If Patents Had Been Around In The Time Of Newton

from the first-to-file dept

Last month we noted how striking it was when even random web comics were mocking the ridiculousness of the patent system -- pointing to a comic from SMBC. Well, he's back with yet another, even more direct, mocking of the patent system. Behold, patents in the time of Sir Isaac Newton.
Of course, I think he missed out on another joke (and was disappointed it wasn't in the after comment) concerning how the Newton-Leibniz controversy would have played out in a first to file system vs. a first to invent patent system. Then again, perhaps only true patent system geeks would get that one.


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  •  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2012 @ 11:20am

    The comic display seems to be messed up (in chrome at least), it's partially obscured by the right sidebar (a word from our sponsors, follow techdirt, essential reading, etc...)

     

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    bob, Oct 12th, 2012 @ 11:21am

    Of course it misses completely

    There are many things wrong with the patent system and many more aspects that are unfortunate side-effects, but the patent system did not make any of these mistakes. From the beginning, the system excluded patents on natural laws. So you couldn't patent momentum even if you discovered it.

    Furthermore, the patent system requires that all claims be written in a positive way. They don't mean optimistic, only that the patent can't be made broad by saying "I patent everything but X." One can only describe a mechanism for achieving something.

    But I'm afraid that these limitations are lost on the knee-jerk fools who are ready to toss out the baby with bathwater. They look at the excesses of the pharmaceutical industry and immediately assume that new drugs would magically appear faster if we took away all funding and property rights. Sure. That's why there are so many new drugs emerging from all of the patent-free intellectual fervor in Somalia. Heck, there aren't even any notable drugs coming out of India, a long-time rebel in refusing patent protection. Where did that get them?

    The fact is that the patent system reminds me of that old quote from Oscar Wilde: the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. There are plenty of lawless regions of the world where patents don't trouble the geniuses. So why are all of the great inventions coming from patent-loving places like Switzerland and the US?

     

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      weneedhelp (profile), Oct 12th, 2012 @ 11:36am

      Re: Of course it misses completely

      " So why are all of the great inventions coming from patent-loving places like Switzerland and the US?"

      You do notice the difference in comparing Swiss/USA to India/Somalia; correct?

      "the patent can't be made broad by saying "I patent everything but X." - Haven't read ANY of the patents listed on TD; Have you boB?

       

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      John Fenderson (profile), Oct 12th, 2012 @ 11:38am

      Re: Of course it misses completely

      So why are all of the great inventions coming from patent-loving places like Switzerland and the US?


      Be careful about assuming causation.

      It could very well be that most (far from all) great inventions come from such places not because such places are patent-loving, but that they are patent-loving because the inventions caused the rise of monopoly-loving corporations.

       

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      nospacesorspecialcharacters (profile), Oct 12th, 2012 @ 11:39am

      Re: Of course it misses completely

      And of course you miss the point completely, Bob. Under the current patent regimes (USPTO in particular) Isaac Newton would have had his patent applications rubber-stamped with little or no questions, leaving the question of validity to be decided by an expensive court process.

      In the meantime scientific and technological process grinds to a standstill as Mr Newton obtains injuctions againsts competing scientists that infringe on his iSaac patents.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2012 @ 12:19pm

        Re: Re: Of course it misses completely

        That is not really how it works...

        There are two issues with patents in the areas you mention, but they are a bit different than you think:

        Patents have been developing a lot through time and its primary purpose has been to reduce the commercial secrecy to get new research going.

        The first problem is something as banal as boundary pushing: Through time newer things will have to be watched for being natural or logical as well as having a sufficient height and actually being new. What is natural and what is logical is not set in stone and since the system works with a judiciary oversight accepting any use of a formulation if one slips by, there will inevitably be some erosion of the terms.

        The second problem is about the use in science: As soon as you have a patent on something it is still legal to use in scientific settings and it is even encouraged in many cases! The primary problem today is that the patents are very specific and generally takes equipment that not even universities own to create. By having that "monopoly" on production of the patented thing, it is very expensive to actually go out and buy it from the company and delivery + time to create it is another strain on public scientific research. What is even worse: Patents have made their way into the universities and it is therefore getting a lot more competitive between the professors at the same university. Some see that competition as good, but it is bad for the students who get caught up having to rely on single professors for advice and the research about anything with even a potentially future patenteable application is very problematic for all parts involved!

