Squashing Software Patents
Almost a year ago now, I wrote about Ask Patents, a Stack Exchange site launched in partnership with the USPTO to help them identify prior art in software patent applications.
Yesterday Joel Spolsky, Stack's CEO, wrote a great post about how he used Ask Patents to squash a bad software patent applied for by Microsoft.
I love this image he placed in his post:
You win wars one victory at a time. If you want to win a battle or two for the good guys in the war against software patents head on over to Ask Patents and do your part.
Having had a look at Ask Patents I was slightly shocked at just how bare-faced some of the more “obvious” applications were. If ever a system were in need of reformation it’s this one.
how do you think 50,000 patents gets filled every year …. only on software!!!bare-faced is a decent term to describe … garbage and BS are the right words to describe them.
Lawyers want you to go for very broad, so then they cover more potential infringement – the idea being you want to get a patent that others infringe on, or will infringe on.. a bit ridiculous, but that’s part of their money-making business model.
Oh – I’m in London now. You’re here? I’ll be here until Friday likely.
#royalbaby. Have you been to the Palace yet? You should meet LIAD. I think he’s there.
I think he is too — I sent him a Tweet. Carl R. Griffith isn’t available to meet unfortunately.I met another AVC’er though — Laurent Boncenne in Paris yesterday evening. Went to a wine tasting bar. 🙂
I’m up in Manchester, about 180 miles away 🙂
Oh okay. Not meeting up this time then! 🙂
Next time. 🙂
Fantastic. A wikipedia for patent troll destruction. A feedback loop to brag (Hurrah!: you squashed a patent) or paid (Here’s your cut of the application fee for helping) would be awesome.
.This demonstrates a great principle — stop just bitching about things and get into the fight and use your brain to win.This is a victory for thinking and fighting smart.Today the Internet has democratized intelligence.In some ways, L’affaire Snowden is about this very same thing. Like or hate the fellow, he has certainly spilled the beans. Now the question is whether he committed treason in the process. I will have to vote yes.Love what Edward has done with the place but he is likely going to spend the rest of his life on the run at best and incarcerated at worst. The good fight? Yes, in my book also.The issue of patents is the classic notion that no matter how much whipped cream one puts on a cow pattie, it does not become a birthday cake even if it is submitted by a huge and powerful enterprise like Microsoft.So, go Ask Patents. Use the power of the Internet to discipline the tech world and to stop folks from putting whipped cream on cow patties and calling them birthday cake.JLM.
also how one needs to be proactive — too many people put their head in the sand only to find out later they are in violation … patent trolls are everywhere
I always prefer when people are proactive about their situations. All of us who write software are in this current boat, so we need to use our heads to move the ball where we want it to go. You make a great point that the Snowden stuff is about the same sort of thing, someone who was tired of where the ball was going and fought to change its trajectory a little. As always life is messy, and even though many people don’t agree with his tactics they were effective in getting people to talk about the issues. We all need to remember that we can be like David if we choose and fight even the largest Goliath. It might not always be pretty, and of course we will fail often enough. If enough of us try though, even the must stubborn beast can be defeated.
“Snowden stuff is about the same sort of thing, someone who was tired of where the ball was going and fought to change its trajectory a little.”Perhaps a great example of where a little bit of knowledge is dangerous. Unfortunately Snowden is not in a position to know the full extent of why the government does what it does. Which is not the same as saying everything the government does is right and that the government doesn’t make any mistakes and all of that.My question is who died and made him king? And what are his qualifications to be king?”they were effective in getting people to talk about the issues. We all need to remember that we can be like David if we choose and fight even the largest Goliath.”Well sure if you want to get the maximum publicity to get your thoughts across and are creative enough and are willing to take the punishment (fall on the sword as Snowden did) there are many things you can do.You could for example write your manifesto and then kill an important person or kill multiple less important people. Get caught and then you will get maximum publicity for your ideas. To which most people will say “snowden didn’t kill anyone” which of course is not true because his actions will ultimately cause harm in many ways which could include killing or other suffering. And the harm will go way way beyond the killing of a person or persons even if nobody is killed as a result.Guess what? I don’t want some guy doing stuff like this and going off half cocked. What he did was stupid plain and simple. I can’t be any clearer than that.
+100.The thing I love most about this is instead of whining about why a completely ineffective, bloated and overbuilt government can’t get out of its own way to solve problems, this initiative goes out and just gets it done.
Why didn’t the government think of crowdsourcing the work in the first place – I imagine they probably assumed people would want to be paid.. All you need though is one group who gains to benefit (like not being blocked) in order to incentivize action.
I realized politics works the same way, and usually it’s always the bigger group that will stand to benefit that should be leveraged – though currently most of the time it seems it equally balances with business-desires, as to not create a large amount of backlash and counter-lobbying.
From Joel’s blog post: “The America Invents Act changed the law to allow the public to submit examples of prior art while a patent application is being examined. And that’s why the USPTO asked us to set up Ask Patents, a Stack Exchange site where software developers like you can submit examples of prior art to stop crappy software patents even before they’re issued.”
“stop bitching and get in the game”t-shirt material from JLMas usual
Putting the whipped cream on cow patties analogy on the back of said t-shirt, perhaps with a cartoon by FAKEGRIMLOCK, would be a nice addition.
I want this one: “The Internet: Democratizing Intelligence”
Or this one: “use your brain to win.” JLM is on fire with this comment.
updated version of Teddy Roosevelt’s “the man in the arena”.
this Post is a crock of shit. how about we take all twitter’s patents and start a twitter knock off?everyone wants patents to not exist, but when it hits home… nobody wants it.
What Twitter patents?
Now this is a new development in my analysis of Fred. He has multiple personalities. One goes by Fred and the other goes by Freddy. I know Fred hates to be called Freddy. So, is Fred’s alter ego poking him with a stick by using Freddy?.It’s all so confusing! 🙂
freddy – this comment is a crock of shittwitter has promised never to sue offensively on its patents https://blog.twitter.com/20…
A traitor he may be, but from where I sit he’s better discharged his duty to preserve, protect and defend and Constitution of the United States than, say, the President. Make of that what you will.
.I will not grade the President’s performance though right now it is not looking like a stellar performance.As to Snowden, he likely never took an oath to preserve, protect or defend the Constitution.He was a CIA contractor and an NSA contractor (Booz Allen Hamilton) employee. He was a dweeb.He had a security clearance that was likely north of TSBI (top secret background investigation) and therefore was vetted carefully.Such a clearance is like a contract — you agree to safeguard things (secrets) that come within your purview and to report any irregularities.Such a person is typically “debriefed” every six months and this is done on a lie detector with voice print analysis to boot.There are some guys who can finesse a BIG lie, but nobody can routinely finesse the small lies.”Mr Snowden, have you ever looked at any compartmentalized info for which you do not possess the appropriate security clearance?”Nobody can finesse such a question.”Mr Snowden, did you ever have sex with that woman, Ms Lewinski?”You can learn to finesse such a question.Snowden is in very, very deep trouble. He could easily be the target of a contracted hit right now.JLM.
As to Snowden, he likely never took an oath to preserve, protect or defend the Constitution.My point exactly.
.I get what you are saying.Snowden has done irreparable damage to the intelligence gathering capabilities of the US and has inadvertently endangered countless operatives as our enemies “walk the cat backwards” and begin to piece together how we did it.This is all before one begins to even evaluate the content of what he has revealed.It is the means and methods and people that have initially been compromised.JLM.
I’m confused by the “Love what Edward has done” but then the “Now the question is whether he committed treason in the process. I will have to vote yes.”To me this means that you think that what he did was right but also agree that what he did broke the law.If that is the case let me ask you this question.If Edward Snowden had come to you before he did what he did and told you of his plans and you had a chance to stop him (or encourage him) what would you have done? Stop him? Or encourage him?
It’s possible to break the law by doing something right. Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right. The founding fathers committed treason against the crown and most people would agree what they did was right.If Ed had come to me, I would have warned him what I’m sure he already knew; it would be viewed as treason. The decision to leak the info would still be his.
The break the law part doesn’t bother me as much as other issues.We all break the law in various ways to varying degrees (speeding and tax evasion come to mind maybe pollution). Only varies in where each individual draws the line.My thought relates more to the clarity of the decision being made to disclose as well as the personal harm to oneself.It’s easy for people to support something that has (they feel) upside for them with no downside to their personal safety.People do this all the time actually. Encourage other people to take risks that benefit themselves.Obviously there are places where killing is justified (self defense etc.) and other places where you don’t because we don’t want vigilante justice or “star chambers” type justice.So I would have been less on the “treason” angle and more on the “have you weighed the possible benefits vs. detriments to what you feel the government should not be doing. And do you have the full picture?”. Similar to the way that you can have a benefit from a drug that also has drawbacks. Binary thinkers have a hard time with this concept it seems. They want to cherry pick part of the argument.Lastly, reading things on the Internet and/or even in reputable newspapers is being called “trial in the media” as we have seen many cases where the info viewed publicly doesn’t tell the full picture. After all the facts come out.”The founding fathers committed treason against the crown and most people would agree what they did was right.”A better example would be perhaps people in Germany standing up to Hitler if they saw the atrocities of that maybe. But I don’t believe you can compare a gross case of something (like say you traveled, saw the gas chambers, saw the dead bodies and all), a true outlier, the same as giving carte blanch to “some 29 year old guy” to override our countries security policies based on his worldly interpretation of the facts.Why not just get rid of juries and trials in that case if things are so obvious on their face?
.If you were in the spook trade and knew that secrets were about to be compromised you would be obligated to immediately report it no differently than if the Russian KGB Chief of Station invited you to dinner.Failing to do so would subject you to draconian penalties and rightfully so. You would immediately become an accessory and that is a very dangerous place to be.This is not T-ball. This is the holiest of the holy. Secrets so secret that the name of the classification itself is secret.This guy was treating them like he was trading comic books.JLM.
.In life one must pick their battles and be true to their word.Snowden was a CIA contract guy before he was an NSA contractor employee. Not a “contract” employee, a “contractor” employee. Big difference.He likely never took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, that is reserved for government employees not contractors.I would have advised him that he should think carefully because being on the opposite side of the street from the FBI, CIA and the NSA is a dangerous place to be.Understand that at some level, he is liable to being executed for the good of the services he sought to serve. They would kill him in a NY minute if he represented sufficient threat. He has long, long, long since crossed that threshold.All intelligence operations have a method of bringing the outliers to the attention of one’s superiors in the form of written dissents to intelligence appreciations — which are actively encouraged by asking “what’s wrong with this appreciation?” — or through the Inspector General or directly through an open door policy.None of this allows an individual to break the security of the clearances he has sought and received. If you apply for a security clearance, you must adhere to the rules or suffer the consequences. Receiving a clearance is like entering into a contract. You are voluntarily agreeing to follow some very tough rules.I would have counseled young Edward to find another line of work and to forget about it. I would likely have reported him to the appropriate authorities because everyone in the spook game has an allegiance to the game — safeguarding the secrets — regardless of who is involved.He committed treason the second he began to look at documents beyond his clearance, to copy them, to take them from the secured facility and to disseminate them. He should have gotten a bullet in the head fairly early in the scheme of things.As to the content — I LOVE that someone with his access has broken open the code. This has been going on for a long, long time. The NSA has been snooping far beyond the authority of any law for decades.Remember something about the spook trade — it is based on breaking all the laws of any other country and theoretically following some very obscure and difficult laws of our country.It is akin to disciplining Airedales to pace themselves when eating dog chow. Not bloody likely. Once you start breaking laws, phhhft!Good luck.JLM.
“I would have counseled young Edward to find another line of work and to forget about it. I would likely have reported him to the appropriate authorities”You probably couldn’t get me to a phone fast enough to turn him in. Probably would have snuck away from the table to go to the bathroom and dialed.Concept is that he could agree to not disclose, seem cooperative with the advice, and then done so anyway.Let’s say you found out that a man that perfect daughter was dating might be interested in harming her? What steps would you go to protect her? A mere “ok you are right I won’t hurt her after all” wouldn’t go far enough I would guess. Calls for immediate intervention and action. An imminent threat.”The NSA has been snooping far beyond the authority of any law for decades.”Doesn’t really bother me all that much. Boundaries sometimes need to be crossed. While not equivalent of course law enforcement makes side deals with law breakers in order to fry a bigger fish.
According to the US Constitution what Snowden did could not possibly be treason as treason only applies during time of war. We are not legally at war, once again according to our constitution, as congress has not declared we are at war. He likely could be tried for espionage though.
the ‘good German’ defense would be a strong one in court.Admiral Canaris was hanged, but he did the right thing.
.Yes, but the hanging certainly curbs the enthusiasm more than a bit, no?JLM.
the US GOV would never risk putting Snowden in front of a jury on a charge of treason. guilty and he’s a martyr to liberty, a political prisoner of conscience, and ‘America’ falls. innocent and they are condemned as tyrants by their own people, and ‘America’ falls.
.Purely conjecture on my part but I think they would charge him so narrowly as to be unable to lose. The guy admits to having released classified information.Go no further than that simple charge.No reason to give him a stage and no reason to wander about to put him in jail.In a Federal Court, pretty simple stuff. The classified material would be routinely redacted — happens all the time.Prisons are filled with folks who have violated security clearances. The proofs are incredibly easy to establish.Of course, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — he of the NYC show trial fame — is still awaiting trial on a charge he has admitted guilt to over 10 years ago, so no accounting for such things.JLM.
Yup and it definately needs more participation.
“Now the question is whether he committed treason in the process. I will have to vote yes.”.I know your prowess in the government waters. But, I don’t think it’s quite as easy as that. He was (supposedly) helping the citizens of the US. So the government is “of the people by the people” or something like that. How can he commit treason if he’s helping the very thing this country is made of?.BTW, that actually is a question. So answers are appreciated.
.What Snowden is guilty of legally is betraying a trust freely given and sedition both serious felonies. These are very specific crimes.These are very, very simple offenses to prove and Federal law does not provide any defenses that are based upon justification or mitigation type defenses.If you are speeding for a good reason, you are still speeding.The fact that he may have done it because he was on what he independently determined was a higher calling has no legal significance.The proofs of these offenses are simple, precise and easy. If one possesses secrets and disseminates them to a foreign power — as is done when secrets are published publicly — game, set, match.These were huge secrets. Huge.There is no doubt that Snowden’s actions have done horrific damage to the means, methods and results of American espionage actions. People will die because they have been revealed by his actions.Having said that, there is also no doubt that he has revealed, in a very small part, wrongdoing by the American intelligence community which has grossly overstepped its bounds as to collection and storage of vast quantities of information to which they are not entitled access.These crimes will and should also be investigated and bad players charged. This will not be done because you are asking the entire intel community to investigate the entire intel community. Watchers watching the watchers. Not going to happen.Snowden is a marked man and the only likely safe place for him is Russia. Witness Kim Philby who died in Russia.JLM.
why didn’t Microsoft use Ask Patents?
Any PTO ….not only just USPTO should take similar step … charge more for each application and take help from technologists (pay) to do the prior art …99% of the garbage can be cleaned in ‘prior-art’ only.This garbage patenting is not only in software … it is there in every field … in software it is more.I really liked the following sentence from joel’s page and i am pasting it here ….”The second technique to getting bad software patents issued is to use a thesaurus. Often, software patent applicants make up new terms to describe things with perfectly good, existing names.”
Hmm. Could Ask Patents generate unintended consequences? If Ask Patents fails to surface prior art, does that mean I should file a patent?
thanks to everyone who does this.
I read Joel’s post yesterday and had a feeling you’d be blogging about it today. There should be a betting pool on the side as to what you’ll blog about tomorrow.But yeah, great play by Ask Patents!
Tempted to patent that idea.
Prior art: the Brits betting on what the new royal boy will be named.
My money is on Freddy
George <—–place your bitcoins there.
I called it! George is the kid’s name. Official.
Word is, the name is Burger.A certain restaurant chain paid millions to crown Burger King of England.
Citizen Koenig – very 1984
I’m enjoying this much more thoroughly as I just arrived in London..
