Patent System Encouraging People To Try To Reinvent The Wheel

from the do-we-want-that? dept

Here's a fun post from BetaBoston, looking at a few attempts by people to literally "reinvent the wheel" by looking through various patents and patent applications on different attempts at wheel-based inventions. The first one may be the most incredible. Granted in 2001 by the Australian patent office, John Keogh's invention for the "circular transportation facilitation device" has the dubious distinction of also being revoked by the Australian patent office after it got some publicity back in 2001 (winning an Ig Nobel Prize that year). Here's the drawing of the "invention."
Nice work, right? At least in that case, Keough admitted that he was just trying to pull a fast one on the patent office, proving just how lax its approval standards had become. Others, apparently, were serious.

German patent application DE20122871, filed July 3, 2001 by Manfred Wanner and Harald Bartol of Eberdingen, Germany for a “wheel for vehicles, especially two-wheeled vehicles of the high performance type, comprising a provided with a rotational axis of hub, spokes and a rim, which is designed to receive a tire, the wheel having an apparatus for aerodynamic optimization…”. This is what it looks like:

World patent application WO 2014012648, filed June 12, 2013 by Roberto Pisacane of Salerno, Italy. Mr. Pisacante invented “a vehicle wheel that has at least one airfoil mounted thereon, the airfoil being arranged on the wheel body between the wheel rim and the central portion of the wheel…. When airfoil is oriented at a suitable angle, the downforce exerts a torque about the central rotation axis of the wheel can be converted directly into driving force.”

US patent 7980335, granted July 19, 2011 to Stephen D. Potter of Bedford, Massachusetts and assigned to Foster-Miller, Inc., a company that subsequently re-invented its name and now calls itself QinetiQ North America. Mr. Potter invented an “omni-directional wheel includes a hub rotatable about a wheel axis and a first row of angled rollers about the hub each rotatably supported by the hub.” Voila:

I mean, I guess that last one does seem to be at least somewhat different. But, still. This is the wheel we're talking about. The whole underlying concept of the common phrase "don't reinvent the wheel" is that there are some things that are core and not in need of improvement, and that we can better focus on other aspects of innovation in the actual market, rather than starting from scratch again. But when you have a patent system that gives anyone with a patent something of a lottery ticket, it's quite tempting for lots of people just to "reinvent the wheel" in the hopes that they might be able to go after actual innovators to put a tollbooth on efforts by folks actually trying to build better tools for the market.

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  1.  
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    JB, Jul 14th, 2014 @ 9:18pm

    Put down your chisel and pick up

    "...it's quite tempting for lots of people just to "reinvent the wheel" in the hopes that they might be able to go after actual innovators to put a tollbooth on efforts by folks actually trying to build better tools for the market."
    Except for the Aussie patent, what was a joke, these (dare I say) inventions are absolutely novel & nonobvious. In your wildest dreams you couldn't "reinvent the wheel" to be omnidirectional or actually use aerodynamics to increase the torque on the wheel.
    These are not slightly modified roundly-chiseled rocks that perform substantially equivalent to the original form.
    Pretty disappointed in this article, TechCru... I mean, TechDirt.

     

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    Radley, Jul 14th, 2014 @ 9:37pm

    There's something to be said for reinvention:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUoftURFsxM

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 14th, 2014 @ 10:00pm

    Re:

    those wheels, in the video, on the forklift are Mecanum Wheels, not QinetiQ, and they are based on a patent filed in 1972 and granted in 1975 (patent 3876255).

    The QinetiQ seems just a re-tuned copycat of the patent from 1975

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mecanum_wheel

     

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    That One Guy (profile), Jul 14th, 2014 @ 10:08pm

    So...

    Am I the only one to think that if the first one had been tried in the US, the patent would still exist, given revoking it would require them to admit that they screwed up and allowed something blatantly obvious through?

     

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    pmiddy, Jul 14th, 2014 @ 10:14pm

    Disingenuous article is disingenuous

    This "article" is terrible. Here is claim 1 of the German patent application.

    Wheel for vehicles, especially two-wheeled vehicles of the high performance type, comprising a provided with a rotation axis of the hub, spokes and a rim, which is designed for receiving a tire, said wheel having a device for aerodynamic optimization, characterized in that the device (18) by an adjacent by at least one rim flange (16, 17) of the rim (10) is provided and the axis of rotation (4) towards the hub (3) directed radially guiding element (19, 20) is formed, which at a distance from a radial longitudinal central plane (AA) of the wheel (2) and its outer side (21, 22) - in a radial cross-section of the wheel (9) seen - with an outer contour (11) of the tire (11) is an at least approximate aerodynamic profile (23).

    Notice all those numbers in parentheses? Those are references to the numbers in the drawings. Do you also notice that the things they are trying to claim - e.g., 16, 17 - AREN'T in the drawing that is in the story? That's because what they are trying to patent - the particular aerodynamic aspects seen in the cross section - aren't in the picture that's posted.

    If you're going to do some "journalism" to uncover people's attempts to improve the wheel - which despite your dismissal is HUGE business in the cycling community - maybe pick some worse candidates and provide those instead of picking decent candidates and trying to hide the ball on the claimed improvements.

