A lawyer who becomes mayor is still a lawyer. A doctor who runs a phamacology company is still a doctor. And yes, and engineer who founds a company still retains the core skills and prestige of their hardwon profession.
Or at least, I think they should.
Outside the US, engineering is the same. Within the US, there is no formal board for software engineerig but we can at least informally say one is an engineer if other engineers would recognize them as such. I know people whom graduated bootcamps and could qualify as engineers, albiet inexperienced ones, and those who have finished 4 years of schooling but cannot practice engineering.
The guy in the article was inducted into the Academy of Science and Engineering at 34. Whether that makes him pretigious or not isn't the question, but there is no doubt in my mind that he is an engineer.
A software developer is an engineer the same way a janitor is a sanitation engineer.
The reference to the "95+ page document of complex legal argumentation"? That's evidence in support of the claim in the comment. Parent didn't make up that it's a complex lengthy legal document themselves.
Sure, the theory that he was a strawman might or might not pan out. But that this is no simple "engineer vigilante" is evident. Perhaps it's a very organized vigilante with big resources (and the money mentioned also point to that). But such a move is not above suspicion of some other corporate entity being involved. Should anybody thinking so just keep it to themselves? Or are people that might agree at fault if they vote such a comment up?
>But that this is no simple "engineer vigilante" is evident
It is not to me. It's plausible that he might not be but I haven't seen a conclusive demonstration either and I'd sooner trust Ars over "some anonymous poster on HN who says it's not true".
I tried reading the PDF provided and I found it very obtuse and verbose, but then again so are patent applications as far as I'm concerned. I'm genuinely incapable of judging the level of skill and dedication required to create something like that. If you are I'd very much like to hear about it instead of throwing vague accusations. Is is that implausible that a skilled engineer used to dealing with patents could come up with something like that on their own or with only minor outside help?
If you're going to argue against an assertion, you should include an argument.
A conspiracy theory is an explanation of an event or situation that invokes a conspiracy [...] without credible evidence.
The poster formed an opinion based on observations and gave his reasons for doing so. If you disagree with his observations, the best way to do so is to provide your reasons for disagreeing with his analysis.
The amount by which engineering egos are inflated is amazing. Guess what - being a lawyer takes a bit more work than being on a legal case for three years. Why, as opposed to engineers, there's actually a bar they are held to.
If your purpose is to pass the bar, you probably want to direct the topics of those 3 years of meeting with lawyers. If you want to specialize in patent law without concern for passing the bar, 3 years could be overkill. So you may only need to spend 1-2 days a week for 3 years meeting with patent lawyers.
Sometimes marketing people that sit with the engineers actually learn to code. It has happened at my company. Do they have all the skills someone who got a CS degree would have? Maybe not. Do they have some subset of those skills necessary for the particular tasks the team is faced with daily at this company? Sure.
Do you really think it's impossible a founder and engineer who went through a three year battle over patents could form a similar document? You'd only have to understand the assertions and have an attorney review your work. There are tons of legal reviews which end up with only one person being listed while the others are not given attribution to the document.
can a dedicated lawyer pick up some engineering books and build a bridge that can survive SF's 'Big One'?
I can tell you from witnessed experience that a "car engineer" can custom design a house, do most of the code-related work himself, and pass all relevant inspections on the first try (with flying colors and compliments from the inspector), which seems much closer in scope.
As for surviving "the big one"... it depends on how big? I'm not sure humanity in general knows how to build a bridge that could survive a dozen meters of shift between its piers. But that is a possibility in the largest conceivable earthquakes.
Except perhaps patent lawyers, which in most jurisdictions have both engineering and lawyering degrees. Or perhaps just a motivated company founder with 4 years of expertise fighting patents. Pretty far fetched I know, but perhaps one should keep a open mind...
Sure, an engineer can be a lawyer (there's no law of physics against it). But it's also much less often than this happens than an engineer NOT being a lawyer. That's the parent's argument, not that it's impossible.
I just took a look at the patent (highly recommended), and it's fairly ridiculous. It's a 101 design to control a diode with a transistor.
>The patent describes how a laser diode can be configured to emit pulses of laser light using a circuit that includes an inductor and a gallium nitride transistor. That chance discovery helped spark a lawsuit in which Waymo accused Uber of patent infringement and of using lidar secrets supposedly stolen by engineer Anthony Levandowski.
>In August 2017, Uber agreed to redesign its Fuji lidar not to infringe the 936 patent.
If "some guy" with $6000 lying around could overturn most of the patent why couldn't Uber? That's the part that baffles me.
They worked at a company which was only allowed to use certain DRM stuff if they used patent-protected encryption within the hardware. Therefore he invented some and worked with the company lawyer to get a patent.
The patent lawyers’ job includes making the patent as general as possible. The lawyer did not understand the technology, and while broadening the patent claim they accidentally changed the patent into something which already existed - a binary adder, if I remember, certainly something that simple although the details are unimportant. None of this was relevant to my acquaintance nor their employer as the mere fact that they had a patent entitled them to use the DRM.
