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   Re: [xml-dev] Patents

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From: "Bullard, Claude L (Len)" <clbullar@ingr.com>

> >"The Bush administration has proposed boosting Patent Office funding by
> >percent, far above the average nondefense agency increase of 3 percent or
> >so."
> >Therefore, the "solution" to a 25-month patent backlog is apparently to
> >throw more money and resources at it, not to fundamentally reform the
> >patenting process into a more sensible solution, right ?
> That's part of it, the immediate stuff.  I know someone who works there
> says that backlog and the lack of deep technical knowledge are the two
> major problems for sorting out patents.  If you toss a technical community
> that likes to claim it invents things it only modified, renames them, then
> tells the press what wonders they are, then I'm sorry, we get to take part
> of the blame.  I've said this before and I repeat it here:  the software
> titans are playing games we set examples for here on The Web.   That is
> why I go on about fastidious history.  Without it, things like the BT
> patent get passed.

Out of curiosity, who are these "we" guys exactly ? I'm not sure what rests
under the "technical community" umbrella.

> No, I patented breathing.  Expect mail from my lawyers.

Too late, I'm holding my breath since I found out. I won't tell you what I
have patents on, but start shaking in your boots (it might still be legal).

> >Seriously, I
> >think it is overall beneficial that we have these controversies in the
> >or the U.S. Congress or the European Parliament, or possibly even in
> >where political decisions are taken.
> TimBL went on record saying that some form of legal assistance is needed.
I agree.

I'm OK on the "some" part, but please have a look at what lawyers did to
medicine in the U.S. as a hint of what can happen if they are let loose on
defending private interests, or their own.

> But again, folks, this will come down to campaigning and "who do you
> unless we are very scrupulous.   That SUN patent stood because no one at
> W3C stood up to fight it.  Justice is blind (and sometimes deaf too).  If
> play favorites in this game, if we let the cost of the defense be the sole
> discriminator, we are hosed.  What these guys are doing is legal.  What we
> have done is stupid.

Same candid question about the "we"part, just to know if I should get into
self-flagellation right now.

> >Only that can ensure that these issues
> >are not decided upon behind our collective back. If that is not enough,
> >form of civil disobedience, whether by individuals or companies, might
> >help.
> No that just makes stupidity popular.  We have to fix the systems and we
> have to quit feeding them hype-laced caca in the name of marketing.

"Just make stupidity popular" ? Without public controversy and possibly
disobedience, what would happen between now and the time "we" are done with
"fixing the systems" (a never-ending task by definition) ? You systemic
thinker you.

> >Purely rhetorical question: if tomorrow a company obtained a U.S.
> >patent giving them some toll right on the Internet, what could they
> >do with it in practice ? It would be impossible to enforce unless Dubya
> >raises the Justice budget to Defense-like levels - let's not even mention
> >the "outside the U.S." scenario...
> Ummm... Have you ever looked into MPEG, patent pools, and the like?
> They don't enforce it like sending out an army.  They litigate you
> into bankruptcy, seize assets, and make off with it unless you have
> the cahones to stand there and fight.  It can be ruinous.  We had
> to lose a division to fight Intel, but in the end, we stood up to
> it.  We do own those patents.  It cost us dearly.

Do not think in a "one single company in lawsuit against another" mindset. I
was obviously talking about collective opposition against abusive patents
here. Did you notice how long it took IBM to retract their ebXML-related
patent application as soon as the press jumped on the story ? We can keep a
close eye on consortia such as the WS-I and make sure they do not go too

> >So, I'm not really scared by the idea of an IBM or Microsoft placing a
> >tollbooth over "the Web" (T.M.)  or on every Internet-based business
> >transaction. Surely Gates and Ballmer haved phantasized someday about
> >while doing the baboon dance on a stage and getting the ensuing
> >boost, but it seems to be beyond their reach.
> Again, wrong approach.  They don't feel those insults and they might
> be the very people who can help turn this around by coming to understand
> the business model is bad in the long term.   MS and IBM are not the
> enemy.  There is no enemy.

It was not my intent to insult the respectable baboon community :-)
Seriously, I don't think these two are subscribing to this list anyway. Note
that I did not point at IBM or Microsoft as "the Enemy". With such large
companies, we can only observe their behavior from the outside and try to
make some sense out of it, but it would be very naive to assume that a
rational, consistent, all-encompassing process is at play. Even when a
Gates-Ballmer duo is steering the Beast. At the end of the day, shareholders
decide if any public company is delivering them enough short-term return, so
you should probably also convince the California Pension funds :-)

>  We have a systemic problem of not being able
> to enforce RAND and not being able to identify bogus patents.  We made
> this worse by being an industry incapable of remembering history and
> rewriting it conveniently.  The people in the patent offices are not
> superhuman or stupid: they are overworked, underfunded, and not capable
> of finding facts in an environment where due dilligence on prior art

Ooh, "we" is the whole IT industry ? It won't change overnight, you might
want to put the offenders under Imodium prescription in the meantime.

> I'd be horsewhipped before I'd turn all of this over to the W3C.  The
> plea for a "strong man, a single organization" is possibly the stupidest
> thing I've seen on the web.  It is as if people like Berlind can't reason
> because they can't remember.  That isn't the way to get it done.  Put
> the W3C inside a set of relationships with ISO as the outer wheel.  That
> puts the right people with the right skills in the right jobs.

I don't have a horsewhip myself, sorry. Why not send a note on history to
Berlind ? I don't think he is close-minded about counteropinions. I think
you are not strictly required to attach a nude picture in order to have it

> If we focus on patents, the issue is to make the system work and
> to reform it if needed.  What does it take to do that?  First,
> truth about technical innovation.  Second, resources to find
> that.  Third, organizations capable of making agreements at
> the level of nation-states, not vendors.  Then we have to be
> dilligent.

Man, you are more idealistic than even I am. Don't underestimate the
short-term little remedies until we reach patent nirvana. These are parallel


> >Another article I just saw:
> There are so many problems with what he says I can't even reply.

It's not useful to get into an issue-by-issue rebuttal when you wholly
disagree on the approach.

> This won't be solved with the "get the villagers and pitchforks and
> let's go slay the monster in the windmill".  In this community,
> before they got up the hill, half would be redesigning the pitchforks
> and calling that invention, and the rest would be tilting.

"Community" is XML-DEV now, right ?

> This one is beyond the power of the Internet, the W3C, or the lists.
> It goes to court and to the governments.  I'd suggest we get back
> on good terms with ISO and quit thinking the MIT brain trust has the
> answers.  They aren't qualified or skilled for this kind of work.
> It requires lawyers.

Yes, but not the Ivy League "legal" brain trust serving private interests, I
hope ? I believe some worldwide (not just national) organizations such as
the United Nations can help, provided of course that the U.S. are willing to
pay their U.N. bills :-)

Alain Rogister


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