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back to article Bear and Monkey smack Apple with patent suit

Apple has been slapped with another patent infringement lawsuit - but the suit says more about the festering sore that is the US patent system than it does about the individual patents involved. The lawsuit was filed by Austin, Texas inventor Eric Gould Bear, President and CEO of interface design firm MonkeyMedia. The core of …

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Anonymous Coward

Totally broken

When the IP Innovation v. Red Hat/Novell patent trial is dismissed due to prior art, and that prior art was a fully functional Amiga 1000 from 1986 you know that the whole US Patent system is totally broken as that patent should never have even been filed, let alone granted.

People are registering "patents" which are just rubbish and they are basically trying it on hoping that they will get their day in a Patent friendly court house.

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Everyone says it's broken...

...but no one's come forward with a means to FIX the problem. More significantly, no one's come forward with a fix to the problem that stays under the USPTO budget.

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Well...

How about they just stop granting software patents? Software is already protected by copyright, which IMHO is really more appropriate.

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Grenade

au contraire...

Any number of people have come up with a fix; declare software patents null and void.

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Alert

I partially disagree

I have patent pending technology about some minute novelties in a markup language created for email instead of various social deformities of the web. In my experience I have learned that you cannot trust software companies to follow a specification before releasing a software product using something from that specification or in essense of that specification. I suggested my technology be patented, because then I can sue software companies for fucking it up even if I am allowed to give licensing away for free.

Imagine what the web would be like if violations of concerned technology standards resulted in legal damages removal of the faulty software product from the market. I can't count on a scientific calculator how many times I have heard people complain on this website that Flash should die or in other places that constant infantile crying about the evils and trials of IE.

Now imagine if a markup language were created for email and software companies were allowed to deliver crap without regard for harm to the network technology on which that markup language exists. I would rather give the licenses away for free and use patent fear to keep people from half-assed using my technology to destroy email.

I say I partially disagree, because I can't help but admit there are parasites who do nothing more than hold patents in expectation of litigation as a business. Those people should die. If a patent is not used solely to protect the entry of a technology or art to market then it should not be granted the benefit of protection in court.

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copyright

sounds as though it would be more appropriate unless there is a genuine technical innovation in which case why would they screw it up if there was a clear advantage?

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Badgers

The problem with patents...

...is and always has been that the legal system does not seem to want to accept inventions described in engineering terms. Often they are translated into legalese by replacing common engineering terms like CPU, bus etc with bizarre clauses like 'a computing sub-system in the aspect of appendix A.1' and 'and apparatus for the transfer of information from a computing sub-system in the aspect of appendix A.1 with a data storage subsystem in the aspect of appendix A.2'. After 'legalisation' don't be surprised if your nice little 2 page spark of genius (which was actually quite a nice idea) has ballooned to become a 20 page amorphous blob of stream of concious gibberish.

I suspect that a large number of named inventors do not understand the patents which have been created for their inventions. For the same reason, I think it is likely that most lawyers would not understand the original pseudo-code, UML, block-diagram or whatever other form the original specifciation took. Probably the only people who do understand both the invention and the patent are the relatively small number of patent specialists who also happen to be trained engineers).

The reason Latin was used to much in the legal system is the same reason Latin used to be used in exams in Cambridge - because it kept the un-educated masses out of the system. Although most legal documents are now in English the idea of making the language as obtuse and difficult to follow seems to have lingered on, which brings me to the rub...

We have a system which translates ideas into a form of language which seems to have evolved to make comprehension as difficult as possible, and then we use these translated ideas to sue each other. It actually begins to look like the legal profession invented the whole mess for the sole purpose of creating the maximum amount of business for themselves.

My suggestions are simple...

We trust the medical profession to regulate itself using it's own language, by people who are experts in the medical domain rather than exclusively lawyers (see GMC, FDA etc) so why not the same principle for engineering.

If engineering specifications are good enough for contracts between corporations then they should be good enough for patents. Likewise, since almost all patents and inventions are essentially engineering in nature, arbitration in disputes should be done by a panel of engineers rather than a colony of lawyers**.

Of course... this will never ever happen.

** the correct collective noun for a group of lawyers is 'an eloquence' but I couldn't bring myself to use it. Alternative suggestions welcome.

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Be careful what you wish for

"If engineering specifications are good enough for contracts between corporations then they should be good enough for patents. Likewise, since almost all patents and inventions are essentially engineering in nature, arbitration in disputes should be done by a panel of engineers rather than a colony of lawyers**."

While that sounds like a fantastic idea in theory, I bet it would prove more faulty than even the current system which I think you described incredibly well. The problem is that engineers do not always understand the inventions of others in fields they are presumed to be expert authorities upon. A case in point is the nature of semantics as a computer science of relational data in the XML, and perhaps even amongst some few enlightened folks of the more archaic SGML field, versus the understanding of semantics to those who value only product usability, such as the HTML5 field.

