As the legal debate over "obviousness" in patents continues, one idea that keeps coming back up is the idea that a bunch of techies should just get together and write down everything obvious they can think of to use as prior art against obvious patents. However, there are a number of problems with this idea, and it could turn out to be more dangerous than helpful. First of all, the number of "obvious" ideas out there is basically infinite -- and the problem with most obvious ideas found in patents is simply that they're so obvious no one even thinks of writing them down for the sake of prior art. Part of the problem is this specific idea that something that's "obvious" needs "prior art." Obvious doesn't necessarily need prior art if it's either the natural progression of development or something that people simply have always assumed. By trying to set up this "database" of prior art, it is likely to end up being used in favor of obvious patents -- as they'll be able to point to it and say that since so many people are writing down obvious ideas, and this one wasn't included, then clearly it's not obvious. It's great that people are trying to come up with better ways to stop obvious patents from being granted (or abused), but separating prior art from obviousness is important, and such a database does the opposite.
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