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mugaliens
2008-Dec-13, 01:15 PM
I believe the United States Patent and Trademark Office (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Patent_and_Trademark_Office)is a pathetic joke.

They routinely give patents to utterly fanciful concepts, ideas, and inventions. It sometimes takes them years to decide on whether or not to award a patent, when any good college grad in that discipline would be able to tell you it's pure bunk, and why. Yet the Patent Office grants a patent anyway.

Furthermore, they patent ideas, rather than actual inventions. It won't be long before I'll not be able to sneeze without being sued for violating a patent on "A Means of Forceably Discharging Invasive Foreign Bodies by the Explosive Expulsion of Trapped Pulmonary Gases."

Each year, they award 150,000 patents! That's to be applauded? Are there really that many original ideas worth patenting? I think not!

I believe the fault rests with the means by which the USPTO grants access to filing a patent claim.


"In order to become registered to practice before the USPTO, an applicant must demonstrate to the USPTO's satisfaction certain scientific and technical competencies (such as having a science or engineering degree) and then pass a difficult USPTO-administered patent bar exam called the USPTO registration examination." - Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Patent_and_Trademark_Office#Represen tation)

A bar exam? You mean such as the kind required for lawyers to practice law? Last time I checked (two weeks ago), most lawyers were still using Word Perfect, and are flabberghasted when you ask them to send something to you in a Word document format, or, at the very least, a pdf.


Lawyer - "What's a pdf?"

Me - "It's a universal file format, used for interoperability between platforms."

Lawyer - "What platforms?"

Me - "Software. That way, it doesn't matter what software one is using -
if it's in pdf format, the recipient will be able to read the file."

Lawyer - "How do I get it into pdf format?"

Me - "Do you have a docu-sender?"

Lawyer - "I don't think so."

Me - "How about a scanner? Can you scan to pdf?"

Lawyer - "We don't have a scanner."

Me - "Can't you save the document to pdf format from within Word Perfect?"

Lawyer - "I don't know."
:wall:

Admittedly, all claims of patent violations and defenses involving the same are handled in the courts, hence the legal aspect. It's been my experience, however, that lawyers are in business (duh). There is absolutely no incentive whatsoever for them to expedite a process, or make it less expensive for their clients. This goes for the courts, too. In fact, there is a direct incentive for them to make the process far more complex than is necessary.

Therefore, I seriously question a system whereby the application of patents is handled by individuals who must show only a basic level of collegiate science background, yet who must pass a bar exam. Furthermore, the USPTMO's rampant history of controversial patents (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Patent_and_Trademark_Office#Controve rsial_patents)is astounding.

I propose that we need a completely re-designed US Patent and Trademark Office. In fact, I think my concept is so clever, capable, new, and unusual, that I think I'll apply for a patent on it.

hhEb09'1
2008-Dec-13, 03:10 PM
Last time I checked (two weeks ago), most lawyers were still using Word Perfect, and are flabberghasted when you ask them to send something to you in a Word document format, or, at the very least, a pdf.Just to check your bona fides for developing the new improved patent office, I'd like to examine your figures here. How many lawyers did you sample in last week's check? :)

mugaliens
2008-Dec-14, 11:28 AM
Just to check your bona fides for developing the new improved patent office, I'd like to examine your figures here. How many lawyers did you sample in last week's check? :)

Why, one, of course! "Everyone knows" it only takes one datum to clearly and undeniably establish a trend line, right?

Right?

Bueller...

Actually, hhEb09'1, within the last two weeks, I'd been in touch with three lawyers, only one of which my post characterizes. That he's my age, with a fairly prestigeous law firm back in the states, and doesn't have even a rudimentary handle on the basics, doesn't say much for the profession as a whole...

Trebuchet
2008-Dec-14, 03:40 PM
doesn't have even a rudimentary handle on the basics

Of course not. He has "people" do that sort of thing for him. You expect a lawyer to type his own briefs? Or launder them?

James Randi has offered similar opinions on the Patent Office on many occasions.

Doodler
2008-Dec-14, 04:16 PM
The one that gets me is Boeing's patent on a lunar flyby method for salvaging communications satellites that prevented another company from using it to salvage their own satellite that had gone awry...

So Boeing actually has the right to tell the world how they can use the force of gravity with regards to the Moon?

The mind truly boggles. I think I'm going to go file one for the Application of Gravitational Attraction Allowing for the Continued Terrestrial Contact During Transversal Locomotion.


