Don't hate the player, hate the game.
We need real, substantive patent reform in this country.
B) This is not the game. As Fred Wilson explains, web company patents have been thought of as defensive. If this triggers a wave of patent lawsuit bullshit, then everybody will end up poorer. Except the lawyers, of course.
Just remember though that right now the pharmaceutical companies are massively outspending the technology sector as far as lobbying Congress. (A Senator is a wonderful thing --- everyone should own one!)
As a Google employee I can contribute to Google NetPAC. I'm not sure what opportunities exist towards donations to organizations that directly lobby Congress. The EFF is an advocacy organization, which is a good start, but they are not a lobbying organization per se.
It's a horrible system and it's not a productive way to use money as far as society is concerned, but unfortunately, it's the way the game is structured, and if you don't play the game, you'll get run over by those who do....
There are real advances too, and those wouldn't happen without some ability to generate a return on the $1B or more you spent on the drug (let alone the hundreds of millions on drugs that didn't make it).
R&D being a small part of the budget doesn't change that. The fundamental business is still based on the patent system.
That sounds like a terrible idea though: now you'll have the govt "picking winners" that can go to market. As with anything in the government, that will be subject to tons of lobbying, earmarking, waste, and endless debate.
But if you think about it, Pharma drugs are actually similar to SW or movies or music. In each of those, a large investment produces a good which is cheap to replicate (knowledge of efficacy/safety of a compound, or in SW / movies / music, bits arranged a certain way).
Each of these need protection on the investment to create it, so that there can be a return.
In SW, music, and movies/etc, that protection is essentially copyright law.
The only difference with Pharma is that copyright law doesn't buy them anything. So they need some other mechanism of protection.
Maybe it doesn't have to be a patent: how about an exclusive government license to sell a pharmaceutical tied to the FDA approval. Kind of like a pharmaceutical-specific patent.
The key is that financing still happens via private means, and there isn't a fixed quota of budget or # of drugs... Let the market decide the right amount for our society to spend on drugs.
The government should step in when there is a market failure (e.g. unpriced externalities, or tragedy-of-the-commons, etc). But just the fact that there's a large investment that needs protection for an ROI isn't a market failure.
What? I was under the impression that they rely mostly on advertising to recoup costs, their advertising budgets are generally much larger than their R&D budgets.
Big pharma uses patents to protect their monopoly on a drug for seven(?) years after its introduced. Once that window is up, generics come in and take a huge chunk of sales. Pharma uses marketing and advertising to push their new drugs to try to sell as many during the patent window as they possibly can, when they have a large markup on it.
Their primary function, as you say, is shifting far towards the marketing end.
It's completely irrelevant what the size of their advertising budgets are. They will increase their advertising budget as long as they think that the added revenue will be larger than the added costs.
But if they have no patent protection, they will probably have no profitable product to advertise at all.
Take this absurd Facebook patent as an example
>System and method for dynamically providing a news feed about a user of a social network (US2008040673).
While the situation is different, as Facebook aren't suing anyone (yet), we can imagine if the roles were reversed, the story might be a little different. Why else would they file for patents if their intent wasn't to defend "their ideas."
If we're calling out Yahoo's patents as junk, we should be doing the same for facebook and the rest, otherwise we're turning a bad system of "who dunnit first" into an even worse one, a popularity contest.
As the original article said, most SV web companies claim to file patents as a defensive measure - so if they get sued by someone else, they can hit back. Suing first is extremely bad form.
> If we're calling out Yahoo's patents as junk, we should be doing the same for facebook and the rest
I don't see anyone saying that Facebook's patents are fine and Yahoo!'s are junk - Yahoo! are being criticised because they're attempting to enforce their junk patents. If Facebook attempted to force theirs they would get exactly the same flack for it.
Facebook has a lot to lose if it is perceived that Yahoo can hurt them, now that they are going public. Which is exactly why Yahoo is doing that, and why they did exactly the same thing when google went public.
Then you are demanding that the board neglect its fiduciary responsibilities and go to jail.
> A point about the morality of companies angle: the so-called "fiduciary duty" of companies that is an overriding duty to maximise shareholder returns within the constraints of the law above all other ends is a legal obligation in only a few countries. In most countries, including most states in the US, executives have a legal responsibility to be honest and open about their performance and honest (if not very open) about their strategy, but have no legal obligation to prefer a more profitable course of action over another, which is obviously right since there is usually no knowable fact of the matter about whether one business plan will turn out to be more profitable than another.
> In short, the idea that companies have a moral obligation to act immorally if it pays is mostly or always a myth.
There is no chance that Yahoo executives would go to jail if they decided not to pursue a cursed-earth patent troll strategy. Fiduciary duty is about executives not putting their personal interests before that of the shareholders.
