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Bank of America trying to load up on patents for the technology behind Bitcoin (qz.com)
367 points by hackuser on Dec 30, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 194 comments



Fuck Bank of America. $12.00 maintenance fee every month for holding my money? $35.00 overdraft fees? </rant>

I don't understand why they are patenting this stuff, It will never hold up and they will never sue anyone


Because 99% of patent litigation never goes to court. An entity like Bank of America can wield an army of lawyers to sue anyone they do not like for bogus patent infringement, and that alone will kill most competition because they do not have the resources to even meet BoA in court for a day. Its what patents are for in the modern economy after all - you get big, you make tons of them that cover everything, and then you sue anyone you don't like until they implode from spending too much time in court and not enough time innovating.


The EFF sent out an email a few days ago regarding the Innovation Act of 2015, which is supposed to make patent trolling more difficult. Here's a link if you'd like to contact your representative:

https://act.eff.org/action/stop-patent-trolls-support-the-in...


> and that alone will kill most competition because they do not have the resources to even meet BoA in court for a day

I've read this kind of sentences plenty of time and it always puzzled me. I don't know how the American Justice system works, but I wonder: how one trial could be that expensive to deter companies to take another company in court ?

As far as I know, trials in France can cost dozens/hundreds thousands Euros, I wonder how expensive they can get in the US.


A big difference is loser pays[1]. It exist in almost all western democracies except for the US. Its precise purpose is to deter things like this, because it's unjust.

1: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_rule_(attorney%27s_f...


Loser pays in US system too, but only in some cases. Problem is just having a suit filed against you at the federal lest costs at least 40,000 USD and can go many times that, and that is before a judge ever evens looks at it. So it is easy to harass people with lawsuits.


This seems overly broad. Can you explain where you got this information, or in what context you think it applies? As an attorney with litigation experience, this is extremely puzzling.

All lawsuits are different, and simply being named as a defendant does not trigger any enormous payments beyond a lawyer's retainer. I suppose huge cases can call for such a retainer, but those surely are exceptional.


Because in my case, before a judge ever looked at my initial filling. I had to put in 10 different motions, to dismiss, to change venue, etc. I didn't HAVE to do that, but it was important if I wanted to win. Then they went ahead and starting gathering evidence, which required half a dozen filing and the time to collect. Plus the whole point of not being able to defend a corporation except by hiring an attorney in that state. Even though the corporation had been shut down for 4 years. But by not defending the corporation, it got a default judgement, which meant that the chance of losing the suit against myself was much greater. In the end, I assigned obsolete patent to the suit filer, they went away and paid my attorney's fee's


Sounds incredibly weird. Why does defendant has to pay anything?

Or do you mean attorney fees, because going in a court without one would be practically a suicide?


Yes


> Problem is just having a suit filed against you at the federal lest costs at least 40,000 USD

For real ? Why ?


Because in my case, before a judge ever looked at my initial filling. I had to put in 10 different motions, to dismiss, to change venue, etc. I didn't HAVE to do that, but it was important if I wanted to win. Then they went ahead and starting gathering evidence, which required half a dozen filing and the time to collect. Plus the whole point of not being able to defend a corporation except by hiring an attorney in that state. Even though the corporation had been shut down for 4 years. But by not defending the corporation, it got a default judgement, which meant that the chance of losing the suit against myself was much greater.


Hooray for too-big-to-fail institutions.


I always here about stuff like this going on. What do people mean when they say stuff like "they do not have the resources to even meet BoA in court for a day"? How is spending too much time in court taking away innovating time?

If BofA has 100 lawyers on a case, and you have one lawyer, what kind of advantages does BofA have?

What kind of trouble can they cause that company? How does not having a lot of lawyers make it dangerous?

Seems like in a court room only one lawyers runs the show mostly anyway.


well if your opponent has 100 lawyers, especially lawyers who are well-versed in different areas of the law they are able to make a more varied range of arguments than your one lawyer is, your one lawyer has to respond to those arguments and say why they are wrong or not relevant in your case or risk losing because of the existence of a particular argument, therefore your one lawyer has to do a lot of work that they might not have the expertise to do well or the time to do at all. Furthermore your opponents 100 lawyers may be more cost effective than your one, depending on the contract they have with the firm. Finally the 100 lawyers can take the time to file paperwork etc. that your lawyer has to respond to or again risk losing for not responding to some piece of paperwork. Finally when your sitting in that courtroom for a day that is a day when you will not be innovating and you will not get any money for the time you took off, courtroom days are not few and far between and your opponents 100 lawyers can spend their time making sure you have more courtroom days than you can afford.


> What kind of trouble can they cause that company? How does not having a lot of lawyers make it dangerous?

imho, it's not the number of lawyers, but that you get involved in court cases at all. If you're a small, independent developer lonewolfing it, you can't even afford to hire a lawyer, let alone retain one on staff. A settlement, where you get a relatively favourable outcome compared to paying the court costs, is probably tantalizingly good.

i want to see the losing party pay in civil suits!


>What kind of trouble can they cause that company? How does not having a lot of lawyers make it dangerous?

Big companies have virtually unlimited legal resources. Small companies don't -- lawyer time is very expensive for them. Anecdotally, it seems to cost around $5 million to mount a defense against a big public company in court.

BigCo's lawyers will file every type of complaint, motion, appeal, request, notice, stay and postponement possible in hopes of starving you out. You have to pay your lawyers for all the hours they spend just responding to frivolous and/or repetitious crap, which will end up being in the man-weeks before your first court date. You have to pay your lawyers to do all the pre-trial research, negotiation and strategizing, which costs will end up being in the man-months by the time you get to an actual court.

Once you finally do get to court, BigCo's $1000/hr law firm will mount very aggressive and convoluted legal arguments and attempt to mint new legal theories, because a) it greatly increases the complexity of the case, which means you're more likely to run out of money and concede to their client; b) their client doesn't care how much money the law firm is going to bill them, so the law firm is going to have a heyday and squeeze out every billable hour possible; and c) if the new legal theory actually works by some fluke of luck, both the firm and the attorneys directly involved in the case will get a big boost to their industry starpower. What does all this mean for the little guy that's being brought to court? It means your defense is going to cost you a lot of money.

There's also the possibility that the court will grant an injunction against your behavior while the issue pends, and if that affects the wrong thing, it's possible that your entire revenue stream will be destroyed and you'll either have to pivot on a moment's notice or just give up. Since these cases usually take years to see all the way through, you'll be out of business for quite a while, even if the court ultimately vindicates your position. Small companies can't afford to go without their revenue for years at a time.

For an example, refer to the case of Uzi Nissan, an IT technician who operated a computer repair business under his own name before Datsun rebranded to Nissan Motor. Nissan Motor drug him through an unsuccessful 9 year, $3 million saga to attempt to wrest the domain name from him. At the end of it, Nissan Motor was ordered to reimburse Mr. Nissan only $52k in legal fees, of the over $3 million Mr. Nissan was forced to spend, and Nissan Motor began pursuing a frivolous trademark filing so they could make a second attempt to steal the domain by use of legal force. [0]

Anyway, businesses can't be represented by an entrepreneur in court, they have to be represented by a member of the bar. If you can't afford to regularly refresh a 6-figure retainer as your lawyers fend off the vultures, you're basically SOL. You have to comply, or be sued. If you get sued and proceed without retaining good counsel, it's likely that you'll end up more FUBAR'd than you would've been if you had just complied with whatever the demand was in the first place. Compare Facebook, Inc. v. Power Ventures, Inc., where the entrepreneur had issues keeping counsel on board and ended up being held personally liable for $3 million in damages.