Now, the next one of you that takes a step forward and doesn't go flying off into space owes me some money...

Neverfly
2008-Dec-14, 04:17 PM
The one that gets me is Boeing's patent on a lunar flyby method for salvaging communications satellites that prevented another company from using it to salvage their own satellite that had gone awry...

So Boeing actually has the right to tell the world how they can use the force of gravity with regards to the Moon?

The mind truly boggles. I think I'm going to go file one for the Application of Gravitational Attraction Allowing for the Continued Terrestrial Contact During Transversal Locomotion.


Now, the next one of you that takes a step forward and doesn't go flying off into space owes me some money...

That's based more on Fun Rumor than on Accuracy...

mike alexander
2008-Dec-14, 04:24 PM
Times have changed since the concept of patent letters was first formalized, to be sure. I'd only note that the patent is a legal, not scientific or engineering document. While it should certainly protect something, what that something is can be difficult to figure out. As for those working on patent applications:

"EINSTEIN! Stop doodling and GET BACK TO WORK!"

mugaliens
2008-Dec-14, 04:32 PM
Of course not. He has "people" do that sort of thing for him.

His "people" include his secretary, his paralegal, his entire firm. All are inept.


James Randi has offered similar opinions on the Patent Office on many occasions.

Now there's a name I respect. If he shares my opinions, I feel better about my opinions.

Swift
2008-Dec-15, 03:44 AM
I agree that the Patent office is broke. I don't know how to fix it. I think the problem is much more than scientists versus lawyers and as Mike Alexander pointed out, a patent is more a legal document anyway.

mr obvious
2008-Dec-15, 04:15 AM
The concept of patents needs to be revisited also. Can gene sequences be patented? How about the protein that is made from a particular sequence? Software? Processes (e.g., a method for using online video to promote music)? Processes for generating processes?

Balancing protection against ridiculous restriction is not easy.

Jens
2008-Dec-15, 04:26 AM
I agree that the Patent office is broke. I don't know how to fix it.

I do. Just give me a bulldozer. :)

Seriously. People say it would hinder progress, but companies can just do what they used to do before patents (when inventions did take place, incidentally). Just hide the secrets from your competitors for as long as possible, and work hard to make a profit before they catch on.

mr obvious
2008-Dec-15, 05:10 AM
I do. Just give me a bulldozer. :)

Seriously. People say it would hinder progress, but companies can just do what they used to do before patents (when inventions did take place, incidentally). Just hide the secrets from your competitors for as long as possible, and work hard to make a profit before they catch on.

I'm not convinced that the 'secret recipe' method can work in today's environment, when you consider that people can download the secrets and post them on a web page or email them in practically no time. There might be some industries where preventing that is possible, but I'd guess it wouldn't be true for the great majority.

Swift
2008-Dec-15, 01:59 PM
I'm not convinced that the 'secret recipe' method can work in today's environment, when you consider that people can download the secrets and post them on a web page or email them in practically no time. There might be some industries where preventing that is possible, but I'd guess it wouldn't be true for the great majority.
Actually, it works all the time. Even if the patent office is perfect, companies make specific decisions as to whether to patent inventions or keep them proprietary. There are pros and cons each way, and it depends a lot on the industry you are in, the nature of the invention, etc.

Demigrog
2008-Dec-15, 02:50 PM
I just filed a patent application last month, and it will likely not even be read for three years, given the current backlog. That is a far bigger problem, IMO, than allowing Woo patents. :(

Scary part is, the patent lawyer says that if it doesn't get rejected the first time then we didn't write it broadly enough--so three years from now I'll have to re-write the dratted thing again.

Swift
2008-Dec-15, 03:45 PM
I just filed a patent application last month, and it will likely not even be read for three years, given the current backlog. That is a far bigger problem, IMO, than allowing Woo patents. :(

I tend to agree. I also don't think "Woo" patents are a big problem (I assume we are talking about time machines, perpetual motion, etc.).

What I find more troubling that "woo" patents are just bad patents. I've seen in my own field a significant bunch of patents that, IMHO, should not have been granted. For example, they describe things that would have been obvious "to anyone skilled in the art" or are for things that were described in the open literature decades ago. Unfortunately, there is no way in the US system to challenge these, either at the application level, or once granted, except by going to court (BIG expense). In the European system, there is at least a mechanism for challenging the application.

nauthiz
2008-Dec-15, 04:13 PM
What I find more troubling that "woo" patents are just bad patents. I've seen in my own field a significant bunch of patents that, IMHO, should not have been granted. For example, they describe things that would have been obvious "to anyone skilled in the art" or are for things that were described in the open literature decades ago.