It is not even obviously in the company's interest, what they are doing. If cash-rich FB refuses to settle, all 10 patents get invalidated, and Yahoo has to pay heavy legal fees, then Yahoo is left with a smaller warchest of patents, and one whose firepower has been seen to be lacking. Does the quiet period make that such an unlikely outcome?
The selling of a company doesn't exactly fall into maximization of shareholder profits: it depends on a couple things. The board of a company has no obligation to maximize it's short term value. Otherwise, anytime someone is offered a profitable buyout and turns it down they would violating their social responsibilities. I could be wrong, but I had a similar discussion with a close friend who is a big dog in the world of finance and that's the message I got from him.
Here's some relevant info:
>The role of such statutes is especially important in light of the QVC decision, which prohibits directors from simply approving a strategic merger based on their business judgment that the transaction provides more value in the long term.
Also, you may be interested in this.
besides, I would argue that the cost in both goodwill and brand value of pursuing a strategy of patent licensing far outweigh the potential benefits.
So brand isn't a good argument against this suit for Yahoo.
Morality might be. But it's hard to get people to act against their financial best interest over the long term, so I still feel the real issue is the patent system.
If they go for it, win, but every single talented engineer at Yahoo! quits in disgust and the company falls apart, should the board go to jail then as well?
I'm sure that it has a lot of problems, but we need to start having the discussion of how to fix the system, instead of just whether or not it needs fixing.
Long story short, kill patents, kill copyright, keep trademark.
"Free software" vastly overestimates the value and talent of the average user--I don't feel any pity for the average City Of Farm Wars user if they don't get the source to IE.
Contracts are only valid if there is an exchange of value; you could reasonably argue that there is no value in being granted a right you already have.
Kickstarter already funded over $1m entertainment projects. So did the Louis CK experiment. These are far and far away from the mainstream popularity that buying movie tickets have. Don't you think that it's reasonable that web organized crowd-funding could finance even big blockbuster movies as these websites get more popular?
Imagine if popular celebrity directors with huge cult-followers like Tarantino would post a project on Kickstarter, then properly advertise it. I'd imagine a huge movie could be funded that way.
Kinda true, although lots of films make more money through merchandising than the box office.
But even in that situation, why can't movies be funded by crowdsourcing? I'm sure there's lots of fans of LoTR who'd be happy to crwodfund The Hobbit, for example.
Crowdfunding can be a viable option, but paying large sums of money before any work is done makes it tempting to abscond with most of the money and produce either an inferior or nonexistent product. How would you prevent this from happening on a regular basis? Would your solution make it too risky to attempt large projects out of fear of them not being deemed "good enough"?
Not if you keep trademarks and have trademarks on the relevant characters, objects, etc.
In other words, you're free to do anything you want with the Harry Potter movies, so long as you remove all instances of the name "Harry Potter" and all likenesses of Daniel Radcliffe wearing a robe?
Mind you, the trademark owner can authorize things. And I think there is even some analog of fair use for trademarks, but you should consult with a lawyer if you ever have more than an academic interest in such things.
Bad things are done in the name of copyrights (and patent protection). That doesn't invalidate the whole concept, it just means reform may be needed.
Besides, it's only a knock-off if you were exposed to the original.
This would let the market actually sort out what is naturally viable.
Because prefunding is effectively a requirement, there's no way for a creator to take a gamble, produce something with their own resources, and then try to make it up later. This is essentially the process by which all novelists get started now. Are you sure that prefunding is a suitable replacement?
If you can't raise sufficient funding, frankly, that's a your problem. There are a lot of people (myself and cofounders included) who prefund by working some job (of varying degrees of satisfaction) and diverting the funds towards development of their own creative enterprises.
In the absence of patrons, yeah, we fund ourselves, and one day it'll pay off--or it won't. That's life.
Novelists are great and all, but it seems obvious that if you cannot write something quickly enough on a budget, or in your freetime, and it isn't good enough to get picked up, well, sorry. The system should be in place to let you fail fast and figure out what to do next.
Prefunding isn't going to get us flying cars, just faster horses.
Yes, current patent law is broken, but that doesn't mean that Y! have to use it. If this was a defensive move against a patent claim from Facebook, I'd have some sympathy. But as far as I can tell, it isn't. So I don't.
And you can be sure that companies once they have lots of patents will lobby mercilessly to keep the current "game" in place. Who wants to stop playing when they feel they are winning?
Apart from some sudden massive outbreak of sanity, there is no way out.
(and yes, their shareholders and executive force them to play it.)
This player will most likely also lobby aggressively to thwart any attempts at reforming the patent system since it is one of its few remaining sources of revenue.