As such, if any big corp is able to identify things they don't like before those things have begun to generate dozens of millions in annual revenues (enough to semi-comfortably fork over $500k-$1m/yr for legal defense), they can pretty successfully sue them out of existence. This happens regularly, you just don't hear about it that often.

[0] http://www.digest.com/Big_Story.php


I found this to be the most informative and relevant response to the questions posed.

Of course, it's frustrating to see the aspects of this situation that are (practically) unsolvable. But one item jumped out that I'd be interested in knowing more about:

> Nissan Motor was ordered to reimburse Mr. Nissan only $52k in legal fees, of the over $3 million Mr. Nissan was forced to spend

What are the reasons for that disparity? Would fixing the way we calculate those legal fees help to fix these kinds of abuses?


Well, in general, loser-pays provides some protection from frivolous and opportunistic lawsuits. Though, it does then put a greater risk perhaps on the little guy if the smaller firm doesn't successfully defend.


Except it (mostly) doesn't exist in the US, but does in almost all other democracies.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_rule_(attorney%27s_f...


Indeed, that was my point in suggesting it as an opportunity for improvement.


To make that greater risk concrete, and play Devil's Advocate to my own query by thinking of the societal benefits of the current system: would that make it much riskier to sue, say, Big Tobacco?

I understand that the American legal system is a bit unique when it comes to lawsuits, but I'm hampered by not understanding exactly how, and what the positives and negatives of that are.


Well, the risk comes when you don't have a strong footing for your suit. And I think that's the philosophy behind "loser pays".

As I'm thinking about it, one of the other big benefits is at-risk speculation. Say I'm a small fish with a few hardware patents and I'm pretty sure Honeywell is infringing on them.

Currently, I need to ask my good-for-what-I-can-afford attorney to have a look at it, then debate whether I have the cash on hand to take the suit, and figure out the economics of sustaining my business while I try to seek damages from Honeywell's wanton disregard for my IP. I have to do all this because I'll likely have to pay as I go unless I have a slam-dunk case, and even then, a lot of my winnings would go to the attorney if they'd foregone payment until verdict.

In a loser pays system, there's a greater guarantee of payment if they win -- so it can be beneficial when the possible case looks good on the surface, to do some at risk research to determine its real viability. I can take that case, then, to a larger or more experienced firm because the economics of the win are advantageous to them. Hypothetically, it could help in that second way to level the pitch for the "underdog."

As well, knowing I can take my case (or defense) to a larger firm who would be better protected from loss in an at-risk or deferred payment agreement, means that larger corporations will necessarily be dissuaded from the more frivolous or speculative suits they're wont to bring. Even for corporations with large litigation coffers, running a negative balance sheet will get a firm or legal team replaced.


I agree with all of the above.

Another detail is the 'loser pays' principle[1], which (barely) exist in the US, but is prevalent in almost all other civilized countries.

It's solve purpose is to dampen the effect of frivolous lawsuits, by making the instigator pay for the whole carouse (wasting other peoples time and wasting the legal system's time).

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_rule_(attorney%27s_f...


But does it really solve the problem of bullying?

I mean, BigCo sues you. They threaten you they have 100 attorneys they can get off the leash. Even if they're most obviously in the wrongs, you'll have to get somewhat matching manpower to thwart the pressure. And even if you win and BigCo pays for all of the mess, you need a very large sum of money while this isn't over. So, a barrier for justice is still there. (Not to say the only real winning side here are attorneys, because they're practically fed a giant amount of money.)

And then there's a fear of "and what if I lose"...


>And then there's a fear of "and what if I lose"...

Which is not necessarily remote. In Ticketmaster v. RMG, the smaller company, which extracted non-copyrightable data from Ticketmaster's site, lost because the Court ruled that the momentary existence of a web page in RAM constituted an unauthorized copy. The real-world analog is claiming that an illegal copy is made every time a copyrighted work reflects against your retina. The only explanation for that kind of ruling is simple technological ignorance, but it's what we have to deal with.

While the American system has safeguards in place to prevent it, you do have to ask yourself how badly a particular judge is going to want to offend a massive company that could potentially make him tons of money if they believe he's a reliable ally; if not through explicit corruption and bribery, through the possibility of a post-retirement relationship as a "legal consultant" or similar. What benefit does the judge get by favoring a tiny company that's probably not going to be around for more than a few years anyway v. favoring a megacorp that has practically infinite money to burn? Whatever the deterrents are, we do have to recognize that the natural incentive is to favor the larger company, and remain cognizant of that.

We've seen a minor version of this happen with the Eastern District of Texas, which has become the go-to jurisdiction for patent trolls because they believe that judges that sit there are more sympathetic to their cases than other judges may be. The incentive exists for the circuit to encourage a "specialist" reputation, because they collect more filing fees that way, and the judges get more attention, which is a very valuable currency indeed.


It doesn't solve it entirely, but it helps.

- An attorney doesn't need to be afraid of not getting paid if they're supporting the side that is 'objectively right'. Obviously, most cases aren't crystal clear from the outset, but some are.

- The cost of bullying goes up in the cases where the bully loses.

But you are right, there are also instances where it wouldn't help much. This isn't a silver bullet, but there are good reasons why almost all other modern countries has adapted this principle.


>But does it really solve the problem of bullying?

I think it's a hard problem to reorganize the system to prevent big corporate bullying. I think any potential solution would be pretty sweeping.

One idea would be to require MegaCorp (defined maybe as $100m+ annual revenue) to pay the legal fees of the small defendant (defined maybe as <= $20m annual revenue). MegaCorp would have to bear this cost even if they won, meaning they could only sue little guys if it was really worth it. MegaCorp would pay the same amount they pay their attorneys into a trust managed by the court, which would allow the small defendant to select his own lawyers. This would ensure that both sides have equally-adequate representation.

A second solution is to lower the cost of litigation in general, which would be accomplished by de-formalization of the system and greater local sovereignty. Why does it have to take 10 years and $5 million to have a dispute settled? Companies are already trying to make something like this the de facto legal system by forcing arbitration against their helpless victims; arbitration might not be bad in theory, but under the current practice, it's an unnerving prospect, since you're going into a black hole.


I was thinking it would be effective to have a variation of your first solution. But rather than having special rules for big vs small cases, just have a rule that the instigator has to set aside money for the defendant, equal to it's own court and legal costs. Then, if they win, the defendant has to repay it (although if you are suing a tiny company, they may cease to exist after, leaving no means of collection). So, if MegaCorp sues Little Guy, Inc, and puts 5 mil into it's case, it has to stick another 5 mil into a trust account for Little Guy to use for defense. So, it better be willing to lose that much or be very certain about it's case, and Little Guy has nothing to worry about or any reason to cave unless there's a significant chance of losing, even with equal resources. Seems to me the defender should have an advantage in most cases.


