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   Is the USPTO run by knaves or fools? - was Re: [xml-dev] US Patent 6,68

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On Feb 13, 2004, at 7:27 AM, Michael Kay wrote:

> What I would like to know is, is it a conspiracy (protectionism for the
> US software industry, jobs for the lawyers), or is it just 
> incompetence?

I submit that this is the ur-question at the heart of almost 
everything.  I remember first encountering it in THE PETER PRINCIPLE in 
high school years.  "Is the world run by intelligent people who are 
putting us on, or by fools who don't know any better."

The betting seems to be on fools; There are lots of famous quotes to 
the effect "never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained 
by incompetence."  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanlon's_razor
(Of course it should be "Heinlein's Razor ... I wonder if the 
corruption is due to malice or incompetence, sigh, or maybe somebody's 
self-referential sense of humor).

Back to the USPTO ... the best explanation I've heard for all this is 
that the USPTO culture assumes that any previously patentable idea is 
in their database.  Since software was not patentable for a long time, 
many good software ideas were never submitted to the USPTO, hence were 
never put in their database.  Thus, they are simply blind to the 
innovations of the first 30 years or so of computer science and 
engineering.  I have no idea of the source or the validity of that 


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