It may take all out war, and an overwhelming of the legal v startup ecosystem, before sense returns. Akin to the opinion piece in the NYTimes "Go to Trial: Crash the Justice System" over the weekend.
1) A pharma company spends $1B on R&D to develop a drug and get FDA approval. If someone could knock off the resulting compound at 10 cents per pill, we wouldn't have the drug.
2) Software companies, where there are hundreds of potential patents to file or infringe on, and there is tons of iterative evolution.
Seriously, where is the moral imperative that says "Thou Shalt Not Patent Troll"?
That said, note that this isn't an abuse of the system--it is very much using it to the letter of the law. Note further that, at least in America it would seem, we place a very high value on the letter (as opposed to the spirit) of the law.
I still think there isn't a fully developed moral argument here, but at least you've elaborated on your position. For what it's worth, I think the rough sketch of the argument would go something like: scarcity is Bad, knowledge promotes nonscarcity therefore Good, patents intended to promote knowledge therefore Good, wording of patents allows companies to act to decrease knowledge there Bad.
I just wanted to make sure you had a better backing than the usual "Oh noes patents are teh evil and the abuses you see".
If we're ever going to fix this mess, we need to make sure our ideology and reasoning is in line and clear.
- Knowledge and progress are beneficial for the society.
- Inventions and discoveries promote knowledge and progress.
- Patents are supposed to encourage inventors to publish their work thus helping the promotion of the above.
- If applied badly, patents can be misused to serve totally different goals (like monopolizing the technology or knowledge), hurting the society in result. So the system needs to avoid that.
Software patents are the perfect example of the case where the original goal is reversed. I.e. by the nature of the software, patents only hinder innovation. So they should not be applied to software at all.
And that's why I called it unethical, rather than illegal. Patent aggressors might appeal that their actions are legal (within the current broken system), but since they have negative impact on the society and serve totally the opposite goal, they are unethical.
In case you missed it, it's the players who make the game and keep it running - a self-sustaining spiral of endless bullshit.
Why would it be ok for Yahoo and other big companies to use patents "only" to threaten small shops and keep the status quo?
Let them fight between eachother, let Yahoo sue Facebook sue Gooogle sue Microsoft sue Apple sue HTC sue Samsung sue Sony sue Oracle sue ... let everyone sue everyone else. Let the total war on patents begin. Let the big players burn a ton of money on pointless legal battles. And then, and only then, they might push for a patent reform which will level playing field for all players, including new ones.
That's the strangest part. I never found Yahoo useful for anything (except Douglas Crockford, but he could have been employed anywhere).
I mainly use it to correct strangeness in sites' RSS offerings. For example, BBC iPlayer offers feeds for channels but not per show (?!), and Penny Arcade doesn't offer a feed for just the comic without the news posts.
Also, nba.yahoo.com has a better layout than nba.com itself for following stats and even following the games live (a really well-done java applet).
Finally, I've been playing around with switching search engines from Google to something else, and I found for most tech stuff, Yahoo! actually has more relevant search results than Bing or DDG.
> None of them represent unique and new ideas at the time of the filing. I supect they all can be thrown out over prior art if Facebook takes the time and effort to do that.
Also, even the article that he links to just quotes the damn abstracts of the patents, as if that has anything to do with what they cover.
Honestly people, I know you like to rail against software patents and the patent system in general... but educate yourselves first, or you just come off looking ignorant to anyone who knows the first thing about patents.
No one needs to be "educated" in the intricate and fascinating political and economic power dynamics of the Third Reich to have a valid opinion about Hitler. All they need to know is that Hitler killed the Jews and was evil.
Similarly, no one posting here needs to know anything about the technical details of patentology, a subject in which I suspect you're quite expert, to know that the patent system is evil and needs to be eradicated from the earth - like Hitler.
Does that make you a bad person? Fact is, a lot of good people worked for Hitler. But at a certain point, they all had to reevaluate their career choices. I can only hope you'll do the same.
> The best lack all conviction, while the worst
> Are full of passionate intensity.
Don't worry, I'm quite aware of the mechanics of our patent system. I also know a lot about Hitler. But I believe it's intellectually permissible for others to condemn Hitler in a sentence - without my extensive training in Hitler Studies.
The worst in this case are not full of passionate intensity. It's their wallets that are full - and their minds which follow the money. If I take a drive in Palo Alto and see a fancy new building, five to one it's yet another branch office of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe.
The only people who support the patent system are those who profit from it. I'm quite sure you're one of them. Hey, everybody's gotta eat - but try not to kill the host, OK?
An analogy absolutely draws a comparison. I don't even know what you're getting at here, other than trying unsuccessfully to nitpick.
