Saturday, June 30, 2007

"Obvious to Try" is Oxymoronic and Fatally Flawed

Three hikers are heading back to town along an unfamiliar back country trail when one of them is bit by a snake. The other two fashion a tourniquet and makeshift a stretcher for transporting their mate quickly to town, to a doctor's office about 5 miles away.

Alas they come upon an unmarked fork in the trail. No sign arises from its dirt to explicitly point the way to the correct choice. Just a mail box stands there, in the middle of nowhere.

Amazingly, they hear singing coming up from behind them. An old man is moseying his way towards the lone mailbox, letter in hand and entertaining himself with an old folksong.

"Quickly old man, please tell us which path is the quickest way back to town. Time is of the essence."

"Wish I could help you," sighs the elderly gent, "but it's been a long time since I traveled beyond this mailbox. If I recall correctly --and I'm not sure-- one of these paths leads to nowhere, a dead end if you please. With the other it's about a half hour to town. You know what? The McGuiver sisters know the answer. They are identical twins and one of them is sure to be along any minute now to drop her letters off. Problem is, one of them always lies and the other always tells the truth. And neither is willing but to answer one question a day."

At this juncture the injured hiker raises himself from the stretcher and says, "Let me ask the one question, after all it is my life on the line."

What one question does he ask?

A hat tip to the Fired-Up Genius for resurrecting the issue of "obvious to try".

Why not try just any old path? Flip a coin. There is after all, a 50-50 chance of being right.

But then again, in our example, what is the "cost" of being wrong? It could mean one's life.

Before you poo pooh the issue as being a mere fantasy, consider the real life story of Silicon Valley entrepreneur, James Kim who tragically lost his life in December 2006 because his family had driven up the wrong "via". (Via means "path" in Latin. Ob-Via means to come upon the one path. In that case your next step forward is "Ob-Via-ous".

As for the answer to the twin-sisters riddle, it's obvious. (Obvious in hindsight if someone told you the answer).
One sister is an Inverter of the truth. The other is a double inverter. Hook up the three (3) inverters in series and you get a deterministic logical outcome. Familiar objects operating in predictable ways. In fact, we gave away part of the answer "three" as the very first word in the story. A person of ordinary intelligence would have seen that and would have combined it with the well known logical operative of "NOT".

The injured hiker asks: If I had asked your sister which road is the quickest way back to town, which way would she point, left or right? The lying sister would point to the wrong road because her sister would point to the right choice. The truth telling sister would point to the wrong road because her sister would lie and point to the wrong road. Simple logic ... in hindsight.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Provisionally Inaccurate

The urban legend continues in regard to provisional applications. One advice article (by an unknown author) puts it this way for its unwary readers:
Less expensive and easier to file than a full (non-provisional) patent application, a provisional application filing buys you time (up to 12 months) to figure out how to market your newest invention and raise much needed capital, while allowing you to claim ownership of the idea as of the date of the filing. Securing a priority filing date is critical because as far as the U.S. government is concerned, ownership rights go to the person who can prove he or she came up with the idea first.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Schlafly, Phyllis Fingers the Harm-my-Nation Deformists
Jun 22,2007
So-called patent reform cheats U.S. inventors
by Phyllis Schlafly

The globalists are making a new attempt to circumvent and weaken a right explicitly recognized in the U.S. Constitution: Americans' exclusive ownership of their own inventions.

Fortunately, Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan., have exposed this mischief and called on Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., to slow down and discuss the proposed legislation before making costly mistakes.

As we've learned with "Comprehensive Immigration Reform," we should all be on guard any time politicians patronize us with pompous talk about "reform." The so-called Patent Reform Act of 2007 is not reform at all; in one package, it betrays both individual rights and U.S. sovereignty.

It's no accident that the United States has produced the overwhelming majority of the world's great inventions. It's because the Founding Fathers invented the world's best patent system, which was a brilliant stroke of inspired originality when the Constitution was written in 1787, and still is stunningly unique in the world.
The political pressure for the new bill comes from the "world is flat" globalists who want to level the U.S. patent system with other countries. "Harmonization" is a favorite trigger word in their arguments.

For example, in introducing new bill, Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., said it will "harmonize U.S. patent law with the patent law of most other countries." The explanation of the bill issued by Leahy's office states that the bill's purpose is to eliminate "a lack of international consistency."

But because the U.S. system produces more important inventions than the rest of the world combined, why should we legislate "consistency" with inferior foreign policies?

The uniqueness of the American system is that "inventors" are granted "the exclusive right" to their inventions "for limited times" (usually about 18 years) after which the invention goes into the public domain. Exclusivity was assured because U.S. courts would uphold the inventor's patent against infringers, and the U.S. Patent Office would not disclose any information in a patent application unless and until the legal protection of a patent was granted. Rejected patent applications were returned to the applicants with their secrets intact.

The so-called patent "reform" of 1999 radically changed this to allow the U.S. Patent Office to publish the details of inventions 18 months after they are filed, unless the inventor agrees NOT to file a patent application in another country. Other countries do not respect inventors' rights granted by the U.S. Patent Office.

Inventors say the U.S. Patent Office is now taking an average of 31 months to grant a patent! So, when the Patent Office publishes (i.e., posts online) a patent application before a patent is granted, this gives patent pirates all over the world an average of 13 months (31 minus 18) to study detailed descriptions of virtually all U.S. patent applications, steal and adapt these new American ideas to their own purposes, and go into production.

Foreign governments, foreign corporations, and patent pirates are thus able to systematically "mine" U.S. patent applications and steal American-owned inventions. The 2007 "reform" bill's "harmonization" is a fraud because it does nothing to require or induce other countries to respect U.S. patents.

