Posts tagged ‘Stephan Kinsella’

It is Time To Reform the US Patent Office

The evidence is fairly clear that it is past time to reform the US Patent Office, particularly in its handling of software and Internet-related patents.  One of my ex-employers, Mercata, managed to obtain several patents (including a few that were awarded postmortem) that in effect patented volume discounting (though the method was sortof kindof clever).  Amazon famously managed to patent 1-click ordering, and numerous companies from Red Hat to Blackberry have been subject to expensive suits from various patent trolls, many of whom never took a single step to monetizing or developing their patents besides hiring lawyers. 

Stephan Kinsella at Mises has another good example:  Apple is attempting to patent the ordering of take-out food by cell phone.

Genius! Apple's done it! They've solved the problem of waiting in line for food or beverages. You place your order before you get it--but not the normal way--see, here's the pure genius of it--you place your order, get this, you won't believe it, wirelessly.
Yep! Who would have thunk it? I mean, I know it's well known to call in
a food order and drive there in time to get it, so you don't have to
wait in line (and this might be done on a (wireless) cordless home
phone, or a (wireless) cell phone, but I digress); or to place your
order and receive one of those little blinky-buzzy things that tells
you when your order is ready, so you don't have to wait in line (hey,
aren't those little blinky wireless buzzers, er, wireless? but again, I
digress); and it's known to communicate wirelessly; and in other
countries, it's well-known to use cell phones to make purchases. And in
McDonald's, you can place your order at a little automated computer
kiosk (but maybe it uses wires! Whew--HUGE difference, lemme tellya).

But, my God, Apple! Oh, it's amazing--the innovative brilliance to think of using a cell phone--a cell phone,
do you hear me!?--to place an order for a cuppajoe... so you don't have
to stand in line... it's so beautiful, I'm about to shed tears...
Sniff... Thank God for the US patent system giving them a king's
monopoly on this unique idea. Otherwise, no one would have come up with
this!. And let's only hope Apple gets a patent on this and is able to
sue or threaten other companies to pay them royalties for all their
remotely similar "wireless communications systems". After all, it's a small price to pay to have the American innovation we do.

There was a time when I was naive enough to think that the US Patent Office would step back and say -- "oops, we screwed up.  We really didn't know what we were doing when we were flooded with all of these business-model-masquerading-as-software patents.  Now we realize we need to get our act together."  Congress is going to have to step in and reduce or eliminate the patentability of software and business models (all other software other than computer code is subject copyright law, not patents).

But of course, Congress will never make these reforms, because forcing business competition into the courts under arbitrary and changing law rather than settling business model superiority in the marketplace generates far more political activism and campaign donations.  So why am I even bothering writing this.  Never mind.

Postscript: By the way, if I were running a software or Internet company, I would be filing every dumb patent application I could think of, because if I don't, someone else will and will and then I am stuck with a suit and trying to prove priority.  Which causes me to think of one way we might force reform -- a sort of reverse strike.  Every software company in 2008 should strive to file as many patent applications for every BS thing they can think of.   Maybe a deluged PTO might at that point force some kind of reform.

Another Crazy Patent Decision

Apple just lost $100 million to a Creative Labs suit over iPod menus.  Stephan Kinsella isolates exactly what the unbelievable breakthrough it was that Apple will now have to pay for.  Here it is.  Be amazed at the genius involved, all you small-minded folks who would never have been smart enough to think of this for yourselves:

A method of selecting at least one track from a plurality of tracks
stored in a computer-readable medium of a portable media player
configured to present sequentially a first, second, and third display
screen on the display of the media player, the plurality of tracks
accessed according to a hierarchy, the hierarchy having a plurality of
categories, subcategories, and items respectively in a first, second,
and third level of the hierarchy, the method comprising:

  • selecting a category in the first display screen of the portable media player;
  • displaying the subcategories belonging to the selected category in a listing presented in the second display screen;
  • selecting a subcategory in the second display screen;
  • displaying the items belonging to the selected subcategory in a listing presented in the third display screen; and
  • accessing at least one track based on a selection made in one of the display screens.

Oh my god, like, my head is going to explode this is so revolutionary and complicated.  Someone just invented the hierarchical menu.  Jeez, how have we done without this all these years?  </sarcasm>