> But I believe it's intellectually permissible for others to condemn Hitler in a sentence - without my extensive training in Hitler Studies.
So you think it's permissible to condemn a human being while knowing essentially nothing about him, just going by what the groupthink tells you. Got it. Because "knowing essentially nothing" is what we're talking about here. I'm not saying you need to be an attorney to comment intelligently. 15 minutes of reading, if one reads the right things, would teach him more than 90% of the people here know about patents.
> Dewey, Cheatham and Howe
How clever. Never heard that one before.
> The only people who support the patent system are those who profit from it. I'm quite sure you're one of them.
Wellll... yes, but not in the way you probably think. I'm not a patent troll, and I don't represent trolls. I write patents for inventors. Plain and simple. And for what it's worth, to my knowledge none of my clients have ever engaged in patent trolling or sold their patents to a troll.
Patent reform, coming down hard on the trolls, whatever you have in mind... it would have essentially no influence on my business. Getting rid of software patents altogether would have a small effect, but it would basically be de minimis. Certainly not enough to color my opinions about software patents.
An analogy illustrates common logical features of two commensurate problems. Man:woman, bull:cow. If I state this analogy to my wife, am I "comparing" her to a cow?
> So you think it's permissible to condemn a human being while knowing essentially nothing about him, just going by what the groupthink tells you.
If the groupthink is right, yes. Groupthink isn't always right. It isn't always wrong. It's not wrong about Hitler. It's not wrong about patents, either.
> I write patents for inventors.
In other words, you're a patent lawyer.
I'm quite confident that you have never, ever once told any of your "inventors" the following: yes, I can get this patent issued. But I don't feel it's genuinely novel or non-obvious, so you'll have to find another advocate.
"The rockets go up - who knows where they come down?
That's not my department, says Wernher von Braun."
> And for what it's worth, to my knowledge none of my clients have ever engaged in patent trolling or sold their patents to a troll.
And if they did - you wouldn't want to know, would you? Since you're a patent lawyer, you probably know the term mens rea.
> Patent reform, coming down hard on the trolls, whatever you have in mind... it would have essentially no influence on my business. Getting rid of software patents altogether would have a small effect, but it would basically be de minimis. Certainly not enough to color my opinions about software patents.
Since you're a patent lawyer, you know perfectly well that our patent system does not have the power to distinguish between "inventors" and "trolls." You also know perfectly well that the controlling legal authorities do not have the power to identify and bar "software patents," "business method patents," etc. Legally there are no software patents in Europe, for instance, but the patent bar is not to be stopped. Same with the Supremes in Parker v. Flook.
Therefore, the only practical reform of this system is to destroy it entirely. This would change your life, wouldn't it? And not for the better.
Some women might actually take offense at that, but I'd say no. But throwing Hitler into the analogy really does change its flavor, doesn't it? We're not talking about bulls and cows here. The analogy
your position:my position::Satan:Jesus
is a little bit more in line with the inflammatory one you actually used above. And in a case like that, I think reading an analogy as a comparison is both inevitable and exactly what you intended.
> It's not wrong about Hitler. It's not wrong about patents, either.
That's your opinion, and you're entitled to it. But it has nothing to do with whether people should follow groupthink without the capacity to determine whether it's right or wrong.
> I'm quite confident that you have never, ever once told any of your "inventors" the following: yes, I can get this patent issued. But I don't feel it's genuinely novel or non-obvious, so you'll have to find another advocate.
I've told inventors that I thought a particular application would be a challenge to get allowed. I've told inventors that in light of the prior art, they won't get a patent that's broad enough to be worth anything. And yes, on more than one occasion, I've told an inventor that I didn't believe he could get a patent on his idea. (Just a nitpick here, but I've never told an inventor I could get something patented. Nothing is assured, and sometimes you get an examiner that simply will not allow a case.)
> And if they did - you wouldn't want to know, would you? Since you're a patent lawyer, you probably know the term mens rea.
I certainly wouldn't stick my head in the sand to avoid knowing how they use their patents. And there's no issue with mens rea here, since patent trolls aren't doing anything illegal.
> You also know perfectly well that the controlling legal authorities do not have the power to identify and bar "software patents," "business method patents," etc. Legally there are no software patents in Europe, for instance, but the patent bar is not to be stopped. Same with the Supremes in Parker v. Flook.
Indeed, this would have to come from Congress. But it could certainly happen.
> Therefore, the only practical reform of this system is to destroy it entirely.
Aaaand here's where you go off the deep end. Is there a single industrialized country that has no patent system whatsoever? That's a serious question... I don't know of one.
No. They aren't doing anything illegal. They're doing something evil.