One possibility is to take a mixed strategy approach. Companies facing this situation can buy into a pool, and then flip a weighted coin. If the coin comes up "fight" they get a team of heavy-hitting lawyers who will slug it out against the big corporations team of 100. This will ensure that at least some of the time, the bully will lose several million dollars. Thus, if the bully is given the odds, and motivated by their own bottom line, they may back down. You just need to turn the game theory against them.



Most contracts provide for attorneys fees to be paid by the losing party. I much prefer the "pay your own way unless otherwise agreed" method to the English rule.

Beyond the contractual method of handling attorneys fees, civil procedure rules deal with this situation: if a settlement offer of X is rejected, and the rejecting party ultimately wins an award of X-1, then they have to pay all of your legal fees. [0]

[0]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Offer_of_judgment


Loser pays doesn't help you if you have to pay your own way, possibly beyond your fiscal means, until the other side loses.


As someone who has gone thru this process, it is HORRIBLE. It distracts you constantly and upsets your life.


From one of my favorite movies, The Insider (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0140352) about Big Tobacco and Dr Jeffrey Wigand:

"I know what you're facing, Jeff. And, I think I know how you're feeling. In the Navy I flew A-6's off carriers. In combat, events have a duration of seconds, sometimes minutes. But what you're going through goes on day in and day out. Whether you're ready for it or not, week in, week out. Month after month after month. Whether you're up or whether you're down. You're assaulted psychologically. You're assaulted financially, which is its own special kind of violence because it's directed at your kids. What school can you afford? How will that affect their lives? You're asking yourself, "Will that limit what they may become?" You feel your whole family's future's compromised, held hostage. I do know how it is."

Not to mention:

"You fought for me? You manipulated me! Into where I am now - staring at the Brown & Williamson building, it's all dark except for the tenth floor. That's the legal department, that's where they fuck with my life!"


Just reading that gave me anxiety. I can imagine as much as it would make my skin crawl, i'd cave at one of the first requests from a big company like that.


Join a local credit union. Some limit membership to employees of certain companies, but many simply require that you live in the area. A credit union exists to serve its members, and members have voting power in the union. You'll generally get much better rates on loans as well.


Is there a benefit to local credit unions over the larger credit unions? I'm a member of a state-wide credit union.


My Credit union auto deducts from my savings account if my checking account does not have enough funds in it. And that doesn't cost me anything.


a smaller business can be more responsive than a bigger business

a bigger business can be more resilient than a smaller business

=> any reason you can't have an account with both?


Fun fact: In California, it is illegal to pay employees with checks drawn on a Bank of America checking account.

This is because Bank of America charges a $5 for non-customers to cash checks issued by customers, and California Labor Code Section 212 requires that paychecks be "payable in cash, on demand, without discount".


> $35.00 overdraft fees?

Overdraft fees have been opt-in since 2010 in the United States [1]. If you have a checking account opened before 2010 that opted you in without consent, you can contact them and opt-out.

Absolutely no one should be subject to overdraft fees in 2015 unless they have specifically opted in.

[1] http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/press/bcreg/2009111...


Sure, except BoA NSF/Returned Item fees are also $35, except the transaction will be declined so you won't unknowingly rack up 4 of these transactions in a day.

See https://www.bankofamerica.com/content/documents/deposits/ser... for an explanation of their practices.


This doesn't help people who opened accounts before 2010, or people who have been convinced by bank propaganda that overdrafts "protect" them.


Could you not close your account, and open a new one? Am I over-simplifying?


>or people who have been convinced by bank propaganda

We're adults. If you don't understand that you'll be charged a fee for spending more than you have in your chequing account, maybe personal finance isn't for you.


The thing is that we are all human. I can think of two instances where I have accidentally overdrawn my accounts in spite of having available funds in my attached savings accounts.

Both times were when moving. Most people do not enjoy moving. It's tiring. There are a lot of moving parts. Two of these times, I had forgotten to move money from my savings account to the checking account to cover the check for the deposit. This drained my checking account. However, my credit union will waive overdraft fees if the attached savings account has the available funds to cover the transaction. I feel like this is a very reasonable option to give customers instead of slapping on $35 fees immediately, because overdraft fees add up quickly.

In my example, say that I overdrew my account for the deposit, went to get gas, then ran inside the gas station for a snack. That's three transactions totaling an additional $105. Not because I'm bad at personal finance - I know how much money I had, but because in the whirlwind of activity, I forgot to move funds from one account to the next.

This isn't to say that banks should never get paid for covering your mistakes. They are not in the business of handing out free money, and it's very myopic to think there should never be overdraft penalties under any circumstances. I like to think of the way my credit union does it as a compromise between the two extremes.


They tried to sell it as a benefit to me. I was so flabbergasted by how stupid the attempt was that I didn't know how to respond. These days I think I would just curse them out. Yes it is their job and they were just told to do it by someone higher up, but I've never bought the 'just doing my job' defense.


Bank of America closed down my business checking accounts last week, right before I went away on holiday. No access to ATM, no way to deposit or make payments.

When I tried to find out the reason why, they literally said "we don't have to provide a reason". Keep in mind I've had these checking accounts for 15 years.

So yeah, Fuck Bank of America!


They did pretty much exactly the same here with our corporate account on the 24th. Had to spend 6 hours(!) Monday to get it unfrozen and don't actually know if it worked yet...


They did the same to our account, and informed us that they had sent an account shutdown warning notice to an address with no zip code.

Then they reminded us that they do not have have to provide a reason, a month after they sent the letter, and of course after we called them.


Sometimes they can't provide a reason, if it was taken down because of the PATRIOT act. But it's BofA, so instead of giving them the benefit of the doubt I'll assume they're just being evil.


How often does this happen...?


Because they don't want patent trolls extorting them.

Let's say I patent one of these myself and BofA develops anything with cryptocurrency. I can go to them and say they are violating my patent and they can either pay me $75,000 or we can go to court. Going to court costs them more than $75k, so they would settle.

It is much cheaper to file the bogus patent yourself upfront then to be extorted later. Challenging a bullshit patent is often far more expensive than settling, but exceedingly more expensive than a patent application.

So no, they likely won't sue anyone else.


>Because they don't want patent trolls extorting them.

Both they and patent trolls can file bogus patents covering the same ideas. The system is that bad. The patent office just grants and assumes the courts will sort it all out.

Having patents is zero defense against trolls. Trolls make nothing and have nothing to cross license or lose. It is only a defense against another company that is patenting and making things in you industry.


Its almost as if the patent office should be disbanded entirely. The courts will sort it all out.


Some countries have this system, e.g., I think Belgium at least used to grant patents without examination. A patentee would then sue and the validity would be taken up for the first time upon suit.


I am under the impression that it is an easier defense (at least "we patented this because that's what we're doing, so either your patent which postdates ours is the same, so it's invalid, or not, so we're not infringing it"), even if you don't get to countersue a non-troll competitor. That is, while you still have to go to court against a troll, having your own duplicate patent means you're less likely to lose, which is even more onerous than just paying for lawyer time.

