San Francisco Game Designer Creates Program That Converts Any Text Into A Patent Application

from the probably-a-patentable-process-itself dept

The US patent system is still largely broken, despite years of promises to clean the mess up. As we covered last week, Amazon was recently granted a patent to a photography method that’s been in common use for years. Also recently, it was noted that the patent office has resumed its regularly-scheduled programming and is granting as many patents as humanly possible.

With the office running at full speed, there’s no time like the present to submit your patent application to the rubber-stamping machine. The specifics of the application are less important than overall appearance of professionalism, so why not hand the creation job over to automation as well?

Sam Lavigne (a SF-based artist and game designer) has created a program that turns any text into a not-entirely-unbelievable patent application.

I wrote a program that transforms literary and philosophical texts into patent applications. In short, it reframes texts as inventions or machines. You can view the code on github.

I was partially inspired by Paul Scheerbart’s Perpetual Motion Machine, a sort of technical/literary diary in which Scheerbart documents and reflects on various failed attempts to create a perpetual motion machine. Scheerbart frequently refers to his machines as “stories” – I wanted to reverse the concept and transform stories into machines.

Levine’s post goes into more detail on how this is achieved, starting with the standard formation of most patent applications, whose titles are generally of the “Method and device for xxxx” variety. The resulting applications generated by his code definitely have the patois of the patent process down cold. When attempting to patent something obvious or already patented, the ability to spin a thick web of dense text is a necessity. Lavigne’s algorithms don’t disappoint. Here’s a bit from The Communist Manifesto: the Patent Application (“A method and device for comprehending, theoretically, the historical movement.”)

Figure 1 is an isometric view of the progressive historical development of the proletariat.

Figure 5 is a diagram of the whole superincumbent strata of official society.

Figure 8 is a perspective view of the first conditions for emancipation.

Figure 10 schematically illustrates the French criticism of the bourgeois State.

Figure 11 is a block diagram of an independent section of modern society.

Figure 12 schematically illustrates the disastrous effects of machinery and division.

Figure 14 is a cross section of the misty realm of philosophical fantasy.

Figure 15 is a perspective view of an agrarian revolution as the prime condition.

Lavigne has also provided samples derived from “The Hunger Artist” by Franz Kafka and “The Question Concerning Technology” by Martin Heidegger.

At some point in the future, Lavigne plans to release a version that will implement any user input, meaning that any person’s blog/Twitter feed/email will soon have a shot at US Patent Office validation. In the meantime, the code is available at Github for “innovators” wishing to get a head start on non-coding rivals.

It’s an interesting exercise in bending unrelated texts to the formats and formalities of patent applications. The fact that its creations are no less credible than some actual patent applications isn’t necessarily an indictment of the system, which, at the application point, is wholly dependent on the submitter’s skill and intelligence. If an algorithmically-generated patent app manages to sneak its way into granted status, then there’s reason for concern. The patent office is no longer riding the brakes, which obviously increases the chances of bad patents being granted. It’s hard to imagine something like Kafka’s “apparatus and device for staring into the void” making its way past any halfway alert examiner, but it at least it could make for some interesting reading.

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Comments on “San Francisco Game Designer Creates Program That Converts Any Text Into A Patent Application”

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Anonymous Coward says:

” I wrote a program that transforms literary and philosophical texts into patent applications. In short, it reframes texts as inventions or machines “

Right now John Steele is desperately trying Phone Paul Hansmeier to tell him he just found a new scheme to get easy cash and has opened a new drink and pour box of wine to celebrate the occasion with.

Shill says:

“Also recently, it was noted that the patent office has resumed its regularly-scheduled programming and is granting as many patents as humanly possible. “

But this just means we’re being more innovative. More patents = more invention and innovation!!! See the formula there? So if you want to make America even more innovative we should grant even more patents. We should disregard prior art, obviousness, and merit. All patents should be rubber stamped without the patent examiner even reading them. Then we can be even more innovative.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

More of the Chinese are becoming engineers taking away from the patent troll profession. China needs to adopt stricter patent policies so that they can be more like the U.S. and create more patent attorneys and become more inventive and innovative instead of just stealing ideas from U.S. patent attorney firms. Who needs engineers when they just steal ideas from patent attorneys.

