Why Must Patent Supporters Rewrite History In Attempt To Have The Feds Subsidize Patents

from the history-lessons dept

Hank Northhaft is the CEO of a patent licensing firm. He likes to claim that he's the CEO of a technology miniaturization firm, but the majority of the company's actual revenue comes from patent licensing, not actual product sales. He's got a book coming out next year that's all about making it even easier and cheaper to get patents, which he insists will create hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of new jobs, and has been making the rounds writing opinion pieces for various publications pitching this plan. Unfortunately, each of his opinion pieces seems to rewrite history or misinterpret studies to make his argument. Frankly, that's pretty sad.

Earlier this year, for example, he (along with his co-author for the book, David Kline), wrote a piece for the Harvard Business Review, claiming that patent system delays are costing millions of jobs. To support the claim that patents do create jobs, there's the following:
In contrast, we know that patents create jobs -- sometimes many thousands of them. Just consider the job-creating effects of Steve Wozniak's 1979 patent for a microcomputer, for example, or Larry Page's 1998 patent for Google's search engine. Then there's Jack Kilby's 1959 patent on the semiconductor integrated circuit, which gave birth to a semiconductor industry that directly employs 185,000 people just in the U.S. today, as well as contributing to jobs throughout the larger $1.1 trillion global electronics industry.
Note the implicit (totally false) assumption made there: that these products and jobs were entirely a result of these patents. This is false. In all three areas, there was tremendous work being done among competitors in the same fields, and the innovation that happened was not because of the patents (in fact, all of the patents discussed had almost nothing to do with the later success of the technologies in question). If you look at the history of the semiconductor industry, the PC industry and the search business -- all were built on widespread sharing of ideas among different researchers, rather than hoarding it and using patents to keep others from the market.

Larry Page's search engine work was really based on Jon Kleinberg's research at MIT & Cornell which was openly shared, and which Page built on. When others copied Google's ranking mechanism, Google never sued or, as far as I can tell, even threatened to sue. And most of the "jobs" created by Google came about not because of the patented search ranking mechanism, but because of Google's execution in the marketplace, and its creative decisions on how to implement more "user-friendly" advertising. It appears as if Google barely valued the patent at all.

As for the the PC industry, Wozniak's "microcomputer," was very much based on a sharing culture around the Homebrew Computing Club in Silicon Valley, where plenty of development was going on entirely outside of what was happening in the patent world. What made Apple a success wasn't its patents, but the incredible focus and salesmanship of Steve Jobs. And, of course, it's notable that it wasn't long before the big jump Apple made was due to Steve Jobs directly copying the graphical user interface that was first invented at SRI and then redone at Xerox PARC (by folks who had seen it/worked on it at SRI). Jobs saw it at PARC and copied it. Note what was important here: the real revolution and job growth came from the open sharing of info, and better execution, not from patents or patent licensing.

Finally, as for the example of Jack Kilby, that may be the worst of them all. After all, while Kilby patented the integrated circuit in 1959, his integrated circuit, was based on germanium. Just a couple months later, Robert Noyce came out with his patent application for the integrated circuit... based on silicon. The fact that I live in Silicon Valley rather than Germanium Valley should suggest how much the world actually valued Kilby's original patent. Separately, the fact that multiple inventors (and there were more) were reaching the same conclusion shows that it wasn't patents that drove this innovation and the corresponding job growth, but the natural progression of the needs of the market.

We see this all the time. Patent system supporters want to credit patents for things that had nothing to do with patents. Just because a company that innovates gets a patent, it doesn't mean that it was only because of the patent that the innovation occurred. Quite frequently, the patent has absolutely nothing to do with it. Northhaft quotes some company execs who claim that they can't move forward with a product without a patent, but that's entirely self-serving. Who doesn't want a gov't granted artificial monopoly on their product? But the idea that they can't move forward? Hogwash. Separately, the main guy that Northhaft quotes to support this claim, talks about the need to get money to bring a drug to market, claiming that "It can cost a billion dollars to bring a new drug to market." First of all, this myth of how much it really costs to bring a drug to market has been debunked multiple times -- and the biggest reason for the specific cost is a separate regulatory issue, which has nothing to do with patents.

