Monday, September 13, 2004

The US Patent Blight

While the promise of open source software is substantial, there is a blight in the system caused by the US PTO - spurious patents.

The time allocated to a PTO examiner to entirely process a patent application is 12 hours. That's for all associated paperwork and review over typically a 3 to 5 year period from application to either rejection or acceptance.

The PTO issues software 100,000 patents a year. This is a mindnumbing level of incompetence.

Speaking as someone who already has two US software patents with a third pending - I can honestly say that 99.9% of these patents are worthless. Worse - when you do have a groundbreaking patent to file - the PTO treats it like the other 99.9% it receives - eg things like the patent for the key sequence you push on the ATM terminal to withdraw cash from your bank account - thus resulting in them not being able to comprehend a serious invention because it not at a "Fisher Price" level of numbness. The whole notion of 'invention' has been perverted and trivialized.

I originally submitted patents through the naive belief that this would protect the small inventor from predation of ideas from large companies. Again - this has been totally perverted so there is no such protection and relief even with an issued patent.

The best thing the PTO can do is to scrap this whole sorry and sad process, but unfortunately this has now become a major money making machine - at $400 a patent, times 100,000 - this is big money.

The very least the USGovernment can do is to rule that patents do not apply to any open public consensus standards bodies - such as ISO, W3C and OASIS. This can be coordinated through the WTO to be internationally applied to key software technologies especially that support the web and internet today - and are publically developed.

For direct action initiatives see: http://www.newsforge.com/article.pl?sid=04/09/09/1612239

and for example of impact see: http://xml.coverpages.org/ni2004-09-03-a.html

This blight is a sad reflection of the inability of the US Government to act against the abuses of major corporations today because those same corporations excerpt undue influence through funding of the political process.


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