Uh Oh: US Postal Service Wants To Better 'Monetize' Its 'Intellectual Property'

from the this-will-not-end-well dept

Via Clay Johnson we learn of a "solicitation" from the US Postal Service for help in finding better ways to "monetize" its "intellectual property."
The purpose of this solicitation is to procure services to obtain a supplier who possesses specific subject matter expertise in the areas of intellectual property (IP) strategy, the monetization of IP portfolios and the development of Intellectual Asset Management practices. The purpose of this contract is to evaluate the U.S. Postal Service's ('Postal Service') current IP strategy and define the steps, based on current industry best practices, needed to develop a comprehensive strategy for developing, managing, and monetizing IP.
Now, the US Postal Service is in this weird space where it is not quite a full government agency, but not quite a fully independent operation (or it can be seen as either depending on how you squint). However, it is supposed to be serving the public, and becoming a patent troll (what this is really about) hardly seems like it will serve the public's interest. As is established under 39 USC 101, the Postal Service is supposed to be about serving the public interest:
The United States Postal Service shall be operated as a basic and fundamental service provided to the people by the Government of the United States, authorized by the Constitution, created by Act of Congress, and supported by the people. The Postal Service shall have as its basic function the obligation to provide postal services to bind the Nation together through the personal, educational, literary, and business correspondence of the people. It shall provide prompt, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas and shall render postal services to all communities. The costs of establishing and maintaining the Postal Service shall not be apportioned to impair the overall value of such service to the people.
Separately, the law notes:
In determining all policies for postal services, the Postal Service shall give the highest consideration to the requirement for the most expeditious collection, transportation, and delivery of important letter mail.
I can't see how shaking down competitors like UPS and Fedex will serve that well.

And, of course, that's likely what this is all about. Everyone knows there is tremendous controversy over the US Postal Service and its financial situation (which is distorted by the way it is required to handle its pensions). So the USPS is desperate for alternate ways to get money in. From the brief quip in the solicitation, it certainly sounds like it's looking for ways to jump into the patent game and seek licensing revenue from others. The last thing we really need is the US Postal Service waving around patents, demanding payments from more innovative competitors, but it sounds like that may be what we're about to get.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    silverscarcat (profile), Apr 10th, 2013 @ 8:17am

    Your tax dollars at work, ladies and gentlemen

    Instead of being used to fund the USPS, roads, bridges, schools, a mental health care system, etc...

    We need to use the money to fund trillions of dollars into wars, treaties that screw the common folk over, laws that can make anyone a criminal, illegal extradition for people who are NOT criminals (Not talking about Kim Dotcom, he may or may not be a criminal, talking about Richard O'Dwyer here), not to mention that we need to do something about gun laws (which I agree with, but wouldn't it be better to make the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) Agency do their job?) which, apparently, means doing something about the guns, not the people. (Keep guns out of the hands of psychopaths)

     

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      Ninja (profile), Apr 10th, 2013 @ 10:15am

      Re: Your tax dollars at work, ladies and gentlemen

      When your money is being misused by the Govt how do you proceed? If you stop paying taxes you get all sorts of penalties (and the Federal Reserve or whatever agency deals with taxes must be one of the things that work flawlessly there just like it happens here).

      Just like copyright I completely support paying taxes to fund Govt and social stuff but I despise it when I see the money being wasted in corruption, inefficiency and unneeded things. You know, I su8pport it if it works as it should.

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2013 @ 10:51am

        Re: Re: Your tax dollars at work, ladies and gentlemen

        Half the problem is that the federal government keeps sticking its nose everywhere. Your congressman should not be involved in drunk driving laws, speed limits, seat belt laws, etc. You should not have to care about their position on abortion, gay marriage, etc. If these things were left to the states, perhaps we could ignore these issues in congressional elections, and focus more on things that the federal government is actually supposed to do. Issues like copyright, trade agreements, and even the postal service might get more attention.