(the sad part is that this is what the shills around here seriously seem to argue).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

This really doesn’t make sense…well, not quite. One question: how much does the PTO charge for an application, and how much for a granted patent? I’m thinkin’ that they are making a bundle on these “patents” and couldn’t care less about validity. Follow the money!

That One Guy (profile) says:


I’m not quite sure which side to root for more.

On one hand, something like this would allow the patent office to be absolutely buried under a flood of junk patents(even more so than currently), which could be just what’s needed to get some actual reform for the system.

On the other hand, if history is any lesson, until that ‘reform happens I’m betting a good 90-100% of those junk patents would be granted, making for one hell of a treasure trove for the patent trolls to scavenge from.

Mark Noo (profile) says:

Re: Conflicted

Here is a link to the patent application fees.

If this stuff didn’t cost money I would be happy to apply for patents on all my niece’s essays.

What about math homework. Would the program work if only numbers and symbols are present?

This is by far the funniest post I have read all day. Just thinking about all the stuff we can exclude people from using is staggering.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Conflicted

I’m thinking Kickstart it.. absolutely flood the process and then show with proof that these bogus patents were allowed and then the onus is on the US Patent office to basically either say they are incompetent or stupid or both. it’s a LOSE-LOSE for them.

I’m sure a whole lot of people would pay 70-280 per pop for the chance to destroy your current idiotic system. Just make sure they state in writing that all patents will be Common Property afterwards (Public Domain)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Conflicted

Uhm … I wonder how this ‘Micro Entity Fee’ thing works?

“The fees subject to reduction upon establishment of small entity status (37 CFR 1.27) or micro entity status (37 CFR 1.29) are shown in separate columns. “

So is this how inventhelp and other organizations work? They get some poor schmuck to apply for a patent so that they can get it for cheaper by paying a ‘micro entity fee’ and then they buy the patent from that person for way less than the patent troll would have to otherwise pay?

Is this partly why patent trolls try to form different ‘sub-organizations’? They try to get these little organizations to get the patents for cheaper than what a larger patent aggregation organization would pay and then to sell that patent to the larger organization for much less than what the larger organization would have to pay if they applied for them themselves?

If this is correct … what a scam.

Emelio Lizardo says:

Now all we need is the reciprocal invention, a program for the patent office that reads and grants patent applications.

The patent fabricating and granting programs can be directly linked.

Further, the writing program can be made into a bot that scoured the internet for patentable text.

A whole new series of bots could scan the patent database for conflicts and sue defending bots. Plaintiffs and respondents can be automatically billed.

Anonymous Coward says:

My current favorite awful patent is....

…. #8422994

I’ve looked at this thing for hours and have yet to parse out anything that can be called an invention.

It’s a word-salad of things that might maybe somehow be done with a smartphone.

It’s owned by Digimarc, which once upon a time was a real company. From reading the Wikipedia article on them, I speculate that they’ve hollowed themselves out and are now a patent mill, in association with Intellectual Ventures.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: My current favorite awful patent is....

Well, at its core that patent seems to be a about image/audio interpretation.

Which is a very legitimate field of research and development. It’s very easy for a human to identify something that’s “food”, for example, but ridiculously complex to get a machine to identify which objects are food in a photograph. Or even what objects are actually physically separate. Or what is even an object, or just a 2-d rendition of an object (“Ceci n’est pas une pipe”)

If someone did develop a very efficient and accurate algorithm for this kind of process, it would actually be a legitimate development that would have extremely wide-spread application.

Granted, this patent is probably just an imperfect attempt that’s still good for some novelty purposes.

Peter Pan says:

Profound misunderstanding

This article and many of the comments reveal a profound misunderstanding of the patent system. We now have over 8 million issued US patents, and yes, crap does squeak through more often then never. If you’ve ever had a patent application examined by the USPTO, you will know they are not all blithering idiots, as this blog would have you believe. You can pull a fast one on them with high priced lawyers, and get a weak patent, but it won’t be worth much in the patent market, during licensing negotiations, or ultimately in court. This is not a balanced view of the patent system.

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