That's definitely the case for software patents. Google's patent library reads like a university textbook.

mr obvious
2008-Dec-15, 05:07 PM
Actually, it works all the time. Even if the patent office is perfect, companies make specific decisions as to whether to patent inventions or keep them proprietary. There are pros and cons each way, and it depends a lot on the industry you are in, the nature of the invention, etc.

I'm not doubting you but would like you to expand on that. By 'all the time' are you stating that companies do this with a great majority of their trade secrets? Other than military, Coke and KFC, I don't know about the existence too many trade secrets, and I don't count trade secrets that are so secret they aren't actually being made as products (or do not add significant features to an existing product). I mean, something is out there, but how it's made is not patented and is secret, and no reverse engineering has worked on it or is worth being attempted, but the product is successful. Anything?

As an aside, I'd also like to know this : let's say I patent an invention X. You make something that's similar to X, but you didn't patent it and have kept it a trade secret. So I file a patent infringement claim to force you to reveal your secrets to demonstrate that you have not, in fact, violated patent protection. Would this work? If not, then anyone can take a product under an existing patent (that they don't own), make a generic version and claim their 'invention' is a trade secret to avoid patent infringement claims. So how does this work?

nauthiz
2008-Dec-15, 05:27 PM
The last company I worked for never patented anything. We made highway survey equipment. It was a situation where other companies were unlikely to get a hold of any of our products to take a look inside and see exactly how they worked, so we didn't necessarily have to make anything a closely guarded "trade secret" to keep our competitors from figuring out how we do things.

Management preferred relying on that to applying for patents because a patent involves publishing a description of how our equipment worked in the public record, and in turn didn't necessarily guarantee much protection. If we made the description too general the patent might not be valid, and if we made it too specific it would be easy enough for our competitors to dodge the patent with a few minor hardware tweaks. Besides, we were a very small company so even if someone were to infringe on a patent of ours, we wouldn't necessarily have the financial resources to take anyone to court over it.

Swift
2008-Dec-15, 07:17 PM
I'm not doubting you but would like you to expand on that. By 'all the time' are you stating that companies do this with a great majority of their trade secrets? Other than military, Coke and KFC, I don't know about the existence too many trade secrets, and I don't count trade secrets that are so secret they aren't actually being made as products (or do not add significant features to an existing product). I mean, something is out there, but how it's made is not patented and is secret, and no reverse engineering has worked on it or is worth being attempted, but the product is successful. Anything?

I work in the materials field. I have previously worked for a company that grows quartz crystals and then a company that grew calcium fluoride crystals. I now work for a company that makes ceramic materials.

There are generally two types of patents in these areas - materials of composition patents and process patents. It is relatively easy to challenge composition patents - if my patent is for a formulation with 2 to 5% boron in it, and I test someone else's material and it has 3.7% boron, well, they infringed on my patent. But if you are producing a standard material, like quartz, you can't change the composition.

Process patents are much harder to enforce. I might develop a great patented process to grow better quartz crystals, but unless I can look at a competitor's product and tell they are using my process by some sort of characterization method, I might never know that they are using my process. And by patenting my process I have published it, so now they know what it is.

At all three of these companies I've worked for, we have lots of processes that are kept as proprietary processes. It is actually easier keeping it a secret by keeping it a secret, than by publishing as a patent and then trying to police someone else from infringing upon it.

I can't give you much more detail - that would violate the confidentiality agreements I've signed on these proprietary processes.

mugaliens
2008-Dec-15, 07:59 PM
I do. Just give me a bulldozer. :)

Seriously. People say it would hinder progress, but companies can just do what they used to do before patents (when inventions did take place, incidentally). Just hide the secrets from your competitors for as long as possible, and work hard to make a profit before they catch on.

Of course, it never hurts when your patent enforcement team are regulars of the tavern run by your nephew...


I just filed a patent application last month, and it will likely not even be read for three years, given the current backlog. That is a far bigger problem, IMO, than allowing Woo patents. :(

Scary part is, the patent lawyer says that if it doesn't get rejected the first time then we didn't write it broadly enough--so three years from now I'll have to re-write the dratted thing again.

What of the patent alternatives?

