back to article Dotcom titan funds 'Mark Cuban Chair To Eliminate Stupid Patents'

It's not like there's not enough money in the sector. Patent lawyers have been the main beneficiary of the global lawsuits created by the world's richest tech companies suing each other over patents such as "pinch to zoom", page scrolling and round-cornered rectangles. But that's why the reform of patent law has become a …


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  1. Pete 2

    Needs a dam' sight more than a chair

    I reckon if we filled all the seats from all the olympic stadia throughout the world with the brightest legal minds on the planet, they might, just, have a fighting chance of staving off the combined stupidity of the american patent system and all the vested interests intent on their own intangible land grab.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Needs a dam' sight more than a chair

      Well at least if we put all of the lawyers in olympic stadia they cannot be in the courtroom =)

      1. Thorne

        Re: Needs a dam' sight more than a chair

        "Well at least if we put all of the lawyers in olympic stadia they cannot be in the courtroom =)"

        If we put all of the lawyers in olympic stadia, we have somewhere to drop the bomb

  2. FartingHippo

    Hurray for rich nerds!!

    See also SpaceX, SpaceShipOne, Tesla Motors, and Bill's vaccination efforts.

    And Steve Jobs, of course, gave us Finding Nemo.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hurray for rich nerds!!

      Other than Bill's (or should we say Melinda, since she initiated it) vaccinations and Pixar all of the above is rich folk producing things for rich folks. Hardly benefiting humanity is it?

      1. Tom Maddox Silver badge

        Re: Hurray for rich nerds!!

        My god, you're right! Cheap access to space will never benefit anyone! What possible use could it be to put things in space? And electric cars? Why even bother to innovate in that area? These rich guys should just take their money and spend it on giant impractical vanity yachts instead of trying to invest in the future!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hurray for rich nerds!!

          If you'll permit me to slip into the current vernacular, just for a moment: pwned!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No patents = no innovation. Simply because it is not worth risking so much time and money creating something new if you can have your idea duplicated in seconds.

    Look at China, do they have lots of big computer corporations, lots of tech titans? nope, they have lots of small companies producing cheap knock offs and big manufacturing companies. Why bother to invent something when you can just clone it? except that copying doesn't offer competition or result in people raising their game to compete.

    IP and design protection is essential to build up a new technology company. The problem with the patent system is established companies using it to bash each other or technology companies buying IP to bash each other with it.

    Patents should be non-transferable and if the holding company is dying then tough, the patent dies with the company.

    1. Pirate Dave

      re: No patents = no innovation

      Bullshit! Sorry, but we had plenty of innovation in the 70' and 80's before software patents became an issue. Now, I'll give you that hardware is a different story, and your claim is true there. But software patents are an evil that must be stopped. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that software patents = no innovation. Who wants to waste time writing code that may be ruled infringing on some obscure, obvious-to-all patent in 6 months time?

    2. Ian Yates

      Except that software patents are stupid. Small devs do not have enough time or money to check if something they're working on is patented; I'd argue that "no patents = more innovation" in software (just look at FOSS).

      Sure, trademark your look-and-feel if that's what consumers use to associate something to you, but don't pretend that dragging something across a screen with your finger is a patentable invention.

      Your comparing developers of software (something that is completely intangible) with manufacturers of physical things.

    3. S.G.

      This is simply not true.

      Patents are only good for monopolists. It's been argued many times but somehow, the word doesn't get out as loud as the monopolists word.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        The problem is that patent terms don't necessarily scale themselves to the pace of an industry's innovations.

        Now, a design patent for an industrial process involving machines normally bought once every decade or so is sensible protected for about two of those cycles. Similarly, patents for medicines help to give reward to the inherent risks involved in seeking out new drugs (they take a long time to research, test, and clear before they can even enter the market--by that time, only a few years remain on it).

        MOST computer hardware patents are for genuine innovations like new chip techniques and so on and should sensibly be rewarded. But even here, the generation cycle in hardware is somewhat shorter than in other industries. A 20- to 25-year patent term for computer hardware is a bit long and could make more sense scaling it down to the neighborhood of 10 years.