@falicon will build it.pull in top techmeme stories.community will place bets….and it will influence what you write about…or at least give you ideas and inspiration. 😉
Knowabout.it already includes tech meme in it’s alerting and ‘top stories’ features…if you check the homepage there daily you’ll have a good idea of what the hot topics in the tech world are for a given day 🙂
btw, why are you changing the avatar often? … does that indicative of a new proto developed? 🙂
You pay close attention! The new one is the avatar for Coach Wizard ( http://coachwizard.com ).I’ve been thinking about the coaching space since I became a parent (almost 10 years ago now) because I knew I was going to want to coach, but outside of playing a few sports growing up myself, I didn’t really know how to coach or run a practice. Over the past four years, I’ve now coached or helped coach my two sons various teams in football, basketball, baseball, track & field, and cross country as well as run the cub scouts program at their school (so yes, I know *all* the kids pretty well)…and through those struggles, I’ve discovered a *ton* of opportunities where the right platform/software/approach would make a large difference.I actually wanted to start building out some of my ideas around it last summer, but got side-tracked when my weekend hack of gawk.it got a bit of traction…so I didn’t actually sit down and start coding anything until the Startup Weekend in Lancaster ( hat tip to @charliecrystal )…since then, I’ve been fleshing out the ideas and concepts with a ton of people and slowly shaping the story.Technically it’s another prototype because that’s just how I do things…but this is one of the very few where it’s not just me (I’ve recruited a few of the other dads I’ve coached with over the years to help define/design the system with me, and I’m paying a few other people to help seed the system over the summer)…it’s also one of the rare projects where I’m doing a lot of planning up front (before full coding) as it’s really more than just an interesting hack to me.V1 is almost, finally, ready for actual beta testing (we are going to be using it in our various leagues in my area this year and improve/tweak it based on what we really learn there) and so I’m starting to ramp up the visibility on it as much as I can as well…even with all that, and things go as well as hoped, I think it’s going to be a good 2-3 years before it’s a “real” thing…but I’m very excited to just finally be getting it going and to finally be getting a real team together around and behind it…as you can prob. tell by my long, mostly unsolicited, ramblings 😉
patting myself on the shoulder for guessing it right :-).I donno what exactly you are doing on sports/coaching … see whether following start-up gives any more idea on what you are doing. http://spots-app.comand i read somewhere some famous person saying “Work on something which does not scale”….otherwise saying ‘stay niche’.Edit: had a look at your site and it may be totally different from what spots is trying to do (location-based-proximity participation in sporting … and urs is coaching) and good luck with DDL-LLC.
Thanks – spots looks interesting (thanks for the heads up).The core of what I’m trying to do with Coach Wizard is provide a platform that saves coaches time in preparing for practices, makes it simple to build a program from year-to-year, and helps anyone become a more effective coach.There are a lot of details to still figure out (and a lot of features to pair down and simplify)…but that’s the general guiding idea.On the surface it prob. looks a bit niche, but the youth sports industry as a whole is estimated at $5 billion annually…and at the high end, the potential market is actually anyone that wants to help a kid learn or improve in a sport. Of course we are starting *very* small and local, so I’m not really thinking about/worrying about the overall size of the market yet (I’m just focused on how this can make a dent, and small profit, in the leagues around my own world first).
I think it’d be more fun for Fred if he didn’t see what people thought he’d write about, as to not influence him too.. unless he wanted inspiration / direction.
By invitation only.
“@falicon:disqus will build it.”Probably not fair to egg Kevin on w/o remuneration for the effort. Kind of related to the entire “somebody elses problem” and people wanting to not put effort in and expect someone else to do something to solve a problem. Not your intent but thought I’d point that out.
Fair enough.But the whole thing is really half in jest.If anyone were to build such a marketplace (not gonna call it a betting pool), then there would likely be a transaction fee for the owner.
Gotta love the VIG! 🙂
“Vigorish” …one of the funniest words in the English language.
“half in jest”In parenthesis I actually had “(I know you are probably joking)” but then deleted that because you tend to slant toward joking so I didn’t want to state the obvious.Good idea as far as the marketplace would be interesting to see if someone could develop something legal that would allow people to bet on an outcome using skill (as opposed to chance) that would work. An extension would be to bet on someone else’s thought process, to tag along with a particular person’s predictions (like a fund manager). Complete with diversification (20% of what Kid Mercury thinks 40% with what William thinks, and so on).Events would have to be short term and would have to have clear demarcation points and not suffer from the Striesand effect.
OK, so I see you’re not jesting.