When I studied a bit of law, intellectual property was one of the things we covered, including trademarks, copyrights, and patents. We discussed the "poor man's copyright," which is the article sealed in an envelope, along with a notary's chop inside and out, and along the envelope seal. Mail it to your lawyer, and he keeps it, postmark and all, until you need it in court, where it's opened under the rules of evidence.

The point was that you didn't have to have an actual copyright to win in a court of law, provided you had evidence which would hold up in a court of law.

Unfortunately, the same isn't quite true of patents, which are exclusive rights to an invention in exchange for its disclosure.

With this in mind, what do you think of the possibility of companies which may come to compete with the USPTMO? While they wouldn't have the backing of the government (they'd be adversarial!), there are several legal hooks that I can think of which make such a company possible.

HenrikOlsen
2008-Dec-15, 08:14 PM
Without patent protection for a period long enough to let the companies recoup the research expenses, drug research would basically die.

Ara Pacis
2008-Dec-15, 08:35 PM
The person I'm dating works for patent attorneys. I should ask her, but she mostly just translates from her native language into US Patent-speak. She's the one the people from countries with more reasonable patent laws say WTF to when they apply for patents from overseas.

I think we should change it, but I'm not sure how. Maybe we need a Trade Secret office, in which ideas are registered and kept locked up, only to be removed in case of lawsuit. I have a few inventions I'm thinking of filing patents for, but I probably don't need them. But I'd like to say I own some patents, just to say I do.

nauthiz
2008-Dec-15, 08:36 PM
Without patent protection for a period long enough to let the companies recoup the research expenses, drug research would basically die.

And on that note, I don't believe that drug patents are the reason why prescription drug prices here in the USA are so high. It appears to me that the biggest culprit behind that is that we allow direct-to-consumer marketing.

Ara Pacis
2008-Dec-15, 08:37 PM
Without patent protection for a period long enough to let the companies recoup the research expenses, drug research would basically die.

Then government-sponsored academic research would probably do it instead.

tdvance
2008-Dec-15, 09:34 PM
I just filed a patent application last month, and it will likely not even be read for three years, given the current backlog. That is a far bigger problem, IMO, than allowing Woo patents. :(

Scary part is, the patent lawyer says that if it doesn't get rejected the first time then we didn't write it broadly enough--so three years from now I'll have to re-write the dratted thing again.


You know, allowing (and as a result encouraging) "woo" patents adds to the backlog, rather than reducing it!

Demigrog
2008-Dec-15, 09:42 PM
What of the patent alternatives?

When I studied a bit of law, intellectual property was one of the things we covered, including trademarks, copyrights, and patents. We discussed the "poor man's copyright," which is the article sealed in an envelope, along with a notary's chop inside and out, and along the envelope seal. Mail it to your lawyer, and he keeps it, postmark and all, until you need it in court, where it's opened under the rules of evidence.


Well, my company takes both approaches depending on the invention. If it is something that is strategic to defend (ie keep our competitors from doing the same thing) or is something we can license, we'll consider filing a patent (also taking into consideration how easy it would be to work around, detect in competitor products, etc). Otherwise we notarize a disclosure (it is completely online these days through a USPS web app) but do not proceed with a patent application. I actually wrote 22 disclosures to get one filed application this year. Lots of work, let me tell you, for a pretty small bonus. (Better than no bonus :) ) Convincing my own business's IP review board to file is almost as stressful as getting the USPTO to approve it.

Demigrog
2008-Dec-15, 09:48 PM
You know, allowing (and as a result encouraging) "woo" patents adds to the backlog, rather than reducing it!

I doubt that there are enough Woo patents to even make up a percentage point compared to the huge volumes of IP from major corporations.

tdvance
2008-Dec-15, 09:51 PM
I think a tougher standard on accepting patents will reduce submissions of both kinds.

Demigrog
2008-Dec-15, 10:01 PM
I think a tougher standard on accepting patents will reduce submissions of both kinds.

The USPTO agrees, and has an interesting pilot program where applications are made public for peer review. Anyone can submit examples of prior art, helping cut down on obvious and non-novel patents. I have mixed feelings about it, mostly because I doubt the patent examiner's ability to distinguish relevant prior art from crap thrown up by competitors trying to block the patent. The last couple applications I was involved in, the prior art cited in rejection was so irrelevant that I thought they'd mixed up the applications somehow.

mr obvious
2008-Dec-16, 12:51 AM
I work in the materials field. I have previously worked for a company that grows quartz crystals and then a company that grew calcium fluoride crystals. I now work for a company that makes ceramic materials.

