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Patents: Two For The Road (To Hell) 201

Posted by timothy
from the shoot-them-shoot-them-both dept.
The move to patent anything, everything, and all that remains after those categories are exhausted continues apace. rozzin writes: "ColorMax, who makes colour-blindness-compensatory lenses, has acquired a "patent for the human genes responsible for common, hereditary, red-green colorblindness"." Read below for a longer take on another disputed patent, which raises the all-important issue of actually determining what all those words in a patent application really mean. We can probably agree on whether something is a sphere, but what about whether something is "type data," or what constitutes the act of location? How patentable ought such things be? (I suggest browsing The League for Programming Freedom site for some cogent thoughts on this, including RMS's "The Anatomy of a Trivial Patent." Can anyone point to the best online apologia favoring software patents, or perhaps suggesting higher thresholds for them?)

Jim Lochowitz writes "A friend of mine just sent me this ( posted with permission) :

I just looked at Judge Zagel's ruling from yesterday in Eolas Technologies, Inc. v. Microsoft Corporation, 99 C 0626, which is currently pending in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois. Eolas alleges that Microsoft has infringed its patent, #5,838,906, issued November 18, 1998. If memory serves, the gist of the suit is that both Windows and Internet Explorer infringe the patent.

If you want to look at the text of the patent again, it can be found on the PTO's website [here]. (Or search for the patent #5,838,906 from [this] page.)

At this point in the case, the court is trying to resolve exactly *what* the patent covers before it can consider whether or not whatever Microsoft did infringed it. Yesterday's ruling had to do with what was meant by the following key language in the patent (found in Claim 1 and Claim 6):
"wherein said object has type information associated with it utilized by said browser to identify and locate an executable application".

As Judge Zagel put it,
"What is an executable application? What is type information that must be associated with the object? What does it mean for the type information to be utilized by said browser to identify and locate the executable application?"

Experts testified as to the answers to these questions. Eolas' expert was Edward Felten, who is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Princeton. Microsoft's experts were H.E. Dunsmore, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Purdue University, and Michael Wallent, Product Unit Manager for Internet Explorer.

Judge Zagel found that (as used in the patent language), an "executable application" is computer program code which is launched to enable an end-user to directly interact with data, and one which is not an operating system or utility. He found that "type information" "may include the name of an application associated with the object." Finally, he found that "utilized by said browser to identify and locate" meant that those functions are performed by the browser.

Now that Judge Zagel has determined what this key language in the patent means, the court is now in a position to determine whether Microsoft has, in fact, infringed the patent. Trial could be the next step. It will be interesting to see what happens! I suspect that no matter who wins at the trial court level, there is likely to be an appeal. It will be a while yet before we learn what the resolution will be.

If you want to read the text of the opinion yourself, you can find it on CourtWeb as [this] pdf file.

Many of the rulings thus far in the case are available online. Put in "Northern District of Illinois," hit the "proceed to CourtWeb" button, and then enter the case number on the next screen. (The case # is 99cv0626.) Put in the date range you want- note that the case was filed in February 1999.

"

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Patents: Two For The Road (To Hell)

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  • last time i looked, you couldnt patent un-processed natural resources.... well i would think that human genes would be a natural resource
  • In my opinion LZW should not be defendable when they let everybody adopt it for free as standard without anybody knowing it was patented. Such tricks are just too cheap that we should be bothered with them. Of course, it was a teaching lesson too. There are now plenty of alternatives.

    Here's a link to Unisys' information about the license. [unisys.com] Notice how LZW compromises alot of standards: GIF, TIFF-LZW, PDF, Postscript-2 and V.42bis. To use them you have to pay Unisys outrageous license fees. Those using Windows, are already indirectly paying license fees for Microsoft products. This does not give you any rights though, and you must make sure you are licensed yourself.

    - Steeltoe

  • I think I'm going to patent oil, natural gas, and lightning! Everyone can pay me for their sources of power. If lightning strikes your house blowing up your favorite Sparc, it's not my fault. You were illegally infringing on my patent! Don't give me any crap about Bejamin Franklin showing prior use. He's my 2nd cousion 11 times removed. We're just keeping it in the family. ;-)

    --

  • To all of you who are giving knee-jerk "why should genes be patented?" reaction, remember why patents exist in the first place. It's to foster innovation, not to retard it.

    Well part of the original idea of a "patent" was that you had to actually invent something. Rather than simply discover something or discover what it did.
    Are we now going to start having patents on transurainc elements, at least the applicant would have some claim to having made something.

    Why would a drug company spend hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, identifying a gene for a disease, developing a cure, and then the day after they ship the drug, it's immediately mass produced by every other drug company?

    Why do they need a patent on a naurally occuring gene in order to produce a drug.?
    Maybe more radical approachs need to be taken to address the issue that whilst drugs tend to be cheap to produce the reseach and testing needed are not. But IMHO making a fundermental change to patents is not one of them...
  • If we can patent parts of the human genetic code, I'm running down to the patent office right now and patenting a few genes. Therefore, I would partially own the human populace and charge people royalties for existing.

    Patent the bonding of the base adenine and phosphate. Then you have a patent on all DNA, all RNA, ADP and ATP. Thus owning every lifeform on the planet.
  • I'm totally colorblind... does that count?
  • by startled (144833) on Thursday January 04, 2001 @01:47PM (#530307)
    I know it's popular on /. to be rabidly anti-patent, and to fly off the handle whenever patents like this are mentioned. But there are legitimate reasons for all this, which you'd realize if you thought, and of course RTFA.

    First, the color-blindness thing. Remember, patents exist to encourage innovation, not retard it. Millions of people have been wastefully failing to see the red-green portion of the spectrum for thousands of years, for no marketable purpose whatsoever! Think about that for a minute-- it's not innovation, it's imitation. Here we have a good corporate citizen finally taking that trend and making it marketable. That's the whole point of capitalism! To all those people claiming "prior art", I say to Russia with all of you, you godammed communists-- get off the not seeing the red-green portion of the spectrum bandwagon, and wake up to the new economy.

    As far as the software patent goes, it's hardly a patent at all-- it's a well-written patent of the sort of idea that has been patented for generations. Why, just look at the text of it: "wherein said embed text format is parsed by said browser to automatically invoke said executable application to execute on said client workstation in order to display said object and enable interactive processing of said object within a display area created at said first location within the portion of said first distributed hypermedia document being displayed in said first browser-controlled window." Genius. Sheer genius. Overly broad? Nay, I say. Here are the limiting statements: "A system allowing a user of a browser program on a computer connected to an open distributed hypermedia system to access and execute an embedded program object." If that's not narrow, I'm not sure what is. Ambigious? Hardly. If you understand what I quoted above, you understand most of the patent-- and what could be simpler?