(I don't base this on any particular courtroom experience with this, though, so maybe I'm totally wrong.)


>Trolls make nothing and have nothing to cross license or lose.

Rightly said, patent trolls just seeks for the opportunities to exploit a company's portfolio and gain some settlement bucks from them.

However I am a little confused about how patenting bitcoins is going to affect us/industry/other banks? if they are not going to sue anyone.


> It is much cheaper to file the bogus patent yourself upfront then to be extorted later.

No, it's much cheaper to publish your idea in sufficient detail where a) it can be easily found by examiner searches and b) a clear priority date can be established. With the advent of Google, even something as simple as a blog post can count, though establishing the date could be trickier.

See:

http://patents.stackexchange.com/questions/83/how-to-make-an...

http://www.defensivepublications.org/defensive-pubs-faqs


These days it seems rare that examiners find anything other than existing patents... Perhaps its because they are overworked, underpaid, and actually incentivised to process as many patents as possible. By most standards, when it comes to legal verisimilitude of anything found on the internet as far I can see... If it didnt come from your own database of stuff... you cant trust it. So why would the patent examiner even bother opening google if he cant legally trust it.

I'd love some proof that examiners actually search outside the USPTO database, not references to their guidelines etc that imply they should, actual proof they do.


Examiners do cite non-patent literature (NPL), and yes they can trust Google. I have seen rejections that literally have a screen-cap of Google search results.

But yes, NPL is rarer than patent prior art citations ("Determinants of Patent Quality" by Bhaven Sampat is one study that has some numbers). This is primarily because patents are already authored, classified and organized in a way that examiners can easily search, so they typically find the necessary "ammo" they need to make a rejection more quickly there.


The most egregious example of trolling I've witnessed involves a case where wifi patent trolls have sued end user businesses (think hotels, coffee shops) which own and use routers. They did so intentionally because small businesses were not likely to go to court and just sent the troll money to "settle".

At least the legal system seems to have moved towards more heavily punishing blatant trolls more recently. I would hate to see what trolls get their claws sunk into if blockchain tech is heavily adopted for financial transactions.

Source for wifi trolling

http://www.essentialpatentblog.com/2013/04/innovative-wirele...


The thing is, big banks are historically no more trustworthy or benevolent than patent trolls. Mentioning a plausibly non-evil motivation for these patents is only reassuring if there's any reason to believe BoA wouldn't also use them for evil if they thought they could make a buck.


The best way to get a bank to change their behavior is to remove your money from the bank. By keeping it there, you basically are telling them it is okay to do this.


The best way to change the behavior of any institution is to defund it and cut their income off at the root. The beauty of Bitcoin is that there is no such easy kill switch like this. This is the current money systems worst bug, and (sometimes) the current money system's greatest feature: the ability to press a kill switch on any organization, legitimate or otherwise. There are some organizations which by their very nature can be agreed upon to be truly unsavory and need to be be defunded at every opportunity. It's not so black and white. Wikileaks likes to complain about the banking blockade, but entirely overlooks how the banks can also cut off any number of unsavory organizations at the root which is why the banks have persisted for some time.

This is not rooting for the banks, but it is also not rooting for bitcoin either, where for it not for the criminals latching on to Bitcoin at such an early stage, it would not have gained the media hysteria it has in recent years.


Oh they might. Luckily Patrick Byrne of Overstock.com has a couple of passions. One is defeating patent trolls in court, the other is crypto currency.


The only time I felt at all cared for by a bank was when I had an account at a small local bank with a handful of branches.


>$12.00 maintenance fee every month for holding my money?

Go elsewhere, or store your money under your mattress if that's more convenient for you. Who makes you bank with them?

>$35.00 overdraft fees?

It's a short term loan, albeit an expensive one. Should it be free? Perhaps thy should just NSF the payment? They can if you tell them to.


Mind blowingly, or not - BofA will charge you $35 for the privilege of printing "DECLINED" on a pinpad terminal.

There is the greater issue, to be sure of managing finances, but charging this fee on -electronic- transactions is highway robbery. Just say "DECLINED" and go on your way.

Oh, and for shits and giggles - Declined? Your friendly helpful cashier may say "Oh, it didn't go through" and swipe your card again. Ding. Now you have SEVENTY dollars in NSF fees.

Good luck getting that fee dropped too. "One courtesy fee reversal per customer per year".


That's a good point on the cashier swiping it again. Probably better off configuring mobile alerts to be aware of the overdraft and just letting the overdraft occur.


BoA NSF fees are also $35, except the transaction will be declined so you won't unknowingly rack up 4 of these transactions in a day.

See https://www.bankofamerica.com/content/documents/deposits/ser... for an explanation


Find a local credit union. They'll pay you interest with no fees for holding your money (aka using your money to invest and making money with your money).


You haven't discovered Credit Unions yet?


Switch banks. I recommend schwab.


+1 for Charles Schwab. I recommend the high yield investor checking account. All ATM fees (anywhere in the world) refunded at EOM, no minimum balances, amazing customer support via phone/live chat. I've never had to wait longer than 30 seconds to talk to a human when calling.


Yep. Pretty much my experience as well. The best way to describe schwab is "it just works." I don't even notice that I have a bank account any longer. It's great.


You have other options. Credit unions are particularly awesome.


Looking forward to reading these patents to learn their cutting-edge blockchain implementation for making a $1 overdraft accrue $35 in fees.


That's a different form of "mining."


"to mine" =def (trans.) the act of declaring exclusive ownership rights of an object for the speaker of the sentence.


why downvote? it is funny.


Because they're Old Guards.


Someone smarter than me, please explain: are they seriously just trying to patent bitcoin, which already exists? Or are they inventing new ideas that can be done with blockchain technology?


These are the patents they are applying for:

http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=H...

Some of them seem remarkably frivolous:

>System and Method for Wire Transfers Using Cryptocurrency

>[...] The processor can transfer the first quantity of the cryptocurrency to a second cryptocurrency exchange and initiate the sale of the first quantity of the cryptocurrency at the second cryptocurrency exchange. The processor is further able to initiate the transfer of at least a portion of the resulting currency to a recipient.


Actually here is what they are trying to claim (formatted for easier readability:

1. A system comprising:

a memory operable to: store a customer account associated with a customer;

and a processor communicatively coupled to the memory, the memory including executable instructions that upon execution cause the system to:

receive an electronic request for a fund transfer from the customer;

initiate a debit of a first amount of a first currency from the customer account;

determine whether using cryptocurrency is optimal;

in response to determining using cryptocurrency is optimal:

transfer the first amount of the first currency into an account associated with a first cryptocurrency exchange;

initiate the purchase of a first quantity of a cryptocurrency from the first cryptocurrency exchange, wherein the first quantity of cryptocurrency is equivalent to the first amount of the first currency;

transfer the first quantity of the cryptocurrency to a second cryptocurrency exchange;

initiate, essentially simultaneously as the initiation of the purchase, the sale of the first quantity of the cryptocurrency at the second cryptocurrency exchange, wherein the sale of the first quantity of cryptocurrency results in a second amount of a second currency;

and communicate a message to a local automated clearing house, the message requesting a transfer of at least a portion of the second amount of the second currency to a recipient.