There are generally two types of patents in these areas - materials of composition patents and process patents. It is relatively easy to challenge composition patents - if my patent is for a formulation with 2 to 5% boron in it, and I test someone else's material and it has 3.7% boron, well, they infringed on my patent. But if you are producing a standard material, like quartz, you can't change the composition.

Process patents are much harder to enforce. I might develop a great patented process to grow better quartz crystals, but unless I can look at a competitor's product and tell they are using my process by some sort of characterization method, I might never know that they are using my process. And by patenting my process I have published it, so now they know what it is.

At all three of these companies I've worked for, we have lots of processes that are kept as proprietary processes. It is actually easier keeping it a secret by keeping it a secret, than by publishing as a patent and then trying to police someone else from infringing upon it.

I can't give you much more detail - that would violate the confidentiality agreements I've signed on these proprietary processes.

Thanks for your explanation; I absolutely wasn't expecting you to reveal any actual process details. However, what you've told me goes to what I'm wondering about - if your competitor is using a similar method as you, how would you tell? But if the end result is the same, wouldn't you have some suspicions about their method? I can see that as communications becomes more integrated and widespread that it might no longer be possible to isolate trade secret protocols like that.

HenrikOlsen
2008-Dec-16, 01:39 AM
Without patent protection for a period long enough to let the companies recoup the research expenses, drug research would basically die.

Then government-sponsored academic research would probably do it instead.
And how successful has that traditionally been?

Jens
2008-Dec-16, 02:07 AM
Without patent protection for a period long enough to let the companies recoup the research expenses, drug research would basically die.

No, I don't think it would. It would probably require funding either from the government or from philanthropic organizations, but I'm sure it would continue, because people will demand that it does, and there are scientists who are happy to do that kind of research.

Jens
2008-Dec-16, 02:11 AM
And how successful has that traditionally been?

Oops, I realized I echoed somebody else's opinion. But this is an important question. The problem is that I think that in the modern world, a lot of the research in socialist countries (I know this was true in India) was to imitate drugs that had already been developed. So it's hard to ask the question, what would have happened if there had been no drugs to imitate, because it's hypothetical. But just look at space, where a lot of research has been government funded. We have made achievements. And that's in an area that doesn't really matter directly to people's lives. So I would tend to be optimistic.

mike alexander
2008-Dec-16, 04:35 AM
I'm not so sanguine. There's a lot of meeee, too! stuff out there. And if the market is more interested in a wide variety of erectile dysfunction aids for 'seniors', instead of extreme drug-resistant TB, then... well, maybe we deserve what we get.

mr obvious
2008-Dec-16, 05:21 AM
It's not only companies going after high-profit diseases, but the approach they take - try to get blockbuster drugs, then try to get doctors to prescribe them, regardless of whether they are actually better, try to expand the prescription range of the drug, etc. Their thought processes are more directed towards maximizing market share rather than finding the best performing medications.

Actually, I'm not sure that commercial drug research has been very fruitful at all, when you consider the investment costs of said research and the relative lack of recent effective (like statins) blockbuster medications.

Ara Pacis
2008-Dec-16, 05:39 AM
I'm not so sanguine. There's a lot of meeee, too! stuff out there. And if the market is more interested in a wide variety of erectile dysfunction aids for 'seniors', instead of extreme drug-resistant TB, then... well, maybe we deserve what we get.

Except that it wasn't. Viagra and related medicines were somewhat serendipidous discoveries from investigations into hypertension and angina treatments. Similarly, Rogaine was also discovered from investigation into hypertension treatments.

Swift
2008-Dec-16, 02:30 PM
Thanks for your explanation; I absolutely wasn't expecting you to reveal any actual process details. However, what you've told me goes to what I'm wondering about - if your competitor is using a similar method as you, how would you tell? But if the end result is the same, wouldn't you have some suspicions about their method? I can see that as communications becomes more integrated and widespread that it might no longer be possible to isolate trade secret protocols like that.
Often the results of an improved process aren't obvious outside of the company. If my process improvement results in yields going from 80% to 90%, that's a big deal. But you wouldn't know it by looking at the good yield that I ship to a customer. If my competitor was doing it, I couldn't tell without a detailed tour of their factory and their books.