Mens rea is the mental state of doing evil. Not everything evil is illegal - for various reasons, some good and some bad. But the mental state is the same.
Your enormous shiftiness around this issue demonstrates clear mens rea. In short, you know you're a bad boy.
Mass murder is evil. Graft is evil. Your industry doesn't involve mass murder. It's just a big graft scheme, that's all. It's not Hitler. But it's still evil, like Hitler.
> But it has nothing to do with whether people should follow groupthink without the capacity to determine whether it's right or wrong.
Anyone is entitled to be right for any reason at all. You're simply trying to restrict the number of your enemies.
Besides, you're missing something here. You make a living sending rockets up. We live where the rockets come down.
The existence of rocket impacts is purely conjectural to you - so you can call it "groupthink." It's a shared reality for us. It's not groupthink that the sky is blue.
Your profession nominally exists to serve our interests. In fact, it serves to suck our blood - when it isn't filling up our days with worthless bullshit. All genuine innovators, at least in our field, despise your rule with a passion. I'm sure many of them would be quite happy to see the entire patent bar in prison, or at least collectively disbarred.
> Indeed, this would have to come from Congress. But it could certainly happen.
No. You miss my point. Not even Congress could do it. If Congress passed a law, the patent bar would simply work around it and continue its present practices.
In other words, the American voter has exactly the same power over the patent industry that the German voter had over Hitler. Ie, at a first approximation, none.
> Is there a single industrialized country that has no patent system whatsoever? That's a serious question... I don't know of one.
Germany before 1877. China now. (Yes, I know nominally China has a patent system, but nobody in China gives a shit about US patents.)
There is only one "industrialized country" today, the US, because every other "country" in the world today unthinkingly adopts whatever comes out of WIPO's derriere. Alas, ruling the world doesn't mean your turds are made of gold - though I'm sure it's been quite golden for you.
Simply not true. The work I do helps independent inventors protect themselves, and it helps startups get funding... believe me, I have no qualms about what I do. It is a net positive for the economy and for people who create things.
> Mass murder is evil. Graft is evil. Your industry doesn't involve mass murder. It's just a big graft scheme, that's all. It's not Hitler. But it's still evil, like Hitler.
There you go again. I'm done responding to this nonsense though.
> You're simply trying to restrict the number of your enemies.
First of all, people who don't like the patent system are not my enemies. They simply hold different beliefs than I do. And second, all I'm asking is that people educate themselves to a very minor level before making asses of themselves.
> I'm sure many of them would be quite happy to see the entire patent bar in prison, or at least collectively disbarred.
I suspect not many people hold your extreme beliefs about imprisonment. Disbarment... who knows. If one has gotten the short end of the stick in a patent dispute, I guess it could make him dislike patent attorneys.
> No. You miss my point. Not even Congress could do it. If Congress passed a law, the patent bar would simply work around it and continue its present practices.
There's simply no reason to believe this. If Congress made a clear law prohibiting software patents, and it was a well-drafted law, then it would be followed.
> Germany before 1877. China now. (Yes, I know nominally China has a patent system, but nobody in China gives a shit about US patents.)
Nor should they. U.S. patents have no force outside the U.S. Chinese patents, however...
> There is only one "industrialized country" today, the US, because every other "country" in the world today unthinkingly adopts whatever comes out of WIPO's derriere.
You know WIPO isn't a U.S. organization, right? It's part of the U.N. It's in Geneva.
> I wanted to highlight this truly remarkable response, which displays the complete prostitution of the patent industry. Imsgine a literary agent saying: "on more than one occasion, I've told an author he couldn't get his book published."
So we've gone from you being "quite confident that you have never, ever once told any of your 'inventors'" . . . to "OK, but you don't say it often enough! But there are three things to note here:
1. Most of the clients who come in my door legitimately have come up with something that is, as far as I know, novel. But hey, I'm not an expert in every field, and I don't always do a patent search (it's not a requirement, and clients often don't want to spend the money).
2. It opens me up to a malpractice suit to tell someone "you cannot get a patent on that." Because what if I'm wrong? There's a lot of uncertainty around this question, so this is a phrase reserved for cases where I'm pretty damn sure.
3. You don't know how many clients I've served, or what percentage of them I've turned away. Hell, I dunno either. But I call them like I see them. I have a duty to my clients not to waste their money on a patent I know will never issue. In the cases where I'm sure enough to risk the malpractice claim, I tell them not to bother. I'm not sure what more I could do.
Just so you know, I've enjoyed our discussion today. With the exception of your Hitler comments, you've been pretty reasonable, and I try listen to conflicting, but reasonable, opinions with an open mind. I ask that you do the same. I'm not some demon, and I'm not ashamed of anything I do.