     

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    relghuar, Jul 14th, 2014 @ 11:39pm

    The best wheel ever!

    But but but... my wheel is so much better than all the others!
    See?

    O

    (If by any chance it doesn't appear fully circular to you, the problem most certainly lies with your displaying device! Or your eyes!)

     

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    Cpt Feathersword, Jul 14th, 2014 @ 11:49pm

    Qinetiq is kinda spooky

    Qinetiq "is the world's 52nd-largest defence contractor... and the sixth-largest based in the UK. It is the part of the former UK government agency, Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA), privatised in June 2001...."

     

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    Charles, Jul 14th, 2014 @ 11:55pm

    Lol @ Mike...

    You certainly lack the ability to actually research your information.

    You're too stupid!

     

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    Richard (profile), Jul 15th, 2014 @ 1:46am

    Re: Put down your chisel and pick up

    these (dare I say) inventions are absolutely novel & nonobvious.

    Well done for missing the point. Whether or not the is some new and nonobvious content in these patents they are still written as if some aspects of the basic wheel concept were part of the invention.

    You have to ask the question: wht write “wheel for vehicles, especially two-wheeled vehicles of the high performance type, comprising a provided with a rotational axis of hub, spokes and a rim, which is designed to receive a tire, "

    rather than just "a wheel".

     

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    Whatever (profile), Jul 15th, 2014 @ 2:34am

    I would say it's a good article, but it exposes perhaps the roots of the dislike for the patent system.

    Yes, these are all "wheels". However, in many of the cases, they are innovative as well, and include new many new and unique ideas. If you keep looking at it as "only a wheel" you tend to miss what they are trying to develop.

    If anything, it shows that long after an initial patent would have expired (back in the caveman days) there is still plenty of place for innovation, improvement, and moving forward. Clearly patents didn't stop them - and the world didn't end!

    So while it's good to point out patents that are not really advancing anything, it's equally important to see that not all advancements have to re-invent all of the wheel, just improve parts of it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2014 @ 4:18am

    The point everyone's missing is it didn't take patents to invent the original wheel. In fact, if the absurdity we call patents had been around when the original wheel was created. Those patents would have slowed the technological progress of mankind.

    Thankfully, inventors and manufactures didn't have deal with our present day backwards way of thinking on intellectual privilege laws back then. If they had, we'd probably still be stuck in the middle ages due to all the retardation of innovation and monetary sapping of research and development funds going to lawyers and patent trolls.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2014 @ 4:25am

    Re: Re: Put down your chisel and pick up

    Because not all wheels are used for vehicles, and not all wheels have spokes and a rim?

    There are lots of arcane rules around patents, many there for good reasons, that prompt patent attorneys to use convoluted language or risk running into avoidable problems later.

     

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    ThatFatMan (profile), Jul 15th, 2014 @ 4:38am

    35 U.S.C. 101

    Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.

    If you don't like the way the law is written, you're welcome to contact your representative in congress and explain to them your disdain for the patent system and see if they'll agree to remove the new and useful improvements clause :)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2014 @ 4:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Put down your chisel and pick up

    The problem they run into later if they do not use convoluted language are:-
    1) They cannot get a court to extend what is covered in latter patent cases.
    2) No employment for patent attorneys to interpret patents for companies investigating which patents may read on their design.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2014 @ 4:58am

    Face it all you whiners - patents block innovation and competition, that's all they do.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2014 @ 6:36am

    My recollection is that the patent in Australia was an "innovation patent", a process that at the outset is essentially the registration of what one claims to have done. Its substantive legal effect is, at best, quite modest. It would have been useful to at least mention this in your article.

    Each of the others are more involved than a mere wheel with a rim, spokes and hub. Two involve aerodynamic structures incorporated into the wheel design, and the third is ostensibly an improvement to existing products (an improvement apparently conceived or first actually reduced to practice during the course of a federal government contract issued for the performance of R&D.

    Would it really have been that difficult to add context? Cutting corners on "facts" seems to me to reflect a deliberate attempt to create a hatchet piece instead of an honest piece of news reporting.

     

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    art guerrilla (profile), Jul 15th, 2014 @ 7:06am

    Re: Put down your chisel and pick up

    sure, okay...
    on the one with the airfoils, just *HOW* is that going to 'work' ? ? ? i can conceive that the airfoils provide *some* sort of force to the wheel, but why whatever force isn't negated on the 'other side' of the mechanism when it is going in the opposite direction, i don't get it...
    (not to mention, the 'cost' of the gizmo being rotated is not negligible; exactly why -especially bicyclists- try to lower the weight of their wheels, which gives you more bang for your buck versus lowering the weight of the (static) frame...)
    have i mentioned my invention? helium-filled tires for your flying car ! ! ! (or maybe i could just turn the airfoils on the other wheel, backwards)

     

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    techrebel (profile), Jul 15th, 2014 @ 7:21am

    Re:

    Would it really have been that difficult to add context? Cutting corners on "facts" seems to me to reflect a deliberate attempt to create a hatchet piece instead of an honest piece of news reporting.