And sure, I might have suspicions, but proving that in a court is another thing all together. That's why patent infringement lawsuits are very complicated cases that can go on for years and cost millions.

But frankly, I don't think changes in communications have much to do with this. I think the Internet is over-rated as far as a tool to steal secrets. Companies having been stealing each other secrets for long before the Internet came along.

geonuc
2008-Dec-16, 03:32 PM
A bar exam? You mean such as the kind required for lawyers to practice law?
The patent bar exam is very different than state bar exams. It's very specific to the practice of patent law and concentrates on the rules and procedures for patents.

mugaliens
2008-Dec-16, 06:27 PM
If that's the case, geonuc, then perhaps I should take it and switch gears. I have a way of writing that...

mr obvious
2008-Dec-16, 06:34 PM
Often the results of an improved process aren't obvious outside of the company. If my process improvement results in yields going from 80% to 90%, that's a big deal. But you wouldn't know it by looking at the good yield that I ship to a customer. If my competitor was doing it, I couldn't tell without a detailed tour of their factory and their books.


I can believe that, but there's a difference between an internal big deal and external efficacy. Perhaps health care, at least, should be measured by the latter and not the former. Sure, it might cost billions to make the next leap in some treatment that extends someone's life by 3 seconds. This might be a big deal, scientifically. To a patient? Not so sure.

geonuc
2008-Dec-16, 06:38 PM
If that's the case, geonuc, then perhaps I should take it and switch gears. I have a way of writing that...

Perhaps you should.

The patent bar exam requires examinees to have a minimum scientific education. The exam is the same (I believe) for patent attorneys (those who can represent client before the patent office) and patent agents (non-lawyers who specialize in writing patenet claims).

I briefly considered entering the patent law field, but after taking three intellectual property law classes in law school, I determined it to be the most boring legal field imaginable.

mike alexander
2008-Dec-16, 06:42 PM
Except that it wasn't. Viagra and related medicines were somewhat serendipidous discoveries from investigations into hypertension and angina treatments. Similarly, Rogaine was also discovered from investigation into hypertension treatments.

And we may note that hypertension treatment has not proceeded all that far in the interim, while the pop-ups are doing first-rate. And I get a little tired hearing again and again that something lasting more than four hours requires immediate medical attention.

I write as someone who has depended on the pharmaceutical industry for roof and vittles my whole professional life.

This is not to blanket-condemn the industry. My wife's glaucoma is well-controlled by medication, my osteoporosis is likewise slowed down. But the industry is there, primarily, to get rich, not to make you better.

tdvance
2008-Dec-16, 09:47 PM
well, that's kind of the reason ANYBODY starts a business! That's why it's important to not "muzzle" the profit motive--or else nobody will start these businesses.

Ara Pacis
2008-Dec-17, 06:14 AM
And we may note that hypertension treatment has not proceeded all that far in the interim, while the pop-ups are doing first-rate. And I get a little tired hearing again and again that something lasting more than four hours requires immediate medical attention.

I write as someone who has depended on the pharmaceutical industry for roof and vittles my whole professional life.

This is not to blanket-condemn the industry. My wife's glaucoma is well-controlled by medication, my osteoporosis is likewise slowed down. But the industry is there, primarily, to get rich, not to make you better.

I'm just saying that if there is no profit motive, do-gooders with government grants could still perform research and development.

HenrikOlsen
2008-Dec-17, 05:44 PM
The problem here is that it isn't the same things the two type researchers are good for.

The not quite so for profit government grant driven research would be better spent where there isn't an expected immediate monetary return, such as understanding the fundamentals which profit driven research can't spend a lot of money on as any return will be in the long run and will benefit all companies equally.

nauthiz
2008-Dec-17, 07:31 PM
Another reason why I'm not sure I want all our eggs in one basket is that each has its built-in shortcomings in their basic model for choosing what lines of research deserve how much support.

Companies certainly are driven by profit motive, so they're less likely to spend money on things that don't promise a substantial return on investment. However, government agencies are driven by politics so their funding allocation is going to be influenced by the vicissitudes of popular opinion. Aside from the obvious ethical controversies where government research funding gets used as a football, there are also examples like the United States' National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, which was established by Congress and (at least in my opinion) represents a woeful misallocation of research dollars.

mugaliens
2008-Dec-17, 07:44 PM
But the industry is there, primarily, to get rich, not to make you better.

Yet when the true health efforts come along, we, as a society, tend to discount them, or worse, ridicule them, particularly if they want to charge so that they can make a living, too.

