Unpatent Launches Combination Crowdfunding/Crowdsourcing Platform To Invalidate Stupid Patents

from the make-it-so dept

I’m always super interested in new ideas for hacking the patent system to get around just how broken it is — and the fact that Congress still seems to have no real desire to fix things — mainly because some of the largest patent system exploiters are standing in the way of necessary reform. So it’s always cool to hear of new ideas to try to fix things without having to bother with changing the law.

The latest interesting idea: Unpatent — a combination crowdfunding/crowdsourcing platform with the goal of invalidating stupid patents. Each stupid patent gets its own crowdfunding campaign, in which Unpatent looks to raise at least $20,000. This money does two things: it is used to pay for a legal challenge (a so-called “ex parte” challenge) of the patent at the Patent Office and to pay out rewards to those who find the compelling prior art to invalidate the patent. As you’ve likely figured out by now, that’s where the crowdsourcing comes in. Individuals can submit their own prior art examples, and if their examples are used in invalidating the patent, they can share in some of the money raised.

They’re kicking it off by challenging a patent on customizing stuff on the internet. It’s US Patent 8,738,435 on a “method and apparatus for presenting personalized content relating to offered products and services.” If that sounds familiar, it’s because it was EFF’s “Stupid Patent of the Month” back in February. The company holding this patent, Phoenix Licensing, has filed a bunch of troll lawsuits in (of course) the Eastern District of Texas.

I have no idea how well this will work, but it’s good to see experiments like this. It does remind me of two other projects. A few years back, StackExchange and Google teamed up to crowdsource prior art at AskPatents, which is still getting some use today, if not a tremendous amount. The other thing it reminds me of, is that way back in 2000, after Jeff Bezos faced a ton of criticism for Amazon’s “one-click” patent, Bezos and Tim O’Reilly teamed up to form BountyQuest, a system in which they would pay people who found prior art to destroy bad patents — with the one-click patent being the first one offered up. Unfortunately, basically nothing happened with BountyQuest, and just two years later it had basically faded away.

Luis Cuende, the founder of Unpatent, says that he thinks both the world has changed since Bezos and O’Reilly did BountyQuest, and that the overall setup of Unpatent may work better. It’s definitely an interesting approach — and they’ve got the support of Lee Cheng, Newegg’s Chief Legal Officer, who has made destroying patent trolls something of a personal hobby (he’s really, really, really good at it). Anyway, check out Unpatent, especially if you’ve got some good prior art on that customization patent…

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Companies: unpatent

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Comments on “Unpatent Launches Combination Crowdfunding/Crowdsourcing Platform To Invalidate Stupid Patents”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Nope. Can't be bothered.

Unpatent’s home page is completely unviewable unless Javascript is enabled. That is: it’s blank.

That means that it’s the work product of a subhuman-grade moron of a web designer who does not understand even the first principles of the web. Any operation willing to employ such worthless garbage is simply not worth any more of my time — or anyone else’s time for that matter. They are simply too stupid, too ignorant, and too lazy to merit any further attention.

Adrian Cochrane (profile) says:

Re: Nope. Can't be bothered.

It’s worse than that, the page is almost entirely static.

Not only does this web-designer not understand graceful degradation, he’s using JavaScript where HTML is better suited. That is he’s making things harder for himself.

Nevertheless, I wish this project luck. It won’t replace legal reform, but it’s an important stopgap.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Nope. Can't be bothered.

I’d like to concur with you, but I can’t. If they’re this stupid about the rudimentary basics of web design, then they’re probably stupid about lots of other things as well…which means that they’re likely to waste a lot of money and accomplish nothing.

If they want my support, they’re going to have to display a much higher level of intelligence and competence first. Publicly admitting this failure, publicly apologizing for it, and publicly firing their web designer would be an acceptable start.

Jorge Izquierdo (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Nope. Can't be bothered.

Hi, Jorge from Unpatent here.

First of all, I really don’t think we need to (and we aren’t going to) fire anyone.

Unpatent has been built using Meteor (https://www.meteor.com), and while it is not perfect, it is a really good tool for building the first version of a web product. Thanks to that, we have been able to bootstrap the product spending almost no money (trust me we are very sensible with money) and a tiny team, in very little time.

I know Meteor’s downsides and we will probably rewrite some parts of it in the very near future. That being said, I couldn’t be happier with our current decision, and we couldn’t have launched this soon otherwise.

PS: In 2016 it is about time to accept Javascript as the core building block of the web (for better or worse).

Adrian Cochrane (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Nope. Can't be bothered.

To be clear I’m not calling on anyone to be fired, but I will argue my view of the web. Because what we’ve called incompetence is really a conflicting view.

In my normal browsing, I find most JavaScripts that want to run are trackers and advertisers, and the JavaScripts I want to let run are on a small handful of sites (e.g. online mapping).

Furthermore I find what makes a website succeed is it’s content (it’s HTML), not it’s client-side behaviour (it’s JavaScript). And sticking predominantly to the HTML gives the site better behaviour in corner cases as well as helps the site render quicker even on slow networks.

For these and other reasons I think it’s appropriate to block scripts by default (if you’ve got the patience), and for developers to focus on HTML/CSS & add sprinkles of JavaScripts where it helps.

As for Unpatent I see you think you’re saving effort by using meteor, but in this case I posit that with the result you got you might as well have used HTML, CSS, 1 line of jQuery, and some simple server side templates (Handlebars, Jinja, AngularJS, PHP – take your pick).

tl;dr Don’t tell me to accept JavaScript as a core building block. What it provides is not core to the large majority of websites, and certainly not core to Unpatent.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Nope. Can't be bothered.

It’s against common sense to support a site that’s not bothered to give any reason to check them out.

The Unpatent site’s noscript part says:
“This site requires JavaScript and Cookies to be enabled. Please change your browser settings or upgrade your browser.”

Jorge from Unpatent says:

I know Meteor’s downsides and we will probably rewrite some parts of it in the very near future. That being said, I couldn’t be happier with our current decision, and we couldn’t have launched this soon otherwise.

PS: In 2016 it is about time to accept Javascript as the core building block of the web (for better or worse).

I don’t see you do. You seems to have bought “Meteors” view of the web wholesale and worse are trying to spread it too. Cutting out visitors that way is just stupid by any standard. It can be your most valuable users to be, only they might be are aware of malware or tired of stupid widgets or just don’t want in face ads opening an unknown page, or just mum told them so.

The number of people that has javascript turned off by default is growing, could be one of four now adays. I would be concerned if some of my visitors was cut off that way, even a fraction of a percent would be a lost.

Thanks to TD at least I know you exist.

John Mayor says:


That’s funny!… and creative! Who knows!… maybe someday– if we get the intrapersonal and interpersonal behavioral stuff sorted out!– we won’t need to play with patents at all! We’ll just be producing good products and services for our fellow citizens, without all the fuss! Just like they do… I’m guessing!… on other planets! Well!… it’s back to my patented, Trademarked and copyrighted Mars bar– for now! What a silly planet!… no wonder the greys don’t do lunch with humans– much!
Please!… no emails!

Tin-Foil-Hat says:

Vindicated Web Developer

Just wow. Websites that weren’t JavaScript dependent was once an accessibility reqirement. I designed all my websites that way. Even the paging of results returned from a database were all Javascript free. I used no captcha spam filtering on forms. I used a lot of javascript for bells ans whistles. The buttons or labels were written to the page in JavaScript so when a user visited the site the page didn’t look broke. I’ve been told that the old standard of foregoing JavaScript for the sake of accessibility is no longer required but maybe there’s another good reason for them anyway.

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