    No, it wouldn't have been difficult at all. But Mike doesn't do his homework, and his point is indeed to create hatchet pieces. He's writing for the crowd who'll read this and think, "OMG! Da patent system is so stupid! They're patenting wheels! Wheels! Derp! Derp! Derp!" You're obviously not on the wavelength of Mike's target audience.

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 15th, 2014 @ 7:34am

    Keep it coming

    It's fun to watch the patent system defenders come out of the woodwork to try to (1) insult me and (2) figure out some way to defend the patent system around this. Keep it up guys!

     

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    techrebel (profile), Jul 15th, 2014 @ 7:41am

    Re: Keep it coming

    It's fun to watch the patent system defenders come out of the woodwork to try to (1) insult me and (2) figure out some way to defend the patent system around this. Keep it up guys!

    Nice fluff, but where's the substance? Which wheel lacks innovation? Are you really arguing that wheels can't be improved? Why do you think these inventors are not "actually trying to build better tools for the market"?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2014 @ 7:42am

    Re: Re: Put down your chisel and pick up

    "but why whatever force isn't negated on the 'other side' of the mechanism when it is going in the opposite direction, i don't get it..."

    I'm not sure how that would work but maybe it's the way some outward protruding component is shaped. Think how fan blades are shaped to push wind in a certain direction (Ok, poor analogy), if you can shape something on the wheel to be more aerodynamic on the way down from the top of the wheel to the center front and to be less aerodynamic from the center front to the bottom it could provide a downward force if shaped correctly? I would have to see exactly how it works to determine if it really works (how do you direct the air downward without first directing it against the tire and creating more drag as a result of having a less aerodynamic tire).

    Personally it seems like it's more marketing than anything. Think of the tornado infomercials that are supposed to improve air flow and save fuel or something, it's more marketing than anything. but there is never a shortage of car scams that some sucker who never took physics will buy into if you confuse them enough with techno mumbo jumbo they have no clue about.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2014 @ 7:50am

    Re: Re: Re: Put down your chisel and pick up

    and you know what's more? The tornado fuel saver is also patented!!! That makes it even more effective!!! From the website

    "How It WorksThe TornadoFuelSaver is an air-TWISTER, patented worldwide, with 10 years of research & development behind it."

    http://www.tornadofuel-saver.com/product/TORNADO-HOWITWORKS/Tornado-How-It-Works.html

    See!!!!

    /sar c

    There is a sucker born every minute and these patents probably shouldn't be taken all that seriously.

     

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  23.  
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    Michael, Jul 15th, 2014 @ 8:49am

    Which wheel lacks innovation?

    All of these lack innovation.

    The first was an attempt to show how had the patent system was by getting a patent on a wheel.

    The second is a wheel with an attempt at adding an aerodynamic device to the outer rim - which anyone that knows anything about the effects of rotating weight is going to tell you will harm the performance more than help it.

    The third is actually the most innovative of all four of these, but ultimately a bad idea. Adding an airfoil to an automobile wheel to try to take advantage of passing wind as a propellant - well, add a sail to your car and let me know if it improves your mileage.

    Finally, the last one - umm...they either copied an existing wheel / tire that has been used on forklifts for a couple of decades (drove one in a shop I worked at in the 90's), or they simply came up with the same idea on their own (neither helps the case that patents are all that useful).

     

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    ThatFatMan (profile), Jul 15th, 2014 @ 9:10am

    Re: Keep it coming

    We get it, you're anti-patent. No one is going to change your mind.

    As an examiner, I am personally curious to know what the patent system would look like if you, Mikey, got to write the laws. So go ahead, draft some laws to make the patent system be what you think it ought to be and post them up for all of us to read. Cover everything. I'm dying to read it.

    And while you're at it, explain in detail all the ways it'll help.

    Please.

     

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  25.  
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    Michael, Jul 15th, 2014 @ 9:42am

    Re: Re: Keep it coming

    US Patent System 2015:

    None.

    Feel free to build upon the inventions of others and create great things that will help make our lives better without having to register your inventions or be concerned that someone is going to come by and sue you for copying.


    While the patent system was originally created to try to create incentive for invention, we have come to conclusion that the mother of invention is, in fact, necessity and therefore we don't need to create a monopoly system to encourage it. Our evidence of this system includes, but is not limited to, some things invented before the patent system was created like the wheel, the arch, indoor plumbing, gunpowder, bow and arrow, the knife, the spear, shoes, clothing, the process of starting a fire...

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2014 @ 10:03am

    Re: Re: Keep it coming

    You're still missing the point. The point isn't that we should make the assumption that some patent system is good and if someone can't create a better one then we should keep the existing one. The point is that if the existing patent system harms innovation then it should be abolished. That is we are better off without a patent system than with the one we have. Yes, it sucks for patent trolls and the jobs of patent examiners but that's not the concern. The concern is the public interest.