If a panel of "those" experts were charged with deliberating over my markup patents I would be upset. No, no upset is too soft a term. Homicidal is even far too soft to fully describe the rainbow colors of rage and disgust. The problem is that even engineers disagree upon engineering concepts even when those concepts are defined in engineering specifications written solely by fully qualified engineers.

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Coat

Collective nouns.

I believe that the one you are searching for is "cesspool".

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Anonymous Coward

Oh really?

"It actually begins to look like the legal profession invented the whole mess for the sole purpose of creating the maximum amount of business for themselves."

You've obviously never dealt with any sort of legal stuff before. This is the fundamental core belief behind "law".

Which explains why solicitors tried to charge me £200 per hour for writing a letter that had multiple mistakes (like my name mistyped) in... I'm trying not to pay.

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Joke

Collective nouns

How about an "Assasination of Lawyers" ? Or is that just wishful thinking?

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Sue the patent office?

If the patent office grant a patent that's later discovered to be incorrect, e.g. there's prior art, then why not sue the patent office.

That way they'd stop issuing any patents and the cost would go through the roof. Normal economics would dictate that the trivial or chancer applications would completely dry up.

Or just stop issuing patents for software.

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Oh Dear...

The US Patent System is broken.

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Anonymous Coward

Titles

Titles written in larger font sizes than the surrounding text combined with a table of contents should be sufficient prior art to blow this out of the water, even ignoring that so many implementation details are included that virtually no real world product is ever likely to actually infringe

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What about...

A variety of editors (both for text, as in a "thoughts outliner") and programming, that shrink everything down to a list of headings with the current paragraph/function being expanded and visible, while the rest are not. Isn't that deemphasising non-salient data? I dimly recall an editor for the Beeb that offered this exciting innovative feature (though one could say loading in data in chunks helped to get around memory limitations too!).

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The bubble of attorneys and USPTO employees

"Although your humble Reg reporter would never claim to be well-steeped in the abstruse complexities of patent law"

Patent law is complex? Throwing the whole lawyerfeeding cancer overboard, then. And I'm not talking about software patents only.

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Would it be of note...

To mention that Eric Gould is an evangelist for Adobe.

http://www.adobe.com/support/programs/evangelism/evangelists/eric.html

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Black Helicopters

Very...

Interesting...

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Reason for patents.

"it does seem that patenting summarization and emphasis in UI design may not fully be in harmony with the US Constitution's stated reason for patents: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.""

Software patents in the US have never promoted the progress of science or useful arts. Quite the opposite, they inhibit them. Never the less, software based (UI/algorithm) patents are favored by the big businesses which seems to be the sole basis for policy making these days.

Big businesses can push through any policy no matter how draconian, the DMCA is a prime example of "public" policy gone wrong.

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Jobs Horns

Yes, the US Patent system is laughable...

and I really hope Mr. Gould Bear wins.

Stickin' it to the man.

Evil Steve; I think that's self explanatory.

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google

So why doesn't he sue the big G (and all other search engines) for only showing a summary of their page matches? What a dumb thing to try to patent, and even dumber to be granted a patent!

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Web 2.0 to the rescue!

Why doesn't USPTO do like everyone else, and social source their jobs? Just post all the pending patents, and let all of those bored engineers browse, vote, link, comment, etc. Then the patent office could have a nice set of links to prior art before they even started really looking at the filing.

Or they could just drop all of lawyers into a suitably large body of water, each weighed down with all of the waste paper they've created over the span of their careers. And if any of them float, well, they're obviously witches.

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Boffin

Re: Social Sauce the job

IT would seem that Deadly Draconian Displays of pending patents should give rise to any AIntelligent Design's Graphic Omnescient Device for Better Living through Chemistry.

Sadly, such RDResearch might Prove too much for what the USPTO Jobs Worths (or more than Job's Apple meets the eye?), no matter that IT is a necessary part of any Truly Great Plan.

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US patent system

I hate my country. That is all.

When did this place go from a "can-do" bunch that invented the laser and transistor and put people on the moon, to a bunch of whiny lazy entitlement idiots that feel they deserve millions for no work at all and think litigation is their lottery ticket?

Icon for "burn it all down and start over with non-idiots" and hell no, I'm not anonymous.

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Alert

Re: When did this place go...

It is rather endemic of past, present, and future plans to truly make us all dumbed and replaceable bricks in a corporate wall to our heritage, birthright, and knowledge.

http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/underground/

The more people die off that remember what it really is to do something for yourself, the majority becomes people who don't know any different than what [gov/corp/TV] tells them it was.