    I know it's also popular to blame all this misunderstanding on lawyerese. I admit that even I couldn't understand this line: "running an application program in a computer". But most of the patent is easy to follow, and I encourage you to read it before these knee-jerk reactions. I really think it's all a big misunderstanding about these patents, and once people understand that their rights and thoughts don't count unless they have millions of dollars, it'll all go much more smoothly.
  • They cover anything and everything one could possibly want to do with those genes.

    "Dear Joe Blogg, please be informed that your activities of mitosis and meiosis infringe on patent X. Please either pay up or drop dead."
  • by mpe (36238) on Friday January 05, 2001 @02:22AM (#530309)
    If you make a gene up on your own that doesn't have prior art (it's not in any other existing DNA) go ahead and patent that.

    How different should it be from existing DNA to be patentable though?
  • I was thinking the other way around. If they patented Red-Green color blindness, shouldn't that make them responsible for it. Everyone with Red-Green color blindness could file a class action lawsuit for reducing their quality of vision (this would be a form of bodily harm).


    "Homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto"
    (I am a man: nothing human is alien to me)

  • When, oh when, will people realize that these patents are not covering genes???

    The patents we're discussing cover some specific test methods which make use of genetic information. They don't own any part of the information itself, just one way it can be used.

    THINK, people. The misconception around this issue is astounding, even for this crowd.
  • Can I sue these guys for my condition? Do they realize what misery is being created by their 'invention'? Drawing on the 'Racism at Microsoft' example, I think 5 billion (each) might cover it.

    Is "each" per person or per copy (i.e. cell)?
  • I have only had time for a quick skim, but one impression that that I get immediately is that most of the facts presented as evidence in defense of software patents are actually double edged and can easily be interpreted as documenting the flaws and failures of software patents.

    Opponents of software patents alledge that instead of protecting actual innovators the system benefits large corporations with the will and resources to use patent suits for legal extortion. Those corporations with large patent portfolios and legal staff will readily pay royalties to one another as there is little net loss to any of them and these settlements provide evidence in support of the validity of their patents. This then can be used when suing smaller entities which can more easily be intimidated. How then are are we to consider the following as a defence of software patents:

    5. Where similar-size companies had a dispute, they settled differences quickly without litigation.

    The only patent dispute between similar sized companies (XyQuest) was settled readily. No small entities were faced with a lawsuit brought by a large entity without the advantage of the patentholder having settled earlier with a large infringer.

    That is but one of many examples of the double edged quality of the arguments made in the cited article.

  • No, since prior art must be published. You could have invented something in your basement 50 years ago, but if it was never published than it's not prior art. For genes this usually means the genetic sequence.

    Define "publish", if it involves putting something on paper then these have been "published" since paper was invented :)
  • Of course, even if God had patented them, his patent would have long since expired.

    Is there an expert in the rules of the "Devine Patent Office" (e.g. a priest) who can indicate if such "patents" would be time limited?
  • by Python (1141) on Thursday January 04, 2001 @02:02PM (#530316)
    You have to give companies the ability to recoup their expenses in developing these things, or they are simply not going to spend the money to develop them.

    You mean how Linux wasn't developed because it couldn't be patented? How about gnome? El Gamal? IP? Vorbis? The Browser? HTML? C? C++? Python? PERL?

    Oh wait, all those things, and more, were developed and released without one single patent. Your argument assumes that the only economic model is to sell patented technology, and that simply is not the case. Lots of things are invented and not patented. Clearly the patent process does not need to exist to foster innovation.


    Python

  • To all of you who are giving knee-jerk "why should genes be patented?" reaction, remember why patents exist in the first place. It's to foster innovation, not to retard it. The point is to allow people to spend a lot of money developing something, without the danger of having it immediately stolen.

    Well the current patent system doesnt foster innovation, it actualy makes it harder, because everyone applies for any patent that covers anything, and the sues. And yes, the current patentsystem does retard innovation.
    Suppose you are company A. You have this idea, that you start working on. Someone else, independent of you, gets the same idea, and also starts develloping it. Though you start "innovating" before company B, they "innovate" faster than you do, for some unknown reason. So, they apply for the patent, yet you got the idea years before they did. Guess who gets the patent ?? What about all those millions you invested in innovating ?? They are lost. Even if you have a better product, and thats why you were longer innovating.
    And yes, it has happened countless times before, and will again. Take the phone, we think graham bell was the inventer. Well, he wasnt the only inventor, a woman named Elisa Grey (as far as i remember) also invented it, but applied after graham bell, though she might have had the idea first. The current patentsystem just isnt good enough.
    Think about it. Why would a drug company spend hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, identifying a gene for a disease, developing a cure, and then the day after they ship the drug, it's immediately mass produced by every other drug company? Hey, that'd be a great business -- simply wait for drug companies to develop cures, and then mass produce their labor

    Britney Spears makes music. She has no patent on music, yet she keeps on producing more and more music. Noone (legaly) copies her work, and sells identical copies. Or even closely related to that. If they do, the have to pay her money. The same thing could be done to protect a company's investment, they dont need patents for that, but could do with some sort of "copyright"
    You have to give companies the ability to recoup their expenses in developing these things, or they are simply not going to spend the money to develop them.

    That is not correct. For a long time you couldnt patent software and mathematics in europa, and you still cant. Yet still we have european mathematicans thinking up new mathematics, and we have european software companies producing software, even though they cant patent it.
    It pays to be the front runner, you have experience before others arrive, and technology isnt moving slower. So, if you invent something, that is smart, and takes years, it will also take other people a long time, perhaps not as long. If it doesnt take them this long, then you arent any good at innovating.
    I agree that direct copying of your product doesnt seem like the best option for you to invest money in somethings, but when ever you innovate, you risk that someone else thought of this before you, and you just dont know it, or that they will think of it, but innovate faster than you for some reason. Therefore, if you get an idea, you invest money in it, even though there is just a small chance for it to pay off.



    ion++
  • And company press releases are known for being objective, accurate sources of information?

    I'd want to see the patent itself before I go foaming at the mouth.

    How to determine what a patent really claims:

    • Ignore the slashdot story about the patent.
    • Ignore the company press release about the patent.
    • Ignore even the patent's abstract.
    • Read the patent's claims (the numbered bits at the end). This is the part that legally determines what's protected by the patent.
  • If i have color blind kids, am i violating the DMCA?
  • I hearby offer my genes as evidence of prior art.
    I'm red-green (how many colourblind readers of slashdot are there?)