    A patent is a privilege and if we are to have a patent system the burden is not on opponents of the current system (or opponents of having a patent system) to prove that there is a beneficial system or to prove that having a patent system is beneficial. The burden is on patent proponents to prove that having a patent system in the first place is beneficial and then to propose a beneficial, evidence based, patent system. You hold the burden here, not Mike, and your post is just a disingenuous attempt to shift the burden. Why should an opponent of the current system (or of having a patent system) be the one to do your homework and to be the one to defend your position that he disagrees with. You make no sense. Do your own homework and defend your own position.

    The biggest problem I see with the patent system is it's not evidenced based. There should be some objective and reasonable standard to distinguish an obvious incremental advancement of existing technology from a revolutionary new technology that wouldn't otherwise exist without patents. Advancement will continue to happen without patents and so we need some reasonable way to ensure (and reasonably prove) that the patent system doesn't hinder advancements that will happen regardless and that only advancements that require a patent receive one. If you can't meet these two standards then we are better off without a patent system than with a system that either hinders advancements or simply gets patents on advancements that will happen regardless.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2014 @ 11:07am

    how the patent office works

    Understanding the patent system:
    Patent office is not to judge... it must and can approve everything. This saves tons of money as you do not any special skills. All you need to buy is a monkey and big rubber 'approved' stamp.
    Any mistakes will be caught by the industry experts and then court system can serve as a filter. You see the industry can spend the resources to have the various experts in any field much better than any patent office.

    That is how the patent office works.

     

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    ThatFatMan (profile), Jul 15th, 2014 @ 11:09am

    Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    Doesn't Work. What incentive is there for anyone to disclose their invention without some level of protection from someone copying it, using it, selling it? There are few, if any, people out there who would be willing to invent something for someone else to make millions off of without any compensation.

    You speak of necessity like we need those things for our sirvival. Arches are not necessary, nor is indoor plumbing and gunpowder, etc. All you really need is food, water and shelter. Other people are optional. We got by for many many years without those things and survived as a species. You want plumbing and a smart phone and the internet, but it isn't necessary.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2014 @ 11:11am

    Re: Re: Put down your chisel and pick up

    i can conceive that the airfoils provide *some* sort of force to the wheel, but why whatever force isn't negated on the 'other side' of the mechanism when it is going in the opposite direction, i don't get it...

    When rolling along the ground, the point of the wheel in contact with the ground is stationary, and the point at the top is moving forward faster than the vehicle. (the axle is moving forward at the same speed as the vehicle). This will give a resultant down force from the airfoils;one at the top producing a down force, the ones at the bottom producing no force. As noted rotating mass is a bad idea, also the drag from the airfoils will increase the power needed to turn the wheel. Airfoils on the frame would be more efficient, but because of leaning into a curve they would likely have negative impact on vehicle handling.

     

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  30.  
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    ThatFatMan (profile), Jul 15th, 2014 @ 11:38am

    Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    I'm not missing the point. I was making my own. Mikey seems to think that everything should be rejected because the core of it is already known. Every wheel should be rejected because someone already invented a wheel. By his way of thinking, every smart phone and every flip phone before it should be rejected by one of the old brick phones ca. 1980 because a cell phone is a cell phone. All I wanted him to do was to suggest a better way and tell me why his way is best. I happen to think his way is unnecessarily restrictive and would all but eliminate the patent system.

    I don't agree that a patent is really a privilege either. The constitution requires congress to do something to protect inventors and try to promote the sciences and useful arts. While he might not like the system congress gave us, it's what we have. And it's not going away, all it can do is change, unless you think we can go ahead and amend that out. Good luck. I'll touch on evidence based in a moment. But I have defended my position, and I am an Examiner. I've never insisted on here that the system is perfect. Nor will I. But to reiterate what I posted earlier, the law allows patents on new and useful improvements. And that is the right choice, because people should be afforded some protection for expending resources to invent those things and increase the body of knowledge.

    As to your comments about an evidence based system, we already have it. Examiners reject applications for patents every day and they rely heavily on evidence: patent and non-patent literature, technical documents, etc. While I agree that an objective and reasonable standard would be nice, no one is offering up such a standard that can apply to all cases. There is case law (i.e., court rulings) that cover some basic ideas like rearrangement of parts, obviousness of ranges, optimization of known parameters and simple substitution of known elements for the same purpose. I think we can all agree that that list is neither exhaustive and is rather fundamentally basic. By it's very nature, most things beyond that are subjective. You take two examiners, give them the same invention to review and the same prior art and you're just as likely to get two different results on whether the invention is obvious in view of the art as you are to get agreement. Why? Because those examiners are drawing from different experiences and interpretations. If there was a more perfect objective system out there, I'm sure you could write a program to do my job and no more bad patents would issue. I'd also like to think that if such an objective standard could exist, it would have been written into law by now and lobbied against heavily by lawyers and businesses alike.

     

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    Michael, Jul 15th, 2014 @ 11:39am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    What incentive is there for anyone to disclose their invention without some level of protection from someone copying it, using it, selling it?

    It is really difficult to make the argument that today's patents are a real disclosure of how to reproduce the "device" as they are supposed to be. If you are arguing that we need patent protection to ensure people do not copy inventions AND that it is necessary to have patents to disclose how to reproduce inventions, you have a great circular argument. Eliminate the patent and people can't copy it anyway.