Even better formatting available here: https://patents.google.com/patent/US20150262173

Seems to me the only thing different from existing systems is the step of determining "whether using cryptocurrency is optimal". Shouldn't be hard to find a reference that does the same for conventional currencies and make an argument for obviousness.


>Some of them seem remarkably frivolous:

As are most patent filings (including some of my own)


>As are most patent filings (including some of my own)

Why file them, then? (The fact that you admitted to it suggests you have a valid and ethical reason to do so.)


If a professional hockey player thought checking made the game needlessly violent, that wouldn't mean they could stop checking and remain competitive in the game they loved. The pragmatic option would be to keep playing the game, checking included, and advocate for change.


> Why file them, then?

"Don't hate the player, hate the game."


That's the modern day equivalent of "I was just following orders".


Not where patents are concerned.

If I join up with the Nazis, the Nazis are stronger.

If I file a patent, one more idea might go unclaimed by a major corp. Unless I am litigious on their level, the patent will hurt fewer people.


Yes, having your employer file a patent on your work (whether you want them to or not) is very much like taking part in the killing of humans through starvation, experimentation, and gas chambers.


While his comparison was clumsily drawn from Nazi participants, I think we can agree that the idea of blind participation is something worth criticizing. The reason corporations wield so much power is because everyone is willing to undercut everyone else.


Fair enough (enough to click the up arrow for a point well made), though I don't think participation in the patent system is quite as clear-cut. Gassing Jews? The vast majority would agree that this goes to the far end of the "evil" scale, if not defining the maximum of that scale. Having your employer patent your work? Meh, I'm pretty sure opinions will fail all over the scale, including the "good" end or at least the "still better than kicking puppies" part of the scale. For instance, I personally find software patents to be pointless and perhaps suppressing of innovation, but I don't get terribly rabid about it. But you're right, blind participation is certainly worthy of criticism, even if I don't necessarily agree that any participation is wrong.


How about drug patents, resulting in thousands of deaths because people in the developing world can't make and afford cheap alternatives?

And no, those patents (and the inflated prices) don't happen just to overcompensate for the "cost of research/FDA approval". The drug company often still has healthy, or rather ridiculously large, profit margins, on top of these costs.


How about drug patents

I believe the context was software patents.


They can file and be granted a patent on your work against your will. The system specifically accounts for companies that need to file a patent on the work of a "non-cooperating inventor".

As an employee, your refusal will probably get you fired (since you probably agreed to cooperate with patents in your contract) and burn bridges, and all it does is force them to spend a few extra hours on paperwork.

A previous employer wanted to patent some of my work, and I tried to use this as leverage to get them to implement something like Twitter's "Innovator's Patent Agreement", Google's "Open Patent Non-Assertion Pledge", or Paul Graham's "Patent Pledge" - only to find out that I didn't really have any leverage. I at least did manage to get it discussed, but ultimately it was rejected. This was a factor (though a minor one) in my decision to leave there.


"I was just following orders" is not just about purges and/or the holocaust as you imply (something the parent didn't explicitly state).

It has been a standard excuse in tons of other, smaller scale, wrongdoings.

Besides, while having your employee file a patent on your work is not similar to those cases you mention in the scale of harm it causes, it's very much the same exact excuse used there.


"don't hate the employee, hate the employer"

That sums it up for me.


Because you're confident that your employer will only use them defensively, and because the system is broken enough that it's genuinely advantageous to good people to have hopelessly vague patents that appear to a judge to cover their inventions.

(That said, my own patent applications probably went to the highest bidder after the sponsoring employer collapsed. So maybe I shouldn't have been so confident they'd remain in good hands.)


The question of future control is why, being involved in patents without some form of contract in place that prevents abuse being in place, bothers me. I maybe trust current management not to be dicks, but trusting all plausible future management not to be dicks is naive.


In theory, you only have to trust for the few years that the patent is valid.


The excerpt you mentioned sounds exactly like the Coinbase Shift Card [0] with the exception that it's via Wire instead of ACH.

[0] https://support.coinbase.com/customer/portal/articles/222864...


I'm guessing "ordinary paper process that we've been doing since 1750 but in teh blockchainz!"


> I'm guessing "ordinary paper process that we've been doing since 1750 but in teh blockchainz!"

Didn't the Supreme Court decisively swat down that sort of thing (i.e. "but do it on a computer" patents)?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_Corp._v._CLS_Bank_Int'l


That's not the most accurate interpretation of Alice, but it can be approximated as such. However, I cannot think of a comparable analogy in history to blockchains, so I don't know if Alice can be directly applied.


I don't think they would be foolish enough to patent Bitcoin. I would assume they would Lose due to prior art if it were ever challenged. My guess is that they like the block chain idea and they are innovating around that concept in a way that could benefit them.


I don't think there is a downside (to them) for trying to patent Bitcoin. Worst case, the application is denied. Best case (for them), it's approved. From that perspective, it's not foolish for them to try.


> I would assume they would Lose due to prior art if it were ever challenged.

Only if challenged within 6 months after the patent application was published: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leahy-Smith_America_Invents_Ac...


Not a Lawyer, but I'm pretty sure the 6 months timeline for third party submission of prior art applies directly to the patent. In other words the patent office will directly revoke the patent if it is notified of prior art before 6 months. The court system could still be used to determine that prior art invalidates a patent. Kindof a shitty rule, but the patent office doesn't have the resources to be overseeing every patent dispute -- it is essentially for the courts to decide. Speaking of which. Is there a crowd sourcing site for "here are the patents that have recently been approved -- what is prior art?" to help reign in patent craziness?


Could any person notice the USPTO of prior art on those patent? Perhaps it is that simple?


From that article, I get the impression that the 6-month limit only applies to direct submission of prior art to the Patent Office. Patents can still be invalidated by prior art in court.


Mostly just applying for patents for existing technology/novel uses for Bitcoin, so that someone else doesn't beat them to it in case the technology turns out useful. Filing patents is a pretty cheap way of ensuring you don't end up the victim of patent lawsuits in future (for large corporations at least).


How someone is allowed to patent something that already exists is beyond me? What is the patent office doing over there? I don't think they are doing their jobs properly if Bank of America was allowed to patent technology they didn't create.


This is because you (and most people here) fundamentally misunderstand how patents work and what these patents actually cover. Essentially, there are an infinite number of applications, variations and implementations of any given technology, and each of these may potentially be patent-eligible. The patent office's job is to only grant those that are sufficiently distinguishable over some combination of prior art.


>How someone is allowed to patent something that already exists is beyond me

Obviously because the patent process is just a timestamp thing that says "I've registered this idea at this time".

It's then up to the court to rule on a any clashes, e.g. when somebody else has a similar registration from an earlier time.


Patents are supposed to be rejected before they are granted if they don't meet the requirements for patentability, though. To do otherwise destroys the value of patents for anyone but the wealthiest corporations.


> To do otherwise destroys the value of patents for anyone but the wealthiest corporations.

You may be on to something there.


Don't get me wrong, I think Bitcoin is an amazing technical (and economic) wonder.