         

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      jupiterkansas (profile), Apr 10th, 2013 @ 10:40am

      Re: Your tax dollars at work, ladies and gentlemen

      Honestly, doesn't all that sound a lot more fun than building a bridge?

       

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      mhab, Apr 10th, 2013 @ 11:40am

      Re: Your tax dollars at work, ladies and gentlemen

      It would be great if the atf could do their job... however because of the increasing insanity in Washington: political cowardess, and outright obstruction (primarily refering to republicans in both houses of congress, although it could also apply to some democrats). Its because of this (and the fact that the most paranoid among us seem to control our national politics) that the ATF hasnt even had a permanent director since the end of the bush administration and people falling for the lunacy that a gun registry = a precurser to to men in black helicopters coming in and taking their guns from them (or some other equally paranoid delusion)... Im saying this as an american citizen, so if you want to question my "patriotism" feel free... but i would much rather live in an America where no one had guns than everyone and their brother having one

       

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        mhab, Apr 10th, 2013 @ 11:42am

        Re: Re: Your tax dollars at work, ladies and gentlemen

        It would be great if the atf could do their job... however (edit)it cant (/edit) because of the increasing insanity in Washington: political cowardess, and outright obstruction (primarily refering to republicans in both houses of congress, although it could also apply to some democrats). Its because of this (and the fact that the most paranoid among us seem to control our national politics) that the ATF hasnt even had a permanent director since the end of the bush administration and people falling for the lunacy that a gun registry = a precurser to to men in black helicopters coming in and taking their guns from them (or some other equally paranoid delusion)... Im saying this as an american citizen, so if you want to question my "patriotism" feel free... but i would much rather live in an America where no one had guns than everyone and their brother having one

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2013 @ 10:07am

    I wonder how they wll word delivering letters and parcels to get it past the patent examiners?

     

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    toyotabedzrock (profile), Apr 10th, 2013 @ 10:27am

    Umm

    The only thing innovative about its competitors is their better tracking that customers see. But personally usps has always been faster and cheaper.

     

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      silverscarcat (profile), Apr 10th, 2013 @ 10:30am

      Re: Umm

      Well, Fed Ex and UPS DO drop off bigger packages at your doorstop instead of holding it at their offices (save for some) most of the time.

       

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        Mason Wheeler (profile), Apr 10th, 2013 @ 11:31am

        Re: Re: Umm

        Not around here they don't. It's like pulling teeth getting UPS or Fedex to deliver anything to me, because they only deliver during "regular business hours," which, surprise surprise, are the same hours that I, as an employee of a regular business, am at work and therefore NOT AT HOME AND ABLE TO PICK UP A FREAKING PACKAGE.

        And trying to do something as simple and obvious as get them to attach a note to my package to deliver it to the apartment manager because I won't be home to accept delivery generally involves hours of runaround over the course of multiple phone calls, and then coming home and finding the "could not deliver" sticker on my door anyway. How either of them are able to remain in business under conditions so hostile to their customers is beyond me!

        USPS, on the other hand, always delivers packages shipped by them to my box without hassle. I've never had a shipping problem with them.

         

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        Davey, Apr 10th, 2013 @ 12:14pm

        Re: Re: Umm

        Not around here. Nor, unlike the PO, there's no place to pick up the package. Sometimes if you mark "leave at door" on the notice, they'll do it around half the time.

        Fedex made its money delivering documents and small packages same day or overnight for 20x more than the PO. Businesses were happy to pay because they could just pass the cost on.

         

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      bob, Apr 10th, 2013 @ 12:16pm

      Re: Umm

      it's been cheaper because it's being subsidized by all the people who pay taxes, whether they are sending and receiving mail or not. that actual operations aren't cheaper or more efficient. and USPS uses fedex to actually get their mail bundles around the world.
      so, yes, it's faster and cheaper if someone else pays the bulk of the cost.
      it's certainly not faster if I need to walk in at 6pm and send something right now to get there next morning.
      cuz they're closed at 4:30 in most places. :-P

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2013 @ 10:36am

    Politicians: We'll make government more efficient by making it act more like a regular business like the rest of America does.