The unconscionable delay in processing patent applications resulted when Congress diverted the fees paid by inventors into pork and other pet projects. That meant the Patent Office could not hire the additional examiners it needed to process the rising number of domestic and foreign patent applications, and so a massive backload built up.

What recourse does the inventor have? If the infringer is in another country (China is a notorious thief of intellectual property), the U.S. inventor must have filed a patent application in that other country and the lawsuit must be filed there.

The proposed Patent Reform Act of 2007, sponsored by Sens. Leahy and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Reps. Berman and Lamar Smith, R-Texas, would further reduce inventors' rights. For the sake of "international consistency," it would convert the U.S. system to a "first to file" system, thereby replacing our unique and successful U.S. "first to invent" system.

The U.S. gives priority to the first one who actually invents something rather than to one who simply files papers about what he plans to invent. The change to "first to file" would create a race to the Patent Office and would severely disadvantage the small and independent inventors who lack the resources of big corporations.

Much more is wrong with the Patent Reform Act of 2007, but I've run out of space, so stay tuned.
- - -

Phyllis Schlafly is a lawyer, conservative political analyst and the author of the newly revised and expanded "Supremacists." She can be contacted by e-mail at
Steppy note: OK. A constitutional law scholar she is not. But nonetheless Schlafly drills the emotional outrage into the minds and hearts of her ordinary readers.

Friday, June 15, 2007

OPIP: Other People's Intellectual Property

The Captains of Capitalism have a neat little rule. It goes like this:

What's your's is mine.
What's mine is mine.

This rule applies especially to Other People's Intellectual Property (OPIP) and more so if those other people are weak and incapable of defending themselves. "If thou can profit from depossessing a baby of its candy and yet avoid facing the outrageous arrows of litigation for thy transgressions, then do so. It profits one not to have a lesser bottom line."

Of course, one does not use violence to shift ownership away from the baby and into one's own pocket. These things must be done "delicately" as they say. A true Captain of Capitalism phrases it under the guise of righteousness:

It is essential that this legislation is adopted this year to help maintain our country's innovation leadership by reducing excessive litigation, limiting damages awards, and improving the quality of U.S. patents. (Locally, we're very proud of the hundreds of high-quality patents that IBM researchers in Vermont earned last year.)

The world is divided into two kinds of people: us and "them". The "them" are not truly deserving of anything. Whatever they claim to have invented, we would have invented first because it was obvious to us. Therefore, what's theirs is really ours you see. They merely abuse the court system to take away from us all the monies that are truly and rightly ours, only ours:

If a case does go to court, Sen. Leahy's bill would give judges and juries a more reasonable way to determine damages -- by figuring out how much the infringed intellectual property is really worth.

Nothing quite frankly. Besides, the "Them" should not really be allowed to go to court in the first place. Courts are places where only noble folk such as ourselves go to take more of what is truly and always was ours to begin with:

Until now, there has been no real alternative to the courtroom in which to hash out these controversies. If a company is found to be infringing someone else's intellectual property, court and jury-ordered awards can be huge, often out of proportion to the value of the patent. In fact, patent litigation yielded $3.4 billion in awards in 2006.
These litigation awards and legal expenses shouldered by businesses impose a kind of tax on our economy and products. Money that could be spent innovating is diverted to legal bills.
Consequently, Vermont companies, as well as other U.S. companies subject to these same pressures, may be rendered less competitive globally.

It is goooood to be a Captain of Capitalism. The world is our oyster.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Stifling the Innovators


That was Archie Bunker's favorite verb. "Stifle Edith, stifle." We don't want to hear your squeaky voice talking truth to power. It's embarrassing. Not to you. To us. We the armchair powerful get oxymorononically upset when upstarts such as yourself start upsetting the status quo. If the good Lord had meant for people like you to be heard, He would have given people like us empathy --whatever that means. But He didn't. And frankly Edith, we don't give a care. So stifle.

Words like "stifle" and "innovation" are all the rage in the right wing anti-inventor talk circles now a days.

Here is what Patent Lier, Tim B. Lee[ry] writes in the New York Times Op-ed section recently (6/9/2007):

Only patent lawyers benefit from this kind of arms race. And Microsoft’s own history contradicts Mr. Smith’s claim that patents are essential for technological breakthroughs: Microsoft produced lots of innovative software before it received its first software patent in 1988. As more and more lawsuits rock the industry, we should ask if software patents are stifling innovation. Bill Gates certainly thought so in 1991, even if he won’t admit it today.
Timothy B. Lee is an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute.

TB Lee is not alone. Here is the US Supreme Court extolling the "stifle" word in KSR v. Teleflex:

" We build and create by bringing to the tangible and palpable reality around us new works based on instinct, simple logic, ordinary inferences, extraordinary ideas, and sometimes even genius. These advances, once part of our shared knowledge, define a new threshold from which innovation starts once more. And as progress beginning from [ever] higher levels of achievement is expected in the normal course, the results of ordinary innovation are not the subject of exclusive rights under the patent laws. Were it otherwise patents might stifle, rather than promote, the progress of useful arts."
[emphasis added]

In light of recent attempts by the same Archie Bunker Supreme Court to stifle Edith and her feminist friends from suing for equal pay, one must ask whether the "true" intent of the Court is to stifle innovators rather than to worry about stifling "true innovation". Indeed, the concept of "true innovation" inherently invokes the counter example of "false innovation". What is "false innovation"? It is when a group of powerful business people who never themselves invented anything commendable, seek to substitute their names in as the parents of a brain storm baby that was birthed in a barnyard by a lonely independent inventor. Success has many parents. Logic tells us that most such parents are innovators of falsehood.

One must pause and pay tribute to whichever think tanking organization spawned the issue framing phrase regarding the "stifling of innovation". Was the Edith-putdown epitaph first innovated here or here or here?