I've come to the conclusion that the reason most people don't become healthier is simply because they don't want to.

Ara Pacis
2008-Dec-18, 01:30 AM
Another reason why I'm not sure I want all our eggs in one basket is that each has its built-in shortcomings in their basic model for choosing what lines of research deserve how much support.

Companies certainly are driven by profit motive, so they're less likely to spend money on things that don't promise a substantial return on investment. However, government agencies are driven by politics so their funding allocation is going to be influenced by the vicissitudes of popular opinion. Aside from the obvious ethical controversies where government research funding gets used as a football, there are also examples like the United States' National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, which was established by Congress and (at least in my opinion) represents a woeful misallocation of research dollars.

Sometimes the market buys things based on selfish interest, which is fine for diamond necklaces and sports cars, but less useful for health research. The majority rule of the market mechanism has a tendency to re-research new medicines for existing diseases that are already being treated because it's a proven profit stream, whereas even low funding for rare but fatal diseases may get short shrift because fewer people are affected by them. The potential result: Millions of erections and dozens of dead children.

Some rare diseases don't get much money for research at all, and a cure or treatment might be readily available with a modicum of research. We don't know until we investigate. Maybe we need to explain medical research funding in an apples and oranges kinda of way to better explain the discrepancy. How about: "How many erections is a dead child worth?"

hhEb09'1
2008-Dec-22, 12:30 AM
How about: "How many erections is a dead child worth?"Often the real question that gets asked is, how many highly-skilled-researcher-months per child-month? That does translate, on the front end, into money, but you can see it's a different question.

nauthiz
2008-Dec-22, 04:21 PM
How about: "How many erections is a dead child worth?"

:think: Well, since you can use erections to make replacement children. . .

jfribrg
2008-Dec-22, 09:33 PM
A few years ago I took a University Physics class at a local college. Most of the students were typical college age (18-21 or so), but then there was me a 30-something student. He was a practicing lawyer who needed a whole bunch of science courses before he could pass his patent bar exam. I don't think this proves any point, but I mention it since it is relevant to the discussion.

Demigrog
2008-Dec-23, 03:28 PM
Heh, the company I work for is updating our internal software for filing patent disclosures. To encourage us to beta test, they're having a contest for most insane patent disclosure, with a gift card as a prize. I submitted "Method and System for annihilation of the Earth-Moon System" and described the Super Monkey Collider (http://www.bautforum.com/off-topic-babbling/79613-super-monkey-collider-loses-funding.html#post1335834).

I just hope they don't accidentally cross the beta database with the real one; I'd hate to have to defend that one to our IP review board.

HenrikOlsen
2008-Dec-23, 03:34 PM
I would have tried 'A new "no skill required" method for descending from the upper branches of arboreal growths" aka falling out of trees.

tdvance
2008-Dec-23, 03:41 PM
I wonder if Douglas Adams could patent: "to fly--fall and miss the ground" --then sue every space-walker for royalties.

nauthiz
2008-Dec-23, 04:03 PM
Considering Sputnik 1 was launched when he was 5 years old, I think he might run afoul of the whole prior art thing.

TheHalcyonYear
2008-Dec-23, 05:56 PM
It seems to me that the attorneys are essential to make sure that an inventor's rights are protected. However, I strongly believe that scientists and engineers should have a voice in what submissions are actually "new and inventive" and qualify for patent protection.

BioSci
2008-Dec-23, 06:38 PM
It seems to me that the attorneys are essential to make sure that an inventor's rights are protected. However, I strongly believe that scientists and engineers should have a voice in what submissions are actually "new and inventive" and qualify for patent protection.

Yes, and that is why patent examiners are required to have technical backgrounds to help them understand the technology behind patent applications.
However, the USPTO, like patent offices in other countries, sets a low standard for technical "validity" or value. Most examination effort is spent on determining if the claimed invention is new and not obvious based on prior art.
Whether this is desirable can be debated - having a low technical threshold means that a negative opinion of the technology from a patent examiner is less likely to wrongly prevent the approval of an otherwise "unexpectedly correct" invention being granted a patent.
After all, a patent is not a certification that an invention actually works or even that the patent holder is allowed to practice the invention. A patent is only a "negative right" in that it allows the holder to stop others from practicing the claimed invention, but if the claimed invention does not work well, or is useless - no one will want to practice it anyway! :)