Even lawyers are vulnerable to the game of telephone. Despite their reputation as vampires, they are very human.
But it's a terrible answer to the question "if one guy with $6000 could get this patent invalidated, why couldn't Uber?"
Nobody consulted any engineer. Just lawyers fighting each other, and the side with the biggest pockets won.
Their only job is doing whatever the client wants done. A _good lawyer_ wins a case even when it's total bollocks. The fact that it is bollocks is not a concern at any level.
What concerns me is, with such a system, when A wins a case against B, we (the vast populace) deduce that A was in the right / B was wrong.
In many cases, if A wins a case, it's just because they lied better than B. It does not prove anything more than that.
For a case like this, it would have been malpractice for Uber's lawyers not to have consulted a subject matter expert to review the patent. It's very likely that Uber will (if they have not already) be demanding reparations from their lawyers over this.
The Velodyne driver circuits are also entirely straightforward. The characteristics of inductors and capacitors are pretty well known by now. Apparently you can get a patent for using them in entirely obvious ways.
Maybe the reporting of the patent situation is a bit biased but from what I've heard over the years it appears to me that every second patent should be invalid and has prior art.
I believe paying for government services is considered a contentious issue in the USA.
more about the fee diversion
The USPTO isn't mentioned in the congressional budget resolutions
> Congress Approves $1.3 Trillion Spending Bill, Averting a Shutdown
So they have ~3.5B + 1.2B in revenue. This allocates on avg <$8K to evaluate a patent. Patent examiners likely cost ~150K/yr to employ (wages, benefits, overhead). This is $300/hr.
So an examiner has on avg ~25 hours to evaluate a possibly lengthy, complex, specialized document that often took a team many months to prepare.
That's not very much time to do the job people want them to do. The limiting factor is money.
I think you still make a valid point. The deluge of patent applications and the relatively specialized knowledge base of certain patents makes it a challenge.
If anything $150,000/examiner seems a bit low if we are trying to tie in building overhead, administration, and benefits to a per person figure.
Oops - correct :)
When isn't it? Parent was suggesting the US is underfunding the USPTO. The undisputed claim is that they got all the money they requested. If they need more money, then they should request more. My line of reasoning can be falsified by showing the USPTO didn't get all the money they requested, or that through some bureaucratic machinations submitted an insufficient budget under duress.
This quora post corroborates your napkin math
They seem to get 14-29 hours. Your implied claim is: that isn't enough time, for which you'll have to make a case because it isn't established. How much time is enough? What degree of "patent integrity" is acceptable, are there diminishing returns in spending twice as much time assessing a patent? What other federal programs should be sacrificed to make the patent system X% more accurate?
When it's time. Or skilled people. At some point there are not enough LeBron James' at any price to fill out the size roster one wants. At some point there is no physical way to spend X hours on a thing for X large enough and enough things.
So showing that money is putting a definite upper limit on a thing shows one constraint is money. It's entirely possible there are not enough people on the planet to both invent novel things and validate those inventions as novel, for certain classes of things. So I suspect in patenting, there is also a shortage of experts capable of validating a thing. I know for some patents I've been involved with, at some point in the process there was likely not another person on the planet that would understand what we/I did because sometimes the edge of knowledge is completely esoteric and the domain of one person.
Heck, there's very important math proofs right now that have gone unvetted for a decade despite all the world's experts working on it, having entire conferences and workshops dedicated to it, and they still cannot come to a conclusion about the work. I suspect such things happen in other fields as well, including patented things.
So, in a situation like that, time and/or people is the limiting factor.
>If they need more money, then they should request more.
What they view as their need to accomplish what they want to do need not be what others want them to do. They also might make the request knowing more about how their budgetary process works than outsiders.
Overall I'm fine with the system as it is, taking into account the difficulty and increased costs it would entail to make it significantly "better."
You mean like charging a fee for using the USPTO?
We need to force companies to pay a yearly "patent maintenance fee" which will pay for the governments costs in defending and enforcing patents.
We are sick of subsidizing patent enforcement for giant corporations
HN discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2102388
Also: we all owe license fees for using gravity.
"System and method for extracting value from a portfolio of assets" - a.k.a. The process of being a patent troll is patented.
The patent system is FUBAR.
He patented automated patent troll. Unfortunately, this will not hold in court.
Just like how engineers certify building plans to ensure the laws of physics are respected, patents really should need to go through some sort of peer certification review - at the submitter's expense - before it gets in front of an examiner!
You win some, you lose some. I'm not even sure which I'd prefer. It's all just fairly terrible.
Patents need to have a much shorter lifetime except when regulation is involved.
Tech patents, in general, should probably last about 5 years. If you get a patent, you should have to actively promote and license it if you want money from it. You shouldn't be able to just sit on it for decades and then nail somebody who comes out with a useful product down the road.