  • by SEWilco (27983) on Thursday January 04, 2001 @11:19AM (#530321) Journal
    Read the article. It's a company press release where they say that they patented the genes. It also says that the patent also covers a test of the genes.

    So a company with one solution to the problem claims to have patent protection on the genes and one genetic test. So you can only get that test from a facility affiliated with this company with a treatment. This should raise a red flag (take my word for it, it's red).

  • Isn't Gene patenting similar to the buckyball patenting situation. Certain scientists discovered/created buckyballs and tried to patent them. They soon found out that they existed naturally and were denied the patent. Doesn't this issue similarly fall under the same category?

    Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear!
  • So if they can patent genes, and genes are made by that other wonderful invention, people, what's to stop someone from patenting people? Or the manufacturing process - sex?

    -Vercingetorix
  • But the article states directly that they patented the genes for red-green colorblindness, and it say that the patent includes rights on those tests.

    I could be wrong, though.

    --kwerkey

  • To all of you who are giving knee-jerk "why should genes be patented?" reaction, remember why patents exist in the first place. It's to foster innovation, not to retard it. The point is to allow people to spend a lot of money developing something, without the danger of having it immediately stolen.

    Think about it. Why would a drug company spend hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, identifying a gene for a disease, developing a cure, and then the day after they ship the drug, it's immediately mass produced by every other drug company? Hey, that'd be a great business -- simply wait for drug companies to develop cures, and then mass produce their labor.

    You have to give companies the ability to recoup their expenses in developing these things, or they are simply not going to spend the money to develop them.


    --

  • This discurages research into drugs or processes that cannot be patented.

    e.g. new uses of old drugs
  • That way, not just the MRI would have been patented, but the use of MRI to detect tumors of the head, the use of MRI to detect tumors of the spinal cord, etc. Clearly, those had novel applications until the MRI actually existed,

    But as soon as the technology of MRI was widely avaliable they became blatantly obvious applications. Which is the point here whilst a technical method of doing X might be innovative using that method for any superset of X certainly is not.
  • You are absolutely right: all that will count in court is what is in the claims. I did not see the patent number mentioned anywhere, but I think it may be US5837461 which is fairly short and has only six claims of which only the first and fifth stand alone (the rest depend on 1 or 5). The claims are explicitly about "A method of detecting [...] vision disorders", and there is not even the slightest hint of the idea of patenting a gene.

    If the company thinks they have bought the right to the gene, they are fooling themselves; I think it more likely that their PR people have just gone for an attention grabbing phrase.

  • by Sodium Attack (194559) on Thursday January 04, 2001 @02:25PM (#530335)
    I think perhaps the answer is that patent registration cost 10,000+ dollars for company's and have to be paid to patent office even if the patent gets rejected. For individuals citizens [with no corporate affiliation in patent] would not have to pay that much.

    I believe patent application fees are somewhere around the $3000 level (it's on the USPTO site, but I'm too lazy to look it up) so we're already within an order of magnitude of what you want. Individual inventors do get a discount, around 50% off IIRC.

    Right now I believe the patent office ONLY gets paid if they accept a patent.

    Not so. Application fees must be paid whether the patent is accepted or rejected. There is a separate type of fee, known as a maintenance fee, which must be paid occasionally during the lifetime of a granted patent to keep it active, however.

  • First of all, RTFA

    It's not an article, it's a company press release. Hardly an objective, unbiased source of information. I'd want to see the patent itself before having an aneurism about it.

  • We have had more inventions in the past 150 years than in all the rest of human history

    That is true - but so is the fact that we had reached a 'boiling point' & that fundementals are being applied usefully.. we are all truely standing on the shoulders of giants.

    I do believe that we would have fewer inventions if people didn't have the hope of getting rich.

    Im sorry - I have more faith in humanity than that. People perform to their environments, we are all trying to survive. The point is we are continueing with needless toiling and enslavement - why cant we construct a system where this is unnecessary? Shouldnt a free, sustained, comfortable, enjoyable, fulfilling existance be the goal of our work? Why the hell are we not bringing down the barriers from this goal? Collectively (everyone on the planet) has the same needs - why do we continue building a system that prevents this - and not try and resolve it?

    Raise your standards - expect more from your community.

  • by FFFish (7567) on Thursday January 04, 2001 @02:33PM (#530342) Homepage
    This won't happen.

    As I ranted in [a previous post,] [slashdot.org] in the Digital TV copy restrictions article, Corporations are systematically creating an environment where people don't count.

    Overly broad patents are one way of accomplishing this. It stifles what the public is independently allowed to do, let alone what other companies may do.

    The entire point is to replace individual human rights with Corporate Rights.

    As an example of this movement, consider air pollution. A law was passed in Canada banning the use of MBTA as a fuel additive. (MBTA is a replacement for lead, and has been found to be even less healthy than lead.) A US manufacturer of MBTA sued and won, claiming damage to business.

    My right to breathe clean air is being challenged by that Corporation. If the penalty had been stiff enough, there's every chance my government would have folded like a house of cards and re-allowed use of MBTA in gasoline.

    What a fucking joy *that* would be: I get to have cancer, because some bastard business in *another country* doesn't like *my* country's clean-air laws.

    Gene patents are just an extension of this Corporate-First attitude. The patents reduce competition, by discouraging research into the claimed field. The result: drug prices remain high, Corporations make big bucks, and people suffer as fewer therapies, tests or cures are discovered, due to the reduced research for the patented gene.

    And you know what? This whole Corporate Government/Corporate Rights/Corporate First trend is a helluva juggernaut, and not a one of us is in any position to stop it.

    Somewhere in the Declaration of Independence is a line about "The public will endure suffering passively, until the suffering becomes insuffering, and they rise up in revolution."

    Well, it ain't insufferable yet. Won't be for a good long time...

    ...and maybe by then, the 1984/Brave New World mindset will be so entrenched, that people won't even realize that it's insufferable. They'll continue to endure what we'd take up arms against, because they know no better.

    --
  • Only if you are color blind :) /P?

  • by Sodium Attack (194559) on Thursday January 04, 2001 @02:34PM (#530344)
    I got your prior art right here!!!

    Oh? Would you care to show me where you published your genetic sequence?

    Prior art must be published. As in available to the general public. For genes, that generally means the genetic sequence.

    I'm not defending the system, just explaining it.

  • Prior art must be published. For genes, that generally means the genetic sequence. So no, a color-blind person's eyes don't count as prior art.

    I'm not saying it's right, that's just how it is.