More recently, Northhaft, along with former CAFC (the appeals court that tends to love patents) judge Paul Michel wrote an equally ridiculous op-ed piece for the NY Times where they suggested not just having the USPTO hire a bunch more workers, but also a plan to federally subsidize all patents for "small companies", such as patent trolls. I'm not joking:
To encourage still more entrepreneurship, Congress should also offer small businesses a tax credit of up to $19,000 for every patent they receive, enabling them to recoup half of the average $38,000 in patent office and lawyers' fees spent to obtain a patent.
They also claim that hiring more patent examiners to approve more bad patents would "create, over the next three years, at least 675,000 and as many as 2.25 million jobs." What's this based on? "Our guess." Uh huh. Notice that they don't bother to point out the massive amount of research showing that patents have been a net negative on the economy and jobs for quite some time now.

In both articles, Northhaft relies heavily on the Berkeley Patent Survey, which asked a bunch of companies about the importance of patents. We wrote about this study a few months ago, highlighting how it showed that most tech companies don't find patents all that valuable at all. Northhaft twists the study around, claiming that it shows that patents are necessary. That's based on a subtle misreading of the study, where many entrepreneurs did claim that they believed their patents were important in securing funding. Not in their success, mind you. Not in the actual innovation. But just in securing funding. Thankfully, Brad Feld, Jason Mendelson and Paul Kedrosky -- who are actually involved in the venture capital industry -- wrote a response in the Wall Street Journal, where they pointed out that Northhaft was quoting the study out of context, and even quoted Pam Samuelson, who was the co-principal investigator of the study, and said:
"Two-thirds of the approximately 700 software entrepreneurs who participated in the 2008 Berkeley Patent Survey report that they neither have nor are seeking patents for innovations embodied in their products and services. These entrepreneurs rate patents as the least important mechanism among seven options for attaining competitive advantage in the marketplace. Even software startups that hold patents regard them as providing only a slight incentive to invest in innovation."
Separately, they point out that Northhaft carefully quotes the study only showing what entrepreneurs think investors want, rather than looking at what investors actually value or what was actually instrumental to companies' successes.

So yet again, it appears that Northhaft is claiming things that don't match up with reality. There's no doubt that patents have helped Northhaft make money. But getting a gov't granted monopoly is a market-limiting function, not a market enhancing one. Competition is what drives innovation, and patents only serve to drive out competition. Of course, that's good for patent holders, but bad for everyone else. If we want to encourage the economy to grow, the last thing we should be doing is subsidizing even more bad patents and monopolies on the building blocks of innovation.


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  1.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Oct 1st, 2010 @ 10:32am

    The frak?

    If everyone is allowed to just just patent/copyright/trademarking everything under the sun, how does that help anyone? It's like allowing everyone the ability to print their own cash. (Well, minus the lawyers' cut. (and I think I just answered my own question.))

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2010 @ 10:36am

    Of course, that's good for patent holders, but bad for everyone else.

    It is bad for the patent holders too. They miss on the improvements others would have been able to make, which could open up new business oportunities which they, having relevant knowledge, would be ideally positioned to take advantage of.

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Oct 1st, 2010 @ 10:40am

    To be fair

    "Jobs saw it at PARC and copied it."

    And paid handsomely for ability to do it.

    The whole 'Gates copying Jobs was no different than Jobs copying Xerox' is a lardball of MS spin.

    Sorry, that just gets my dander up.

     

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    Jay (profile), Oct 1st, 2010 @ 10:41am

    10:1 odds

    I'm am almost positive that this guy is going to go to politicians and/or a bunch of bureaucrats that will look at this information and agree wholeheartedly that this is the way to stimulate the economy.

    I give a month before Tepp comes out to promote this guy...

     

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    MrWilson, Oct 1st, 2010 @ 10:45am

    Re: The frak?

    It's a cold war mentality. They think everyone can be secure if everyone has nukes. Or in this case, "intellectual property."

