Subject: Re: [openip] Re: "rights" and "freedoms"
From: "Karsten M. Self" <>
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 15:09:20 -0700

Stephen Turnbull wrote:

>     Ben> Personally I think that a good change to the system would be
>     Ben> a publically announced period with a large monetary reward
>     Ben> for anyone who can demonstrate prior art.
> Who pays?  The Patent Office?  I think not....  If it's the applicant,
> well, that will make patents exclusively a game for large
> corporations.  It already pretty much is, of course, but do we want to
> be pushing harder in that direction?  Do we want to increase the value
> of existing portfolios, which don't have to risk that, by even more?

One point that's been made to me by Greg Aharonian is that patents are
big money to any of a number of players, including, at 25,000 x $5,000,
a quarter of a billion dollars to the USPTO itself.

The problem with the patent system as it exists is that there are few if
any incentives to issue good patents -- patent holders don't seek them,
the USPTO's certification doesn't select for them, and infringers often
find it's easier to pay or quit than to fight.  There is little
(insufficient?  none?) risk for bad patents.  Economists have a similar
example in the phrase "bad money drives out good" -- imperfect analogy,
but it might stir something in Turnbull's head.

The one reform I think has a proverbial snowball's chance at making it
would be to add risk to the system.  Yes, the USPTO, which would have to
reimburse registration fees, preferably plus interest and/or an
additional penalty, for patents which are later invalidated for prior
art.  To be effective, the fees would have to be high enough to force
the USPTO, for fiduciary reasons, to clean up its act.  I'm not very
optimistic that even this would happen.

I'm also trying to form an idea around the concept of a title insurance
company, hampered greatly by the fact that I don't know exactly what one
is, though the general sense I've got is that they're an agency which
will research a title (usually land) and find out if anyone has a lein
on it, with insurance to compensate you in the event that there is one
that didn't turn up in their search.

Someone's got to put their money where there mouth is WRT the patent
system to clean it up.  I don't see it having happened, and I really
don't see it happening.

I'm still holding out for a copyright-based poison pill.

Karsten M. Self (
    What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?

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