  • Instead of thinking of it from the point of view of the leftist geeks we are, let's think about it from Big Company's point of view. (Intentionally singular possessive there)

    Big Company sees all the other companies patenting stuff left and right -- like the human genome project, and what-have-you. They finish work figuring out what bits of DNA they're interested in and want to make sure they can keep working on it. If those other patents are going to hold, obviously Big Company is going to need to protect their own investment thus far -- so they fill out the paperwork with their team of lawyers and send it off to DC. The patent application gets rejected? Great. That means everyone else holds invalid patents as well and Big Company can continue to work on (or rather "not abandon the work they've done on") their color blindness project. The patent gets approved? Great: not only do we not have to stop working on the project, but we can stop everyone else from working on similar things.

    It doesn't necessarily mean we had a self-serving, evil goal from the beginning, but it means that we can send our kids to college and retire without needing those social security checks.

    ....

    Okay, we can go back to being liberals now.

    -Chris
    ...More Powerful than Otto Preminger...
  • No one can use their Heart to pump blood - unless they pay me royalties first.
    if you can't pay royalties, you'll have to find another, unpatented device to circulate your blood.

  • If you look at the ACTUAL color blindness tst patent on the USPTO [164.195.100.11] you will see that the patent is on testing for color blindness and deriving the exact color blindness disorder being suffered from the sequences. It also includes a pencil/paper confirmation test.

    Isn't it odd that no reference to the patent was actually given in the story.

    Stop griping and get a grip! This is a legitimate medical testing patent.

  • True these things haven't been patented, but most if not all of them are protectively licensed ala the GPL, BSDL, whatever. Do you honestly think there would be a linux in its current incarnation if not for these licenses? Without the legal protection to make sure that the work was not subsumed by a corporate entity for free I doubt that these things would exist in their present forms.

    Real objects are patented for just the same reason. To make sure that you have control over the ideas you have developed. This allows you to make a profit while developing the next big patentable discovery.

  • I'm going to get rid of this stupid colorblindness DNA patent, I have prior art.

    If you've published your genetic sequence before that patent was filed for, then yes, you have prior art. Care to provide a citation to your publication?

    I'm not defending it, just explaining it.

  • No, since prior art must be published. You could have invented something in your basement 50 years ago, but if it was never published than it's not prior art. For genes this usually means the genetic sequence.

    I'm not defending the system, just explaining it.

  • Then you'll be happy to give us the citation where you published the genetic sequence of those genes, for that is what prior art would have to contain.
  • If the patent has been granted, then it was most likely filed at least two years ago. An FDA paper from Dec. 1999 misses the "prior" part of "prior art".

    Secondly, improvements on previous inventions are perfectly patentable. This FDA paper describes the tinted lenses, but not the genetic testing described in the press release.

  • Great! Feel free to give us the citation where he published the genetic sequence of those genes, because that's what would be required for prior art.

    I'm not defending it, just explaining it.

  • Not just put down on paper; it has to be available to the general public. Writing it on papaer and locking it away in a safe is not publication; writing it on paper and distributing it throughout your company, while making clear it is confidential and not distributing it outside the company is not publication; writing it in a journal or book which is available for sale to the general public is publication. Putting it on a (publicly-accessible) web page is probably also publication, although I don't know whether that's been tested in the courts.
  • Now if you can show us where she's published her genetic sequence, we can invalidate the patent.
  • Is writing it on a piece of paper publishing?

    In and of itself, no. If the paper is available to the general public, yes.

    Is putting it on a webpage publishing even though it can only be read with the aid of an expensive electronic device.?

    Assuming it's a publicly accessible web page, probably yes, although I don't think that's been conclusively determined by the courts.

    Is having it as a DNA sequence publishing even though it can only be read with an expensive sequencing device?

    No.

    Why is the third not publishing if the first two are?

    This is law, not science. You can't start from general principles and extrapolate specifics in law the same way you can in science. It's a common mistake made by scientists/engineers/etc. when trying to understand law.

  • Isn't DNA a perfectly good data-storage medium? If it can be published on a computer disk, what's wrong with a nice, compact mollecular form.

    Even granting the argument that DNA is a good storage medium, in order to be considered prior art, it must be published--that is, accessible to the general public. Have you made your DNA available to the general public?

  • by llywrch (9023)
    Wow. That company is still around?

    I first heard of them 4 or 5 years ago, complaining that they had a patent on the EMBED tag, & that Sun's Java was infringing on their patent. This might be the same patent.

    Has Eolas actually created any useful products & sold them to anyone? Or are they a perpetual startup, stuffed with IP of dubious value? In other words, a bush-leagure version of Rambus?

    Geoff
  • Can anyone point to the best online apologia favoring software patents, or perhaps suggesting higher thresholds for them?

    I would really like to see something like this, too. Anyone?

    While I agree that there have been many silly patents out there, I'm not comfortable with falling completely on one side of the issue. I believe there's probably a good case for software patents out there somewhere, and, as with most things in life, I suspect there's a happy medium.

    My father is a patent agent (generally not in software, though), and it's actually a line of work that I had considered. However, I want to consolidate my own position on software patents before I make any move in that direction. To do that, I want to hear both sides of the story (until then, and maybe even after then, I continue with software development...).

    I suppose Slashdot isn't the best forum to look for that side of the argument.

    --

  • If anybody should receive the patent on genes, it should be God. He created them.

    Of course, even if God had patented them, his patent would have long since expired. How long depends on your religion. :) -Puk

  • Note that the holder of the patent on the gene also effectively can control research on the gene, as well as many kinds of cures or treatments.

    The reason for that is twofold. First, patents on genes and their products actually directly allow the patent holder to control their use in research. Second, even if there were a research exemption (which there isn't) or even if the patent holder allows research to proceed, the patent takes away much of the financial incentive for others to develop treatments using the gene if they have to fear that they can be extorted for patent licensing fees once they have developed a cure.

    I think the patenting of genes is ludicrous, as is the patenting of straightforward genetic testing based on such genes, which is applying standard techniques of molecular biology to known genetic sequences. Only if a test or a cure involves some genuinely novel ideas should it be even considered for a patent, in my opinion.

  • I would never say they shouldn't be allowed to patent their DRUG. But patenting the gene is baseless. The other way around you problem is to patent the process that identifies the gene (which this company has patented as well). But the gene itself is not theirs, its mine, and any other colorblind person's.
  • First of all, RTFA.

    ColorMax acquired a broad patent license covering the human genes for color vision from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. The patent also covers a revolutionary test for color blindness based on a simple analysis of the actual genes that cause the problem. The new test is the first major improvement in color vision testing in the last half of a century. It is also the first totally objective color vision test that can consistently classify color vision deficiencies. As such, it offers a solution to the problem of setting uniform standards in the workplace. And, for the first time, accurate testing of preschool and kindergarten aged children will be possible.

    Yes they did patent the genes. I don't know why but they did. Second of all, if you read that ONE paragraph they also patented a genetic test for colorblindness (which is perfectly fine IMO). I can understand a lot of you being upset over this Co patenting the discovery of which genes cause color-blindness but it's not a completly bad patent. So I think maybe they shouldn't be strung up for this patent, just have all their people in one of those stocks in the middle of a town square for about a week.

    "Me Ted"
  • Is putting it on a webpage publishing even though it can only be read with the aid of an expensive electronic device.?

    Is having it as a DNA sequence publishing even though it can only be read with an expensive sequencing device?

    The other thing I should have mentioned in my previous post is that there's quite a difference in magnitude between the two.

    Your "expensive electronic device" to view a web page can cost under $1000 (and even better, you don't have to buy one, you can use one for free at many public libraries) and can display the web page in a matter of seconds.

    Reading the sequence of a single gene takes tens of thousands of dollars, and dozens if not hundreds of person-hours of work.

  • I take issue with your statements, perhaps because I'm (just a slight bit!) less idealistic. While the role of government may be to represent the people, I doubt that history has ever seen one which fulfills this function in practice. Rather than talk about what /should/ be, then, I prefer to talk about what /is/ and what /practical/ improvements can be made.

    The government is not the same as the people. The government provides services to the people -- public education, law enforcement, financial rules. It has the authority to do this because the people give it such. However, the government no more is the people than I am the guy who fixes my car. He may provide me services (because I pay him money), but we're two separate individuals. The same is true everywhere. The government provides us with services because we pay them money -- no different than any corporation. Similarly, just as corporations maintain their own adjenda, so do governments. You think that Louis Freeh really had your best interests in mind?

    The government does not determine the rights of the people (thank [deity]!). It has no place to do so. Only the people can determine their own rights -- and the people are not the same as the government. While the government may be paid to enforce those rights which the people have, it is not the place of the government but the people to determine them.

    While making the government accountable is indeed different than making it smaller, I submit that keeping the government's actions in line with those that benefit the individuals (note that I didn't say "the people" -- I don't care about how any people is treated, only individuals) governed is most easily done when that government is as small as possible. Thus, while accountability and size may not be one and the same, there is most certainly an inverse correlation.
  • No, they didn't. Not too long ago they published the sequence of one chromosome (one of the smallest chromosomes, at that). They plan to, of course, but it hasn't been done yet.

    Secondly, the sequence published by the HGP is taken from a handful of people. It probably wouldn't count as novelty-destroying prior art (what most /.ers mean when they say "prior art") against variations of those sequences which might be found in other people.

    Thirdly, don't forget about the "prior" part of "prior art". A sequence published by the HGP in 2000 wouldn't help against a patent for which the application was filed in 1998, for example, even if the patent wasn't granted until 2001.

  • Uh, right. Keep up that sense of humor.
    --
    Obfuscated e-mail addresses won't stop sadistic 12-year-old ACs.
  • by Sodium Attack (194559) on Thursday January 04, 2001 @03:36PM (#530387)
    How many ways is the story on the color-blindness patent, and the comments on it wrong?

    • rozzin presents (and timothy does not correct) as a direct quote text which does not even appear in the linked press release. The press release claims that ColorMax licensed the patent rights from the Medical College of Wisconsin, not that ColorMax had a patent granted to them.

    • Yes, the press release says that the genes were patented. I'm not buying it. Company press releases aren't exactly unbiased sources of information. The only patent I could find remotely resembling what is described in the press release is US 5,837,461 [delphion.com]. (And I search patents for a living, so I know what I'm doing.) Know what? It doesn't claim the gene. That patent claims:
      1. A method of detecting cone-photoreceptor-based vision disorders, comprising the steps of a) examining the amino acid sequence of a patient's red or green photopigments, and b) correlating the amino acid sequence with amino acid combinations associated with vision disorder, wherein the amino acid sequence is the sequence at positions selected from the group consisting of codon positions 65, 111, 116, 153, 171, 174, 178, 180, 230, 233, 236, 274, 275, 277, 279, 285, 298, and 309 of the gene encoding the red or green photopigment and wherein the correlation comprises comparison of the amino acid sequence with amino acid sequences shown to be diagnostic of vision disorders.

      2. The method of claim 1 wherein the examination of the amino acid sequence is by examination of photopigment genes.

      3. The method of claim 1 wherein the sequence at positions 153, 171, 174, and 180 can be correlated with a diagnosis of age-related macular degeneration.

      4. The method of claim 1 wherein the sequence at positions 153, 171, 174, 178, and 180 can be correlated with a diagnosis of deuteranomaly cone, degeneration, or B-cone monochromat condition.

      5. A method of detecting red-green vision disorders and determining the severity of the disorder, comprising the steps of a) examining the predicted spectral separation of L and M pigments encoded by a patient's photoreceptor genes, and b) correlating the spectral separation with a degree of vision disorder, wherein a spectral separation of greater than 8 nM is predictive of very mild red-green color blindness disorder, a separation of 5 nM-8 nM is predictive of mild vision disorder, a separation of 1 nM-4 nM is predictive a severe disorder and a separation of less than 1 nM is predictive of very severe disorder.

      6. The method of claim 5 wherein the examination comprises analyzing the patient's photopigment genes at codon positions 65, 111, 116, 153, 171, 174, 178, 180, 230, 233, 236, 274, 275, 277, 279, 285, 298 and 309 of the genes encoding the red or green photopigment.

    • If the gene were patented (and the people who are saying you can't patent genes and those who say you can are both right, in a way; technically, you can't patent the gene itself, but you can patent use of the gene to do X, Y, or Z, where X, Y, and Z are so broad as to cover virtually any use of the gene), you would not be prior art just because you were color-blind. Prior art must be published. That thing you've made in the basement for 50 years but never told anyone about is not prior art. For genes, generally the genetic sequence must be included. So unless you've sequenced your gene for color-blindness and published it, it's not prior art.
    Here's my general guidelines for determining what a patent really claims:
    • Ignore the slashdot story.
    • Ignore any other general news sources.
    • Ignore the company press release.
    • Go to the patent itself, but ignore the patent's abstract.
    • Ignore the detailed description of the invention in the patent.
    • Ignore the drawings in the patent, unless they're referred to by the claims.
    • Read the claims. This is the part of the patent that determines what's legally covered by it.
    • Keep in mind that each numbered claim is like a little mini-patent of its own. If a question arises as to the validity of the patent, each claim stands or falls on its own.
    • However, for each individual claim, keep in mind that all of the multiple elements described in that claim must be present in order to be covered by that claim. If a claim reads "A device consisting of A, B, C, D, and E," that does not prevent you from using a device which has A, B, C, and D but not E. If you take C, D, and E out of the context of the claim as a whole, and try to claim "Here's a device with C, D, and E which existed (and was described in a publication) 10 years before this patent was filed for! It's prior art," that's completely irrelevant, and it would not invalidate the patent.
  • While they are handing out patents, could I have one in all fields of math and science, please?

    --
  • by jheinen (82399) on Thursday January 04, 2001 @11:30AM (#530396) Homepage
    So patent the drug. I'm sorry, but the whole concept of patenting pre-existing genetic material that the company had absolutely no hand in creating is utterly and completely ridiculous. Patent the process for identifying it, patent the drugs you make as a result of it, patent the things you actually MADE. Genes are about as prior art as you can get, since they've been around for millions of years. Can you patent electricity? Gravity? How about air? If I invent a device that can identify a breathable atmosphere, does that mean I can patent the atmosphere? Can I charge license fees for everyone who uses 'my' air? Get real man.

    -Vercingetorix
  • Slashdot, of all places (well..) should know better than to continue leveraging hype off of this misconception. And from the looks of the other comments, people actually still think you CAN patent genes. You can't, anymore than I can patent a tree. Get with it.
    I think some of these so-called misconceptions stems from the article that started all this, to boot:
    Tustin, CA (Nov 14, 2000) ColorMax Technologies, Inc. (OTC:BB) has acquired exclusive rights to the, patent for the human genes responsible for common, hereditary, red-green colorblindness.
    and
    ColorMax acquired a broad patent license covering the human genes for color vision from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. The patent also covers a revolutionary test for color blindness
    Certainly ColorMax seem to believe they've patented genes, as will most people reading the article.
    --
  • Anyone else find it ironic that the press release claiming proprietary vision contains proprietary Microsoft characters [fourmilab.ch] that don't look right to some people? Apparently the company's vision is damaged.

    Oh, how silly. They have a Self Test [colormaxtech.com] which behaves differently when viewed on different monitors and systems.

  • Sorry, but I have a huge problem with companies who patent drugs developed with tax-payer funding, then financially rape the consumers needing the medication. Combine that with the incentive to not cure a desease or illness, but focus on maintenance drugs because of the long-term financial incentive (make lotsa $$ over 20yrs vs. a few $ one-time), and you have a medical travesty.

    The high cost of Health Care in the US is due, in huge part, to the costs of prescription maintenance drugs. The pharmaceutical companies are the worst abusers of the patent system for using it to leech enormous profits off the medical illnesses of our citizens.


  • I actually think that the pharmaceutical industry is one area where the patent system actually works. We can see this by the phenominal successses that it has seen in the last century
    We do not have a controlled experiment for this. there is no patent exempt, but otherwise similar, pharmaceutical industry to compare against.

    The drug wouldn't exist at all if the companies hadn't developed it. Which means that we would all be in a much worse situation, yes?
    You have no way to know if the drug would not exist in the absence of patents. we can verify from history that some drugs have been discovered and marketed before patents existed.

  • Would those people who have genetic red-green colorblindness who are "propagating the species" be violated for patent infringment?
  • I don't see the innovation in the test. Testing whether a particular genetic sequence is present or absent is done with standard, off-the-shelf technology. And finding the particular genetic sequence in nature isn't an "invention" either, it's a scientific discovery.

    By the same token, why not patent other applications of standard techniques for detecting symptoms? That way, not just the MRI would have been patented, but the use of MRI to detect tumors of the head, the use of MRI to detect tumors of the spinal cord, etc. Clearly, those had novel applications until the MRI actually existed, and there could have been hundreds if not thousands of patents like that.

    Getting a couple of decades of a monopoly on a dignostic procedure is clearly lucrative, but that doesn't justify these patents.

  • Which DNA sequence corresponds to color blindness is an empirical fact. That's nice, but it's not an invention, it's a scientific discovery, and it shouldn't be patentable. Applying that knowledge in order to produce a genetic test doesn't involve innovation. So, these kinds of patents are an attempt to patent something that isn't patentable by misrepresenting it to be something else that is.
  • Well, and as soon as the technology for genetic tests became available, it became blatantly obvious that you could use it to look for specific DNA sequences that correlate with diseases. Using it to look for any particular sequence isn't a "superset".
  • from their own press release: ColorMax acquired a broad patent license covering the human genes for color vision from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. The patent also covers a revolutionary test for color blindness based on a simple analysis of the actual genes that cause the problem.

    They patented the genes AND the test for the disease.

    On a different topic, wouldn't there be prior art...like God?

  • I'm color blind :) -m
  • Technically, discoveries and solutions considered obvious to practicioners of the art/trade in question aren't patentable under current patent law. This should include existing genes and the brick under the tire you mentioned. It's just that the US patent office has forgotten their own rules.
  • I'm going to patent the Y chromosome. Anyone posessing or using any derivative works, such as the penis, will be charged a licensing fee. unfortunately, it appears others in a competing industry have stolen my Penis Technology (tm) and created cheap knock off devices being marketed under the name Dildo, as witnessed in this commercial [ifilm.com]. If you are using a penis without proper licensing, you will be hearing from my lawyer.
  • This might be reduntant, I don't know, but it seems to me that this company patented the "rights to further research" on the genes that cause color blindness. Basically if you are a scientist and want to cure color blindness, youb will have to pay this company royalties. I still think that is f*****d up only because genes have existed in nature for millions of years, no one can "own" them or "own" rights to research them. But because this has happened, now it is proved that anyone can patent any part of the human genome.

  • Sorry, what the US patent office does is hamper progress. Medical companys are the worst. Take HIV. In order to develop a cure they must try a large number of drugs combinations. Which they do. If they find one that looks promising they patent it. Well, If there off by a little and cant make it work others are worried about trying similiar drugs becaues of the patent. Futhur they dont share information about the failures with the community either making it so other companys have to attempt the same combinations. Basicly profit before human life. Annoying as hell. Personally I dont think any concept at all should be patentable. Finished product yes but concepts no.

    The eye patent? They didnt make the gene. They should be entitled to the patent. They didnt invent it. There are lots of theorys about where we came from but none of those gods have filed a patent and if they did im sure they wouldnt want to deal with the US patent office.