        Now, software patents... the big issue is that software has an incredibly fast generation cycle. New versions come out every year if not sooner. A 25-year monopoly is a huge brick wall in that constant churn. Thus I agree with the EFF's stance that software patents need much shorter terms, though I would think five years is a bit long given the state of the market. Make it three years and it will look more reasonable.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You missed the point ...

      > so much time and money creating something

      If there was actually time and money spent in inventing something I think that all fine and dandy and patents should apply, but the issue is that ideas which I could come up with down the pub over a packet of pork scratchings are getting patented (pinch and zoom, pinch to scale, scroll bounce back, etc) .

      There is no significant R&D investment on software patents such as pinch and zoom, scroll bounce back, etc - so why should you have any kind of state enforced monopoly protection on it? There is no R&D cost to "protect".

      1. ptmmac

        Re: You missed the point ...

        I do not think that all software patents are simply a matter of making something move from one side of the screen to the other. It is the practical effort to make it work smoothly, with minimal wasted effort and frustration that makes it worth paying for. Sensing properly the pinch and zoom and then making it call the proper action is not something that anyone would waste time on if they couldn't make money on it. I want it to work right every time not just most of the time. If you don't believe this can be patented then no one will bother. We will all be living with partially functioning devices that kill productivity and creativity.

        1. wowfood

          Re: You missed the point ...

          Actually code wise it really isn't that difficult to monitor pinch / multi-touch on a touch screen. Now the original driver to allow that was probably an ass, but that part is covered in the hardware patent.

          As for the idea of making it work "smoothly" with "minimal wasted effort" I could understand that if they patented something and then went into detail of how it worked, for instance saying they used a semaphore timer to allow a seperate thread to pick up the second gesture in a seamless fashion minimizing the latency of the action on the visual output device. But they don't they just patent the broad overaching structure.

          Taking it to car terms, because software is always compared to cars for some reasons.

          A software patent is like patenting an engine. I go out and make a patent for a device which causes a car to move backwards and forwards via use of a fuel source. It doesn't matter if the engine is petrol, diesel, solar, V8,V6, W8 Wankle. All of those engines are covered by my patent even though each works in very different ways on the concept.

          Or what if ford had patented the location of the steering wheel, accellerator, car key and gear stick, and the CBA. If they'd patented that, then right now we'd have no standard setup for cars. People liked that setup in the Cadillac 53, it was easy to use, so other car companies used it and it became a standard. Meanwhile people like the layout of a PC, or Mac, or iOS but nobody can use it because it's been patented.

          Patents really shouldn't apply to software unless it's a specific implementation. And then based on the lifecycle of software it probably shouldn't last for too long, 5 years tops.

          These "design patents" are just plain stupid. Especially when you hear the term "trademark design" it kind of says it all. Design patents should have the same lifecycle of software patents.

    5. chris lively

      Wrong in every sense of the word

      Patents do not drive innovation. Need does.

      Patents prevent innovation by giving an inventor a head start in an industry. This was to allow the inventor to capitalize on their investment.

      Software patents, being mostly conceptual and rarely submitted with actual code, however, usually need very little investment in terms of both time and dollars. Most of the ideas patented are something you could draw on a napkin. The problem is in part exasperated by the granularity of the patent and in part because the industry is moving so fast that most of the ideas are both obvious and being done by disparate groups simultaneously.

      I'd say: software should never receive a patent. Just a copyright.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @AC, upvoted just for your last paragraph.

    7. Pat 4

      " creating something new if you can have your idea duplicated in seconds."

      Yeah... because "thinking" about making a device that is a rectangel with rounded corners takes BEEELIONS and YEARS in development that NOPBODY could EVER have thought of...

    8. Chad H.

      Err... What?

      Without Patents the children wont invent stuff... Oh wont someone think of the children?

      do they have lots of big computer corporations, lots of tech titans?

      What has one got to do to be a big tech titan these days? Apparently being one of the biggest builders of PCs, the company that builds everyone elses kit, or one of the few companies that can build a 3G network end to end doesn't cut it anymore.

  4. Anonymous C0ward

    I thought it said "Eliminate Stupid Parents" at first.

    1. SoaG

      Eliminate stupid parents?

      That's an even bigger challenge than patent reform.

    2. easyk

      So did I !

      want to hang out later?

