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More ammunition why patents are EVIL

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Well I guess if you are paying the lawyers all that money anyway, you have to keep them employed doing something until the lawsuits show up.  :-\

Well I guess if you are paying the lawyers all that money anyway, you have to keep them employed doing something until the lawsuits show up.  :-\
-steeladept (July 08, 2010, 12:43 PM)
--- End quote ---

Which is why many people argue against having a full-time legislature.  ;)


Patenting an idea basically.  How idiotic is this. 

I'm not sure patents are themselves entirely evil. I think they are probably being used in an evil way. But I think it may be more of the way the system is set up than the idea and function of a patent itself.

Admittedly I don't know much about how patents work, but I'm under the impression that they have a relatively short lifespan (7 years?) compared to copyright (lifetime+70 years or something obscene like that?).

I think the system should be reformed in a way to reject patents that are so broad and generic. Though they are probably designed that way because if they are specific then a competitor only has to change one of the specific things and it would no longer be violating the patent. I think reasonable limits on the lifetime of the patent should be enforced as well, to give those who come up with something truly unique a chance to profit from it (and potentially recover any R&D costs involved in producing whatever it was that was patented).

I also believe that, along with the rest of the law system, it should be rewritten and handled better to work more on the spirit of the law and not the letter of the law. The way the law is interpreted and enforced (letter of the law) results in impossible to read Legalese where they have to define every possible meaning of a word or make the laws extremely broad or else criminals will get away on technicalities (read: imperfections of our language to describe ideas).

Instead, a law should be written, followed by a description of the intent behind the law. Then it should be left to the judge(s)/jurors to interpret the law on a case-by-case basis rather than relying on technical meanings of the language and precedents set in other cases.

Doing that alone would probably result in the majority of lawyers being put out of a job. Immediately making the world a better place. ;)

I think that's why lawyers have had such a general bad reputation all throughout history. Because all they have to do is twist words around to mean what they want, perverting the intention of the law to meet the agenda of the client with the most money. Of course, not all lawyers are like that, but the ones who are in it for the money (with little regard for justice) would soon move on to other things, I think, if the spirit method was used.

Sorry, that went a bit off topic, but it was my intent to look more to the root of (patent) evil (how the law is interpreted), rather than the symptoms of evil (patents themselves).

The idea of a part of every law attempting to explain the "intent" is really interesting. Probably hard to realize in practice, but very interesting indeed.

There are many problems with patents but the fundamental idea is not so bad. It's just that, as with everything, it can be abused, and companies in particular are prone to doing so because they are amoral (because they're not entities that can have morals! :D). The problem is that companies are the main money centers of our world, and everyone wants money, including politicians, money creates influence, corporations therefore wield greater influence than people, and thus the laws shift to favor the corporation.

Anyway, there are a couple of patent system reforms I think are fairly critical.

#1: "Open source" the patent review process. Anyone can submit a patent and once submitted they have first chance at being granted one, but like any patent their application must be reviewed for prior art, uniqueness of the invention, etc. This should be judged by the population at large, not by a relatively few patent evaluators who couldn't possibly individually have the education necessary to properly evaluate evey patent. Imagine the Wikipedia model being applied to patent evaluation. 90% of patents would probably be thrown out within a week, either because there is significant prior art out there (nothing is better at finding prior art than "the crowd"), or because the invention is obvious and can be demonstrated to be so.

#2: Incentivize the *application* of patented ideas. Or, to look at it another way, discourage or penalize those who patent something and don't actually implement it in a product or service. This would address a multitude of patent-driven ills, from "patent trolls" who survive solely off litigation (contributing nothing whatsoever positive to society), to large companies who buy up patents that threaten their business model or products and just sit on them. The question of course is how to incentivize patent use. Various fee structures or "patent taxes" have been discussed which could potentially do this, and this ties in to the next point.

#3: Restructure the fees to reward single/first-time filers and increase costs for those who spam the system or are large patent holders. In other words if you have 1 patent, filing is free or cheap. If you are filing for your 5th patent, it's $1,000. Filing for you 10th? $10,000. 20th? $50,000. It's not a linear scale, it should go up quickly, perhaps even exponentially, and by the time you're looking at your 100th patent, let alone 1000th, it should give even large corporations pause to think just how valuable a given patent really is. Some might argue that there are a few highly prolific inventors who would be hurt by this, but A: many of those inventions might be invalidated if some of these other rules were in effect and B: how many of those prolific patenters actually do anything with most of thier parents? (see #3)

#4: Patent term reform. 20 years, which is the generally agreed upon standard these days due to TRIPS, WTO, etc. is just too long. The world moves too fast. 10 years would be better, but even that is questionable. The period should basically be long enough to bring the most complex possible individually patentable invention to market, and to capitalize on it for a few years at most. Personally I think anything more than 2 or 3 years of market *exclusivity* is unnecessary. If you figure the development of very complex technology may take 3 or 4 years to bring to market, and then add on 2-3 years for sales exclusivity, then perhaps 6-8 years makes more sense. I'd be OK seeing 10.

#5: Patent maintenance fees, which already exist, should be extracted yearly rather than every few years, and should also depend on the number of patents held. If you have 100 patents, your maintenance fees are higher.

#6: Life forms should not be patentable. Period. Neither should business methods or software. Anything that is subject to copyright should not also be patentable (e.g. software).

So those are my simplistic ideas. I doubt any will ever get implemented. The fee increases alone, particularly targeted at large patent holders, would help with the patent office's budget problems. Oh yes, and the patent office income should only be usable for patent office purposes. :P

- Oshyan


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