It seems that if that didn't exist, people interested in innovating and creating great, new, things would just go to the countries that didn't have forcefully draconian IP laws.
Sure, maybe there are some advantages to having patents, but in their current form for software, they are a civil version of the thought police.
And mark my words, if MS and IBM and Apple get sued for copyright infringement, they did this to themselves. They are the ones for lobbied for this in an attempt to push the little guy out. And it was working until someone figured out that 'patent trolling' was possible.
In my opinion, patent 'trolling' is a good thing, (as long as it doesn't happen to me). Why? because the harder they troll, the more obviously broken the system will be, and the more likely it is to get fixed. Otherwise, patent litigation is basically restricted to people who already have their own huge legal departments.
I think this is really naive. People who do dishonest things and get rich from them are not regarded as a problem in America - they're celebrated as clever guys and put on Forbes magazine's cover.
Dramatic and successful reform has happened, of course. Look at Upton Sinclair, the Chicago meat-packers, and the rise of muckraker journalism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muckraker
Sometimes called "The Second Reagan tax cut", but it ended up raising overall revenue so that's something of a misnomer. It eliminated a lot of loopholes and lowered the base rates.
Unfortunately this is not realistic. A major problem of the current patents system is the amount of money invested ("zillions" of dollars); every step towards reforming it is essentially equivalent to burning (some) people's dollars in flames - there may be a good reason behind, but it's very unlikely to happen.
You're betting that the fix won't be to do something that effectively restricts patent protection to a fixed number of companies, maybe restricting patent litigation to those companies in a patent collective that, no, you can't join.
(Assuming you have a legitimate patent). Can you personally realistically sue Microsoft for patent infringement and win? No. Can a small company? No.
Why? Because the litigation would bankrupt anyone without Microsoft's coffers, and Microsoft can likely afford a better lawyer than you can anyway.
(I recall there was a movie a few years back about the guy who invented intermittent wipers and had them basically stolen by the Detroit auto-industry, it gives an interesting perspective on the matter. Basically, fighting the auto-companies ruined his life, ended his productivity as an inventor, and bankrupted him. By the time he was rewarded for his invention, he was old).
So, it is already a one way street in that regard, with the exception of patent trolls, who are large entities with lots of money which actually have the ability to sue the likes of Microsoft and Google and have a realistic chance of winning.
It should also not be discounted that patent trolls exist on the same time-scale as megacorps (potentially immortal), where as humans are extremely feeble and limited in their life-spans (last time I checked).
I'm getting very devil's advocatey here, as I really think software patents are a bad idea, in general. Copyright is already enough protection for software, patents just give entrenched entities a big bunker to hurl grenades from.
For that and other reasons, I don't think Doyle can properly be called a patent troll, if such is someone who sits on a patent until it becomes valuable and then springs out of nowhere to demand a cut of profitable businesses.
Doyle came out with his product before the patent actually issued, and offered the patent for license to the big players. They turned him down, then cried foul when he sued them for violating his patent. I don't think they can realistically claim to have been ambushed or trolled.
Reform of patent law may be a legitimate topic for debate, but Doyle played by the rules as he found them. He was up front and public about what he was doing the whole time. Every mortal effort and every conceivable argument have been made by the bigs to take him down, but the patent stands. Like everyone else, he deserves at least to have the truth spoken about him.
That being said, I have a hard time believing that they patented the "interactive web". My legalese is poor, but from what I read, all you would need is prior art where you had a basic client-server application that displayed information from a server, and allowed interaction between the two, no?
There have been many beautiful advances since then in usability, bandwidth, user base, and especially integration with outside services. None of those things constitute inventions in the sense of being technological, novel, and non-obvious.
Which doesn't stop absolutely everything from being patented, usually multiple times. That would require a competent patent office.
RPC was around well before the web, as well as client-server programs. For the record, you don't need a Windows browser in order to invalidate the patent. If there are any X client-server apps that read instructions from a central server and displayed that information on its own client-side app, then my guess is that would invalidate the patent. I can think of at least one that originated in 1990 that could probably invalidate the patent.
Prior art would have to be something interactive that ran within a browser before the 1993 filing date. Lots of interactive network applications existed before then, but that's not what the patent claims to cover.
> I've been using it since you were probably still in elementary school.
This kind of quip does not add to the discussion or strengthen your argument. It just makes you sound arrogant and grumpy.
Linking to a history of the World Wide Web on Wikipedia, on a post on Hacker News - how does that come across? It's pretty obnoxious.
Are there any existing bills or proposals that have put forward a viable solution to this issue?
In a different context, favorable regulations are one reason that e.g. The City (i.e., financial district on London) is a global financial hub.
Millions of companies survive and thrive without doing business in the US. At this time in history, we are used to thinking of the US as being a favorable business climate; relatively free of corruption with clear rules and low cost of business formation. It is clear that unless current trends are reversed that this will not remain the case.
If the governments of the countries of Northern Africa (Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Morocco) were to form a regional economic initiative that created those conditions from the Suez Canal to the Atlantic Coast and created a clean Intellectual Property regime with automatic licensing they would attract a decent share of global technology investment if they could make it stick.
Automatic licensing in this context being the rule that no one can deny another the use of an invention, but proven priority and disclosure grants an automatic share of the license collected out of the VAT or other tax on finished goods.