Medical patents probably should be a little different. They should probably be 5 years OR you can tie the patent to an FDA approval which would give you FDA approval date+5 years. But, if that particular FDA approval fails, your patent falls.
They need to stop issuing patents for basic reorganizations of existing tech. Idiotic things like a "one click checkout" or "sending email" or "packaging a media file into a podcast" should have been kicked back with a big red "denied" stamp from the USPTO after about 10 minutes of wasted time by the examiner.
Legal form of the PTO s reply
They do not seem to be checking obviousness at all.
And if this scares you may I suggest you never look up what determines if a public prosecutor takes a case or how social workers decide to go after children or psychologically ill people or not.
Just a very poor system for the money it costs and the potential outcomes to businesses who can literally go bust over a wrong decision.
I strongly agree with GP that companies should not be able to just sit on patents. The ability to literally prevent useful ways of thinking from manifesting in this world is something that goes against the core justification of the patent system.
Also, I'd like to see much bigger pressure put on quality of patents. All patents are eventually meant to go to public domain, and the public is meant to be able to recreate the invention from the text of the patent. Therefore, I believe a patent should not be granted if it isn't demonstrated that it contains all and accurate information necessary to reproduce the invention.
The nominal goal of a patent is to encourage innovation--not rent seeking.
And, if you can't monetize the patent within 5 years then maybe the patent really isn't that important or you really don't know how to implement the thing in the patent. That suggests that maybe you shouldn't be granted the patent in the first place.
Making patent terms short also has the upside that the big guys will want stricter review of patents rather than the current mess of almost universal approvals. After the big guys get burned a few times by somebody patenting something that can't actually be implemented but causes disclosure and burns up the clock on the patent they were going to file on their current product development, they will start screaming for real patent review processes.
It's better to eliminate the presumption of validity. Without that presumption, there is no need to bother with review, and patents become little more than certified timestamps.
I would love to have that much attention to detail (or even in the interest in reading through the patent).
Uber - one of the world's most valuable private companies, doesn't need help with patent law.
That's the official story, but it also sounds pretty plausible.
“I explained that I had filed an ex parte reexamination on my own and Waymo had had it for two weeks already and it didn’t seem fair that Uber didn’t have it, given it was going to trial,” explains Swildens. “But I felt the guy thought I was some crazy person who just came in off the street.”
I read a story about someone showing flaws in a USA traffic light system and he was subsequently fined for "illegal engineering" which is the most idiotic thing ever.
Going on current USA progression it won't be long before you get 10 years behind bars for "illegal engineering" in some states.
Wasn't even that long ago. https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/04/29/engineer_fined_for_...
I really don't see anything to suggests that "illegal engineering" is a trend. I don't think that discussing engineering topics should be illegal but you should be fined for lying about being a PE just as you would by saying you are a medical doctor when you really aren't.
The problem here is that we have sound engineers and special effects engineers, and I truly don't think there's a huge problem with the dilution of the term.
I personally don't like the term software engineering much, mainly because I think it's better to acknowledge that something very new has emerged, and that it really isn't a branch of engineering. I think that it shares a set of great grand parents with many engineering disciplines and a few other fields (the math department), but I think software is about as closely related to engineering as actuarial science or statistics, or maybe even quantitative economics. We have our own thing here. If we want to make it more rigorously licensed, ok, that's not a bad discussion to have, but I'd personally rather see it kept well away from engineering. I'm suspicious of degree requirements, but if we had one, a degree in math might even make more sense than than engineering.
I see a lot of this as an engineering land grab. There's all this talk about how software "engineering" is diluting the term engineering, and yeah, when you can read a book on PHP and MySql (or just the first few pages) and call yourself an engineer, that tends to happen.
But come on now, folks, let's not be excessively modest here. Incredible things are happening in software. PageRank is a work of math, not a work of engineering.
Before it strikes you as excessively paranoid, keep in mind that the patent bar specifically excludes mathematics as coursework that qualifies you to become a patent agent or lawyer. This surprises a lot of people, but yeah, someone with a degree in civil engineering can qualify to evaluate whether a new development infringes on page rank, where as someone with a BA, MA, and PhD in math? Nope, math isn't relevant to the patent bar.
The low, low quality of patent review in this field is pretty evident, and we actually go out of our way to specifically exclude people who probably have the strongest background.
Trust me, engineers will totally screw up software if they get control of licensing, and I assure you, they will absolutely exclude people with math degrees from licensing. Look, if they want to do that with structural engineering, go ahead, but they need to keep their mitts off software.
And then, the same patent is concluded to be "impossible" and "magic".
What kind of nonsense is this? How do you use or redesign to avoid using the impossible magic tech?
So much for "Do no Evil".
Oh! Someone took inspiration in real magic.
I don't see the word "magic" anywhere in the Final Rejection document. What did they say exactly?
Who on earth has that kind of scratch just lying around to spend on something like this? I mean good for him for doing it but wow!!
He said $6000 was "not a drop in the bucket" for him, so I guess he didn't get much of that.