But after starting (and quitting) a BTC business with a guy, and getting a BTC-related patent with another guy, I've come to the conclusion that blockchain technologies are a solution looking for a problem, and the only current problem being solved is how to illegally move money.

This is of course a standard thing to say for someone who's just come across BTC (like a savvy old businessman friend of mine) but I've actually looked at the code, talked to people who wanted BTC (a couple of nerds and an army of drug dealers / drug customers), and so on for a long while.

All the blockchain uses I've come across have seemed to be bolt-on hype motivated rather than genuine uses of the technology. I'm even doing a standard web project for a guy who thinks it will be useful to keep track of stuff in containers. I come from the finance industry, so I think I also know a bit about the requirements there, and they don't need it.

So let's look at what blockchain technology lets you do:

1) You get an indelible wall that grows every 10 minutes. You can write whatever you like on it. Well, that's great but you can do that with a normal database. It's well known how to do it, there's backup processes, security, various consistency measures, scaling, and so on that are established.

2) You don't need to run your own database. This is great if you don't want the network to be closed due to malfunction or police intervention. But banks already know how to run a database, they have hordes of people doing that. And they have to comply with information requests from the authorities. And someone, somewhere needs to have all the records, which they will want compensation for. I suggest AWS and the likes (in house), running an old fashioned DB would require orders of magnitude less compensation for similar amounts of traffic.

3) The network automates the ledger system so we don't need as many back office staff. Well, there's no magic here. If you write a blockchain for securities operations, the logic still needs to be written by someone. There's existing protocols for this kind of stuff, and there's existing automation at the banks for processing this stuff. Even if you decide to go blockchain, you will have to meet with the other banks to make sure everyone agrees so they'll want to be on the same chain. You're still going to need back office staff to make sure the inputs and outputs make sense.

Anyway, I've yet to see a blockchain use that both requires and is improved by using the blockchain.


For some business needs, the Blockchain makes no sense.

That being said, here's my devils advocate for your 3 complaints:

1.) Yes, you can make your servers redundant, and keep them up 24/7, or you can use the pay as you go model with the Blockchain. The difference is like keeping a car idling vs. using an electric car.

2.) Writing things to the Blockchain can be very beneficial compared to your own database. Ownership of offline things like bikes can be done with a Bluetooth/NFC chip and a bitcoin address. Also for online transactions, it provides a tamper-free source of truth.

3.) You argue that someone would still have to write the logic for the Blockchain apps. That's definitely true but the impact of a Blockchain startup might replace a higher ratio of jobs than you expect. (Like Kodak vs. Instagram numbers)

Give it time, it's still early to call it a bust just yet.


1) Servers costs barely anything to run these days. Heck I've got several just for messing about with code.

2) My patent is about something like this. Sure, it works, I actually did this with NFCs and an Andriod app. But it's a heck of a lot easier just to ask a REST API who owns this NFC. Tamper proofing can be done using pieces of bitcoin (like ECDSA) without using the blockchain. Then you're just back to using a PKI.

3) The question is whether there's anything actually new here. Computers came to wall street a long, long time ago. You'd think most of the gains have already been made. Back office has been decimated over recent decades. It might continue, sure, I'm open to that suggestion.

I'm not declaring a bust; I think something will come of it. But the things I've seen up to now don't seem to need it. Something like that DNS idea, that wasn't bad. But I do see a lot of business types hyping the blockchain, and I don't think it's entirely thought through.


currently creating a smart contracts application on a private blockchain and came to a similar thought as your #2

> using pieces of Bitcoin

ECDSA is great, have you run across any db's using it? Seems like a great component to extract from the blockchain craze


Well, you can just glue a signature to a row of data manually. As long as you know how to concat/Merkle/hash the info together it provides the same guarantees.


You might have looked at the code but i dont think you know what you are looking at. comparing it to a database is just silly.

There is no "state", the state gets created and verified by transactions. What this means is that integrity of the system does not depend on a central unit, it hinges on the environment.

hard to spoil a frikking appletree


I think one big use of blockchain like tech will be in XVA [1], specifically CVA. The faster you settle, the lower the counterparty risk and funding requirements. There's good article (admittedly from a biased party) covering this in ibtimes [2]

[1] http://www.risk.net/risk-magazine/opinion/2422606/-smart-der... (not sure if this is paywalled or not)

[2] http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/setls-peter-randall-says-banks-bloc...


It's paywalled.

The problem isn't fundamentally changed by having transactions on a blockchain. You either ask the blockchain who has what assets, or you set up some other system to do the same. The problem isn't that they need the information distributed, that can be done by any number of existing technologies.


You seem to outright ignore the most important part of the blockchain: The "wall" is shared between multiple parties and each party can verify the changes.

As for value, consider that even for legal businesses in many countries even getting bank accounts set up is a massive pain, and being able to take online payments even more so. It can be a distraction from anything from days to weeks or even months. In two different companies I've worked on billing we ended up having to implement multiple payment processor backends because we needed to be ready ASAP after getting approval, and so started one integration only to get rejected, started another, and so on. Months of aggregate developer time wasted because there was no immediate way of guaranteeing we'd be able to take payment via a specific provider. It's getting better, but slowly.

International wire transfers is another "fun" one, which is usually slow, expensive or both, and with lots of arbitrary limitations (e.g. I once had my old bank refuse to transfer funds directly to a customer of a specific Russian bank - this was not during a period of any kind of sanctions; instead I had to wire to an account held by the Russian bank in a US bank, with instructions to move the funds on to the recipient account). My Norwegian bank at the time had no objections to facilitating that transfer, knowing full well that the funds would still end up the same place, but it did mean I had to waste extra time getting the recipient to talk to his bank to figure out the "workaround" and then going back to my bank with the details.

There is significant amount of friction in traditional banking, and even providing tools for mitigating that (or forcing the banks into fixing that to compete) would provide huge value. Maybe the downsides will continue to outweigh the possible benefits, maybe not.

> Even if you decide to go blockchain, you will have to meet with the other banks to make sure everyone agrees so they'll want to be on the same chain.

A big difference is that you can opt to bypass the bank for a number of services. Many won't want to, but for others it provides more flexibility in e.g. picking software vendors over a bank intermediary, or creating custom solutions.

(And yes, that leaves plenty of opportunities for people to lose money by doing it wrong too - we have years to go before we'll see what the fallout is and which areas this works well enough)


> You seem to outright ignore the most important part of the blockchain: The "wall" is shared between multiple parties and each party can verify the changes.

No, that can be done without a blockchain. The only piece you need is digital signature, an established technology. If someone hands you a block of data with a signature, you can hash it and check the signature corresponds to the purported signer.

> As for value, consider that even for legal businesses in many countries even getting bank accounts...

Yes, because there is such a thing as money laundering laws. I have a friend who is a specialist lawyer in this area, and it's actually non trivial to do KYC, especially for people from certain countries. The procedures and various banks' understanding varies as well, hence your issues. And this is an important point. If there were no restrictions (who can have an account, and what do they have to disclose), there wouldn't be much of a point in bitcoin. Everyone would just find some old bank somewhere that would give them a numbered account, and that would be that.