Thanks for having my back!Overall I personally don’t mind (my ego likes having the crowd think of me as the one who can/will actually build stuff)…and I think I’m fairly good at ignoring or deflecting the ones that don’t actually interest me enough (though I usually *do* want to help everyone and build every idea, the realist in me knows I don’t have time/energy/skills to actually do that).
the becker-posner-blog.com/2013… has an interesting academic and economic discussion on patents. Posner is a judge and law professor. Becker is Nobel Prize winning economist.
i love their blog. it is pure and unadulterated serious talk.
I asked Posner the question: I assume you are an strict constructionist judge, would you utilize the power of the bench to make laws that stopped patent trolls?, since he wrote passionately against them.A conundrum from a theoretical principle point of view. I am not a lawyer, so I am not an expert on the machination of the law.
“would you utilize the power of the bench to make laws that stopped patent trolls?”Really boils down to a very basic question that somehow relates to the proverbial “why does a dog lick his balls?” Ans: “because he can”.In other words does the mere fact that if someone can do something to help or change a situation, even if it doesn’t strictly tie into their responsibilities, or perhaps is somewhat risky , what type of people do those things?My guess is that a person such as a lawyer (or engineer or doctor) would be less likely to do this because their brain would have to get wrapped up in all this legal, engineering, medical minutia to justify the action. As opposed to someone like me who would just lick my balls if I could. As opposed to what Snowden is being patted on the back for doing. Noting as well that such pats won’t have to eat prison food or grease up. That’s not licking it’s biting off.
In Posner’s case, he doesn’t make law from the bench. He takes law and tries to distill it into an originalism Constitutional framework. He is in the Scalia side of the law debate. He objects to patent trolls, but would he rule against them from the bench of precedent were on their side–or would he go against his own grain and make law from the bench?He might be able to toss it out of court, avoiding having to rule at all. Might be able to say the troll has no standing and do it that way.
” He takes law and tries to distill it into an originalism Constitutional framework.”Allows lawyer to sleep at night. What I call finding a way to rationalize or justify an action. Great if it gets you to where you want to be. Lawyers are good at it. (hmm depending on what the definition of “it” is of course.)
Posner’s more fun to hear in person. Also a super dapper dresser
Other than my well-read comments on the Facebook news patent (http://answerguy.com/2010/0…, I’ll resist the urge to cite the many times I’ve called for serious change in or elimination of software patents.Much more broadly, this reminds me of the time in 1992 when I was forced to fight a threatened trademark suit brought against my company for the name of our software ‘Uninstall for Windows’ by the company that made the software ‘Uninstaller’. We won, by filing what amounted to a Friend of the Court brief citing prior use of the word.Of course, Patents are more complicated than Trademarks, but the idea is similar enough: it’s time we all compel reform by opening our mouths. Certainly in the current Information Availability Environment we COULD … right?
money quote from joels post : “How cool would it be if Apple, Samsung, Oracle and Google got into a Mexican Standoff on Ask Patents?”
isn’t it basically the prisoner’s dilemma, and isn’t there a way out
i’ve heard that some bigcos ( not listed in e quote ) amass a large patent portfolio as a defensive measure for the case they are sued for some infringement. else, they compete in the market on the merits of the product
Worth noting as a FN that Microsoft spawned the biggest of patent trolls in its former CTO Nathan Myrvold and Intellectual Ventures.
It’s another great David vs. Goliath story. Joel’s post is so passionate and so on the ball.
We’re in a weird problem with patents – we need them. But we don’t necessarily want everything to be patented, or be patented so broadly that we don’t innovate.Software patents just remind us about how complex it all is
Man, would I love to have back the $25k I spent obtaining a patent back in 2000. All my advisers urged me to do it at that time. It was useless when I realized I wasn’t willing to be in the business of suing competitors.Who here remembers the acursed Unisys GIF patent? That was my first taste of patent trolling.
What if everyone with the right expertise took Joel up on his challenge and donated at least 15 minutes to finding prior art and posting it on Ask Patents? It would be the Internet working at scale to do something the government is unable or unwilling to do. The Patent Office needs the help too. There’s a backlog of 650,000 unexamined applications, many of which involve claims to software.
.Adam Yahiye GadahnJLM.
.We are way overdue for a bit of rebellion.Sign me up.I want a Corps in the Rockies or Texas.JLM.