    The problem is that it's actually a pyramid scheme. Not everyone can have a profitable copyright/trademark/patent. Only the deep-pocketed, conscience-less initial IP hoarders would have any profitable assets if anything could be designated as IP. The rest of the people would be squabbling over minor IP that wasn't worth much and the big portfolio holders at the top would exact their feudal tributes from the (intellectual) property-less peasants. The money always flows up.

     

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    Ima Fish (profile), Oct 1st, 2010 @ 10:52am

    "create hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of new jobs"

    How could making competition illegal and putting up expensive and arbitrary tolls create jobs?! God, that's the stupidest thing I've read all day. (And yes, I've already been on Fark today.)

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Oct 1st, 2010 @ 10:52am

    Re: Re: The frak?

    "It's a cold war mentality. They think everyone can be secure if everyone has nukes. Or in this case, "intellectual property.""

    Oh yeah, and I understand that mentality. The difference is that we've essentially legislated nukes, and are equally empowered to legislate them out of existence.

    But we won't, because the big boys give bigger contributions to your campaign. And MAD works for them.

     

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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Oct 1st, 2010 @ 11:00am

    -*sigh*-

    The only real way to create wealth in an economy is to MAKE something. Middleman/service jobs do nothing more than move money around, no wealth is created.

    Lawyers, Patent Examiners, Phone handset sanitizers (et al) create nothing. They just move money about.

    But, if you take a $10 chunk of silicon and craft 1000 $500 microchips, you have created wealth.

     

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    Mike42 (profile), Oct 1st, 2010 @ 11:08am

    Microcomputer???

    If IBM had patented it's PC architecture, there wouldn't have been the proliferation of inexpensive clones, Microsoft wouldn't be anywhere near the size it is now, and most PC manufacturers wouldn't exist.
    To prove my point, IBM immediately tried to correct it's mistake by releasing the PS/2, a machine superior to the XT in nearly every way. It was patented. It was also more expensive and incompatable with XT expansion cards (it used microchannel).
    The result? 90+% of the market today is a machine that evolved from that unpatented architecture.
    Now, which of these has generated more jobs and more revenue for everyone? These morons should be ashamed.

     

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    R. Miles (profile), Oct 1st, 2010 @ 11:45am

    Error: "but the majority of the companies"
    Correction: "but the majority of the company's"

    On topic: Rewriting history to favor the "good" things is done so that the bad things are forgotten.

    After all, what child wouldn't be scarred for life to find out Thomas Edison electrocuted an Elephant because he hated Tesla?

    Yet today, we credit him as the inventor of the light bulb.

    This is just Hank's attempt at removing "Edison's bad movie studio mojo" out of history so that government forgets about how patents really screw things up.

     

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    duffmeister (profile), Oct 1st, 2010 @ 12:15pm

    Re: Microcomputer???

    I believe you hit this one out of the park. I have to agree completely. The fact that a collaborative and competitive environment existed is why we have the computers we do today.

     

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    Jason K, Oct 1st, 2010 @ 3:56pm

    Re:-*sigh*-

    "But, if you take a $10 chunk of silicon and craft 1000 $500 microchips, you have created wealth."

    Exactly which is why my business plan is so simple: 1. Create a bahzillion microchips. 2. Place them in my money bin. 3. Strap on a stripey one-piece and start swimmin'!!

     

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    Ravi Lar, Oct 1st, 2010 @ 4:41pm

    Re: To be fair

    There Masnick goes again.

    To view the world through a Jobs-centric lens is to give credit for the work of real technical visionaries like Jef Raskin (the real father of the Macintosh), Bill Atkinson (who wrote graphics code far more sophisticated than Xerox's), Burrell Smith, et al, to their manager so you can get your Jobs-hate on. Is the idea to show that the Mac was conceived in Original Sin, and therefore its fruits are tainted?

    Seems to be part of the weird personally-aggrieved tone he and Apple bring out in otherwise well-balanced people. Their own personal tar-baby, since by ranting at length about the Great Reality-Distorting Satan they merely make it more powerful, even as they come to depend on it for page views and consolatory strokes.

    But it is a bit rich that in accusing someone of rewriting history Masnick offhandedly does a little rewriting of his own, through either ignorance or choice. (If I held him up to the standard he's set for Jobs I might say that Techdirt's accuracy is irrevocably called into question by his example no matter who's writing it. But that would be grossly unfair.)

