.

    We need people to start taking responsibility for their actions.

    If you think you're being told to do something "not nice", they should have a form that can be submitted to your superiors of you stating that you not believe what you're doing is "right". Everyone signs off, you get a copy, they keep a copy. If shit hits the fan, then you're "safe".

    This would make "being a jerk" expensive to corps as it would cause a crap ton of paper-work.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 24, 2012 @01:24PM (#40101177)

    Oh yes, that old chestnut, if the product is so great and you're first to sell it you'll recoup your costs.

    "But what if someone steals your idea" you say, well that already happens and if that person makes it to the patent office first you're still fucked.

    Again, who invented the telephone? Innocenzo Manzetti, Antonio Meucci, Johann Philipp Reis, Elisha Gray, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison... ?

    Bell was the only one awarded the patent so all those other guys lost out, had there been no patent system there would have been healthy competition between them potentially leading to more innovation in the field as it developed.

  • trollolololololol you dont want to debate, you want to argue.

    ... says the guy whose initial post consisted solely of: "O please, the chilling effect from the current patent situation is felt by every maker on the planet."

    If you'd like to come back and actually debate by stating a conclusion supported logical arguments from your evidence-supported premises, then please do. If you'd like to shoot off single-line snipe attacks, then why not just post as an anonymous coward like all other trolls?

    If you cant understand how the current patent situation can stifle innovation, then you arent paying attention.

    Conclusory statement. Not an argument.

    By their very nature, patents restrict, not enable.

    Irrelevant, no one had raised an argument that patents "enable" things.

    So while we get more money driven inventions, that doesnt automatically mean that its the most productive system or that its societal benefit is maximized.

    True, but likewise irrelevant, and fails to support your original argument of a chilling effect. Just because we don't know that the system is not the best system doesn't mean it therefore is the worst system.

    Patents are a nicety given by society to encourage innovation. If it becomes apparent that patents stifle more then they benefit, then the entire concept needs to be revisited. Patents are for SOCIETAL benefit, with a side dish of offering the inventor a nice little limited monopoly to give him a 'attaboy'.

    Agreed. Now, I'm simply asking for your evidence that patents stifle more than they benefit. This is the original evidence I asked for, to which you demurred and instead said "but everyone knows it exists". If you can't support your conclusion with facts, then, while it may be true, you'll never convince a reasonable person.

  • by Rob Y. ( 110975 ) on Thursday May 24, 2012 @02:05PM (#40101655)

    ...except on deciding that 'money == speech'. They were quick as bunnies deciding that. Faster than you can say "money also == bribery".

  • by oxdas ( 2447598 ) on Thursday May 24, 2012 @02:23PM (#40101861)

    We can agree on one thing: your evidence is circumstantial. Societies have undergone many changes since the 1500's. You have only demonstrated that patents do not completely eliminate innovation (you have not yet offered any evidence that patents do not stifle innovation). I find it curious that the rise in innovation coincides with the Enlightenment, which ushered in many changes to society, in addition to patents. It begs the question, given all the other changes, would innovation have happened at the same rate without patent law? It is, of course, impossible to answer. My gut feeling here is the same as you, but I feel your arguments go beyond the evidence itself.

    As for modern software, are you seriously arguing that software patents are the reason (or even an important factor) for the increase in software innovation over the last 40 years? I suspect that a much stronger case could be made for advances in hardware and the diffusion of software knowledge outside of the patent system. I think a stronger case could even be made that the relative dearth of software patents prior to the 1990's, made the current growth possible.

    The greater concern is not that innovation would have progressed further without patents. The concern is that software patents, which are a very recent phenomena, have reached a critical mass to actually hinder innovation moving forward. Only hindsight will offer any real evidence into the merits of this concern, but anecdotal evidence abounds.

  • by subreality ( 157447 ) on Thursday May 24, 2012 @04:01PM (#40103047)

    Patents were never intended to be an incentive for innovation. They're incentive to document and disclose the invention so that after the patent expires everyone gets to benefit from it instead of it remaining a trade secret forever.

    Unfortunately they've never done a good job of that either. Most things that are patented are either sufficiently obvious once you see them that no documentation was really necessary (eg, the cotton gin), or for non-obvious things (like a process to manufacture a chemical economically) the patents tend to be sufficiently obfuscated to make them essentially impossible to follow.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas