Steve Maresca: the us is screwed
Justin DeMaris: yea :-/
Justin DeMaris: mm, me thinks i need to buy a can opener
Steve Maresca: cant
Steve Maresca: theyve stopped selling them due to infringements

So this was actually an AIM convo that was inspired by a combination of reading one of the most recent Slashdot stories and Justin opening a can of Cattle Drive Chili With Beans with a pocket knife. Anyway, I could probably make a whole rant on how good that chili is, but this one is going to focus on the status of Intellectual Property and Patent Laws within the US.

Alright, so patents were implemented way back in 1970 in the US and the idea of it all was to set up a system so anybody who had a cool or useful invention would have a record stating that yes, they did invent said invention and it granted them the right to a monopoly on that invention for a specific period of time. After that time, anybody could make or use that invention. This enabled creative thought to be rewarded but the limit on the time frame for the monopoly on the invention made it so that the patent didn’t hinder the furtherment of science.

One feature of early patent law in the US was that in order to apply for the patent, you had to actually have a working prototype of the device. This is nice in that people couldn’t come up with some crazy idea and then put a patent on it just to restrict anybody from building it. You actually had to show that it worked. The only problem was that if you had a great idea, but no money to build it, you couldn’t file for a patent to make money off of it. Sort of a deadly loop…. So they removed that part of the law.

Anyway, fast forward to today, where we have companies like Microsoft using underhanded techniques to push the little guy that the IP system is supposed to protect around (note when reading this that Microsoft doesn’t have a trademark on “Windows”, they have a trademark on “Microsoft Windows”). You also have the patent office granting patents to ideas like this that are just plain ludicrous both because the concept isn’t even fully formed yet and because he isn’t even going to build it. He’s just patenting it because he can.

In a nut shell, the patent system is no longer being used to protect the little guy or the creative guy, but rather being used by large corporations to prevent anybody else from developing anything new because chances are anything they use to develop that idea is going to infringe on somebody elses’s patent. Regardless of whether they came up with it independently or not or whether it’s a new way to deal with the same issue that another patent deals with, the courts are populated by relatively technically unsaavy people (no insult to them, it’s not their job to understand all of the ins and outs of the engineering side of it, they’re only supposed to deal with the law) so whichever side has the better lawyer (big and rich corporations pretty much always will) determines in whose favor the court will decide in a patent infringement case.

Anyway, no real point to this other than to rant! Goodnight all. The only solution Steve and I have to this whole mess is to move to the moon and laugh at everybody left down here still dealing with the beaurocracy.