    The fact is the history of the Mac (and Lisa) is readily available for those with the wit to look. Check out http://folklore.org/StoryView.py?project=Macintosh&story=On_Xerox,_Apple_and_Progress.txt&sh owcomments=1 for a comparison: "For more than a decade now, I've listened to the debate about where the Macintosh user interface came from. Most people assume it came directly from Xerox, after Steve Jobs went to visit Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center). This 'fact' is reported over and over, by people who don't know better (and also by people who should!). Unfortunately, it just isn't true -- there are some similarities between the Apple interface and the various interfaces on Xerox systems, but the differences are substantial."

    The Mac UI was another example of the transmission and parallel development of ideas, a process Techdirt approves of when it doesn't involve Apple. Apple was able to commercialize the technology, even at the risk of its own existence.

    Yes, Jobs was a vital part of the process, though he hindered as well as helped, and his chops were more in marketing and PR than engineering.

    As for Xerox PARC, it's arguable that Xerox made more from the license Apple bought than their own GUI-based PC, the Xerox Star. (See Fumbling the Future about Xerox and the crippling difficulties they faced in training copier salesmen to sell revolutionary networked office computers. Not to mention that in a market where $2.5K for the low-end Mac was considered outrageous the Star cost $10K and was pre-laserprinter.)

     

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    Jose_X, Oct 1st, 2010 @ 6:13pm

    Re: The frak?

    >> It's like allowing everyone the ability to print their own cash.

    Another analogy might be in allowing me to patent multiple-of-five paper dollar bills so that you then cannot use any money that fits my patented description.

     

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    Jose_X, Oct 1st, 2010 @ 6:59pm

    This comment is intended for the hbr, but I like the terms of posting here better

    In a world where others can get a monopoly ahead of you, it's reasonable to suspect that seeking your own patents, if you can afford it for leverage, is a good idea. Despite the time and cost overhead, the patents provide some leverage against those holding other patents you will violate. When others have potentially deadly weapons against your business, you want to get some leverage on them if possible, even if the overall result is a drain on the industry (with costs and lags that get passed on to consumers).

    Let's ask a fair question: How many jobs do patents cost?

    How many superior inventions and innovation are pre-empted by a broad wide-reaching patent that merely was, as per statute, *non-obvious* to a person having *ordinary* skill in the art? Aren't a whole lot of smarter-than-ordinary inventors and engineers being hand-cuffed and their respective firms being forced to fold or undertake an undesirable buy-out offer? You can't even conduct a fair patent search if you wanted to (too many patents and with very difficult to nail down scope). And you certainly can't patent but a tiny fraction of all your good ideas. Yet patents will pre-empt your original expressions, even if you came to them independently of the patent.

    Why are we rewarding average inventors that file early over better inventors that found the ideas too obvious to patent in the first place, were working on more complex solutions first, had their attention today turned to other important projects, or simply found the time and monetary costs of patenting that particular idea/invention (over other ideas) to be too high?

    Google and others have patents, but they are successful because of execution (and even some luck), being early, and possibly also by holding trade secrets.

    As better implementations potentially come to market, do we want Google to establish and hold a monopoly by using their patents? What about those that anticipated the broadness of Google's patents, were not part of a successful execution, but do hope one day to rise again and compete with Google (perhaps using superior algorithms)? Will they be allowed to compete or be pre-empted by overly broad patent claims?

    What about the fact patents on algorithms with obvious post-solution activity (like displaying the information on a screen) are forbidden by the SCOTUS and by our Constitution (free expression violation and do not promote the progress), and that Google's patents may have no other competitive implementation except partially or totally as mathematical algorithms implemented possibly as software (I haven't looked at the details or even know their list of patents)?

    Fact is that monopolies are anti-competition and anti-consumer. [BTW, Google is not today a major patent aggressor by any means, even heavily using the products of and also significantly collaborating with the open source software community that almost universally shuns software patents.]

    Let's remember the many jobs get destroyed or go unrealized for every monopoly we establish, and more so when it is a monopoly based on meeting a mediocre standard as that established by patent law.

