You Cannot Create A Database Of All Obvious Ideas

from the obviously dept

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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Comments on “You Cannot Create A Database Of All Obvious Ideas”

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Oliver Wendell Jones (profile) says:

Patent Filing

I’m calling a patent attorney tomorrow and asking him to start paper work on “Method for creating a database of all obvious ideas *on the internet*” and “Method for creating a database of all obvious ideas *on a wireless network*”.

Let’s see now, what recent *tack on to an existing idea* suffixes have I forgotten? How about “Method for creating a database of all obvious ideas *using*” and “Method for creating a database of all obvious ideas *using*”.

If someone else wants to file for “Method for creating a database of all obvious ideas *using YouTube*” I’ll let you have that one – because that one is *just silly*…

If only I could come up with a way to work in either Apple or iPod that would be sweet…

Anonymous Coward says:


I disagree… you could hypthetically create a database that’s essentially a brute force compilation of every possible word combination with a relativly high ranged arbitrary cutoff point for number of words and then use some fuzzy logic to seperate ideas from non-ideas and to further classify ideas into obvious and not-so-obvious 😛

or you could get philosophical and debate endlessly as to what constitutes “obvious” until you’ve worked all your ideas into the obvious category…

i prefer plan a.

kuronoir says:


Since a large number of technology related people are here, lets go ahead and start the religious platform war now..

Should the database be SQL Server or Oracle?

(for the non techs out here that will keep them busy for the rest of the thread and we can go ahead and make the database on something like the free google database or something)

Andy Armstrong (user link) says:

I'll bite :)

I guess this might possibly be a criticism of Bleeding Obvious ? 🙂

The flavour of ideas I’m aiming to capture is “that seems like a neat idea – but surely it’s not worth patenting”.

Obviously (heh) it’s impossible to capture all the obvious ideas – idea space is effectively infinite. I do, however, think there’s a category of ideas that, while certainly good ideas, seem obvious as soon as the thinker has thought them. That’s the category I’m interested in. Think of it as an alternative patent system for things that are good enough to write down but too much effort to patent.

Neal says:

Me and my monkeys

I go one better and claim that my infinite number of monkeys can put every idea on paper given a reasonable amount of time typing. Since a collection of otherwise dumb monkeys can not only write down the ideas, but do so in full legalese for a patent application, I suggest only one possible conclusion. There are no ideas worthy of patents. The patent office should be immediately closed and all patent lawyers should be forced into endentured servitude shuffling the reams of waste paper my monkeys produce.

Joe Smith says:


It may not be sensible to create a database where the techies try to input every idea they ever had. It could be possible to create a database containing large numbers of abandoned development projects, graduate engineering theses, undergraduate term papers etc. as a large, searchable and publicly accessible body of work.

One of the purposes of such a database would be to allow employers to look for students and researchers who were familiar with the particular area the employer was interested in.

Remember that Federal Express started as a term paper.

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