IBM has gone public with a patent granted on October 1 that it says will help the world create greener cloud computing. In what looks to The Register something like yet another patent covering the normal operation of a database, IBM's US Patent 8,549,125 says it covers: “Receiving a request from a node in the network to perform …
Leaving aside the argument as to whether patents should be allowed, the current system presents large companies like IBM with the following proposition:
Apply and try, succeed: an asset is acquired
Apply and try, fail: an asset is not acquired
For a company like IBM, the cost of filing is negligible. Once any patent is acquired, no matter how illegitimate, IBM can use the patent as a weapon to stifle competition by tying them up in court. For IBM, applying for any patent is all upside if there is any chance at all of bamboozling the patent office into granting the patent.
The patent system, especially as regards software, is irretrievably broken. However, as long as we have it, we need to somehow to create penalties for failed patents that discourage the huge patent holders. Existing cartels of patent holders can squash competitors with their massive joint patent holdings, whether or not the patents could withstand a proper review and legal challenge.
The patent system effectively rewards big companies for filing patents, regardless of merit. Their worst-case scenario is they don't get granted the patent and that has a trivial downside for them.
For the record, I think both patents and copyrights should be abolished. On the copyright side, I went to look up an article on biological populations just a few minutes ago. Springer-Verlag wanted to charge me $39.95 to read it. Assuming for a moment that reading the article has that much genuine value, it means that trillions of dollars of value would be released overnight if we abolished copyrights. Meantime, I declined to pay the $39.95, so information that might have traveled on from there got stopped dead in its tracks.
Re: Systemic problem
For many, many years IBM was granted the greatest number of patents each year in the US. Many times over what the second largest grantees. They make quite a bit of money on the licensing side, it's an important segment for them.
But you won't see scholarly journals all going open anytime soon. The entire world of scientific research and publishing is centered around keeping journals pay only.
Having your work published in a subscription journal radically increases its 'impact factor' whereas an open journal has a neutral or negative effect on the impact factor. Most research programs have a minimum 'impact factor threshold' that must be met before they can cite a paper and if a paper isn't cited enough then it quickly joins the ranks of 'stale research' that can't be cited because it is too old. In most, non-mathematical, disciplines publishing in an open journal is a desperate act that is usually only taken when paid journals rejected the paper. Everybody likes the current setup, don't hold your breath waiting for change in that department.
where is my heart icon??
The el-reg diagram is brilliant. Thanks Richard!
And the bathroom reservation thing is actually not a bad dang idea. Would have liked to have something like that today-- had to try four floors across two buildings to find one that wasn't being cleaned or occupied. I'm thinking we could integrate the stall door locks with a simple sensor, have a web reservation form, simple badge scanner, reservations time out after a few minutes. Then management could track people spending too much time on the throne. . . hmmm, lots of great applications here :-)
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