    Let's remember that Google did not litigate themselves into their market position as this article perhaps indirectly wants the audience to infer.

    Let's not forget that most products (especially those of the Information Age) are likely to violate many existing patents. Which VC wants to spend extra time and money on patents and still leave many holes in the armor as well as always fall short to the leverage wielded by the giants of industry that have accumulated thousands of patents?

    People should not own others' genes and be able to limit how others can get treated and by whom.

    Software and business methods are possibly all unconstitutional to patent (Bilski business method patent was ruled abstract 9-0) and would stifle if allowed.

    Also, companies that fight patents and win (eg, by showing numerous cases of prior art) still spend years and millions to prove their innocence (eg, Red Hat's recent patent victory over virtual desktops). How helpful to the economy is that? ..that many spend much money or else settle ahead of court because of these very large costs to prove innocence?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2010 @ 9:25am

    The article here begins to make sense when one realizes that there are those who simply refuse to believe that the current patent system is incapable of producing anything other than the grant "bad" patents.

    Now, some may ask the question "What is a bad patent?" The answer proferred here on this site and others of similar ilk is "Every patent is a bad patent." It is not that they believe that every invention is itself bad, but that to grant an inventor a time limited right simply crushes and grinds competitors into the ground. They seem incapable of understanding that the patent system does serve useful purposes, not the least of which is encouraging others to come up with their own non-infringing solutions, thereby providing an even greater number of efficacious solutions that will compete head on with that of the patentee.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2010 @ 11:42am

    Re:

    I think your intimating a straw man arguement here. No one here says that all patents are bad. What the true concern is that most patents are terribly vague,and worse, disavow any knowledge of prior art, in a situation where the USPTO doesn't/won't investigate the claims and the corporations willfully hide the prior art objections.

    A patent is only really useful for mechanisms that can be beneficial to everyone. The reason being that the patent provides the public the knowledge of this technology in return for a limited monopoly for a short period of time.

    What many patents do is attempt to obscure the true intent and purpose of the patent, thus depriving the public of the knowledge that it is due. The patent is a privilege , because the protections afforded patents is to foster innovation ,not by granting one entity or another exclusive right over something ,but to provide everyone the benefit of this innovation.

    The constitution doesn't guarantee nor protect a corporations ability to earn profits. Nor do patents confer an entitlement to profits.

     

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    Gene Cavanaugh, Oct 2nd, 2010 @ 12:31pm

    Patents and Innovation

    Wow, you are really on track! I find myself agreeing with everything you say today (a rarity).

    I will add; I knew Jack Kilby personally (nice guy, really), and he would be the LAST to say he "invented integrated circuits". He wire-bonded some germanium chips together to save packaging costs, and used chips from the same wafer to get uniformity - hardly what we would call an integrated circuit (though an uninformed court did).
    Robert Noyce invented planar passivation (multiple devices on a chip) - THAT is an integrated circuit! Further, Fairchild and Noyce SHARED patent rights with Kilby!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2010 @ 3:03pm

    Why Must Patent Supporters Rewrite History?

    Because if you're trying to defend the indefensible, it is often useful to make stuff up.

     

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    Mike Schinkel, Oct 2nd, 2010 @ 8:35pm

    Re: Re: To be fair

    There's always someone who ignores the core point and instead focuses on dissecting the minutia.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 3rd, 2010 @ 12:24am

    Re: Re:

    No one here says that all patents are bad.

    Well, if nobody else here has said it, then let me be the first: Patents are bad. Period. And the same goes for copyrights. The best thing we could do is to abolish both of them. (Trademarks, however, are an entirely different animal).

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 3rd, 2010 @ 12:26am

    There's always someone who ignores the core point and instead focuses on dissecting the minutia.

    The devil is in the details.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 3rd, 2010 @ 12:50am

    Re: Re:

    A patent is only really useful for mechanisms that can be beneficial to everyone. The reason being that the patent provides the public the knowledge of this technology in return for a limited monopoly for a short period of time.

