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.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    icon
    BearGriz72 (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 4:16pm

    Spending Taxpayer Dollars...

    For Fun and Profit?

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 4:20pm

    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.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 4:30pm

    "collapse" by national geographic

    my subject says it all...keep going toward the end....

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 4:32pm

    "NASA Once Again Auctioning Off Patents Your Tax Dollars Paid For"

    The USPTO issuing patents for money vs the govt auctioning off patents issued to itself for money. What's the difference?

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 4:33pm

    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.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 4:39pm

    Re: Points of view

    No, the difference is that the pro patent side knows they're wrong, but they wrongfully benefit from the position that they support and so they don't care.

     

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  7.  
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    abc gum, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 4:48pm

    Or, why is the government obtaining patents in the first place?

     

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  8.  
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    Eugene (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 5:27pm

    It's unfortunate, but considering the half-chewed pennies that NASA runs on, I don't blame them.

     

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  9.  
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    Nina Paley (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 5:28pm

    Re:

    Without patents, there would be no incentive for government research.

    /sarcasm

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 5:28pm

    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).

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 5:29pm

    @5

    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.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 5:33pm

    Re: @5

    Read again what I wrote. I think it is dangerous. They don't.

     

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  13.  
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    Ben (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 6:00pm

    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...

     

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  14.  
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    Ben (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 6:05pm

    Re:

    Agreed, the patents are valued at ~250,000 = 5 cube sat missions into LEO...

     

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  15.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 6:20pm

    Re: Re: Spending Taxpayer Dollars...

    "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.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 6:36pm

    Re: Re:

    Stop expecting the government to make sense. It's not going to happen.

     

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

  17.  
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    Dohn Joe, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 10:34pm

    SCAM!

    Ah yes, using taxpayer funding to extort from taxpayers. The joys of political crookery!

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 10:56pm

    @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.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_programming

    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.

     

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  19.  
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    Mr Big Content, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 12:48am

    All The Fault Of The Democrats

    I can't wait for the Republicans to get in. They will put a stop to this. They know the importance of preserving Government value.

     

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  20.  
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    Wolfy, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 3:01am

    Did they change the law?!? Last I knew ANY NASA developed technology was freely available to any US commercial concern... I used to get these nifty tech packs of stuff Nasa developed.

     

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  21.  
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    Wolfy, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 3:05am

    Re: #19... who let the morons out?

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 6:51am

    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!

     

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

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 7:01am

    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!

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    angry dude, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 7:33am

    stupid stipid techdirt lemming-punks

    Listen to your great master - mike masnik
    he'll brainwash you untul your brains are white color

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 8:14am

    Ripped off again! Oh ripped off again!

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    OC, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 8:14am

    Hybris?

    Maybe your importance is less than you imagine it.

    "A couple of years ago, we questioned why NASA was auctioning off patents that were taxpayer funded. It appears that NASA doesn't care."

    Why would they care? I doubt NASA even know you exist. You may be right on the topic but they won't change their ways becuase of this blog.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:04am

    Government....

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:13am

    Government....

    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?)

     

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

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 10:59am

    Re: stupid stipid techdirt lemming-punks

    Convincing. How long "untul" your imaginary patent becomes useful?

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anon, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 2:11pm

    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.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 10:00pm

    Re: It's not all bad...

    Only in the rarest of circumstances, and this is not one of them, is an agency authorized to use such monies lest it violate a law known as the "unauthorized augmentation of appropriated funds". As a consequence, such monies must be deposited in the US General Fund.

     

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  32.  
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    mhenriday (profile), Nov 3rd, 2010 @ 9:48am

    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 !... Henri

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2012 @ 1:29pm

    Re:

    Most of NASA's innovations were developed by it's contractors. I imagine the contractors got the patents.

     

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


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