Subject: Re: [Freesw]
From: "Tim O'Reilly" <>
Date: Mon, 14 May 2001 08:48:59 -0700

Actually, anything will do.  The challenge is getting the PTO (or
applicants) to look at it.  A number of recent patents have actually
been invalidated by patents already in the patent database, let alone
external prior art.  A lot of what's necessary is a change of heart at
the PTO, and with applicants, to raise the bar on patenting. has possible problems, as RMS has pointed out.  So does, the company I helped to fund, which uses bounties to
search out prior art.  But both also have benefits.

One of those benefits is just raising the bar on the PTO and applicants,
making it easier to shame them for not doing their homework, or making
claims that opponents can more easily refute. 

I think that the CMGI flap about their plan to assert the altavista
search patents was so short because they realized pretty quickly that
there was the potential both of significant public backlash AND
invalidation of the patents due to prior art.

So many things that we as a community think are obvious are not to the
PTO, and lawyers actually counsel their clients not to search for prior
art.  The advantage of is that it's a location that
(assuming it gets enough visibility) people can't avoid citing.

As RMS notes, those citations *can* be used to strengthen patents.  But
they will also filter out some really obvious bad ones as well.  Whether
that's a good tradeoff or not is hard to tell.  On balance, I think it's
probably a good thing.

"Jonathan S. Shapiro" wrote:
> > Russ Nelson writes:
> >
> > Seems to me that you could do the same thing with sourceforge CVS.
> > Take an MD5 of each project's CVS once a week, and a MD5 of that, and
> > publish it in a classified ad.
> That would not qualify as "properly cataloged". The key to a useful prior
> art library is being able to actually look up relevant prior art post-facto.
> Simply having a large, unindexed data set won't do.
> Jonathan

Tim O'Reilly @ O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
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+1 707-829-0515, FAX +1 707-829-0104,