    That's a myth that's been debunked many times over. The public would typically gain "knowledge of this technology" anyway. If the inventor *could* sell his invention to the public without revealing how it works, then he wouldn't need a patent in the first place, now would he? He would use "trade secrets" instead of patents.

    It seems to me that if we're going to have a patent system, then "trade secrets" should be made illegal. We should have one or the other, but not both.

     

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    twitter, Oct 3rd, 2010 @ 6:32am

    Communism

    Using state monopolies to exclude all but one or two competitors is Soviet style communism. Let's face it, that's what companies like Microsoft want and it's exactly what the US fought the cold war to prevent. Business method and software patents are UnAmerican and should not be allowed.

     

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    Andrew D. Todd, Oct 3rd, 2010 @ 6:54am

    Wozniak's Patent Was Not For A Personal Computer

    I note that Hank Nothhaft refers to "Steve Wozniak's 1979 patent for a microcomputer" He refers to something which did not exist. Steve Wozniak's 1979 patent 4,136,359 does not describe a microcomputer, or a personal computer. What it does describe is a particular method for synchronizing the horizontal alignment of a color television with a data bitmap.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Wozniak#Patents
    http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Pa rser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&am p;f=G&l=50&s1=4,136,359.PN.&OS=PN/4,136,359&RS=PN/4,136,359

    This system had no long-term economic impact. It rapidly became apparent that a personal computer was entitled to have its own optimally designed video tube, rather than sharing a television set. Computer monitors did not adopt the system of color television, that is, the system of encoding all information into a single channel (eg. PAL, NTSC, SECAM, etc). On the contrary, they adopted systems of multiple wires, nine or fifteen of them, one for each kind of data. For the first ten years or so, up to 1990 or 1995, there was a conspicuous trade-off between color monitors and monochrome monitors. Monochrome monitors had higher resolution, and were considered necessary for serious work, such as word processing, or programming. Early work-oriented personal computers, such as the Osborne and Kaypro II, tended to have the monitor built into the computer case, with all of its internal controls available to the computer. Apple soon copied this system in the original Macintosh.

    Wozniak's 1979 patent, filed in 1977, describes a "short-term hack," a means of making the computer cheaper in the short run, say a year, which would become irrelevant once component prices fell. The technique was probably obsolete by the time the patent was granted. Certainly, IBM thought so. When it moved in to take over Apple's market in 1981, it did so with a nine-pin monitor connector, with one wire for each color, and separate wires for horizontal and vertical synchronization.

    See Thom Hogan, The Programmer's PC Sourcebook, 1988, pp. 410, 476-79, for the technical details in the case of the IBM PC.

    Computers with all the capabilities of a personal computer, albeit at a higher price point, date back to the 1950's. Wozniak could not have invented the personal computer. He was born much too late.

     

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    Jay (profile), Oct 3rd, 2010 @ 1:58pm

    One thing I never see some out in any rhetoric (yours or the patent trolls) is just how much patents are used as an international economic protection.

    What I mean is that through organisations such as the WTO and agreements like GATT & TRIPS smaller developing nations are essentially forced to recognise US patent laws.

    The upshot of this is that a country that goes gang-busters on patenting every possible conception has a distinct advantage over another country whose only claim to fame is a cheap workforce.

    Without that advantage, if the country could copy the 'innovation' freely then the patent hoarding country would be screwed. IP protection is seen as a barrier to entry into international markets. Its a protection on the investment in education against countries who simply 'free-load' and copy ideas.

    Of course the whole argument is interestingly circular... but thats something for the academics to worry about :)

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 3rd, 2010 @ 8:54pm

    Re:

    Now, some may ask the question "What is a bad patent?" The answer proferred here on this site and others of similar ilk is "Every patent is a bad patent."

    I have never "proferred" such an answer. Why do you always lie? It's really sad -- though it does explain why you, as a patent lawyer, still refuses to sign your name.

    It is not that they believe that every invention is itself bad, but that to grant an inventor a time limited right simply crushes and grinds competitors into the ground.

    More lies. No one has claimed this. We have pointed out that the economic evidence is clear that these restriction do tend to be economically limiting.

    You have not refuted this point.