  • One thing I'm beginning to wonder, is how can the human genome possibly be patentable ?

    You should be able to patent gene-therapies for genetic conditions (ie here's a drug that will fix your genetic red-green colour blindness) but surely not the genes themselves

    Even if there is a God, and the earth was created, then there's 6000 years of prior art. My belief (atheism) says different, but then there is even more.

    I thought patents had to be simple, elegant, and non-obvious. Genes have two (simple and elegant) but non-obvious is not one of them. If you can sequence genes, and sample large populations intelligently, you can find out what pretty much any gene does. This, to me at least, is obvious (even though the technology for sequencing is something outside my personal expertise, I know people who can do this).

    Mind you: genes aren't going to obsolete in a hurry. And patents only have a limited lifespan.

  • Geez. Considering how stupid some of the patents that get granted, I might as well submit a patent application for a "patent". Who knows, maybe the drones at the USPTO might self destruct while trying to figure out this recusive loop.
  • Why do you need a damn patent for it? Just don't tell anyone which one it is. If I find it on my own, you can't keep me from using it.
  • by Vassily Overveight (211619) on Thursday January 04, 2001 @11:03AM (#530438)
    "ColorMax, who makes colour-blindness-compensatory lenses, has acquired a "patent for the human genes responsible for common, hereditary, red-green colorblindness".

    Can I sue these guys for my condition? Do they realize what misery is being created by their 'invention'? Drawing on the 'Racism at Microsoft' example, I think 5 billion (each) might cover it.

  • I'm going to get rid of this stupid colorblindness DNA patent, I have prior art. Since they are claiming that they in essence own the genes, the existance of my genes prior to their patent should be enough, if their patent is as vague as their press release. Of course, I don't have VC funding/ravenous lawyers, so they'll probably just sue me and make me give them my eyes to remedy my "infringement".

    I am beginning to hate patents with a vengance.

  • by jheinen (82399) on Thursday January 04, 2001 @11:04AM (#530440) Homepage
    It would seem that anyone who is color-blind, and was born before this patent was filed, could claim prior art, no?

    -Vercingetorix
  • http://www.theonion.com/onion3311/microsoftpatents .html
  • by Flounder (42112) on Thursday January 04, 2001 @11:05AM (#530445)
    Why are genes patentable? It's not like the company invented them, they just identified them. Should medival doctors receive the patents on the human internal organs? How about researchers that discover what parts of the brain do what functions, should that be patentable.

    Maybe the US Patent Office should take the year off and go back into the real world. Maybe they'll find their common sense they lost so many years ago. Of course, you can say that about anybody in government service (especially congressmen).

    If anybody should receive the patent on genes, it should be God. He created them.

  • Seriously, I think that another one is long overdue. This time, include the requirement that the patent must exist in the U.S. Patent Offices (or any other country's patent office).

    IMHO, the human genome should not be patentable, nor should any individual gene or group of genes. If current genetic patents continue, then we might only be 20 years away from an X-Men scenario.

  • Here's a suggestion. Make patents available only for unique ideas that don't fall under the category of evolution (human or commercial) and aren't obvious solutions. Putting a brick under the tire of a car to keep it from rolling down the hill should not be patentable, even if you design a special block to fit the need.

    Human genes should not be considered patents. Why should the companies researching those genes get any protection? Can I get a patent on the AIDS virus, leaving only me to do research on it, making me the only one to profit from a cure?

    This is synonymous with calling shotgun for a ride in your friends new car. And doesn't the reservation of genes eliminate any possible competition? Everybody is just getting a little too greedy. Actually genes should just be licensed under GPL.
  • The question as to why patents on genes should be allowed is not a knee-jerk reaction -- it's critical thinking. Remember, patents are not allowed on scientific discoveries. Only inventions can be patented. So the real question here is 'Why should we make an exception for the discovery of genes?' None of these companies invented the genes.

    These patents would be OK if they were patents on specific treatments or tests that happened to use those genes, but they aren't. They cover anything and everything one could possibly want to do with those genes. What if I wanted to use those genes to develop a way to give people four color receptors instead of the standard three? This isn't treatment for any existing disorder and is completely independent of anything that company might be doing with those genes, but it is still not allowed. That impedes innovation and is contrary to the purpose of the patent system.

  • No slashdot discussion like this is complete without a link to the Internet Patent News Service, run by Greg Aharonian at:

    You think Aharonian's a hero? You don't know the half of it - he's being sued by an intellectual property holding company [techsearch-llc.com] for patent infringement. The basis of their suit include such claims as the accusation that Aharonian

    shamelessly, and oftentimes profanely, attack[ing] the United States Government, specifically the Patent and Trademark Office
    Read about it in Patent Fight Pending [sfweekly.com].


    Michael D. Crawford
    GoingWare Inc

  • by bluGill (862) on Thursday January 04, 2001 @11:51AM (#530462)

    sure I'll defendt them. Not all software patents are defensable however.

    Although it causes us pain, LZW and RSA are both defenseable patents. They are useful, and they were discovered. Someone went through effort to discover those algorythms, and that should be rewarded. Copyright works, but copyright protects a specific implimentation. Patents are broader but don't last as long.

    An arguement can (should) be made that because comptuers are new we should not yet allow patents because there are so many easy and obvious algoryithms that have not been found yet. Patents should reward significant effort to create something invative, not something that wasn't needed before but is now. Before the invention of gears (Or maybe it was something else but lets use gears) there was no need for patents because there was so little that could be done. Once we had gears there were many obvious things to build. AFter a few years someone working for years on end devolps something complex, only to have someone else copy it. The first person did all the work, he is the one who should be rewarded for the work, not any latter person who is smart enough to make a copy but not create to begin with. Once the point is reached that complex algorithms are all that we patent, then we need that protection, until then we don't.

    Unfortunatly the patent system doesn't differentiate important. If the machine above also contained the discovery of oval gears, that would be worth more protection then the machine, because the gears are useful in many more ways. (Oval gears have existed for years, they are difficult to get right, but they do have advantages in some situations.

  • by Platinum Dragon (34829) on Thursday January 04, 2001 @11:57AM (#530466) Journal
    1) Colormax did not acquire the patent. They "exclusively licensed" the patent from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

    2) According to the press release, the patent involved covers both "the human genes responsible for common, hereditary, red-green colorblindnes," and "a revolutionary test for color blindness based on a simple analysis of the actual genes that cause the problem."

    So it's still a dumb patent, but be sure to include institutions of higher learning within range of your flamethrowers for stupid shit like this. I can see patenting the test...but the genes? Hell, probably 1/4 of our species is prior art. It's not as if they artificially created the gene (like in some biotech industry patents); they just found it.