Yeah, and who created the UN? Denmark? Indonesia? The UN is about as Swiss as the Warsaw Pact is Polish.
> U.S. patents have no force outside the U.S.
You mean in theory, or in practice?
> First of all, people who don't like the patent system are not my enemies. They simply hold different beliefs than I do.
No, they are your enemies - for one simple reason. You're stealing from them. They may not know this, but I do.
> If one has gotten the short end of the stick in a patent dispute, I guess it could make him dislike patent attorneys.
It's not me personally - just my entire community.
> There's simply no reason to believe this. If Congress made a clear law prohibiting software patents, and it was a well-drafted law, then it would be followed.
Europe has a clear law prohibiting software patents. Parker v. Flook was a clear decision prohibiting software patents.
> So we've gone from you being "quite confident that you have never, ever once told any of your 'inventors'" . . . to "OK, but you don't say it often enough!
No, you misread. Intentionally, I imagine. I said: how often do you refuse to pursue a patent you're confident will issue, just because you don't believe it is morally worthy? I got my answer, between the lines.
> Just so you know, I've enjoyed our discussion today.
I have as well. I think you've been as frank and reasonable as is possible for someone in your profession.
Supreme Court jurisprudence about software patents has never been very clear. In any case, Diamond v. Diehr came out just a few years after Flook and made such a cut-and-dried reading untenable. And then there was the whole Bilski mess of an opinion...
This is what I mean when I say it'd have to come from Congress, and it'd have to be clear. If you want to prohibit software patents, you don't want 80 pages of Supreme Court justices all writing their own opinions concurring in part and dissenting in part. You want a statute no more than, say, a third of a page long, clearly defining what's meant by "software" (and maybe also "business method") and prohibiting patents on it. That would be damn hard to argue about. Supreme Court decisions are notoriously easy to argue about.
> No, you misread. Intentionally, I imagine. I said: how often do you refuse to pursue a patent you're confident will issue, just because you don't believe it is morally worthy? I got my answer, between the lines.
Ah, I did misread. It was not intentional. But the answer you read between the lines was correct--I have never done that. Maybe when I'm the head of a law firm I can make decisions about turning away money because of a moral objection... but for now, that's a little above my pay grade.
I wanted to highlight this truly remarkable response, which displays the complete prostitution of the patent industry. Imsgine a literary agent saying: "on more than one occasion, I've told an author he couldn't get his book published."
Creating a useful invention and writing a readable novel are acts of human ingenuity on roughly the same level of difficulty. But as we see, the USPTO has lower standards than your average vanity press. So long as you keep feeding the machine, of course.
HN is really turning into Reddit, isn't it?
Taken from http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html
Thanks. Now that I understand your reasoning, I have no problem with the title. FWIW, I wish I could delete my comment, but unfortunately that's no longer possible.
Patents are a game that's a lot like Poker.
I couldn't blame any startup for accumulating a patent portfolio because that's something of economic value -- it could help an acquisition because a larger company would like to put together a broad portfolio.
So long as you can get value out of it that way, it's all roses. Once you get to a lawsuit, it's ugly, largely because the result is unpredictable -- if people settle out of court you get the desired result, but if your opponent can fight you to the end, you're very likely to end up with invalidated patents. That, of course, is why companies like this broad portfolios -- if there are ten patents involved, it's much more likely something will stick.
So: suggestions for a social photo archive service which is reliable enough to be the "master copy" of my pictures, and preferably has Flickr import ability?
Unfortunately, I don't believe they have the ability to automatically import your Flickr photos.
They are not stagnant, improving all the time. Not as big as flickr, but big enough and reliable.
I used both imgur pro and flickr but now I only use flickr because I am too lazy to switch.
Further, whether patent system needs "reform in this country" is relevant to the fact that one part believes other part infringe. If Yahoo!, Facebook or anyone else feels someone infringe and ended up saying "oh they system is broken lets wait until its fixed", then they may as well wait another 75 years.
I say good things can come up from this, especially if Yahoo! loses. Facebook is claiming that what they are being sued over was "nothing new" at that time. Cool! Have them win. Next time someone build highly successful social website with human connections done based on request/approve/reject, and Facebook will try to shut them down based on infringe of one of their hundreds of patents, you can say: "oh, none of this was new at the time of Facebook: MySpace, Fridndster, etc. Here, I am using Facebook own rules - they win, I need to win too".
Tech companies do not make their living by exploiting their patents directly (as e.g. pharma companies do). They make living from advertising to their userbase. They do patent some things they use to keep and monetize that usebase, but there is no direct relation.
So: Of course they should not sue "by default". It just isn't a winning strategy for them.
Instead - yes, you just open the HN and look what you cak take from others and use it to build your own tech company. That's what you do. Are you new?