Extend the same principle to copyright: Hollywood can't refuse to sell me a movie just because I don't live in a certain geographical area, and RIAA can't deny YouTube users the right to cover and remix their music as long as a reasonable fee is collected by some other means, whether privately or via a public distribution scheme.
Perhaps the law should define a nominal amount per work that relieves the payer of all IP-related liability. The amount could depend on the type of work, and/or proportional to the profit generated, so that hobbyists who only copy stuff for personal use pay at the lowest bracket and people who make a lot of money out of other people's IP pay more, just like taxes.
Are there any obvious downsides to the idea?
Maybe I'm missing something, but what's stopping anyone from accepting money from customers in the US if their servers are outside of the US?
On that note, although this wouldn't work for ebooks, how about restrictive copyright for readers is only present while the book is still being published and sold?
If a major company like Apple, Google, Microsoft or IBM sues a tiny company for violating an "obvious" patent, it gets all over the tech media and the big companies reputation suffers.
And there's not much money in suing small companies, so it's not worth it. And the other big companies have enough lawyers and safe guards to make sure they don't violate patents (or at least make sure nobody finds out), so there's no money there, either.
On the other hand, the big companies are major targets for patent trolls, as this case demonstrates.
This is too simplistic. The patent system is the way it is because big companies like it that way. The reason they like it that way is they can strangle any nascent competition with patent lawsuits before that competition has a chance to grab market share.
And it doesn't even matter whether or not the claim is valid - small companies can't afford to defend themselves, whether or not they win in court. The point of suing a small company for patent infringement isn't to collect money, it's to put that company out of business.
wherein said embed text format is parsed by said browser to automatically invoke said executable application to execute on said client workstation
So you are potentially in trouble only if you use text format to point to an executable that you then load to the client.
Indeed, what we used to do on the Internet around 1993 (Gopher, listserv, X11 remote), is not quite exactly the same.
So yes, maybe Java applets and Flash plugins are in trouble (although I don't really think so). Everything else, no worries.
PS: I just checked the patent date: Oct 1994, not 1993. By then, I remember we were already launching live videos from web links... Sounds like prior art to me.
Tim Berners-Lee has already written about it:
This is still a pretty interesting fight. It might do you some good to panic, just a little.
I'm sure there are legitimate reasons for some people to work long hours sometimes, but especially for the larger firms and at the lower pay grades, it's mostly a question of what makes the firm more profitable.
The reason they don't put more people on it unless they absolutely have to is money. They bill out people by the hour, but pay them a flat rate unless they are equity partners in the firm.
The harder they work them, the more they bring in for pretty much the same cost (except free dinner and paid taxi home after certain hours...), and at the same time, there's rarely an incentive for them to get their staff to work fast, as long as quality is good enough - if they're exhausted and slow down and spend more hours, it's more money for the firm.
While trainee salaries at the firm she's at isn't that far off what was mentioned above, due to the number of hours, trainees there are in effect making less per hour than the secretaries, and it takes several years post qualification to get to a decent hourly rate.
The reason they stay? A combination of wanting to make partner, which in this firm will make you millions a year, and a culture that frames it as personal failure if you don't meet deadlines that makes it impossible to actually stick to your contracted hours.
EDIT: So to specifically your question, of why not two people at half the price. People going for these types of jobs are at least in part driven to go for the high salaries. Since the pay per hour is laughable for the amount of education, if they were to halve salaries and hire twice as many people, they probably would not have many applicants.
Think of it like surgery: would you want the brain surgeon to tap out after an 8-hour marathon session for the next guy coming in? No, because the guy who just worked 8 hours has intimate knowledge of everything relevant to the surgery in progress. The same is the case with law suits.
At least... if my friends who are layers are to be believed :)
They've also successfully fought against Android and are now exacting stiff taxes on a lot of the Android devices sold because of the "technology" that's being used.
Apple's litigation has recently centred around design patents, not software patents, presumably to push Samsung into making their own designs and not just copying everyone Apple like they used to copy RIM.
Apple surely has an enormous stockpile of software patents, but their lawsuit activity has been pretty limited. I hear lots of bitching about people not getting into the App Store, but not much a thing about individuals being sued by Apple over software patents.
Apple's royalty payments seem restricted to those regarding specifically negotiated rights such as for the enormous multitude of officially licensed iPod/iPad/iPhone accessories. You can hardly fault them for this when the accessory market is so profitable for the companies involved in it.
If Apple stopped making iPods the market would dry up, but conversely, Microsoft's "technology" has no bearing on the success or failure of things like Android.
Yes, $100 million on lawsuits in one year is pretty limited.
Secondly, why is that surprising that the largest tech company gets some enormous legal bills? You think Google's budget is just a couple of million?
By the way, Google's going after a chunk of the iOS pie by claiming patent violations: http://www.tuaw.com/2012/02/09/google-after-2-25-of-every-ip...
So much for being "open".
The web is not some inalienable right handed down from God for the betterment of humanity. It's a clever idea that lots of people find handy. Kleenex and eyeglasses are clever, too. I don't see a movement to free tissue paper.
Why is anyone shocked by the prospect that it may come at a cost, directly or indirectly?
Life's too short, and too beautifully wonderous, to waste fretting about who's greed is good and who's is bad or unfair. Drama, drama.