    I'm sure if Newton discovered gravity today, he'd just be a doctor at Cambridge, and the school would immediately patent it. What a fscked-up world this is.
  • Is it just me, or is that second patent basically a patent on using MIME typing?

    The patent is for "Distributed hypermedia method for automatically invoking external application providing interaction and display of embedded objects within a hypermedia document" Translated from patent-ese to english, this means using a MIME type (i.e. text/html) to determine what application can interpret the data. Netscape was doing this long before 1998.

    Of course, the generality of the patent makes it just "type data" instead of "MIME type" So it would also include extensions, and how long has Windows been associating extensions with programs? Since version 3 as i recall. This just adds a network to the equation. So the file is downloaded instead of being created on the local machine, is that really enough of a difference that it can be patentable? I think not.

  • Technically, discoveries and solutions considered obvious to practicioners of the art/trade in question aren't patentable under current patent law. This should include existing genes and the brick under the tire you mentioned. It's just that the US patent office has forgotten their own rules.

    No they haven't. They are lawyers and they are playing this game for themselves. They are trying to change the rules.
    --

  • by WillWare (11935) on Thursday January 04, 2001 @12:59PM (#530473) Homepage Journal
    While we're patenting pre-existing things that weren't invented by human beings...

    What is claimed is:

    1. A method for reproduction and elimination of fluid waste comprising: a cylindrical biological appendage enclosing a plurality of fluid-bearing tubes; said tubes bearing said fluids from the interior of a male human body to its exterior; said fluids comprising two unrelated functionalities, the first being the removal of excess water and water-soluble biological waste products from said male human body, the second being to provide a medium of suspension for the transportation of male genetic material for purposes of propogation of the human species, as well as general recreation; associated means to ensure rigidity of the appendage required during conduct of the reproductive act; generous endowment of the appendage's outer surface with nerve endings to provide a pleasuarable experience during the reproductive act, thereby encouraging the user's propogation of the human species; coordination with hands and eyes to direct the flow of said waste fluid during the process of liquid waste elimination toward a suitable and designated receptacle for same.

    2. The method of claim 1, wherein said appendage is longer than average.

    3. The method of claim 1, wherein said appendage is shorter than average.

    4. The method of claim 1, wherein said appendage is wider than average.

    5. The method of claim 1, wherein said appendage is narrower than average.

    All persons finding themselves in possession of an appendage as described above, however they may have acquired said appendage in the past, are henceforth determined to be infringing this patent. This condition can easily be corrected by the payment of licensing fees amounting to one U. S. dollar per day of said possession. I am authorized to collect said payment on behalf of the patent holder.

  • Repeat after me people:

    GENES ARE NOT PATENTABLE

    No one has ever patented a gene, but people have, like in this case, patented various tests and processes that are BASED on genes. These are completely different, the this misconception, while it does stir up attention, leads to people being completely misinformed about this issue.

    Slashdot, of all places (well..) should know better than to continue leveraging hype off of this misconception. And from the looks of the other comments, people actually still think you CAN patent genes. You can't, anymore than I can patent a tree. Get with it.

  • I could patent color, and then charge them a licensing fee.
    --------------------------------------
  • by JWW (79176)
    Damn. I guess I'm stuck then.

    Actaully this really pisses me off. Go ahead, patent you testing methods, patent you (really cool - if they work - corrective lenses). But who the hell do they think they are patenting MY genes.

    I got your prior art right here!!!

    Actally shouldn't God/Nature hold the patent on colorblind genes?
  • Slashdot is infringing on the colorblindness patent. See the story on MS being sued for racism [slashdot.org]. So when we can expect the problems? Better yet, when can we expect the Hague Convention on Jurisdiction and Foreign Judgements in Civil and Commercial Matters [cptech.org] to be passed so we can start rounding up the colorblind world wide?!
  • pharmaceutical industry is one area where the patent system actually works. We can see this by the phenomenal successes that it has seen in the last century, the majority of them on the drugs fron done by private companies

    Your basic premise is that companies are actually responsible for these inventions - which is false. PEOPLE are really responsible for these inventions. In the entire history of man it was not until the last 150 years that this privately owned corporate monster was born. In the past these inventions occurred from the works of scholars and engineers - by people practicing their craft. It has only been recently that NO ONE can sustain themselves without being involved in a 'corporate' world. The ability for people to grow, live, work, love, laugh and all else is being subverted by the needs of 'corporations'.

    Do you really think that without these corporate entities to take more than their share and exploit people's work for profit to be collected by the few we would have had less progress? If people were given more reward from their community (i dont mean simply more $$$$$$$) you'd find that people would work just fine towards these goals - and they would have an incentive to achieve them.

    What you are failing to see is the basic, fundamental problem with our corporate-centric culture... there is ample evidence it DOES NOT WORK.. we need to fix the problems before the only answer is revolution...

  • See this article [heckel.org] which was published in the ACM. The reality is that software patents have their advantages. Which is not to say that there are no stupid software patents out there (there are plenty) but there are also patents that are worthwhile.

    The real question is whether you approve of patents at all. If you do, you cannot just eliminate software patents. Why? Because software and hardware are realistically inseparable. Any competent patent attorney (or layperson for that matter) can couch a software patent in terms of memories accessed and data displayed. Then, it sounds like hardware. So there is no easy solution to outlawing software patents.

    Thalia

  • See, the thing that people forget about patents is that they only last for a finite length of time. It seems perfectly good to me that research in this field be spurred by private companies, and that then the benefits filter down to us in twenty years time for the common good.

    I know that people get annoyed that they can patent things that already exist and that we all carry around with us, but I actually think that the pharmaceutical industry is one area where the patent system actually works. We can see this by the phenominal successses that it has seen in the last century, the majority of them on the drugs fron done by private companies. The fact that after a time, the knowledge becomes publically available softens the blow and makes up for the rather strange nature of these patents, at least for me.

    Thanks for reading!

  • With all the patenting of such basic processes and ideas, perhaps someone should patent the process of rendering an idea or concept into a document suitable for submission to a patent office. Perhaps patent the business model/process for making money by acting as a patent lawyer who prepares patent documents.

    Has anyone patented the business model of filing patents on software and/or business concepts and then going around getting licensing fees for such patents without actually producing anything of use otherwise? That sounds like a distinct, just-as-patentable business concept as some of these others out there. Or perhaps patent the business model of controlling information distribution through patenting decoding technology to prevent third parties from making their own decodes...

Make sure your code does nothing gracefully.

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