    They seem incapable of understanding that the patent system does serve useful purposes, not the least of which is encouraging others to come up with their own non-infringing solutions, thereby providing an even greater number of efficacious solutions that will compete head on with that of the patentee.

    Again, we have actually discussed this (more lies!). It's just that the economic evidence, again, suggests that the benefits of this do not (even closely) outweigh the benefits from building on the what else is there. In fact, the evidence suggests that if there are better other solutions, even without patents, those tend to come to the market anyway.

    In other words the "benefit" you describe is no benefit at all -- but the harm, as shown in dozens of studies is very very real.

    What bugs me is that we've explained all of this to you multiple times, and yet you still insist on lying. It really makes me wonder.

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 3rd, 2010 @ 8:56pm

    Re: Patents and Innovation


    I will add; I knew Jack Kilby personally (nice guy, really), and he would be the LAST to say he "invented integrated circuits". He wire-bonded some germanium chips together to save packaging costs, and used chips from the same wafer to get uniformity - hardly what we would call an integrated circuit (though an uninformed court did).


    Thanks Gene. Interesting to hear of Kilby's position. I would imagine that Northhaft wants nothing to do with that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 3rd, 2010 @ 8:58pm

    Re: Wozniak's Patent Was Not For A Personal Computer

    I note that Hank Nothhaft refers to "Steve Wozniak's 1979 patent for a microcomputer" He refers to something which did not exist. Steve Wozniak's 1979 patent 4,136,359 does not describe a microcomputer, or a personal computer. What it does describe is a particular method for synchronizing the horizontal alignment of a color television with a data bitmap.


    Fascinating. I hadn't even checked on the specific patent, but even more evidence that Northhaft is just making stuff up.

     

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  30.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 3rd, 2010 @ 9:00pm

    Re:

    One thing I never see some out in any rhetoric (yours or the patent trolls) is just how much patents are used as an international economic protection.

    What I mean is that through organisations such as the WTO and agreements like GATT & TRIPS smaller developing nations are essentially forced to recognise US patent laws.


    There has been some talk about that:

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100801/10481810436.shtml

    The issue is that if you want to offer your product in a developed market, then you need to follow its patent rules in that market, or get blocked at the border.

    And, even worse, the second a country without such patent protection gets "big" enough, the political pressure to put in place patent protection gets absolutely ridiculous. For the house of cards to keep standing, you have to keep putting up more cards.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 3rd, 2010 @ 9:44pm

    Re: Re:

    Let me see. Quite some time ago I asked if you had ever seen a patent that you believed was valid. IIRC, your answer was no.

    Re what a patent does to others, I took poetic license that I believe is accurate. A patent is generally viewed here as a means to "crush" potential competitors.

    You used the work "benefit", which I did not. My sole point was that the law's requirement for an "enabling disclosure" does at least serve what I believe is a useful purpose...and that is to encourage others to come up with non-infringing solutions.

    Yes, I have read all of the studies you have cited concerning the economics associated with patents. Unfortunately, all of them, as well as all studies I have read reporting contrary results, do not strike with me a responsive chord since none of them have ever stated anything other than equivocal conclusions using weasel words like "may", "might", "perhaps", etc.

    Merely FYI (this is not a set up), I read the articles you quoted and immediately dismissed them as unrealistic, counterintuitive, and well off the mark when I originally read them some months ago. I have never seen a patent "create jobs". I have, however, seen many inventions that eventually wended their way into the market that did, in fact, create jobs. The operative phrase is, obviously, "wended their way into the market". I have always likened a patent to a "fence" of sorts, and not once in my lifetime ever seen any fence, legal or otherwise, create even a single job for anyone other than fence builders.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Jose_X, Nov 14th, 2010 @ 9:20am

    Re: Re: Re:

    >> You used the work "benefit", which I did not. My sole point was that the law's requirement for an "enabling disclosure" does at least serve what I believe is a useful purpose...and that is to encourage others to come up with non-infringing solutions.

    Shooting people who jaywalk will "encourage others to come up with non-infringing solutions" to crossing the street.

    Was that your sole point? That patents encourage?

