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Re: Gates Patents Flipping a Light Switch

From: T . Max Devlin
Subject: Re: Gates Patents Flipping a Light Switch
Date: Tue, 29 Jun 2004 17:42:05 -0000

On Thu, 10 Jun 2004 10:05:59 -0700, AES/newspost
<> wrote:

>In article <ca95kp$if5$>, 
>> > Little guys might not be able to afford patents. 
>> > Does anyone have an idea how much it costs to get
>> > a software invention patented?
>> I attended a talk the other day on patents by the former
>> corporate counsel of a software company.  He mentioned
>> a range of $7K-$60K to get each patent, but noted that
>> it was probably going to cost at least $500K to fight or
>> defend a patent in court.  That's the more significant
>I believe the Natl Academies are about to publish a report on needed 
>improvements (aka reforms) in the patent system that will cite similar 
>data -- from $10K to a few times $10K total costs to get a typical 
>patent, compared with at least $100K and normally many multiples of that 
>to fight or defend against a patent after issue.
>I'll say once again that I find this situation really indefensible.

My, that's odd.  

>on the order of $10K, and with no other real or potential downside to 

Other than the $10K?

>you can get the government to issue you a license (meaning, in 
>effect, to write a kind of private law on your behalf) which 

No, the law is the same for everyone.

>*   gives you *no* new rights to use your own invention that you would 
>not already have had simply by publishing your idea;

Well, actually, it does.  That's the whole point!  It gives you the
right to use your invention publicly, and take to court anyone else
who uses it.

It doesn't, of course, guarantee you'll win.

>*   given the competence of the PTO, has a very substantial probability 
>of being an unjustified or invalid right;

Well, no.  It has some chance of being unjustified, obviously; the PTO
effectively just registers inventions.  Given that, all it means is
they must be defended in court.

>*   but which nonetheless, once issued, *takes away* from everyone else 
>the right to have or use the same idea,

No, no, sorry; you can have ALL the ideas you want, and more.  You
can't use his invention, for a limited time, with the understanding
that he has supposedly made public all information needed to duplicate
his invention once that time expires.  Ends up being a win-win all
around, really.  But when markets are getting increasingly
disfunctional people get all sorts of ideas and compete in all sorts
of soundly nefarious ways.

>unless they're willing and able 
>to invest $100K and up -- potentially way up -- in an expensive and 
>highly uncertain fight just to try to get themselves back to the same 
>state they would have been in before your patent issued.

Or you could negotiate royalties.  Which makes more sense for both of
you, or should.

>It's claimed this benefits society.

In order to promote developments in the useful arts and sciences
inventors and authors are given exclusive rights to their work for a
limited time, yes.

>I don't believe that as a matter of 
>fact it really does; the claimed "proofs" that it provides major 
>benefits  to society are very dubious and undocumented;

It's actually the kind of "look around there is proof all around you"
thing.  The protection of intellectual property is responsible in
several ways for the wealth of both intellectual and real property you
have access to.

>and even if it 
>does in some (a few?) cases provide some benefits, the costs and damages 
>to others in many other cases are highly indefensible.

Even if it does cause damange in some (a few?) cases, the benefits it
provides are highly defensible.  But when there is any company that
successfully manipulates the market, all other companies can only try
to compete by being more or less successful at manipulating the

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