    I am not sure why you have equated necessity and survival from what I posted. Necessity to live and simple necessity are totally different. The arch was necessary because people wanted multi-story structures that could support weight. Sure, they could have simply built one-story buildings, but they didn't really want to and thus NEEDED a solution.

    Most real invention and innovation works in one of two ways. Either someone needs something and spends their time solving the problem (I need to glue things together fast so I work on super-glue) or someone comes across something and identifies that it solves a problem they knew about (while I was working on that super-strong glue, I made this crap that comes right off of everything - if I put that on the back of a 2x2 piece of paper and sell them in blocks, people can use them for notes).

     

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    techrebel (profile), Jul 15th, 2014 @ 11:52am

    Re: Re: Keep it coming

    As an examiner, I am personally curious to know what the patent system would look like if you, Mikey, got to write the laws. So go ahead, draft some laws to make the patent system be what you think it ought to be and post them up for all of us to read. Cover everything. I'm dying to read it.

    And while you're at it, explain in detail all the ways it'll help.


    Don't hold your breath, because Mike won't explain anything. We just get vague assertions about things in the "core" that are "not in need of improvement" and that are apparently not a part of "innovation in the actual market." Trying to nail him down on any of it is a fool's errand since Mike doesn't do substance. He does posts like this. Lots of posts like this. But precious little reasoning and substance.

     

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    Gwiz (profile), Jul 15th, 2014 @ 11:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    The constitution requires congress to do something to protect inventors and try to promote the sciences and useful arts.


    Incorrect reading of the Constitution, in my opinion.

    The actual wording is:
    The Congress shall have Power [...] To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
    Nothing in there is a requirement, per se. It's just an enumerated power the Constitution gives Congress. Congress does actually have ability to reverse, revise and/or revoke patent and copyright laws, if they wish. Of course, that may run afoul of various international treaties and whatnot, but not the Constitution itself.

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 15th, 2014 @ 12:31pm

    Re: Re: Keep it coming

    We get it, you're anti-patent. No one is going to change your mind.


    No, I'm anti-bad patent system. And what will change my mind is evidence that the world is better off with this system as opposed to other systems.

    As an examiner, I am personally curious to know what the patent system would look like if you, Mikey, got to write the laws. So go ahead, draft some laws to make the patent system be what you think it ought to be and post them up for all of us to read. Cover everything. I'm dying to read it.

    I have many times in the past suggested a few key changes that would massively improve the patent system. Here is one example:

    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110819/14021115603/so-how-do-we-fix-patent-system.shtml

    Just because you didn't read it (or do a basic Google search) doesn't mean I haven't done it.

     

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    cryptozoologist (profile), Jul 15th, 2014 @ 12:34pm

    prior art

    there is some prior art for the qinetiq wheel here:
    http://biblehub.com/ezekiel/1-16.htm

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 15th, 2014 @ 12:35pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    What incentive is there for anyone to disclose their invention without some level of protection from someone copying it, using it, selling it?

    You should take a look at the open source and open innovation worlds. It appears that plenty of people recognize there are LOTS of non-IP incentives to open up, often because it benefits them in the market. Take, for example, Elon Musk's decision to release Tesla's patents.

    There are few, if any, people out there who would be willing to invent something for someone else to make millions off of without any compensation.

    Bullshit. This is just pure ignorance. If you look at the history of innovation you'd know that's simply not true. Studies have shown that the number one reason for invention is *because the person/company inventing it needs it*. Furthermore, you unfortunately seem to be under the (very misguided) belief that if someone else can copy what you do, it means that you can't sell it any more. That's just not true. The first mover advantage is tremendous.

    Furthermore, companies that truly understand the market will always do better than copycats. The fear of copycats is simply... ignorance of how innovation and competition works.

     

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  37.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 15th, 2014 @ 12:43pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    The constitution requires congress to do something to protect inventors and try to promote the sciences and useful arts.

    This is simply not true. It's a little scary that you think that and are a patent examiner. The Constitution gives Congress the right to create a patent system IF it believes it promotes the progress. That's it. It does not require anything.

    As to your comments about an evidence based system, we already have it.

    No it's not. You're mistaking what was said. The question is if *the system* is evidence-based. It was not. It was based on the loose (incorrect) belief that blatant protectionism and a rejection of competition encourages faster innovation. But in the past 250 years we've learned that's not true. Competition drives innovation, not monopolies.

    When the first true economic analysis of the patent system was undertaken, by Fritz Machlup, he concluded that no economist would honestly support creating the patent system if there were none today, because it just doesn't make any economic sense.

     

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  38. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    techrebel (profile), Jul 15th, 2014 @ 12:50pm

    Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    No, I'm anti-bad patent system. And what will change my mind is evidence that the world is better off with this system as opposed to other systems.

    Really? You're not anti-patent? Tell us this, then: Name one single patent right in one single inventor that you support. I don't think you can, and the reason is because you are in fact anti-patent. Saying you're just "anti-bad patent" is silly semantics. If you think all patents are bad, then that means you're anti-patent. Why won't you just admit it? Seriously, why?