  5. NoneSuch Silver badge
    Thumb Down


    'Software patents' should be considered what they have been for years, copyrighted code. If you write a piece of software that does something and I do the same thing independantly they should both be allowed. If I copy your code to do my project that is a copyright infraction and I should be punished.

    Apple (et al) are pushing for software patents to cover concepts and ideas instead of specific code copyrights. Why? It comes down to the merger doctrine which essentially says copyrights cannot cover ideas. This was reinforced by the Apple V. Microsoft GUI law suit where the courts decided "look and feel" cannot be copyrighted.

    So here they are doing it with patents instead. No software patent should stand.

    1. Steve Todd Silver badge

      Re: No...

      It's not that simple. The algorithm underlying a piece of code can take years and millions to develop. Copyright doesn't prevent people from nicking the algorithm.

      I've got no problems with the idea of shortening the life of software patents and demanding working code as part of the submission, but killing them completely is a bad idea IMHO.

      1. Benny

        Re: No...

        The problem is when 2 or more independent parties come up with the same algorithm - might be a long shot, but not outside the realms of possibility. If both parties have spent millions and years to develop it, why shouldn't they both be allowed to profit from it? "I got here first so pay me loads of money" just seems wrong.

        1. Steve Todd Silver badge

          Re: No...

          The same happens with normal patents. The world has a solution, it's called first to file.

          1. Harry

            Re: " The world has a solution, it's called first to file."

            First to file is not the real solution, by any stretch of the imagination. It should be first to *prove* and file.

            No matter whether its hardware or software, it should not be possible to patent something just on the basis of "I think this might be possible". If you cannot yet *do* it, then you should not be able to patent it -- leaving the field open for somebody else to come up with a similar idea, make it work and win the patent.

            I'd go one further -- if, one year after applying for the patent, you do not yet have the product on the market at an affordable price, then the patent becomes public domain for anybody to use royalty-free. This prevents patenting (or buying patents) purely to prevent a better product from competing with an established market.

            Similarly, if at any time during the next 10 years you cannot satisfy the market demand -- then you should be obliged to make the patent available at peppercorn cost to anybody that wishes to market it.

            1. Steve Todd Silver badge

              Re: " The world has a solution, it's called first to file."

              The first point would be covered for software patents by having the requirement to include code in the submission.

              The second doesn't allow for companies that license their designs, or inventions that require advancements in computing power to become practical (h.264 used to be beyond desktop PCs to even play, never mind encode for example).

              How would you define market demand for software, and say that it wasn't being met? The cost of reproduction is near zero, its development that costs money. That argument makes no sense whatsoever.

              1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                Re: " The world has a solution, it's called first to file."

                Licensing would subject the licensee to the terms of the patent. IOW, if they can't deliver in the same timeframe, it's considered a failure on BOTH of them. As for "ahead of their time" patents, they can't be filed until their time; practicality becomes part of the requirement.

                As for market demand, how does break-even sound?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No...

        For every patent that has a million lines of code, I'd pretty sure I can dig up a few thousand that I could write in under a thousand lines. I've got no issue with the system protecting ideas which are innovative and which takes significant development time, but some of the concepts being patented by Apple, such as UI list bounce are probably about a hour's coding for a graduate, and 5 minutes coding for an experienced developer. As an approach it is not even that novel and has many parallels in "real life" experience, but that't a whole different topic ;)

        The point of patents is it encourage investment and R&D by granting a time limited monopoly. If you allow patents for small items which have close to zero development cost, in billion dollar markets the value of the monopoly you grant massively outweighs the initial investment by the company. At this point the model breaks, and they become little more than beer tokens. Multinational companies patent trivialities because everyone else is patenting trivialities, and you have have have a bigger pile of tokens to trade than the other guy. It all becomes circular and self sustaining, if you can call what we have now sustainable.

        TBH they just need to make the patent expiry dependent on the idea rather than a blanket 20 years, and roughly balanced via some proportional equation with the investment cost. If an idea takes 5 minutes to "research" then sure you can have a patent, but it will expire in an hour ...

        1. Thorne

          Re: No...