Wait... Is he still talking about the facebook lawsuit?
The program is that is a ridiculously crude measure. Like measuring programmer output by lines of code, this idea that measuring innovation at such a micro level even makes sense, needs to die.
The article links to the description of the patents http://paidcontent.org/article/419-meet-the-10-patents-yahoo... and tries to summarize each one in "plain English."
> Control for enabling a user to preview display of selected
> content based on another user’s authorization level (Filed
> 2005, Issued 2009)
> In plain English: Share an item only with selected friends
This is actually about a preview of what a given user (friend) would see.
The reason software patents suck so hard is because for every 10,000 totally bogus patents there's one that when you read it makes you think, wow, that really is an invention.
The abstract doesn't define the patent. The claims are what defines the patent, in combination with the notes in the patent file which can often limit the claims even further.
Yahoo is claiming a specific method of seamlessly converting an instant message communication into an email one, not the general concept. Claim 1 narrows the claims from that general case immediately.
Yahoo! could be aiming to be acquired by Facebook or Google.
Assuming the patents involved are tenable, this looks rather like a viable reverse-acquisition strategy.
I'd be surprised if anyone wants to do business with people like this ever again.
Probably the reason for this post in fact.
Is not that crazy to assume this may actually be a last-resort strategy to sell Yahoo once and for all. Most agree Yang dropped the ball when he refused MSFT's offer.
If everyone really just uses patents for the threat of a possible lawsuit, is it still worth having them, even if you hope to never use one?
"They are dead to me. Dead and gone. I hate them now"
"Yahoo Crosses The Line"
Curious about the reason this was done.
Notwithstanding the foreseeability of patent warfare, I remain despondent toward "unwritten rules" in American law. Yes, they exist; it's no surprise that defendants in criminal cases who assert their 6th Amendment rights to a speedy trial that they subsequently lose will suffer a heightened penalty. The seminal case on this subject, Bordenkircher v. Hayes, specifically endorses threats of stiffer sentences to entice criminal defendants to waive their right to trial and plead guilty to a lesser offense. One can model this as a game of imperfect information, with society reaping the rewards.
So the author's reliance on this de facto "rule not to litigate" is flawed. The real problem arises when companies exclude others from practicing a technology in which that company's property interest is a mere subterfuge. Rarely do companies practice the technologies for which they've secured patent protection, and that brings me to my last Thomas Jefferson quote:
A man has a right to use a saw, an axe,
a plane, separately; may he not combine
their uses on the same piece of wood?
He has a right to use his knife to cut
his meat, a fork to hold it; may a
patentee take from him the right to
combine their use on the same subject?
Such a law, instead of enlarging our
conveniences, as was intended, would
most fearfully abridge them, and crowd
us by monopolies out of the use of the
things we have.
So in my view, the solution isn't at the corporate level; it's at the national level. As such, patent reform should be a national issue addressed by politicians. Patent term length [c|sh]ould be proportional to the research expenses actually incurred. Alternatively, we might want want a "patent abandonment doctrine" that moves to public domain those patents whose rights haven't been enforced (almost like in trademark law). Even still, we might want to wholly abandon the right to transfer or sell patents (and for that matter, all intellectual property) entirely. I haven't researched the ramifications of these potential solutions, so they're offered merely as points for discussion.
And also historically ignorant. Yahoo did the same thing to Google when they went public in 2004. Somehow the world didn't end.
Overture, a completely different company, sued Google in 2002, two years before their IPO.
Yahoo purchased Overture in 2003. After this, Google settled.
Google's IPO wasn't until 2004.
Google reveals that Y! did sue X-fire apparently over a buddy list patent in 2005 which would also make the same point though.
I absolutely agree. if you're the CEO of a publicly traded company, it is your fiduciary duty to extract value from the company's assets.
Exhibit #1: Sun Microsystems
if Sun had the cojones to sue Google (re: Java/Android) they'd still be in business today.
I had hopes the new CEO would try to turn Yahoo around. I don't believe in shitty display advertising long-term, but it could be viable for another 5 years. At least, I had confidence he could fire enough Directors and VPs to make Yahoo at least as innovative as eBay (also not a particular paragon in Silicon Valley), and I was hoping Yahoo's boardmembers would start actually acting in the interests of shareholders.
I guess I was wrong.
If you want to oppose software patents - and you should - then be consistent about it. Either forego them entirely, or require via contract that they be used only defensively. The latter is the approach taken by my employer, BTW, who also spends more money than anyone else fighting software patents. As schizophrenic as that strategy might seem, I believe it's the right one for the crazy world we live in.
Maybe YOUR stone-age, backward-ass VC thinks that startups should generate patents, but don't tar Fred Wilson with that brush.