> No, that can be done without a blockchain. The only piece you need is digital signature, an established technology. If someone hands you a block of data with a signature, you can hash it and check the signature corresponds to the purported signer.

That's entirely insufficient, as it doesn't prove that the chain you have been given is genuine. It just proves that each transaction is signed by someone holding the right signature. Nothing in your scheme prevents multiple diverging chains. The entire point of the confirmations etc. used by blockchains is that not only each individual transaction can be verified as coming from a specific source, but that the chain as a whole can be verified to meet certain criteria - specifically in the case of e.g. Bitcoin, the criteria that it represents the view of the majority of the mining power of the network.

> Yes, because there is such a thing as money laundering laws.

That's just a small part of it. Providing sufficient information to satisfy that part is the easy part in my experience. I'm sure that would be different in some countries. If it was just about money laundering laws, it wouldn't generally be a problem.

But in my experience the much larger issue is that many banks and payment processors have a lot of policies about what kind of (legal) businesses they want to be involved with, because being an intermediary means they take on risks - whether monery or PR related - and that makes them hard to deal with if you're a small company without tons of cash, and they're not going to tell you quickly in most cases, because they are perfectly happy to bend all kinds of rules and principles if you can convince them there's enough money in it.

In the cases I've dealt with, KYC has never been the issue that has caused delays. The legal hurdles have been cleared in no-time. The issues have been over perceived business risk. And that's fair enough - these companies are businesses too and need to safeguard their own business.

> If there were no restrictions (who can have an account, and what do they have to disclose), there wouldn't be much of a point in bitcoin.

Everyone can have an account. Finding someplace to get an account is trivial if you have nefarious purposes in mind. Heck, with enough money (around $500k last I checked, probably higher now) you can get a fully legally registered bank in a suitably off-shory location, complete with nominee directors and the ability to do your own wire-settlement.

The issue is the hassle involved with getting business banking accounts and associated merchant accounts and a payment processor to service it in a developed country, without lots of waiting or paying truly extortionate rates.


> That's entirely insufficient, as it doesn't prove that the chain you have been given is genuine. It just proves that each transaction is signed by someone holding the right signature. Nothing in your scheme prevents multiple diverging chains. The entire point of the confirmations etc. used by blockchains is that not only each individual transaction can be verified as coming from a specific source, but that the chain as a whole can be verified to meet certain criteria - specifically in the case of e.g. Bitcoin, the criteria that it represents the view of the majority of the mining power of the network.

No, this is wrong. I can sign a chain of transactions (Merkle tree is used in BTC as well), and you will know it came from me. If I'm a central authority, I can keep signing it in all of perpetuity, and it will be verifiably from me. As long as you trust the signer, it's very simple.

The reason Bitcoin is different is because you want to be able to have different signers doing each block. The way bitcoin does it is through clever incentives: miners only believe that other miners care about the longest chain, and they want to sign that last block because then the other miners will recognise their mined coins.


Many big companies file patents for defensive reasons and do not pursue offensive activities. If BoA thought they might use a block chain in the future for example, having a patent can neutralize the threat of a competitor limiting their ability to use that method to support business activities. It's sort of a mutually assured distruction approach.


At least some use publications like http://www.researchdisclosure.com/ instead. I know the print edition at least used to exist and have subscribers because there were some shelves of it in the local university library.


I guarantee you, the minute someone is making a shitload of money off something related to their patent, there will be "offensive activity".


they could publically announce that's what they are doing, or transfer them to a company that holds them, like RPX.


I expect this is an insurance move: iterate through the cross-product of bitcoin concepts and current banking tech, eliminate the nonsensical pairings, and make plausible applications for the remainder. That way they cover their bases in case there's something game-changing lurking within.


It is going to be hard to monitize blockchain just like torrents.I think it is best developed by a non for profit that is funded by some major players to keep it unbias and trustworthy to the benifit of market participants.


Interesting tangential thought experiment: what happens when, in the near future, some AI created software violates a patent? For example a hypothetical UI optimiser algo creates a slider which happens to be patented? :)


We let that AI out of the box and point it at patent trolls.


What's a little apocalypse, so long as we take the patent trolls down with us? (And civilization, and the species...)


Just dont call it SKYNET, you be sued by Hollywood then for copyright infringement or something...


Bank of America is the Comcast of banking.


I think people should be able to vote for patent acceptance, if more than 60% of voters consider that idea is great, let company own this patent. Patent office should do research before publishing to vote. Otherwise people can patent everything.

- Technology the Sun uses to shine, technology and methods for light which creates light space in dark space.

- Internal structure of fingers to click mouse/keyboard

- State of the mind before buying something ...


Doesn't sound realistic. Have you seen text of any patent? It is completely unreadable to normal people. I always thought that ToS or legislations look bad, but usually they put all definitions in one place. In patents all of that is inlined, 20 words phrase instead of just "computer". Having some domain knowledge before voting could also take few months or years ... BTW why do we even award patents? Seriously - if many people, in many places had the same idea, on their own, why should we grant a monopoly to one of them? That would probably require some replacement system for drugs, we don't want the ingredients to be secret but I don't how exactly should it work.


Following is my unsubstantiated theory about recent bank involvement in bitcoin: The banks won't go down without a fight. They're setting up a legal minefield for bitcoin entrepreneurs. I doubt they'll use these patents other than to protect the status quo. If the patent minefield doesn't work, they'll capture the market by investing in their own ringfenced version of the blockchain (see "the open ledger project") and PR the hell out of it to ensure that it gets adopted rather than someone else's.

Granted, their strategy won't work if they can't influence adoption or sue the pants off of startup competitors.

Again, this is just a theory. Maybe they really do all of a sudden want to spend millions on something that does basically what their existing services do except they can't control. /sarcasm


I think you're heading in the wrong direction. First, I think they are buying these for protection, so they can experiment with blockchain tech and no get sued.

Second, I think they want this for inter-bank commerce, not for end users. It makes more sense to implement for banks as a way for them to exchange monies between themselves, at least, at first.


Protection against whom, Satoshi Nakamoto? And why should they use it for interbank transactions? Isn't there already a working interbank transactions system?


It's not surprising that banks are interested in blockchain technology, if not necessarily Bitcoin itself. Patenting technology is very common by these companies and it is almost always a protection measure against them being sued for using it.


It brings me great joy to watch as the world's banking institutions become the atavisms of our time. What is so innovative or patentable about a distributed database? Bitcoin is the only real innovation and it needs not said institutions.


Great ammo for suing future competitors in the financial space.


That generally not how corporations use patents. Patent trolls - yes, but patents are almost always a defense.


Depends on the corporation. The tech industry tends to be pretty good about using patents defensively, but there are notable exceptions. For example, Akamai has built a reputation of suing every new startup that enters the CDN space for patent infringement (Limelight, Speedera, Cotendo, etc). Ask any VC in the valley to fund your CDN biz and they'll ask you what your patent portfolio looks like and how big of a war chest you're building to fight the inevitable lawsuits.


and for nudging negotiations in the right direction.


This is exactly why I posted in a previous thread that OSS projects and even public domain stuff need to patent their ass off. They should collect it into nonprofits that defend OSS institutions. Aside from self-defense, the main reason to patent all this stuff is so the big companies can't. This example shows they will do it any opportunity they can for anti-competitive purposes.