    Hmm... looks like they succeeded in that with the USPS, turning them into a publicly owned Intellectual Property trolling business.

    What 'brilliant' ways will politicians make our government act like a privately owned business next?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2013 @ 10:46am

      Re:

      Make all staffers pay for their break-times?

       

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      Jay (profile), Apr 10th, 2013 @ 11:41am

      Annoyance factor 9

      That's the most annoying part about this...

      The USPS would be perfectly solvent without the 2006 poison pill where it has to fund future employees disproportionately. Meanwhile, partisan politics means that they aren't allowed to innovate or raise rates as needed and provide a public service as the people would want and/or demand.

      You can not run a public service like a business.

      Public services are democratic. If a service fails to deliver our needs we can hold those responsible to account at the ballot box. Important matters like wages, pensions and working conditions are the result of negotiation and subject to internal and popular support.

      Public services are funded by public money, paid to public workers, managed by public representatives working together to deliver social utility – every penny put in recycles within the public economy.


      And that's the key issue here. We've gotten USPS to run a public service like a business would and we're watching this continual privatization of the service destroy it from within. I just wonder how long can this go on?

       

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        Davey, Apr 10th, 2013 @ 12:21pm

        Re: Annoyance factor 9

        It will go on until "conservatives" and "deficit hawks" finally manage to kill it off for once and for all, along with every other public service. Then they can sell it to some "venture capitalist" thugs, at which point the money faucets will open to the max.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2013 @ 10:36am

    "By using USPS products and services, you hereby agree to transfer to USPS all copyrights on all materials transferred to USPS, including, but not limited to, letters, envelopes, parcels, packages, and boxes, and any and all items contained within the aforementioned materials."

     

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Apr 10th, 2013 @ 10:38am

    USPS is a PRIVATE corporation, does NOT serve "public interest"!

    This is not surprising, except that Mike as usual has a wrong premise for his complaining. -- Any other corporation he'd cheer on as doing well for stockholders with "innovative" new way of getting unearned income.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2013 @ 10:48am

      Re: USPS is a PRIVATE corporation, does NOT serve "public interest"!

      Are you simply delusional?

       

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      PRMan, Apr 10th, 2013 @ 10:52am

      Re: USPS is a PRIVATE corporation, does NOT serve "public interest"!

      Yeah. Mike always cheers on patent trolls... :rolleyes:

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2013 @ 11:02am

      Re: USPS is a PRIVATE corporation, does NOT serve "public interest"!

      "This is not surprising, except that Mike as usual has a wrong premise for his complaining. -- Any other corporation he'd cheer on as doing well for stockholders with "innovative" new way of getting unearned income."

      Actually, boy, Mike is against exactly that concept, hor havent you been reading the posts?

       

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      JP Jones (profile), Apr 10th, 2013 @ 11:17am

      Re: USPS is a PRIVATE corporation, does NOT serve "public interest"!

      USPS is a PRIVATE corporation, does NOT serve "public interest"!

      ...A private corporation specifically created by the Constitution, partially funded with government subsidies, and possesing several federally appointed powers, who's leadership is appointed by the President of the United States?

      Yeah, totally private. Obviously not designed for the public interest at all.

      Where do you get this stuff?

       

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    John Doe, Apr 10th, 2013 @ 10:51am

    You've got mail...

    Uh oh, it is a summons for patent violation!

     

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    Wolfy, Apr 10th, 2013 @ 11:27am

    Actually the USPS helped revolutionised the candy industry... they studied the ways the USPS machines handled mail, and adapted it to wrapping individual candy pieces.

    On the other hand, I seem to recall ANYTHING developed by the US Gov't., is public domain, seeing as they used public money to do everything. NASA being the case in point... all the tech developed by NASA was free to any US company to further develop and employ.

     

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    Wolfy, Apr 10th, 2013 @ 11:30am

    To the TROLL: Your tactic of stating on non-facts as if they were actual facts, has been worn so thin by the rethuglicans, that you could read newsprint through it.

