Subject: Re: Patents (was Re: DiBona, Allman, Tiemann, O'Reilly, Perens interview)
From: <>
Date: Sun, 30 Jan 2000 18:54:11 -0800
Sun, 30 Jan 2000 18:54:11 -0800
On Mon, Jan 31, 2000 at 11:08:54AM +0900, Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:
> >>>>> "kms" == Karsten M Self <> writes:
>     kms> The implication being, of course, that the idiocy of the PTO
> Can somebody please point me to a reference where the patent office
> advocates the continuation of the current state of affairs?

Unfortunately that reference has just slipped under my desk where I
can't reach it....  I'm not sure it's been said in as many words but the
position of the PTO and major players in the patent field will tend, as
a systemic effect, to reinforce the status quo, with minor changes
around the margin.  This is just political-economic reality.

> As I understand it from the few citations I've seen where patent
> examiners are actually quoted, the Patent Office itself would rather
> not deal with software patents, but they feel under pressure to move
> these things because of poor court decisions and their statutory
> obligations.  

Examiners and commissioners are two rather different positions with the
PTO.  I'm not overly familiar with sayings of either, but which your
picture of examiners' comments rings true, my general impression is that
the PTO commissioner's office has generally had a different point of
view.  Greg Aharonian can probably dig up the juicy quotes.

> Of course they're not going to admit they're doing a bad job on prior
> art in order to move those applications, and that's a little bit
> sleazy.  Big deal, everybody fudges that way, including most open
> source advocates.  So if this is not policy desired by the PTO, can we
> stop slamming people most of whom are just doing their jobs, as far as
> I can tell, and would probably like to do them well if only the rules
> would let them?

Again, criticism is usually levelled at the commissioner.  PTO examiners
are generally seen as poor slobs trying to get a job done with too few
resources.  Most have a relatively short tenure at the PTO before taking
a job in industry.

>     kms> coming of a stage where it impacts Wall Street and the
>     kms> ability of the F-500 to transact daily business.  We bay be
>     kms> reaching a watershed at which the breakage is so immediately
>     kms> apparent that there will be calls for reform, from interests
>     kms> more monied and politically connected than the (free)
>     kms> software industry.
> Wishful thinking, IMO.  Patenting business methods probably works in
> favor of the Fortune 500; they can afford to pay the license fee if
> reasonable or break the patent if that's cheaper (and most of them are
> breakable).  

Fair enough.  I hadn't considered that, but it's probably true.  Though
even a short-term disruption of business would be extremely costly to
any of these firms.

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

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