         

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          nospacesorspecialcharacters (profile), Oct 13th, 2012 @ 6:55pm

          Re: Re: Re: Of course it misses completely

          Patents have been developing a lot through time and its primary purpose has been to reduce the commercial secrecy to get new research going.


          True for a while. I would now say the primary purpose of patents is profit and defense - there is absolutely no need for software patents to exist (morally - patents on drugs and genetic sequences shouldn't exist either).

          The first problem is something as banal as boundary pushing...


          Hence, the boundaries have already been stretched beyond the ridiculous, to the point that natural scientific things have been patented and then left to the courts to decide just as I stated (worryingly, in some cases upheld by the courts):

          http://lmgtfy.com/?q=math+formula+patented
          http://lmgtfy.com/?q=patented+genes

          Let's just say if we were to compare the patentable boundaries to countries, America today would include Argentina, Congo, Turkey, Greenland and Finland as part of the USA.

          The primary problem today is that the patents are very specific...


          I'm pretty sure you'll find many informed people will argue that the problems with patents is exactly the opposite of that statement - they are overly broad - see above.

          I know I've cherry picking your comment somewhat but I'm not going to apologise for that. You seem to have got most of the problem analysed, but I felt the need to intentionally point out some small flaws in your premise in order to qualify my previous comment.

           

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      Benjo (profile), Oct 12th, 2012 @ 11:49am

      Re: Of course it misses completely

      Alright, you almost sound ready to make concessions so I'll ask you:

      Do you think patents (and their duration's) are more appropriate in some industries than others? You jump to talking about the pharmaceutical industry but do you think new smartphones and tablets would stop appearing if we no longer allowed patents on software and aesthetic design (x inch rectangular tablet with rounded edges)?

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2012 @ 5:06pm

      Re: Of course it misses completely

      can't be made broad by saying "I patent everything but X."

      You're right. They try to say "I patent [wishy-washy phrase which covers X and everything remotely related to X]"

       

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      G Thompson (profile), Oct 12th, 2012 @ 10:09pm

      Re: Of course it misses completely

      So why are all of the great inventions coming from patent-loving places like Switzerland and the US?

      You mean like the following patented devices and great inventions: Television, Radio, Synchronised Audio Soundtracks on Projected Movies, Over the Horizon Radar, Radar, WLAN, Telnet, Aircraft Black Boxes, Lawnmower, Steam Engine, The Automobile, Sewing Machine, Penicillin, Human Invitrofertilisation, Neon Lamp....

      Shall I go on? Oh and NO NONE of the above were invented either in the USA or Switzerland.

      Actually the thing you are reading right now we like to call the World Wide Web was NOT invented in the USA or by an American though interestingly was NOT patented either. Wow hey? no patent on probably one of the most amazing and important inventions since the Printing Press.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2012 @ 5:12pm

    finally, cartoons that are worse that Nina Paley's stuff. Way to go!

    The humor is pure "play to the choir" crap, because it's just not logical. The closing zinger is stupid, because he patent the calculations, not the use, which is a big difference. But I understand this plays well to the anti-IP crowd, right?

    I won't petition to get Nina's cartoons back, but can you please stop subjecting us to this crap?

     

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      Jeff (profile), Oct 12th, 2012 @ 6:21pm

      Re:

      can you stop subjecting us to your crap comments?

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2012 @ 7:59pm

      Re:

      Wow, you are indeed a certified asshole. SMBC is one of the best comics and communities in the world, and have contributed far more to society then a nobody loser like you.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2012 @ 9:06pm

      Re:

      Why complain about SMBC here, and not at the main site if you have so many issues with it?

       

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      Ninja (profile), Oct 15th, 2012 @ 5:16am

      Re:

      Seems you fail at interpreting sarcasm. And there is a particularly problematic point there: integrals are pretty much the foundation of most of what we have available today. I Newton managed to patent maybe we wouldn't have seen many of the innovations based on his methods that came to pass during the time the patent would be valid. This point is really well addressed in the cartoon and the rest is just sarcasm. Actually, the patent employee seems to be an improved version of reality.

       

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