     

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  39. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    techrebel (profile), Jul 15th, 2014 @ 1:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    When the first true economic analysis of the patent system was undertaken, by Fritz Machlup, he concluded that no economist would honestly support creating the patent system if there were none today, because it just doesn't make any economic sense.

    And yet you still want us all to believe that you are not in fact anti-patent. You think the patent system makes no "economic sense," and yet you are not against it? Why not just admit that you are anti-patent? You clearly cannot articulate any way that you are pro-patent, so why all the squirming about taking a firm position against it? Seriously, Mike.

     

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  40.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Jul 15th, 2014 @ 1:02pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    Saying you're just "anti-bad patent" is silly semantics.

    I didn't read that as Mike is against "bad patents", I read it as Mike is against a patent system that is bad. Like what we currently have.

     

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  41.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 15th, 2014 @ 1:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    "There are few, if any, people out there who would be willing to invent something for someone else to make millions off of without any compensation."

    I disagree. There are lots of people so willing. I myself have invented a fair number of things over the years despite an unwillingness to patent them. I care about one things with my own works: that I can make use of them, including selling them for a profit. You know what I don't care about? Whether or not someone else makes money off of them. If I could only eke out a few hundreds of thousands from an invention, but someone else comes along and figures out how to make millions, then I'll probably be a little jealous and kicking myself for not thinking of doing whatever they did, but in the end it's a case of "more power to them". Their success isn't taking money out of my pocket, after all.

    I'm far from the only person who thinks like this. I'm surrounded by them!

     

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  42.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 15th, 2014 @ 1:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    I believe that quote is from Fritz Machlup, not Mike. In any case, I think you have a bit of the fallacy of the excluded middle going on.

    You seem to be saying that of you aren't pro-patent, then you are necessarily anti-patent. That's an illogical stance. Personally, for example, I think there is great value to be had in a reasonable patent system. So I'm pro-patent? I also think that our current patent system is very unreasonable, and it might be better to have no patent system at all than the one we actually have. So I'm anti-patent?

    It's a matter of what works for the greatest good. A patent system can be a tool that makes things better for everyone. The one we have may not be that tool.

     

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  43.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Jul 15th, 2014 @ 1:23pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    You think the patent system makes no "economic sense," and yet you are not against it?


    Wow dude. You are creating absolutes where none are required.

    Just because someone says the *current* system doesn't make economic sense doesn't automatically mean they are saying any and all systems don't make sense.

    You seem to be implying that it is a all-or-nothing, take-it-or-leave-it situation when it's not. We can *improve* our current system and fix some of the issues that curtail innovation without scrapping the whole thing.

    I, for one, feel that the protection that patents give the garage inventor against large corporations just swooping and taking their invention is important. I also feel that patent trolls looking for easy money by suing everything that remotely resembles some obscure patent they purchased is hurting us too. The system does need some fixing, in my opinion.

     

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  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2014 @ 2:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    There are few, if any, people out there who would be willing to invent something for someone else to make millions off of without any compensation.
    The big threat to innovation isn't "someone else making millions" off of one's new idea. The big threat is that "someone else" will take the idea, patent it themselves, and make millions while legally preventing everyone else from doing the same (including improving on it).

     

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  45.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2014 @ 2:31pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    [Mike is] in fact anti-patent. Saying you're just "anti-bad patent" is silly semantics.
    In fact, I would add that Mike is "anti-logic." After all, look at all the logical fallacies he keeps pointing out.

     

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  46.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2014 @ 2:38pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

     

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

  47.  
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    Karl (profile), Jul 15th, 2014 @ 5:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    There are few, if any, people out there who would be willing to invent something for someone else to make millions off of without any compensation.

    There is little to no evidence that this is actually true in the real world.

    If you look at industries with strong IP protections, and compare them with industries with weak or no IP protections (like the fashion industry), then the industries with weak IP protections are always far more productive and innovative... and end up generating far more profit.

    I would encourage you to watch Johanna Blakely's TED talk about copyright and the fashion industry:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zL2FOrx41N0

    Pay special attention to the latter part of the speech, starting at about 12 minutes in, where she actually gives the gross sales for the different industries.

    You speak of necessity like we need those things for our sirvival [sic].

    You speak of "necessity" like it is synonymous with "survival."

    I'll give an object-oriented programming example. Say that you want to iterate over a collection of objects (an array, hash map, or whatever). Sooner or later, that's going to result in the Iterator Pattern. That pattern arose out of necessity to accomplish that task... even though we don't need to do that task to survive.

    Software design patterns such as these cannot be patented, but they were still created, and are now used by every computer programmer. Including companies that "make millions off of" those patterns by using them in their own software.

     

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  48.  
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    Karl (profile), Jul 15th, 2014 @ 6:01pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    The constitution requires congress to do something to protect inventors and try to promote the sciences and useful arts.

    Uh, no. The Constitution grants the right to Congress to "secur[e] for limited Times to.. Inventors the exclusive Right to their... Discoveries," if securing those rights "promote[s] the Progress of Science and useful Arts."