    In other words, the only people you are fooling are small children.

     

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    Bengie, Apr 10th, 2013 @ 11:34am

    wtf

    Government funds can support "private" patents to government services?

     

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    artp (profile), Apr 10th, 2013 @ 11:35am

    Deja Vu All Over Again

    Didn't they float something like this last year, too?

     

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    bob, Apr 10th, 2013 @ 12:18pm

    what IP does USPS hold?

    not sure if anyone knows, and maybe it's in the article and I ust missed it..
    but what IP does the USPS hold in the first place?
    and.. if that's tax funded IP, should they still be allowed to monopolize it?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2013 @ 6:40pm

    To the best of my recollection the USPS does not have an in-house R&D organization. Thus, virtually all of the patents it holds almost certainly find their genesis in inventions created by third parties in the course of procurement contracts with the USPS.

    Since it is a rarity for private parties to transfer title to an "important" intangible right to a federal agency, it is obvious that the USPS is using contractual terms mandating such a transfer. This is all well and good except for a couple of "teeny" problems. The Bayh-Dole Act controls, as does a subsisting Executive Order 12591. Under each, except in very narrowly described instances, title is directed to reside with the private sector contractors. In lieu of title, what the government receives is a non-exclusive license.

    In view of the above, I can only begin to wonder what would be the outcome if a third party (such as FedEx or UPS) was able to secure from the USPS contractor a "quitclaim" license?

    For many years the Department of Energy imposed (and I believe still does) similar mandates concerning inventions and patents. About 20 years ago it sought out the DOJ to bring suit against private parties it believed were infringing the patents it held via contractually-mandated assignments. To its credit the DOJ informed the DOE that its contract mandates were of questionable validity, and then stated it would not institute any such actions.

    Of course, I have not the slightest doubt that someone or some group will submit a proposal to the USPS in response to its Request for Proposals/Invitation to Bid). I also have not the slightest doubt that the responses will be replete with "flowery" language designed to convince the USPS that the bidder really, really knows his/her stuff. This said, I also have not the slightest doubt that the bidder hasn't a "clue", a contract will be let, a "white paper" will be prepared that sounds impressive, and that the project will ultimately wither on the vine.

    In tight financial times it is foolhardy to embark on a course that will necessarily involve throwing good money after bad.

     

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    allen (profile), Apr 11th, 2013 @ 10:36am

    No-bid tax free contracts

    The comparison to the real estate crisis can't be avoided in evaluating the story that the PO is expecting the public to believe.
    Politicians would like for us to believe that the banks were able to sneak into town without their knowledge and generate 67m illegal mortgages over the past decade.
    Postal managers want the public to believe that even though the cost of processing 1000 pieces of standard mail has be reduced to $1.50, down from $55, that they are losing money. This after eliminating 200,000 jobs and adding 30% more managers.
    Courts in New York have determined that the mortgages should be voided.
    Senator Susan Collins has said that the no-bid tax free contracts that are let by the PO should be audited.
    Both cases would result in indictments for politicians and postal managers.
    OK Ms. Warren let's start sending people to jail!

     

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    identicon
    staff, Apr 14th, 2013 @ 9:51am

    more dissembling by Masnick

    'demanding payments from more innovative competitors'

    You must lie awake at night dreaming of such dissemblings. If they own the patents, that means they were the innovator.

    Masnick and his monkeys have an unreported conflict of interest-
    https://www.insightcommunity.com/cases.php?n=10&pg=1

    They sell blog filler and "insights" to major corporations including MS, HP, IBM etc. who just happen to be some of the world’s most frequent patent suit defendants. Obviously, he has failed to report his conflicts as any reputable reporter would. But then Masnick and his monkeys are not reporters. They are hacks representing themselves as legitimate journalists receiving funding from huge corporate infringers. They cannot be trusted and have no credibility. All they know about patents is they don’t have any.

    http://truereform.piausa.org/default.html#pt.

     

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