[iDC] global rights expropriation in the intersection between theindustrial and the information ages

Andreas Schiffler aschiffler at ferzkopp.net
Wed May 23 16:31:09 EDT 2007

Guido Sohne wrote:
> <<Patents are complimentary; they are fully disclosed, but given
> government protection which prohibits others from making, using or
> selling the invention. What you want is for a patent holder to fully
> disclose their invention (as required under international patent laws)
> so you may use it freely. Remember, patents are not for ideas. They
> are attached to tangible articles of manufacture. As long as you are
> willing to steal a patent, why don't you just break into the
> manufacturer's plant and take over operations? What's the difference>>

Actually this is not correct. You can patent "just ideas" - these are 
called "process patents" and do not have to ever make it into a product 
(they do usually have to be implemented or described in detail usually 
to prove that they make something else better).

I am in fact someone in whose name a USPO patent was submitted - it is 
an algorithmic process for some software I designed. And while my name 
is on the patent application, in reality my company owns the rights to 
the patent and pays for the lawyers to do the paperwork and legal 
writeup. Having been close to the patenting process, we need to put the 
use of this patent in some perspective. My company will likely never sue 
anyone using this patent - it is merely an intangible "asset" attached 
to the corporate entity (maybe creates value when the company is merged 
in the future) and ultimately has use only for internal marketing 
purposes, because our customer will purchase a product with a "patent 
pending" or "patented" label attached to it. And hey, it looks good on 
my resume (if approved).

I would think the bulk of patents on file today are of this nature - 
relatively obscure and not useful in an capitalist-agressive mode 
because of who owns them and of what they say. For example when the 
laywers came back with 5 other patents after a patent-search on the 
similar topic like ours, all the other patents were overspecified to a 
degree that it was quite ridiculous to even compare them.

Having said that, I do want to point out that I am not diminishing your 
cause. Of course patents can be quite a pain in the ass - especially 
when wielded like weapons by corporate juggernauts - the latest 
Microsoft rumblings about 300+ OpenSource patent violations make me, a 
heavy Linux user, twitch. And since I believe, that currently most 
people feel quite indifferent about such behavior or even the details of 
the patent process there is no push by the population who authorizes 
this power-structure (by voting for a government) to change the system. 
Thus is becomes self-perpetuating and self-serving - and creates 
outcrops like the silly IE-Eolas violation lawsuit (Microsoft got milked 
for $100M and IE users suffer silly user interface quirks).

So it comes down to the quality and definition of the service in my 
view. What could change to make it better:
- broad patents should be ignored (or made to expire soon)
- expiry should be highly flexible depending on the field of the patent 
(for example in the information technologies, things 'expire' faster)
- patent ownership should come with more obligations on the part of the 
holders to make use of them
- give equal resources to the "voiding a patent" police, as compared to 
the "grant the patent" process

And there is one other thing. Any prior art can be held against a patent 
... so if I had talked about my algorithm mentioned above to someone 
without a signed NDA, that person could request a revocation of the 
patent my company filed. So to Wikify and OpenSource your life and 
setting the your ideas free maybe the best protection against a future 
grip of patents.


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