    It does not require Congress to do anything. They could get rid of all patents and copyrights tomorrow, if they so chose, and it wouldn't be unconstitutional in any way.

     

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  49.  
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    Whatever (profile), Jul 15th, 2014 @ 6:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    You should take a look at the open source and open innovation worlds. It appears that plenty of people recognize there are LOTS of non-IP incentives to open up, often because it benefits them in the market. Take, for example, Elon Musk's decision to release Tesla's patents.

    Two things here. First and foremost, nobody is saying that patents are the only incentive to develop or more forward. That is a strawman argument that is easy to knock down because it's obviously false. Nice setup and take down!

    Second, Musk's "release" of the patents isn't really a release, as much as an attempt to beg the big car companies to do it his way so that his car company can flourish using the infrastructure created by others. He understands that he just doesn't have the money or the reach to be able to put enough charging stations in the US to make his car truly mainstream, and that without it, Tesla will continue as a niche player. That niche may be in serious jeopardy if the big car companies decide to go full electric and create their own charging systems and operations.

    Essentially, Tesla could be the betamax of electric cars, the better standard that nobody uses. Anyone can tell you that Beta should have won but did not, and that was in part because they held onto it too strongly. Musk's understands that a superior patent with no users is worth a lot less than one shared freely to support his car company, and also in some ways to fulfill his own ego issues by being "king of the world" in some ways.

    I understand you don't like the patent system, but perhaps you should look for better examples.

     

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  50.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2014 @ 6:52pm

    Looks like the patent fan bois really got wound around the axle this time - Hahahahaha

     

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  51.  
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    Whatever (profile), Jul 15th, 2014 @ 8:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    I disagree. There are lots of people so willing.

    There are also lots of people smoking crack and meth and drinking themselves into a stupor before 3 in the afternoon every day. That doesn't make it right, it just means it happens.

     

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  52.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2014 @ 10:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    So then you acknowledge that there are many people "willing to invent something for someone else to make millions off of without any compensation.".

    and why would it be 'wrong' to do so?

     

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  53.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2014 @ 11:04pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    "perhaps you should look for better examples."

    While there are other good examples the example given is a good example for reasons you just gave. Of course Tesla is releasing these patents for self serving reasons, that's kinda the point, the whole point is that the patents don't really do Tesla all that much good. So why even have them? Why should the USPTO grant worthless patents that cause harm? All they did is cast Tesla money, money that can be better directed towards innovation.

    If anything Tesla acquired these patents to prevent others from acquiring them first and using them to hinder Tesla from advancing these technologies. IOW, Tesla got them for defensive reasons (so no one else can get them) and now that Tesla has them they are 'releasing' them for anyone to use.

     

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  54.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2014 @ 11:07pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    His post is so illogical it goes beyond insane. He says

    "All you really need is food, water and shelter. [...] You want plumbing and a smart phone and the internet, but it isn't necessary."

    Plumbing is a means to getting water. The Internet can be used as a means to getting a job which can be used as a means to getting food. Etc... IOW, these things can, and often do, contribute to our survival.

     

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  55.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2014 @ 3:04am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    Because horse with no name wouldn't get to shill otherwise.

     

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  56.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 16th, 2014 @ 3:59am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    Two things here. First and foremost, nobody is saying that patents are the only incentive to develop or more forward. That is a strawman argument that is easy to knock down because it's obviously false.

    Actually, that is *exactly* what ThatFatMan said:

    "What incentive is there for anyone to disclose their invention without some level of protection from someone copying it, using it, selling it?"

    So we explained why that's not true, and then you accuse us of setting up a strawman?

    Anyway, while I have your attention, can I ask that you respond to a separate thread from last week in which you claimed the DMCA had a notice-and-notice provision. I'm still curious where it is?

    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140711/11114227854/us-film-distributor-copyright-enforcement- company-join-forces-to-kick-creative-commons-licensed-film-off-youtube.shtml#c184

     

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  57.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2014 @ 7:30am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    Shills keep making the same incorrect claim over and over even after we've been correcting this mistake for a long time. It's hilarious.

    I have a theory. Shilling organizations teach them to use this false claim as part of their training because whoever is training them doesn't know any better. So whenever there is a new shill they come over here all exited to use what they've been trained only to discover it's all wrong. Someone needs to tell the shilling company that this is wrong so that they can stop incorrectly training new hires.

     

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  58.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2014 @ 8:34am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    In a 1958 report to Congress Machlup made a similar statement, but the reason why was not at all like you state. His observation was that no definitive pro/con conclusions could be made. If you are making your point based upon a specific paper you have in mind, a cite to the paper would be appreciated.

     

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  59.  
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    mdpopescu (profile), Jul 16th, 2014 @ 9:17am

    Re:

    I can't upvote this enough.

     

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

  60.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2014 @ 9:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    Our current system is impulse based and not evidence based. We need to transition from an impulse based to an evidence based system.

     

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  61.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2014 @ 9:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Put down your chisel and pick up

    Come to think of it I think I know how these gimmicks work (scam is the wrong word, gimmick is a better word here). It's the placebo effect. If you think it makes your car perform better it will make your car perform better.