I also suspect that startups capable of the sophistication StackExchange brings to the selection of a VC are a distinct minority.
Software patents are problematic, but only because of the general features of the patent process and the fiduciary responsibilities of boards of directors to their shareholders.
It doesn't matter at all whether Fred's firm does this. Union Square Ventures isn't suing Facebook either, that's another behavior they're not engaging in. They're also not actually coding software.
What matters is that Fred wrote a seething post about the patent system without mentioning how many if not most bogus patents get created in the first place - at the urging of the other guys on his side of the table.
If you're letting them spend your money on filing patents without any kind of binding commitment to use them only in defense, and there's plenty of evidence at USPTO that your portfolio companies are still doing just that, then you're not clearly any different than any other VC in that regard.
This madness will not stop until there's more retaliatory capability than first-strike, and that won't happen as long as there's money pouring into the acquisition of first-strike weapons. Those who fund the stockpiling are culpable, no matter what they say as they're doing it.
Of course it is not clear if he lives up to that stance in all cases (http://www.usv.com/investments/) , but I read CPlatypus' statement more as pointing out the structural problem.
This bad logic is what you are applying here.
More to the point, these patents are objectively BS. Go look at the claims. There is not a single, novel claim among the whole lot, and you could probably pay a college kid an hour's wage to find prior art on every single one of them.
and besides, the onus of citation should be on you with your crazy broad assumption that Fred has placed 'immense pressure' on startups to generate patents.
Will you please stop? The fact that you're having to hop all over this thread defending yourself should make you reconsider what you said, not start calling third parties liars for contradicting you.
But the fact that he has to "hop all over this thread defending" does not mean he is wrong in what he is saying. Edit: It just means the group here does not agree with what he is saying. The group has disagreed with what I have said in the past as well.
I appreciate hearing his views although he uses language that I wouldn't use "lie" etc.
But I also don't believe in bullying. Saying "will you please stop?" in a "we don't need you around here" way seems parental and a put down to me regardless of whether it's deserved or not.
more importantly, where is there even a single citation of Fred placing immense pressure on even a single startup to generate a patent?
You should retract your comment, since you made it all up.
Claiming someone is guilty by association or virtue of their profession is bad form.
"None of them represent unique and new ideas at the time of the filing. I supect they all can be thrown out over prior art if Facebook takes the time and effort to do that."
I do think that pre- IPO this is a pretty dirty play. You might have a point if you can show a case where Fred Wilson or VC's sues other companies right before an IPO on bogus patents...I am not aware of any such instance.
Is it a bit dirty to do this immediately pre-IPO? Yeah, I think so, even absent other concerns. But Fred's comments go far beyond these specific patents at this specific time. He talks about a very general "unspoken line" that web companies shouldn't cross. It's the general statement I object to, not the specific one.
To answer your question about novel software patents, yes, I've seen people say the RSA patent was novel. However, novelty is only one of three requirements for patentability. RSA is essentially a mathematical algorithm patent. It's not statutory material for a patent, any more than Benson's patent was.
BTW, you're taking a lot of heat in this thread that you don't deserve. I work at a VC funded startup (with USV as an investor no less) and I basically agree with you.
To answer your question, of course IANAL but the way to do this is to assign the patents to an external entity such as http://www.patentcommons.org/ or http://www.openinventionnetwork.com/, where that entity has a charter allowing only defensive use - and preferably with other entities involved to enforce that charter. A public statement like http://www.redhat.com/legal/patent_policy.html doesn't hurt either, though it's not legally binding. Now, PC or OIN might not be the exact right vehicle for you, for other reasons, but that's the basic approach.
Disclaimer: I work for Red Hat, which is a strong proponent of this approach and supporter of these organizations. Until software patents go away - and Red Hat is supporting that effort too - this is the only way to play the game that is both safe and (IMO) moral.
But for a different reason: It allows a "catch all" email, so I register on every site as <sitedomain.com>@vekslers.org and have my account act as a catch all sink. This allows me to both filter out spamming sources and trace back who leaked my email address to 3rd party sources. This approach is a pivot on the email@example.com email tagging which most js form validations devs are unaware of it being a legal email syntax and thus do not allow.
This relives me of the need to worry to post my email address, which is firstname.lastname@example.org out in the open (true emails are very much welcome).
Do you get a lot of spam to addresses like admin@domain ?
There's a silver lining, though. When I took down my catchall I took the 100 most popular guessed addresses and routed them all to my Bayesian trainer. It was a big help with certain sorts of spam.
From Apple device?
And where was Fred when MS started its shit?
Oh effing come one now, lets have a honest conversation Fred instead of some lame miss-direction..