          "For every patent that has a million lines of code, I'd pretty sure I can dig up a few thousand that I could write in under a thousand lines. I've got no issue with the system protecting ideas which are innovative and which takes significant development time, but some of the concepts being patented by Apple, such as UI list bounce are probably about a hour's coding for a graduate, and 5 minutes coding for an experienced developer. As an approach it is not even that novel and has many parallels in "real life" experience, but that't a whole different topic ;)"

          The problem is not complexity but simplicity. Nobody patents millions of lines of code as anybody can change it and bypass the patent but currently you can patent A + B = C and use it to screw the rest of the world

      3. Pat 4

        Re: No...

        Algorithms are math.

        Math is not patentable... period

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: No...

          There is actually a law that states that math is not patentable? What if someone comes up with a whole new way of doing math? It would be novel, non-obvious, entirely non-physical, and as a method falls under patent law rather than copyright (which covers implementations).

        2. Justicesays

          Re: No...

          Compression Algorithms are math

          H.264 is not patentable , period

          Oh wait...

  6. h3

    Patents are useful for industries that are really capital intensive. (Pharmacuticals / Semiconductors.)

    The algorithm could take years and millions but so what. It is like writing a recipe.

    If anyone should have a patent it should be the Mathematicians who invent the stuff in the first place.

    (They are the people who are actually doing the inventing.)

  7. h3

    For Video Games Nintendo would be the only ones able to make any. (Almost every other game is a copy of something Nintendo did first).

    1. SoaG

      Sorry youngster

      Nintendo has done absolutely nothing first. They're exactly the kind of company and product that will benefit from reforms that allow people to modify and improve software. It's all they do (and do well).

    2. Pirate Dave

      If memory serves...

      Magnavox had the original patent on "home video game systems", and Nintendo had to pay them a licensing fee back in the '80s. I think there was a court fight, but Magnavox won and Nintendo paid. Dusty memories...

  8. Sampler

    Did I just read a patent article

    That was well reasoned and made sense...maybe those Mayans were on to something..

  9. Oninoshiko

    did anyone else think the headline was refering

    to the rather rotund Kim Dotcom?

    1. ratfox Silver badge

      I did

      The "Dotcom" in the title was fairly confusing. Shurely they meant "Dot com"?

  10. easyk

    "...To Eliminate Stupid Parents"

    I misread the title. I was mighty confused by the first paragraph of the article. I then read the title correctly and was mighty disappointed.

    1. Thorne

      Re: "...To Eliminate Stupid Parents"

      After the eliminate stupid patents they'll start on the stupid parents

  11. W.O.Frobozz

    It's been done

    Bezos and some other rich dork were going to save us from software patents too...and what happened? Jack shit. The same will come of this.

  12. ElReg!comments!Pierre


    I somehow managed to read the title as something like "Kim Dotcom marks a Cuban chair to eliminate stupid patents" which was very weird for a second.

    Anyhow, Huzzah for Cuban chairs! The state of the US patent system is worrying, and, worst, is contaminating the whole world.

  13. Vector

    How about...

    ...compulsory licensing of all patents. Not just software, but anything.

    The justification for a patent is to protect the investment the inventor has made in developing the invention. The current system provides that protection by giving the inventor exclusive rights to their invention. To me, this seems to be the point where innovation is strangled: if I have a good idea based on your good idea, I can't do anything with my good idea without your permission. Companies are using this concept to entrench themselves and hold their competitors at bay.

    In the copyright world, at least in the US, there is a compulsory license which, as I understand it, gives anyone the right to perform a work that has been previously publicly released regardless of the copyright owner's wishes so long as the performer pays a royalty to the rights holder.

    Imagine if this concept were extended to patents. The inventor would still be protected (if you invent something that everyone else wants to copy, you get a cut of all those copies). Innovation would also be enhanced and markets could thrive just as the tech industry (computer industry back then) did before software became patentable.. I'm sure there are a thousand niggly little details that would have to be worked out, but it would be a good place from which to start, wouldn't it?

  14. Alistair

    possible solutions?

    I am designing the new patent application form.

    I am going to copyright it.

    (Okay - its late, I've been up for near on 38 hours. I think "silly" comes to mind)

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I misread the title

    for "... Eliminate Stupid Parents'. Alas!

  16. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    I think 1 chair is enough to improve the US software patent system

    It just needs a really good connection to the mains.

  17. mhenriday

    Just say No !

    to patents on mathematical algorithms (and rectangles with rounded corners)....


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