     

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  62.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 16th, 2014 @ 10:10am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    His observation was that no definitive pro/con conclusions could be made.

    I don't think so. Here's the key quote:

    "If we did not have a patent system, it would be irresponsible, on the basis of our present knowledge of its economic consequences, to recommend instituting one."

    He does note that, given that we already have a system, it would probably mess things up too much to get rid of it entirely, but he clearly concluded that there is no economic basis to support the patent system. He goes through the various rationale put forth for the system, and then discusses why each is not supported by evidence or economic research.

    The lack of evidence to support a patent system and the various rationale for the patent system is damning.

     

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  63.  
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    ThatFatMan (profile), Jul 16th, 2014 @ 12:59pm

    Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    There is a lot up here that I simply don't have the time to address. So I'll take a quick stab at this and a couple other points and leave it at that.

    You strike me as anti-patent. That's my opinion. I'm not trying to defend our system as the right one. I have plenty enough of my own opinions of the shortcomings of our patent system and changes I'd like made. But given my position, I try to keep many of them out of the public eye for obvious reasons. No system can or ever will be perfect, but problems can and should be fixed. As an examiner, I work within the system we have to the best of my ability, and try not to issue things that I think would be problematic. So far, I haven't seen anything I've worked on show up here, and I'm not complaining.

    And yes, I have read at least some of your stories about how do we fix the patent system. I'm not saying, and I never meant to imply, that you haven't done so. I guess I was looking for something more, not just a few ideas, but your overall idea for the system as a whole. I actually am curious to read it, whether I agree with it or not. It would be interesting to see a system without the hands of a lawyer all over it.

    As to my statement about the constitution requiring something along the lines of a patent system. I'm not above admitting when I should have been more careful with my words. It does not say it is a requirement, but rather a power. I said requirement because I couldn't see a need for it to be enumerated otherwise. A little looking around (thanks Google and Wikipedia) and I accept that I screwed up. In reality it is a power probably better left in the hands of the federal government, because I am sure we can at least all agree having patents and copyrights on a state by state basis would be far worse than what we have now.

    The burden is on patent proponents to prove that having a patent system in the first place is beneficial and then to propose a beneficial, evidence based, patent system and The biggest problem I see with the patent system is it's not evidenced based I think it's pretty clear that AC's comment is that we need a system based on evidence. I'm only pointing out that we have it, and I tried to briefly support that.

    In any case, thank you for replying, I'll admit I was surprised. I'm glad to see that there was quite a bit of back and forth here, and that it was mostly civil.

     

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  64.  
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    Karl (profile), Jul 16th, 2014 @ 7:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Keep it coming

    There are also lots of people smoking crack and meth and drinking themselves into a stupor before 3 in the afternoon every day.

    Well, here's the difference.

    If someone smokes crack and meth and drinks themselves into a stupor before 3 in the afternoon every day, then it's not good for that person. More importantly from a social perspective, it's also not good for the general public.

    But if someone "invents something for someone else to make millions off of without any compensation," then that is good for the general public. If that someone also makes money off of their invention, then it is also good for that person, regardless of who else makes money off of it.

    The former case is bad for everyone, so it is wrong. The latter case is good for everyone, so it is right.

    So, yeah, it does make it right. And if the patent system interferes with it, then the patent system is wrong.

     

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  65.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2014 @ 8:00pm

    "...economic analysis does not yet provide a basis for choosing between “all or nothing,”..."

    This does not in my view suggest that he found no economic basis to support the patent system. To me he was making an honest observation. i.e., questions he deemed relevant were not amenable to definitive answers.

     

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  66.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 17th, 2014 @ 3:06pm

    Re:

    "...economic analysis does not yet provide a basis for choosing between “all or nothing,”..."

    This does not in my view suggest that he found no economic basis to support the patent system. To me he was making an honest observation. i.e., questions he deemed relevant were not amenable to definitive answers.


    Why do you ignore what he *actually said*. "If we did not have a patent system, it would be irresponsible, on the basis of our present knowl­edge of its economic consequences, to recommend instituting one." He is clearly saying that there is not enough economic basis to argue for a patent system.

    That said, the context of the snippet you quoted is clearer from the entire section, in which he notes that since we already have a system, getting rid of it would require additional questions, and there isn't enough evidence to cover the *consequences* of getting rid of an existing system.

    None of that means that the overall results of his study meant he couldn't find enough evidence either way. He's comparing the "all or nothing" situation by noting that there is no real evidence to support a patent system, but since we have one, there isn't enough evidence of the impact of taking away this system that people already rely on, so he can't recommend ditching it all together.

    But that doesn't mean that there's equal weight in evidence for no system or the system we have. Quite the contrary. He's just saying there's not enough evidence about how changing systems midstream might have an impact, so he doesn't recommend ditching the system. However, he's pretty damn clear that there's no real evidence that a patent system makes any sense. He's just worried about wrecking an existing bit of infrastructure that so many are reliant on.

    If anything, this is *EVEN MORE DAMNING*. Because he's basically admitting that an entire infrastructure was built up around a system that had no economic basis -- making it nearly impossible to correct the initial error of creation.

     

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


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