NASA Once Again Auctioning Off Patents Your Tax Dollars Paid For

from the why-the-exclusivity dept

One of the few good things in the US concerning copyright law was the decision to make sure that all federal government documents, that are released, are released into the public domain rather than covered by any sort of government copyright (such as crown copyright found in other countries). However, for some reason, the government has not done the same thing when it comes to federally funded research that is turned into patents. A couple of years ago, we questioned why NASA was auctioning off patents that were taxpayer funded. It appears that NASA doesn’t care.Ben points us to the news that NASA is about to auction off a bunch of other patents as well, including five patents around “automated software generation.” There’s simply no reason not to put this research into the public domain where it can actually be used to benefit both commercial and non-commercial projects. By auctioning off a patent monopoly, it will almost certainly be using taxpayer-funded research to stifle innovation.

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Comments on “NASA Once Again Auctioning Off Patents Your Tax Dollars Paid For”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Spending Taxpayer Dollars...

Obama doesn’t believe in space so the funds are short, not that I agree with auctioning those patents at all but it explain why they want to do it so badly, also the economy is not that good so you can see why they are doing this.

Now genetic programming is patentable?
I recall tones of prior art, everybody and their dog did try genetic programming at some point.

Anonymous Coward says:

Points of view

The problem is, we (by this meaning most commenters here) already came to the conclusion that patents in general (and software patents in particular) only stifle innovation. But they haven’t.

For them, selling these patents will somehow enhance innovation. The mechanism they are thinking of is probably something like “once these patents are sold the buyers will be able to use them to produce new and innovative products”, ignoring or dismissing as less important concerns such as stifling innovation from other companies and individuals, and the ever annoying “patent thicket” where the whole market gets deadlocked.

Each side thinks the other is dangerously wrong. We think they are endangering the future of their country and perhaps the whole world, by substantially increasing the cost of innovation. They think reducing or eliminating patents would endanger the future of their country and perhaps the whole world, by substantially reducing the incentive for innovation.

Ben (profile) says:

Re: Points of view

I understand the view that patenting will get innovations out of the lab the fastest, but I question why they are being offered only under exclusive licenses at an appreciable cost. I’m sure that the Goddard tech transfer office has reasons to choose this scheme, but I think those justifications should be made public-both to ensure the best licensing strategy is pursued and to allow evaluation of that decision 5 years down the road…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Yours is the one comment that is pointed in the proper direction. By what authority does the USG have the right to grant itself patents?

BTW, the status of “government works” falling into the public domain is a legislative mandate, and this is its major failing. The law can always be changed at some date in the future to change the status quo. In fact, even with the legislative mandate now in effect, there are circumstances wherein the USG is permitted to hold copyrights (i.e., assignment, bequest or devise).

Anonymous Coward says:


um you htink selling the patents to a troll is not dangerous?
That somehow the warning bells are not coming up here? Tax payers already paid for this shit. IT SHOULD GO PUBLIC DOMAIN. OR at min to an org that allows ONLY say YOUR COUNTRY to use them freely , a kinda of taxpayer public domain based on country.

thats fair use
and me being in canada not having paid taxes on htose patents then would need to buy a product made form one of your USA people make OR if i want ot use said patent would have to pay a nominal and fair royalty that goes back to the US treasury.

YA know as i said above go watch that national geographic movie “collapse” this is stiffing of your tech will only hasten the coming storm.

Anonymous Coward says:

@ChurchHatesTucker, Nov 1st, 2010, 6:20pm

“”Now genetic programming is patentable?
I recall tones of prior art, everybody and their dog did try genetic programming at some point.”

Mother Nature claims prior art.”

Just so we are clear, the genetic programming I was refering to is this one.

Not to be confused with Genetic engineering.

In artificial intelligence, genetic programming (GP) is an evolutionary algorithm-based methodology inspired by biological evolution to find computer programs that perform a user-defined task. It is a specialization of genetic algorithms (GA) where each individual is a computer program. It is a machine learning technique used to optimize a population of computer programs according to a fitness landscape determined by a program’s ability to perform a given computational task.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: All The Fault Of The Democrats

heeeeeeeall yeahhhhea let’s all go in there and vote our way out of this mess! once them pinko liberals are out of there and we’ve repealed that Sochilizm Obamacare, we can get enough money together to start another war, who knows maybe two! I sure will miss havin a bonified black man to blame everything on though… so heres what we do.. everyone just go into the voting booth and write in “Jeb Bush” if you need help spellin it, look for a kid with glasses and ask them, theyz usually perty smart!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I was going to ask this very question. Tupperware NC Batteries, glow in the dark illumination and a TON of other innovations (and a few inventions) that really jolted the economy making giants of industry… which apperently bought out the government and now exploit the scrappy upstart that wants to start the next Tupperware… huray innovation!

Anonymous Coward says:


If you’re not part of the solution (hell, even if you are the solution), there’s more money to be made in prolonging the problem than in solving it…

Anyone else see the problem with incentivising (sp) things in this manner? There is no incentive to ‘solve’ the problem since everyone involved in prolonging the issue is making more money while helping make the problem worse.

This is the same reason drug companies come out with ‘treatments’ and ‘symptom reducers’ rather than cures (when/where they can), if you ‘Fix’ the problem with a $1000 dollar pill, that’s all you will ever get out of that patient, now if you sell them a $100/month ‘treatment’ that reduces some of their symptoms and kind of makes them feel better, you can profit until they run out of money or die from the lack of a cure (or more likely the ‘treatment’ has some unknown side effect that only kicks in after a year or two, and the patient dies from the treatment…. this has never happened, right? I’m just being paranoid and drug companies wouldn’t really do this would they?)

Anon says:

It's not all bad...

You’re missing the part where the money from the auctions goes to NASA, and thence to fund further fundamental research. Sure, the patents may end up with a patent troll who may sue a few big companies, who themselves may be doing good research, and this may cut into their budget a bit. However, I doubt any of those companies are doing research at the level NASA is. Look at it as a trade-off: slightly less commercial innovation at the expense of slightly greater fundamental research.

Yeah, OK, it’s not the most ideal situation, but I guess it’s not all bad.

Also, a lot of innovation in the US happens in universities doing federally funded research projects, which often generate patents, which are then often licensed for commercialization (in the ideal case). Federally funded projects = taxpayer funded projects. This has been going on forever, so this NASA auction is not exactly a rare thing.

mhenriday (profile) says:

Mathematical algorithms

should not be subject to patents in the first place – imagine every school child paying, say, Microsoft for using the Pythagorean theorem (which was, of course, well known long before Pythagoras) ! But selling out the results of research funded by the public purse to deep-pocketed corporations is par for the course – government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich scores yet another triumph !…


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