    >> I have always likened a patent to a "fence" of sorts, and not once in my lifetime ever seen any fence, legal or otherwise, create even a single job for anyone other than fence builders.

    A fence that keeps people from exploring fertile unlimited land. You see, patents are not over a scarce resource like a plot of land. Patents are even worse than a fence in every single person's property that prevent every single such land owner from walking over the part of their property enclosed by that fence. Every patent adds a new fence to every single property out there. Every property owner necessarily must content with their property constantly having more fences appear within every time someone takes out a patent.

    Patents are worse though because they block virtually unlimited possibilities much larger than what one finds in the typical plot of land.

    And making this worse, the inventiveness bar to getting a patent is very low (*non-obvious* to a person having *ordinary skill* in the art); the land is briefly described rather than expressed (so every patent is potentially able to cover a very broad area); and patents are out of the reach of most people with great ideas, so that the already wealthy end up being the ones able to buy the monopolies.

    Every person blocked because of a patent is having their contribution to progress be stifled. And those that are smartest are most likely not to patent what they view as obvious. They also won't make public what is obvious. This means patents generally hurt the really smart people with above average skill that would find the patents obvious and the monopolies hampering.

    Here is a good paper: http://philip.greenspun.com/business/internet-software-patents

    "Paradoxically, the more trivial the process the harder it will be to find prior art in a publication."

    "How come the patent examiner grants patents on stuff that a 12-year-old Visual Basic programmer would probably implement without too much thought? A patent examiner is only permitted to spend about 12 hours looking at a patent. If he or she cannot find prior art within those 12 hours, the patent is issued. Mostly patent examiners look at other patents, but sometimes they search academic journals and popular magazines. Still, if you had 12 hours to search, including time spent writing correspondence to the applicant, would you be able to find a publication on how to use a file cabinet with hanging folders?"

    He takes apart an issued patent and explains who obvious it is to anyone doing business in a parts and supplies store. Then he covers the final patent claim (the only one perhaps requiring a computer) simply by scanning all the papers into a computer and doing a few other obvious things.

    He supposedly developed the one-click years before Amazon patented it, and he periodically gets duty as an expert witness in patent suits.

    "The answer is that the early Internet pioneers did envision essentially every service available on the present-day Internet. They wrote about it and distributed those writings to tens of thousands of people. They demonstrated prototypes, sometimes to rooms full of more than 1000 people, and distributed films of those demos. The only reason that we believe ourselves to be innovative is that we are too lazy to go to the library and read what was done in the 1960s."

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Jose_X, Nov 14th, 2010 @ 9:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    >> Shooting people who jaywalk will "encourage others to come up with non-infringing solutions" to crossing the street.

    A better analogy as concerns patents is that once someone patents crossing the street in a straight line at the end of the street, it forces people to jaywalk and invent other things which can be less efficient and riskier and not worth the overall costs in resources that could be better spend inventing something else.

     

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  34.  
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    robsku (profile), Jul 31st, 2012 @ 2:51pm

    Re: Communism

    No, it's really not (communism that is, Soviet style or otherwise).

    Whether one agrees or disagrees with the article, comparison to communism as critique to patent system receives positive points from people who don't understand what communism is (ie. anti- "free market"/capitalism/american/etc. does not equal communism), and even then only from those who oppose communism anyway - better not try to drag any left/right arguments into this.

    Also, I'm sure that Microsoft would love to have state given monopoly over everything they do - but as for patents owned by other people and companies, well, I'm sure Microsoft would rather not see them have right for state given monopolies - what I mean is that in current situation MS probably is seeing the patent system good for them, but had they not started building their patent fortress in time they would most likely now be criticizing the patent system for stiffing competition.
    And that's the exact reason why software patents are evil - they give all the power in software business to those big ones who have all the patents, and those who don't get pushed or bought from competing with the big ones.

    As for being UnAmerican - that's a huge argument I'm not going to take a side to. I would feel mighty stupid for saying that something is UnFinnish to argue against something though... I don't think it's very good argument, but seems to me that it's powerful, if empty, way to get peoples attention is USA ;) But as I'm Finnish - and greatly against software patents - an argument about something being UnAmerican really means nothing to me...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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