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Anonymous Coward

Collective noun

A leech of lawyers

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Anonymous Coward

lawyers

If they fix the patent system then lawyers would lose money.

politicians who make the rules are mostly lawyers.

the patent system will not be fixed.

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law swap

Of course a sensible swap would be for the US to get the UK's patent system and the UK (or at least England & Wales) to get the US libel system as both are essentially an affront to civilised society and a means for charlatans and lawyers of dubious ethics to make lots of money,

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Gates Halo

US patent system working as intended ...

but perhaps it's being misunderstood.

First of all, people have to understand that the idea of the USPTO scrutinizing patent applications to see if they really are innovative is based on a misunderstanding.

What the USPTO does instead is to scrutinize a patent application to see if it (a) has already been patented or (b) has already been published in the mainstream open literature. That's basically it. Patent examination has become a first hurdle, and a proof-of-claim.

The real burden, determining if the patent is obvious, over-broad, or if there is prior art outside the mainstream literature is basically left to the courts.

Once people understand that, they can avoid a lot of disappointment and frustration due to patents they consider "obvious", or "bogus". This understanding will also remind them that lawsuits a an integral (and intentional) feature of patents.

The point is simply that either society at large can pay for a drastic enlargement of the USPTO so that it can check patent applications in depth, or society can put the costs squarely where they accrue: with patent litigants. Society has chosen the second alternative instead of the first.

Of course this makes the world a more dangerous place for Open Source Software, but that's a small price to pay for resolving the issue of funding the USPTO.

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OSC
FAIL

You make it seem so simple...

however, n another place (no, not the House of Lords, but I'd need to find it) I read about the asymmetry of the current system in the USA.

Apparently, to sue the table stake is about $200,000. To defend , the stake ranges between $1m and $4m depending on what you have to do.

I leave it to you to work out the logical way forward.

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OSC
FAIL

You make it seem so simple...

...however, in another place (no, not the House of Lords, but I'd need to find it) I read about the asymmetry of the current system in the USA.

Apparently, to sue the table stake is about $200,000. To defend , the stake ranges between $1m and $4m depending on what you have to do.

I leave it to you to work out the logical way forward.

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Megaphone

Mr. Bear himself does not step on '730

"...6,335,730's essentially identical description of less-important objects being shrunken and more-important objects being emphasized ...."

Mr. Bear and his "contributions" have been emphasized far more than his allotted 15-minutes of fame as a non-contributer to advancing the state-of-the-art. His patents teach nothing unique nor reveal any bleedin' non-obvious ideas... and should tossed. Mr. Bear himself may follow.

(the bullhorn for the flea/drawbridge joke allusion)

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Bay

Litigation versus invention

The ratio of graduate Engineers to Lawyers in the U.S. is 1 to 10. So if you wonder why litigation is more the American way than invention, this ratio does put things into perspective.

http://homepage.eircom.net/%257Eodyssey/Quotes/Modern_World/Facts.html

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Someone correct me if im wrong...

... but the only reason i can possibly see for all of these absurd patents being granted in the first place is if the USPTO gets paid on a per granted basis. i.e if you submit an application and its not granted you get your money back.

Can anyone tell me if this is the actual situation? If so theres probably a large part of the problem...

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Boffin

Re: Get your money back?

No, patent application fees are non-refundable (http://www.uspto.gov/main/faq/p470047.htm).

But, that could still be part of the problem. It can make resubmission due to being "too obivous" or being "in the current literature" a tedious and potentially expensive process (the more "claims" you make on the patent, the more expensive the patent filing).

To avoid this, they have turned to the easiest way of obfuscating meaning - legalese. In this way, you can spin off a line of gibgerish, and as long as it doesn't pull anything back from a text search of the patent system or anything obivous from Google, it will probably pass.

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My work computer screen appears larger than the colleague's next to me.

In fact they are the same size, but his is farther away from me than mine is.

To my colleague, his screen appears larger than mine, for a similar reason.

Presumably we are breaching the patents mentioned and can expect to be sued.

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Badgers

um

"competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."

Doesn't the article say he didn't create it?

Prior art should include witch doctors and shrunken heads.

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Black Helicopters

Humble Pie

Apple abuse the Patent System to their own advantage, i hope the numerous patent violation claims that are outstanding against them at least have the effect of humbling them.

Personally I'd be happy to see an anti-trust suite be opened up at them, they are trying to close down what should be an open system, as much as I distrust Google at least the android market seems to be more open that Ipod market.

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Jobs Halo

Microsoft needs to know

So this is sort of like Microsoft Word Outline view is it. So why not take on Microsoft? Maybe because its prior art.

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