Is the bitcoin community large enough to support a nonprofit like that? How many patent lawyers would they need and how much would that cost?


I have no idea. I'd start with organizations like FSF and Apache plus companies that benefit from OSS like Red Hat. Any key, differentiating innovations in their projects or dependencies would be up for patenting. Then, reviewers would look at the strategic importance of the techs to prioritize them. Then, they'd patent as many as their budget allows.

That's a start.


But Bank of America did not invent Bitcoin so there has to be prior art. I think the banks realise that with bitcoin tech consumers do not need banks anymore. You do not need a bank to trade stocks, to change currency.

Basically how can you get patents for someone else invention?


The article didn't say that they are trying to file patents for blockchain.

The article says that they are trying to file patents _related_ to blockchain.

Surely, if they actually invent something new on top of existing technology, they can file a patent for that?


Maybe they want to win time against competitors with "patent pending" products (regardless if they ll be granted the patent). Does that mean they are working on bitcoin products? Have they announced anything?


Is there a way for the public to challenge a patent application during the process? If there isn't, what would be the most expedient way of getting such a step added to the application process?



That's sick. They clearly abuse the patent system to ban competition threat here. It's another clear demonstration that software patents shouldn't exist.


Doesn't Warren Buffett own a large percentage of BOA? This is the Buffett strategy, use the public sphere to allow private entities to acquire monopoly power. He did this with his opposition to the Keystone Pipeline so that his trains would benefit from the need to move oil in that corridor.


Buffett owns about a quarter of Berkshire Hathaway, which owns warrants to purchase about a 10% stake in Bank of America at a deep discount to the current price. Berkshire does not currently have voting rights because the warrants haven't been exercised. That's not to say Buffett can't or doesn't influence Bank of America, but it is much more of distant relationship than, for example, the dozens of operating companies whose CEOs report to Buffett. It seems a stretch to imagine him involved at this level at all.


Doesn't Warren own more parts in other banks? So is he like controlling banks?


Berkshire, which Buffett manages and effectively controls, owns insurance companies and a mortgage lender outright. Berkshire also has stakes in publicly traded banks including US Bank, Wells Fargo, and American Express (they converted into a deposit-taking bank company in the wake of the financial crisis). Then there's Bank of America, in which Berkshire has warrants to buy a stake < 10%, but they likely won't be exercised until they're about to expire.

Beyond this, managers and policy makers listen when Buffett talks/writes; an outcome of his 50-year track record in investing and managing at Berkshire. I personally don't think there's anything sinister going on.

You can get a really good overview of Berkshire as a company, including its operating companies, investment philosophy, and current investment holdings from the annual letters that Buffett writes: http://berkshirehathaway.com/letters/letters.html

If you want to see exactly what securities Berkshire owns, you can look up the 13F filings on http://edgar.sec.gov


Control is a magic word and requires certain minimum percentages of shares to be held.


Yes but then there is that percentage 8 to 10% he owns in large banks which means he will have say in what banks do atleast unofficially.


I've been thinking recently that powerful people treating the real world like a game is possibly one of the most destructive forces in society.


It depends entirely what their end goal is.

To make money with no regards to anything else? Yes, they are dangerous to the human race and should be treated as the absolute worst terrorists possible.

However, if their end goal is to actually leave the world a better place than when it was when they were born, and it just happens it takes being one of the richest people ever to do that? More power to them, and I hope they succeed.

Not all rich and powerful people are assholes, some just want to make the world less shitty, and some actually succeed at it.


By "treat like a game" I mean, play to win, with winning defined as beating the other guy.

I arrived at this line of though when I started wondering why would the head decision makers of (for example) trafigura decide to horribly pollute the Ivory coast just so they can squeeze out a bit of extra profit, when they are all already super-rich. You can only enjoy so many yachts and so on. I arrived at the conclusion that their motivation is not to get more money per se, its to beat the other guys.


ps. Above is just the product of my idle musings. One thing that is very interesting and related and certainly worth mentioning is one of the elements of Jared Diamonds framework for societal collapse: Decision makers being insulated from the negative consequences of their decisions.


duh power > money


It's not the game that's the problem, it's their objectives: to gain as much power as possible.


> so that his trains would be the only option to move oil in that corridor.

Not sure how true this is. There are other options, including the using the Canadian Pacific Railway, which also operates in that corridor.


We can never be "sure" of these things, but here's an article that provides some background to my claim: http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2015/03/08/obama-did-w...


Here is another fool.com article suggesting other Canadian railroads that can also transport the oil (and are doing so). Including your own article, there is hardly a hint of monopoly.

http://www.fool.ca/2015/09/04/will-a-keystone-rejection-bene...


Article text: patents are RELATED to blockchain

Headline: patents for TECHNOLOGY BEHIND bitcoin

Comments on HN: OMG THEY ARE PATENTING SOMETHING ALREADY INVENTED, EVIL STUPID BANKS, EVIL STUPID PATENTS, EVIL STUPID LAWS

Yes, their patents include descriptions of already known tech, but at first glance, these two actually look like new and interesting stuff:

http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=H...

http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=H...


Please don't use uppercase for emphasis on HN.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


No, the main points of these already exists and is called multisig with a copayer being the bank and accepting or denying transaction proposals based on some rules.


So, this is one existing tech combined with another existing tech?


This is something already built.


Risk scores for blockchained-based transactions were already built by someone else? Interesting, I wasn't aware of that. Can you please provide a link?


Yes, sure: Sig3 (https://sig3.io) and CryptoCorp (https://cryptocorp.co/). One of my companies work with Sig3.


Huh, never heard of it. Thanks.

It seems that while these patents should not be granted, one should know what's happening in the field to know that these technologies already exist, wouldn't you agree? My original point about "on first glance" and hysteria about "Bank of America PATENTED BLOCKCHAIN" still stands.


Indeed. Perhaps instead of griping, the correct answer is to read the patents and file objections if they are already obvious or patent something already known (especially if in the public domain, like bitcoin).


TITCR


None of that shit looks new or interesting.


Even if that is true, it hasn't been examined yet and it hasn't issued as a patent. Patent Publications just print whatever someone filed. So, if you wanted to waste money, you could file a patent on the wheel, and 18 months later it would publish as a pre-grant publication. That doesn't grant you a patent to the wheel.


May be I'm not aware of all that blockchain does, but does it really provide risk scores based on transaction histories?


> [The] claims must meet relevant patentability requirements, such as novelty, usefulness, and non-obviousness. (wikipedia)

Novelty may be fulfilled, but like in many software patents, the “non-oblivious” part is really questionable here.


Questionable — agreed. This doesn't make it something that was already implemented.


> This doesn't make it something that was already implemented.

That's exactly my point : because it's already implemented doesn't mean you can register a patent on it. You cannot register “obvious” things, even if nobody uses it already.


I never said that they should be granted these patents. I'm not an expert. It _seemed_ to me that it was new and interesting; now I see how I was wrong about that, yes.

But my main point was that these patents are not obvious bullshit of patenting the blockchain principle itself.




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